July 17, 2005
© Elisa Pozzo
10 Out Of 10 For Smashnova
MODENA, Italy - Anna Smashnova, who celebrated her 29th birthday on Saturday, had another reason to celebrate on Sunday as she captured her 10th career title at the Internazionali di Modena, the Tier IV clay court event in Modena, Italy that made its debut on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour this year. "I don't fear anybody, and I try every time to do my best," said Smashnova, who won the title after Tathiana Garbin of Italy retired due to heat illness down 3-0 in the first set tie-break. "[The heat] caused problems to everyone, but if I had lost the first set, I would have fought to win the other two sets.
"Tathiana is a very strong player; I knew that the match would have been hard."
Smashnova, ranked No.61 and seeded No.5, began the championship match strongly, building a 5-3 lead before the 97th-ranked Garbin fought back to take it to the tie-break, where her fate was unfortunately sealed due to the extremely hot conditions.
"I felt sick at 2-0 and from that moment things started to get worse," said Garbin, who was seeking her second career title. "I was scared because I couldn't breathe any longer. It was terrible. I believe I could have won because I arrived at this tournament very fit.
"I regret that things have gone this way."
Smashnova now owns an immaculate 10-0 record in her 10 career Tour finals. The Israeli's previous nine titles came at Tashkent in 1999, Knokke-Heist in 2000, Auckland, Canberra, Vienna and Shanghai in 2002, Sopot and Helsinki in 2003, and Vienna last year. Her biggest titles were her wins at Vienna and Sopot, both Tier III events. Her other strong career performances came with semifinal finishes at Berlin in 2002 and at Moscow in 2003, both Tier I events.
"It's just happened," said Smashnova, who has been ranked as high as No.15, on her perfect finals record. "I prepare every match the best way possible. I haven't played well for nine months and now I'm ready to reach a higher ranking."
Smashnova had little trouble in reaching the final this week. She dropped just 13 games in her first three rounds, defeating 213th-ranked Italian wild card Adriana Serra Zanetti 63 61 in the first round, 94th-ranked Spaniard Arantxa Parra Santonja 64 60 in the second round, and 98th-ranked Frenchwoman Emilie Loit 61 64 in the quarterfinals. In Saturday's semifinals, she defeated 28th-ranked Flavia Pennetta for the fourth time in four career meetings against the Italian by a score of 75 63. Pennetta was the No.2 seed at the event.
Garbin also enjoyed a relatively smooth path to the final, with the exception of her quarterfinal match. Unseeded, the 28-year-old defeated 96th-ranked Stephanie Cohen-Aloro 64 60 in the first round and No.6 seed Jelena Kostanic 62 63 in the second round. In the quarterfinals, she overcame a left thigh strain and a 4-1 deficit in the third set to beat 89th-ranked Sanda Mamic of Croatia 46 76(5) 76(4) in over three hours. In the semifinals, Garbin routed 301st-ranked Hungarian teenager Agnes Szavay, who was responsible for ousting top seed Francesca Schiavone on Friday, by a score of 63 60.
In the doubles final, Yulia Beygelzimer of the Ukraine and Mervana Jugic-Salkic of Bosnia and Herzegovina steamrolled past top seeds Gabriela Navratilova and Michaela Pastikova of the Czech Republic 62 60. The winning duo had also taken out No.2 seeds Loit and Yan Zi earlier in the week. The victory marked the second career Tour doubles title for both Beygelzimer and Jugic-Salkic. Beygelzimer won at Tashkent in 2003 with Tatiana Poutchek, while Jugic-Salkic claimed the 2004 Auckland title with Kostanic. Navratilova and Pastikova were making their second finals appearance of the year as a team, having finished runner-up at Canberra in January.