SARASOTA CLAY COURT CLASSIC
Russian cruises past Molik for title
By MIC HUBER
Anastasia Myskina sometimes struggles with her English but she had no difficulty describing the way she felt Sunday after winning the championship match of the 2003 Sarasota Clay Court Classic Sunday at The Meadows Country Club.
"Happy" was the official word of the day.
"I am just happy, really happy," Myskina said shortly after wrapping up a quick 6-4, 6-1 win over Alicia Molik to win the singles title and all the prizes that go with it.
Myskina was happy to take home the $22,000 that goes to the winner.
She was happy her ranking will be at No. 10 in the world when the new list is released today. She is happy to still be the No. 1 player in Russia. She was happy she somehow managed to escape what seemed to be a certain loss in the second round against Nadia Petrova. She was happy she got the match over before a case of the dizzies overcame her, potentially ruining her day.
"I am happy, just happy, Myskina sang over and over again Sunday. "It was really difficult because there were a lot of good players here. I am just happy."
Myskina came into the tournament as the No. 2 seeded player and with a ranking of No. 11 in the world. She leaves the champion – her second title of the year – and will overtake Jelena Dokic, last year's champion and a first-round loser here this week, as the No. 10-ranked player in the world, matching her career high achieved in February after she won the Doha event in Qatar.
Myskina had little trouble handling Molik's booming first serve and was far superior to the 22-year-old Australian once they began trading groundstrokes. In fact, Myskina only lost her serve one time -- in the opening game of the match -- while breaking Molik's serve four times.
And after the ball was in play, Myskina proved far too fast and much too strong from the baseline.
While Myskina had her troubles throughout the week, Sunday's match was a breeze for the 21-year-old from Moscow, despite becoming dizzy and having trouble seeing the ball near the end. The win was so lopsided that even with Congresswoman Katherine Harris in the crowd, watching from the skybox at the end of the court, there could be no dispute about the outcome.
"She showed why she is ranked where she is," Molik said about Myskina's dominance. "I let her get back in the match and she got her rhythm and took charge."
Molik, who was trying to go from qualifier to tournament queen, didn't have an answer for Myskina's speed and ability to get the ball in play. While Molik had 17 aces in her semifinal win over Iva Majoli on Saturday, she had just four Sunday against Myskina, and two of those were in Molik's first service game of the match.
Molik broke Myskina to open the match and ran off four straight points on her serve to take a 2-0 lead. But Big Mo couldn't sustain her momentum and, after that first break, Myskina never faced a break point on her serve until the fifth game of the second set.
"I was rushing a bit at the beginning and didn't hold serve, and then I lost on her serve," Myskina said. "I was angry. I then realized it is not that hard for me. I just took a step back and, for me, it was not difficult."
Myskina said she knew after breaking Molik to get back to 2-2 that the match was hers.
"Definitely I am sure I was going to win the match," Myskina insisted.
She did so by carving up Molik with some penetrating forehands and numerous blistering backhands, while mixing in a few well-placed drop shots.
"I knew I had to keep her on the move, especially when it was so hot," Myskina said.
"She plays the lines well and hit the ball really low, flat and hard," said Molik, who gave Myskina far too many free points. "You don't get much time to set up."
Myskina broke Molik's serve in the final game of the first set to win 6-4, then lost just one game in the second set, finishing the match by winning five straight games.
The match ended none too soon for Myskina, who called for the trainer just before winning the final point when Molik hit a forehand into the net.
"I was feeling really dizzy and couldn't see the ball really clean," Myskina said.
Asked if it was important to end the match right then, Myskina said, "For sure. Otherwise, I was gonna die."
Myskina also knows she was a bit lucky to get to the final. In her second-round match, Myskina was down a set and a break when her opponent, Nadia Petrova, turned an ankle running for a drop shot.
Myskina went on to win when Petrova retired early in the third set.
"I think about this every night," Myskina said. "I close my eyes and think I almost lost in the second round, and it not make me happy.
"She retired, and I win the title. And I am just happy."
Martina Navratilova and Liezel Huber won the doubles title, beating Shinobu Asagoe and Nana Miyagi in the final 7-6 (6), 6-3.
Nastya is such a sweet and funny person
Good luck in Charleston!