Sara Errani, Maria Kirilenko Win On Stadium Court in Day Two Of New Haven Open
August 20, 2012|By PAUL DOYLE, firstname.lastname@example.org
, The Hartford Courant
NEW HAVEN — — Maria Kirilenko may cherish the bronze medal she earned at the London Olympics
, but her award was almost overshadowed by a gift from her president.
Kirilenko and fellow Russian Nadia Petrova finished third in the Olympic doubles competition, leaving with bronze medals. But Russian President Vladimir Putin rewarded his country's medal winners with something special.
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"Audi," Kirilenko said Monday at the Connecticut Tennis Center. "It's a good car
Kirilenko, who won her first match at the New Haven Open, has not driven her newcar
. The Audi is with Kirilenko's mother in Russia, waiting for the new owner.
"I really want to say thanks," Kirilenko said.
Not that winning a bronze medal wasn't significant for a player who's been on the cusp of breaking into the top 10 in the world. Kirilenko is currently 14th, the highest ranking of her career.
to the Wimbledon quarterfinals this summer before playing well at the Olympics, losing in the singles bronze medal match while winning the bronze in the doubles.
Now she's preparing for the hard-courtU.S. Open. New Haven, where she advanced to the semifinals in 2010, is an ideal tuneup.
"I'm playing here every year," Kirilenko said. "The atmosphere here is quiet, not as loud as some tournaments. It's good also to have some matches before theU.S. Open. So many courts here, you can practice here as well."
Kirilenko, the seventh seed, opened with a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Shahar Peer on Stadium Court. It wasn't an ideal performance — there was a double-fault in the first set — but she adjusted to the hard-court game and was satisfied.
"It's tough to play first matches, especially after [playing on] grass court," she said. "It's difficult to start first matches on hard court. It's different movement, different bounces, different balls … you have to have some matches to, to win some matches, to have some confidence."
Kirilenko, 25, is close friends with Maria Sharapova and her celebrity has risen off the court. Her boyfriend, NHL star Alex Ovechkin, was cheering for her at theOlympics
and the relationship has created some Internet buzz.
Could she be poised for another deep run in New Haven? She says she is confident after playing well in London.
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"I'm enjoying this moment," Kirilenko said.
Her next match is Tuesday night against Germany'sMona Barthel, who earned a 6-3, 7-5 victory over tour veteran Daniela Hantuchova Monday. Hantuchova was ranked as high at No. 5 in the world in 2003.
In the first match on Stadium Court Monday, Sara Errani earned a 6-4, 7-5 victory over American Bethanie Mattek-Sands. Errani, No. 10 in the world and the fourth seed in the tournament, was a finalist at the French Open earlier this year.
Errani will face Carla Suarez Navarro in the first match of the day on Stadium Court Tuesday.
Also Monday, Sweden'sSofia Arvidsson eliminated American Melanie Oudin, 6-4, 6-1. Oudin lost in a qualifier Sunday, but gained a slot in the main draw as a "lucky loser."
Oudin was once considered a rising star when she climbed to theU.S. Openquarterfinals in 2009. She rose to No. 31 in the world, but has plummeted to No. 107 and continues to struggle with her game.
In a battle of Americans Monday afternoon, Nicole Gibbs defeated Alexa Glatch, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4. Gibbs will face 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova, the No. 5 player in the world and the No. 2 seed, Wednesday night.
The prime time match Tuesday will pit No. 1 seed Agnieszka Radwanska against Olga Govortsova at 7 p.m. Govortsova advanced with a 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2 victory over Vera Dushevina Monday.
Radwanska, ranked No. 2 in the world, lost to Serena Williams in the Wimbledon finals this year.
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