Dementieva outlasts Davenport for first title -- nice quotes
Dementieva outlasts Davenport for first title
By EDDIE PELLS, AP Sports Writer
April 20, 2003
AP - Apr 19, 2:52 EDT
AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. (AP) -- They're both 21-year-old Russians. Still, Elena Dementieva said she's never had much in common with Anna Kournikova ``because she lives in Miami and I live in Moscow.''
Now there's another difference.
Dementieva broke through to finally win a WTA Tour title -- something that still eludes her more famous countrywoman -- by defeating Lindsay Davenport 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 at the Bausch & Lomb Championships Sunday.
``Maybe we'll go somewhere to celebrate,'' Dementieva said. ``It's going to be a big celebration in Moscow.''
Dementieva won a crystal bowl and $93,000 to go along with her first championship -- all well earned after a 2-hour, 6-minute struggle against the second-seeded Davenport who was, by her own estimation, playing some of the best tennis of her career.
After the last point, the 10th-seeded Dementieva pumped her fists, covered her mouth and shrugged her shoulders -- yeah, she finally did it. Her mom, Vera, lifted her hands to applaud her daughter's first victory in five finals appearances, including the 2000 Olympics.
``It feels amazing, like a dream come true,'' Dementieva said. ``I've been waiting for this moment all my life. It's been a very difficult two years.''
At about the same time Kournikova's career was peaking, Dementieva made it to the semifinals of the U.S. Open in 2000. A year later, she worked her way into the top 10.
But like Kournikova, Dementieva's game dropped off. She endured foot injuries, fell in the rankings and lost the aggressiveness that defined her first few years as a pro.
``I didn't understand what I did, or how I did it, so fast,'' Dementieva said. ``I completely lost my game, couldn't get any better. It was a very tough time for me.''
Midway through Sunday's second set, it looked like the long-awaited first title would remain out of reach.
Fighting nerves and a serve that often dropped in at under 85 mph, Dementieva squealed in frustration, yelled at herself in Russian and looked over to her mother after a series of close line calls went against her.
Leading by a set and 4-2 in the second, Davenport appeared on her way to a 39th career title. Then, Dementieva started hitting out on her serves, and dialing in on her groundstrokes.
She won a game that lasted five deuces to go ahead 5-4 in the second set, using a forehand winner down the line to put it away. Davenport appeared to tire after that. Even though she kept her serves coming in at over 100 mph, she failed to hold in any of her last five service games.
``All of the sudden, it seemed like whatever she was hitting was coming a lot harder,'' Davenport said. ``She started going for it more. There wasn't much I could do. She was swinging at will and hitting winners with her eyes closed.''
Dementieva came into this tournament ranked 21st and will move into the top 15 Monday. This is, by far, her sweetest result. She needed to prove she could close out a title 10 months after she blew a 3-1 third-set lead in the final of a grass-court event in the Netherlands.
``There were moments in my life where it started to feel like I'm not going to win this title,'' she said. ``I'm glad it came true in this situation, and finally I did it.''
And nobody can say she cruised through an easy draw.
Dementieva defeated fourth-seeded Daniela Hantuchova, top-seeded Justine Henin-Hardenne and finally, Davenport -- about as impressive a lineup of victories a player could hope for in a tournament that neither of the Williams sisters entered.
``I was unaware she hadn't won one,'' Davenport said. ``But with the player she beat today, that's a great first tournament win to get under her belt.''