Memorable win for Daniilidou
By Dale Budge at the ASB Bank Tennis Centre
ASB Classic champion Eleni Daniilidou is making New Zealand a home away from her native Greece, after claiming her second consecutive title at the Auckland event on Saturday.
Daniilidou beat American Ashley Harkleroad in straight sets 6-3 6-2 in a little over an hour of play.
"I will never forget it. It was very exciting and I am happy to be back here," Daniilidou told reporters after the match.
"I didn't really expect to play in the final.
"Today I felt very tight but after game three I got much better."
Daniilidou dominated with her forehand from the baselines and produced a classy performance to beat a jaded Harkleroad.
It had been a long tough week in the hot and humid conditions at the ASB Bank Tennis Centre for both players, and both were backing up from two particularly big days prior to Saturday's final.
But Daniilidou seemed to handle the back-up the better of the two.
"Yesterday I was very tired but today I felt good," she said.
It was also the first tournament of the new season for both players, which is generally used to iron out a few problems.
"It is very tough at the beginning of the year but today I was very focused and I was hitting the ball well," Daniilidou said.
"I played more aggressive."
It is the first time that a player has won successive titles since 1989.
"I love to be here," here she announced following her back-to-back titles.
"I really tried to enjoy the day today because it is a really special day."
Harkleroad never looked likely in the final.
She had been down and out in her previous encounters but had shown a fighting spirit that overcame her opponents.
But there was no sign of that in the final. Daniilidou did not allow her to get into the match.
It was a disappointing way to end an astonishing tournament for Harkleroad.
"I'm happy with it, it has been a great start to 2004. I can take confidence into my next tournament," the 18-year-old American said.
"Today I just didn't have it. She was making me run from side to side, she didn't miss many shots and played very well. There was nothing I could do about it," Harkleroad told reporters.
But like Daniilidou, Harkleroad expects to return to Auckland in 2005
"I think I will pretty much definitely be back here next year. I have a lot of support here. It is a beautiful place and a nice place to play tennis."