Hantuchova wins generation battle to claim sixth title

AFP, BIRMINGHAM, England

Tue, Jun 18, 2013 - Page 19

Daniela Hantuchova won the sixth title of her career and a battle of the generations which saw the defeat of the new golden girl in the Birmingham WTA final.

Many of the crowd came to see whether Donna Vekic, at 16 the youngest player in the world’s top 350, could win the Wimbledon warm-up event. However after almost snatching the first set the teenager was beaten by an opponent nearly a decade and a half older.

The former world No. 5 from Slovakia showed she still has remarkable resilience as she beat the sensational new girl from Croatia 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.

Hantuchova had spent fully 12 hours on court during a week in which she had suffered from an ankle injury and three times looked to be heading for defeat. However, she was solid and punishing off the ground and steadier in the head than Vekic.

After twice coming within two points of taking the first set, the youngster slung her racket across the court when the set slipped away and for that got a code violation warning.

However, Vekic had already progressed one round further than Maria Sharapova in her first appearance here, showing she has a fierce and hard-to-read forehand drive, and becoming the second youngest finalist the tournament has ever had.

“Donna has a great future ahead of her, no doubt,” said Hantuchova, who had at last won the tournament which, in 1999, had been the first WTA Tour event of her career. “I waited a long time for this success, so it’s very special, and I never thought I would ever play anyone 14 years younger than me, so that makes it even more special.

“I am very motivated this year and hope to get back to where I was,” said the player who has fallen from the top 10 to a ranking in the 60s. “To see Serena [Williams] and Francesca [Schiavone] doing well past 30 keeps us oldies going.”