Vaidisova Wins Maiden Clay Court Title in Strasbourg
STRASBOURG, France - Czech phenom Nicole Vaidisova captured her sixth career Sony Ericsson WTA Tour title on Saturday, defeating China's Peng Shuai in straight sets for the Internationaux de Strasbourg, one of two Roland Garros tune-ups this week.
Vaidisova, seeded No.2 at the Tier III event, notched her 99th career singles match victory against the unseeded Peng, 76(7) 63, but not without a fight. The Chinese led 3-0 in the first set and seemed on the verge of taking the first set tie-break, but made two errors to hand the set to Vaidisova. The Czech then took control of the match in the second set.
"I had to cut down on my errors to get back on track," said Vaidisova of the early lapse. "She had a couple of chances in the tie-break to take the set but I was luckier. We were both nervous. I was up 3-0 in the second set and I let that get away from me, but managed to pull it out in the end."
For Vaidisova, the Strasbourg run marks her first title of the year, and sixth of her career. The 17-year-old had five titles to her credit already, at Vancouver and Tashkent in 2004, and at Seoul, Tokyo [Japan Open] and Bangkok in 2005. The three most recent titles were acquired during an 18-match win streak that also took her to her first Tier II semifinal last November at Philadelphia. This is her first title on clay, however, and the timing couldn't be better.
"This is the best preparation for Roland Garros," said Vaidisova, seeded No.16 in Paris. "To win an event on the same surface is the best preparation you can have. I'm extremely happy with my week in Strasbourg and I'm going into Paris as well-prepared as I can be."
The teenager also won a Mazda MX-5 sports car for winning the title.
"I'm really happy to win the car but I don't start driving lessons for another couple of months!"
For Peng, Strasbourg still remains a great achievement despite the defeat. After a stellar 2005 and a disappointing beginning to 2006, Peng resurrected her game during this clay court season, winning consecutive matches for the first time this year two weeks ago in reaching the Prague semis, and now winning another string of matches in reaching her career-first Tour final here.
"I reached my first final and that is a good thing," Peng stated. "Now I will forget about this loss and concentrate on the Grand Slams. I start in Paris on Monday, so I have to just rest and start to focus on that. I had a good week here."
Last year, Peng was one of the fastest-rising players on the circuit, notching three Top 10 wins (including a stunner over Kim Clijsters in San Diego, the Belgian's only loss on summer hardcourts) and going as high as No.31, a record for China.
In the Internationaux de Strasbourg doubles final, top seeds Liezel Huber and Martina Navratilova downed No.3 seeds Martina Müller and Andreea Vanc, 62 76(1). Huber took home her 14th career Tour doubles title (and second of the year), while Navratilova claimed her 176th (and first of the year).
Müller also featured prominently in the singles draw, ousting top seed Patty Schnyder in straight sets in the second round, the German's first Top 10 win.