Evgeniya Rodina in action in the semifinal of the ITF Al Habtoor Championship at the Habtoor Grand Hotel
<TABLE id=article_edit cellSpacing=0 cellPadding=0 border=0><TBODY><TR><TD class=Heading>Kirilenko to play Rodina in final
By Alaric Gomes, Staff Reporter
Published: December 15, 2007, 00:38
<!--maxlength:2470-->Dubai: Top seed Maria Kirilenko of Russia will play fellow countrwoman Evgeniya Rodina in the final of the 9th Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge at the Habtoor Grand Resort and Spa today.
Kirilenko survived a scare before winning in three sets against New Zealand's Marina Erakovic 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, while Rodina marched away with a straight set 6-4, 6-4 win against Yuliana Fedak.
The final will be played at 5.30 pm today and entrance is free.
For most of the match it looked as though the tournament favourite would ease her way into the final. Kirilenko won the first set 6-3, but that is when the excitement began.
Erakovic changed her tactics and started coming more to the net and slicing the ball real low. Kirilenko was taken off-guard a bit as she tried to do everything and wrap things up as quickly as possible.
The Russian did well to break Erakovic in the very first game of the second set, but the Croatian-born 19-year-old cashed in on a couple of double faults from Kirilenko to break and draw level 3-3.
She mixed up her game very well and that sort of unnerved the more experienced Kirilenko.
Erokovic then broke her opponent one more time to win the set 6-4 and force the deciding third.
In the third things once again went Kirilenko's way as she raced to an early 3-0 lead.
From then on it was no stopping the title favourite as she stepped up her game and won the set and match 6-2 after nearly two and a half hours on court.
Kirlenko looked relieved after her win as she threw her hands up in the air to celebrate.
"Yes it is a relief," she said as she hurried off the court."
"I had no choice but try out something different. If I had to stick to the baseline then I would have had her making her shots the whole night long. I had to mix up my game and move her around by going to the net," Erakovic told Gulf News.
"I knew she would have been hitting hard and I am sure she must have got surprised with my change in game when I started slicing and coming to the net often," the Kiwi girl stated.
Despite the loss, Erakovic was confident that she has picked up valuable lessons after playing a more experienced player.
"I went in to win, but at least the lessons are there. My dream is to be number one player in the world, but by next year I want to enter the top-100 for a start," she smiled.