Sep 26th, 2006, 02:33 AM
| Team WTAworld
Join Date: May 2002
Kolkata: Andrew's tournament-review
SUNFEAST OPEN (Kolkata, India; indoor Greenset; WTA Tier III)
Iroda was a brilliant player in 2001-2003, when she regularly played on the WTA Tour and in Grand Slams.
But a stress-fracture in her right elbow required surgery, and Iroda was sidelined from July 2003 to October 2004. Since then she's played only sporadically due to numerous injuries and undisclosed family-problems (more on which below), and in a diminished capacity.
But she has just won the Asian Championships (in the second week of the US Open) to earn herself a main-draw wild card for the Australian Open 2007. She had planned to play on for two more years, but now she wants to play until she's 30!
And her five wins to reach the semi-finals of Kolkata - her first WTA tournament of 2006 - are very encouraging. It seems that she is injury-free for the first time in three years, and the WTA Tour will be much richer for having her back!
Iroda is talking big: her goal for the Australian Open 2007 is to reach the quarter-finals (she has reached four Grand Slam third rounds in her career, but never a fourth round), and she still sees herself reaching the top ten in the future!
Iroda was the Player-representative for this tournament.
It's so nice to see new
photos of Iroda again!
She's still wearing the ring that could be a wedding-ring, I see.
On-court (Iroda and Olga Poutchkova):
Search Getty Images for "iroda"
It's pretty cool that there's only one Iroda in the world, so you don't have to type "tulyaganova" into every search-engine!
These are the first action-photos I've seen of Iroda in 2006, and the first photos from 2006 that even come close to doing justice to her looks. Yes, there was that little off-court photo from the Asian Championships, and the one from Kolkata - but they were so small, and as off-court photos, they paled in comparison to her exciting photoshoots from Knokke-Heist 2001!
On-court photo from the Asian Championships:
Notes & Netcords
There is a very interesting interview with Iroda in the 25th September edition of Notes & Netcords (the official newsletter of the WTA Tour), which you can download here:
The interview is on p.12 of the PDF file, along with a photo, and if you're interested enough in Iroda to be reading this
, you should definitely check it out!
Qualifying: First round (Saturday 16th September)
+ IRODA TULYAGANOVA  d. Meghha Vakaria, 6-1 6-0
Qualifying: Second round (Sunday 17th September)
+ IRODA TULYAGANOVA  d. SANDY GUMULYA , 6-1 6-3
From 1-1, Iroda won five games in a row to take the first set.
In the second set Iroda trailed 1-2, but led 3-2 and 4-3, losing no more games.
: "What's good about Sandy? Well, she runs well and hits hard, she is tactically astute, and she made very few unforced errors against Brémond. If she can keep up that kind of level then she might make it to the top 100 quite soon. It wouldn't surprise me at all if she goes even higher, into the top 50. She very talented and on her way."
Iroda enters main draw, back with bang after three-year layoff
Kolkata | September 17, 2006 5:45:50 PM IST
Iroda Tulyaganova's assertion that she would not have returned to the WTA tours unless she was sure of doing well reverberated in the majestic venue as she walloped both her opponents in the last two days to make a grand entry into the main draws of Sunfeast Open.
Today she crushed Sandy Gumulya of Indonesia 6-1, 6-3 with a range of strokes that can be remembered and admired at. The result could have been bettered had not a couple of unforced errors forced gave the Indonesian a game in the second set.
Agile, attacking and a fantastic weaponry of returns made her look like she was on song, decimating her opponent in style. Only few players in the WTA Tour would be as unlucky as Tulyaganova.
In 2002 the Uzbek girl was enjoying her career-best singles ranking of 16. She also won gold in the Busan Asian Games that year.
Kim Clijsters, Justine Henin-Hardenne, Anastasia Myskina, Elena Dementieva, Dinara Safina, Jelena Dokic -- she's had career wins over them all.
"I was playing my best tennis of my life. But I think I had overdone it. My bone gave way. It broke and took me three years to rehabilitate," she told UNI.
Yesterday she defeated Meghha Vakaria 6-1, 6-0.
However, the injury to her right elbow forced Iroda out of the circuit for three years starting 2003.
"It feels very sad. I too could have been where these girls are now. I was playing some of my best tennis when the elbow injury meant I couldn't compete for three years. I went through a very hard time. On the financial front too, life was tough. But I guess life's like that," Iroda said.
Couched in her entry into the main draw was a quiet warning for her opponents that she was back and, if she could have her way, back with a bang.
The former junior Wimbledon champion has a different take on life now.
"Now I'm a lot more relaxed. I don't kill myself if I lose a match. I enjoy my tennis a lot more these days.
"I've always been a winner in my life. And, I'm making a comeback not to linger around the Top-100, but to even better my highest ranking of 16. I do see myself ranked within the Top-10 in the world in the future. For the moment though, I'll be happy if I can finish this season inside the Top-200," she said.
The Sunfeast Open may be only her sixth tournament in her comeback year, but Iroda has already won the Asian Championships in Tashkent last week and has got herself a wild card for next season's first Grand Slam -- the Australian Open.
"These tournaments are a build-up for the Australian Open. I am looking forward to making every tournament I play count. I would like to do well in Sunfeast, that goes without saying," he said.
Now she is also preparing for the Asian Games in Doha.
"The federation is likely to make a camp in Thailand or maybe in Qatar some three weeks before the tourney to get us acclimatised to the heat of the desert city," she said.
Iroda lives with her mother, sister, aunt and their two daughters and her dog Chema. "My house is all women stuff. Call it the gang of Women Mafia. My Chema is the only male in the house," she signs off with a genial laughter.
UNI BA AY BD1632
Undisclosed family-problems... no mention of her father in that last paragraph... what happened to Batir? From what Iroda says in her Notes & Netcords interview (see above), I do know that he is not dead.
And who are the "their" in "their two daughters"? I guess "they" must be any two of Iroda, Anna, Nargiza and the aunt, but I'm having difficulty reconciling this ambiguous sentence (which seems to imply that Nargiza and the aunt are mothers) with what seems most likely (Anna and the aunt? Just the aunt?).
That paragraph does not sit well with the rumour that Iroda got married.
Iroda may be trying to pull her game together, but she says she needs a coach to help her realise her dream. At the moment she can't afford a coach, but she says she's applied to the Federation for help.
So how different is she finding the Tour now? "Well, it was more friendly when I was playing. Now, it's just competitive," she said.
More quotes from Iroda
"I too could have been where these girls are now. I was playing on top of my form when the elbow injury took me out of competition for three years.
"I went through a hard time - both mentally and financially. But, I guess life's like that.
"I have always been a winner in my life. Now that I have another chance, I will try move higher than my last best ranking [#16] in the WTA. Frankly, I see myself ranked within the top-10 in the world in future. For the moment, I will be happy if I can finish this season inside the Top-200."
Main draw: First round (Tuesday 19th September)
+ Iroda Tulyaganova [Q] d. Chuang,Chia-Jung [Q], 6-4 6-1
Iroda led 2-1 but trailed 2-3. The scoreboard froze at 4-4, and some sources say that Chuang retired at that scoreline.
KOLKATA, India (Reuters) - Uzbekistan's Iroda Tulyaganova is keen to get her career back on track after suffering three frustrating years of injury trouble following her 2002 Asian Games triumph.
The Tashkent-born 24-year-old was rated among the brightest prospects in the world four years ago, reaching a career-high WTA ranking of 16 on the back of three tournament victories and impressive wins over several top 10 players.
However, Tulyaganova's world came crashing down in 2003 after the hard-serving player suffered an elbow stress fracture that required surgery.
Dejected and struggling financially during her extended recovery period competing in lower tier tournaments, Tulyaganova is delighted to be plying her trade back in a main tour event.
Ranked a lowly 346th, she entered this week's Kolkata Open as a qualifier, but showed her class to sweep into the second round with a 6-4 6-1 victory over Taiwan's Chuang Chia-jung on Tuesday.
"I didn't realise before what I was playing for, because I was young and had nothing to lose," she told reporters. "But now I'm fighting for every win".
"This is my second start. I think I'm mentally tougher, more mature and composed on court."
Tulyaganova, who has played very few events this year, spoke about her injury woes earlier in the week, after winning her two qualifying rounds to enter the main draw.
"I think I'd overdone it; my bone gave way," she told reporters.
"It feels very sad, I too could have been where these girls are now," she said, referring to grand slam winners Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin-Hardenne, who she beat before her injury.
"I was playing some of my best tennis," she said. "I went through a very hard time.
"But I guess life's like that. Now I'm a lot more relaxed. I don't kill myself if I lose a match."
Tulyaganova is keen to do even better if she remains injury-free.
"I see myself ranked within the top 10 in the world in the future," she said. "For the moment though, I'll be happy if I can finish this season inside the top 200." Last week, she captured the Asian championship title in her hometown to earn a wildcard for next year's Australian Open.
"I want to at least reach the quarter-finals there," she said.
Main draw: Second round (Thursday 21st September)
+ Iroda Tulyaganova [Q] d. Casey Dellacqua, 6-3 6-2
I was disappointed that Iroda's opponent wasn't Karolina Šprem - a beautiful, graceful Croatian girl who reminds me of Jelena Dokic in the way she tends to go for broke on her groundstrokes.
First set: Iroda 2-0, 2-1, 4-1, 5-2, 6-3.
Second set: Iroda 3-2, 6-2.
: "Iroda, who is on a comeback, has allowed 11 games to three opponents she has faced so far. The forehands and plethora of aces, combined with a lethal slice with loads of backspin, have unsettled all her opponents. (IANS)"
Iroda: "I'm so happy to be back and playing. I love being out here and winning. The surface here [Greenset indoors] is really good for me."
Quarter-final (Friday 22nd September)
+ Iroda Tulyaganova [Q] d. Alla Kudryavtseva, 4-6 6-2 6-2
It sucks that this was the only quarter-final not on centre court. Prior to the semi-finals, I hadn't seen a single on-court photo of Iroda from this year!
First set: "Tulyaganova squandered a 3-1 lead to lose the first set, but got steadier throughout the match."
Second set: Iroda 0-1, 4-1, 4-2, 5-2, 6-2.
Third set: Iroda 3-0, 3-1, 4-1, 4-2, 5-2, 6-2.
Iroda came through a crucial game of two deuces at 1-0 (saving at least one point for 1-1). She was also taken to deuce in the penultimate game, but won the last game to 30 (she won the last three points of the match).
Iroda: "I'm going to try to win the title, but I have a tough match tomorrow against a good Russian girl, and if I win this, possibly a match with Hingis, so that would be very tough."
Semi-final (Saturday 23rd September)
- Iroda Tulyaganova [Q] lt. Olga Poutchkova, 4-6 4-6
This snapped a winning-streak of five singles-matches for Iroda - ten if you count the Asian Championships! (I don't, because it doesn't count towards the WTA rankings, and is not open to non-Asian players.)
Iroda recovered from 1-4 to 4-4 in both sets (saving points for 1-5 in the second). She had four break-points at 4-4 in the second, but Poutchkova held, and then broke to 30 on her first match-point. The match lasted 1h40m.
TULYAGANOV __@__*@*__ 4
POUTCHKOVA *@ @*___*@ 6
TULYAGANOV _*___*@*__ 4
POUTCHKOVA * *@*___*@ 6
Four years ago I would have been disappointed with this result, but if an angel had offered me before the tournament that Iroda would finish as a semi-finalist, I would have taken that for sure!
It's not so terrible that she lost to the mildly attractive Poutchkova, who is just beginning to make her mark on the WTA Tour. It's not like she was humiliated by Hingis, as was poor old Sania Mirza in the other semi-final - Poutchkova's task in the final was certainly an unenviable one!
(Hingis won 6-0 6-4)
Just to have Iroda qualify for her first WTA tournament of 2006 felt great to me. Reaching the semi-finals is like the cherry on the cake - but there are a lot more cherries that she's going to put on that cake, so I'm looking forward to having them.
Reuters: "The 85th-ranked Poutchkova displayed a gifted backhand against the shaky Tulyaganova, a former world number 16 on a comeback after a lengthy layoff following elbow surgery in 2003."
Olga Poutchkova defeats Tulyaganova to enter finals
Saturday, September 23, 2006
Kolkata: 18 year old Olga Poutchkova of Russia has defeated Iroda Tulyaganova of Uzbekistan in straight sets (6-4, 6-4) in the semi-final of the Sunfeat Open 2006. Poutchkova will face Martina Hingis in tomorrow's final.
Earlier, both the girls started off the match waiting and wanting their opponent to do all the running and to hold back. Poutchkova was all over the girl from Uzbekistan.
The young Russian held her serve and broke her opponent's serve very early into the first set. The powerful backhands of Poutchkova were something to be awed about. She was clearly doing a lot more of the running, but at the same time could follow that up with some very long volleys.
The fourth game of the first set saw a tremendous performance by both the girls, running back and forth before Poutchkova nailed a brilliant backhand winner to take the game.
The sixth game of the set and Tulyaganova's serve serve was getting a lot better already. She dropped only one point and took the game. The next game was drawn to deuce and not before Poutchkova took advantage of an unforced error from her opponent. Eventually, it just took two powerful backhands from Poutchkova to finish the game and retain her lead.
Poutchkova took the first set 6-4 and the second set was promising to be all the better.
The second set started exactly like the first with Poutchkova doing all the running and helping her cause in the process. The Russian girl managed to break her opponent's serve in the third game and took a quick 2-1 lead.
Tulyaganova kept fighting back and forth, and changed her game plan and decided to come to the net a lot more. Poutchkova ran away with a 4-1 lead very quickly in the 2nd set and it took a great effort from Tulyaganova to fight back.
Eventually, Poutchkova took the match in straight sets (6-4, 6-4).
Asked about how her opponent fought back after being 4-1 down in the second set, Poutchkova said that it got really intense in the end and she had to raise her game.
"I did not expect to go this far in the first WTA Tour meet after a three-year lay-off due to injury. But I am happy at the way I played. Poutchkova is a good player.
"I played poorly today. My first-serve percentage was too low, and I let her play her game too much. I came back in the second set, but then at four-all I was playing way too far behind the baseline. She's a great player though.
"Hingis knows how to play against everyone. But Olga is a good player.
"This was my first Tour event in three years. I qualified and reached the semis, which is a fantastic result for me! It gives me a lot of confidence for the future."
[It's actually her fourth
Tour event in three years. She played Tashkent in 2004 and 2005 (losing to Antonella Serra Zanetti in the second round both times). She also tried (unsuccessfully) to qualify for Dubai 2005.]
"I am happy. She had a big serve, but I played well too. I lost concentration a little bit, but when it was close, I came up with the shots and closed it out. Last week I reached my first quarter-final in Bali, and this week I'm in the final. I'm so happy!
"Hingis is a great player. It will be a fantastic experience to play Hingis, and in my first WTA event final. It's amazing to me. I remember when was ten years old, watching Martina play on TV. I used to watch her in Grand Slam finals when I was 12, and now I'm going to be playing her tomorrow! For me, it will be a big honour to play against her tomorrow. We'll just have to see how it goes!"
Iroda Tulyaganova/Akgul Amanmuradova:
1r + Ankita Bhambri/Sanaa Bhambri, 6-1 6-2
2r - YULIA BEYGELZIMER/YULIANA FEDAK , 6-7 (5/7) 7-5 0-3 retired (Amanmuradova sprained her right ankle)
WTA Tour Singles Rankings
Iroda's trailblazing run at Kolkata has elevated her from #342 to a much healthier #222 in the rankings this week - high enough to play qualifying for pretty much any WTA tournament she wants.
The effect isn't immediate, of course, as the commitments are made about seven weeks before each tournament.
I look forward to Iroda playing a full season on the WTA Tour in 2007, with much more media-coverage than the ITF circuit!
Dr. Andrew Broad
Sep 30th, 2006, 09:14 PM
| Team WTAworld
Join Date: May 2002
Notes & Netcords interview
September 29, 2006
© Getty Images
Catching Up With... Iroda Tulyaganova
- A few years ago she was one of the most lethal players on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour, conquering some of the game’s biggest names in their prime and winning several singles and doubles titles. Not long after cracking the Top 20 and going as high as No.16 in the world, however, the problems started. An elbow injury that was not given enough time to heal was the initial cause of the descent. And after missing so much action that she became unranked, the financial struggles of competing on the pro circuit grew too much. But in Kolkata last week, what began as a glimmer of hope quickly became a full-fledged re-assault on the upper echelon of the women’s game. Iroda Tulyaganova
, 24, battled her way into the Sunfeast Open semifinals as a qualifier, striking her massive serve and devastating groundstrokes like she had never left, proving that she still has what it takes to continue to chase her dreams.
caught up with Iroda in Kolkata.
How do you feel about this run, in your first Tour event of the year?
I’m ready to come back. But although I love winning, I’m happier that nothing is bothering me. I’m healthy, and so I am doing well.
You’ve mentioned that you play well in India. Tell us about that.
I haven't played much in India, but I played Hyderabad once before the injury, and I made the final. Every match that year I played really well. The fans are very supportive. When I entered this tournament, I felt in my heart everything would be perfect. So I had to come.
Tell us about your time away from the game. You missed so much.
I didn’t play much for three years. I injured my right elbow, stopped playing and had it operated on in 2002; but my father forced me to keep playing for another eight months with the pain, because I had so many points to defend. Because of that, it became worse. I was getting injections into the elbow, into the bone. It took me two years to fully recover. I was angry with him but he’s still my father and we’re okay now. When I was ready to play again, though, I had problems on the financial side. I didn’t have the money to start traveling again. I had to sell my car to travel. But, when I started showing some better results at small tournaments, the Uzbek Tennis Federation gave me a little bit of money, and began helping me with traveling expenses. And now, I am beginning to earn money again. But you know, all of this helped my motivation. And I’m more mature now, smarter. I look at everything differently now.
Has it been tough working yourself back up the rankings?
It was hard to play some of the small ITF events. It was tough playing qualifying of those. There I was, ex-Top 16; if I lost a match, it was hard to get over. But, I told myself to forget what happened before. I had to become a new player. If I didn’t, then losing to a player ranked No.200 or No.500 would make me feel guilty. I decided not to think about the past anymore. And with this new outlook, everything started going well again. I began winning and believing in myself again. The best thing now that I am winning again is that since I’ve been so high, I know how to get there again.
Throughout all of your struggles, you maintained your charity work with the Mehrijon orphanage in Tashkent, your hometown.
I still do that. I’m crazy. Nobody was there when I needed help, but I’m helping everybody! I like kids. I was paying for racquets and balls to give to the kids at the orphanage, which was built by the man who used to sponsor me. I was playing with them too. Before, I would send some money from tournaments to help out. But last year I wasn’t helping the orphans, I was helping some other groups of kids, from poor families. I’m telling you, I’m crazy.
How has your outlook on training and practicing changed?
I’m practicing, but not over-practicing. I learned my lesson; I was playing too much. I don’t want my elbow problems to start again. Also, I don’t have a coach right now. I don’t have enough money yet to travel and have one. But, when I start earning more, I’ll get one. I do have a fitness coach back home but she doesn’t care about money; she believes in me, and she knows that when I start doing well again I’ll give her money, presents, anything. She’s been with me forever. But as for a tennis coach, it’s me. It’s all in me.
Despite your new outlook, and trying not to think about the past, it must be hard not to be inspired by your past achievements. What are your fondest memories from the years prior to the struggle?
The best was Tashkent. It was my first WTA title, and in front my hometown. My biggest wins were beating Kim Clijsters at Knokke-Heist and Justine Henin-Hardenne at Linz. Those were memorable for me. But one of my biggest victories actually came last week at the Asian Championships. If you win, you get a wild card for the Australian Open. It was also in my hometown. These past years, I missed the feeling of winning so much, and all I wanted was to win this title. And in the end, I beat someone ranked like No.130, and I was so happy I started to cry on the court like I was a five-year-old girl winning her first tournament. And just the feeling of going to a Grand Slam again. At the moment, it’s my nicest achievement.
What are your expectations now that you’re healthy again?
I’m coming back to get to the top again. Not to be Top 100, but to be Top 20 like I was, or even Top 10. It won’t be easy to do, actually it’s much harder now than it was before, but I just have to work hard and do the right things. Of course, a lot of the girls on the top now I have beaten before. When I left and saw they were winning, I was happy for them but I was upset with myself because I knew I could be there too. It was hard for me to watch. But life is like this.
For more information on Iroda, please click here
Dr. Andrew Broad
Oct 10th, 2006, 04:00 AM
| Team WTAworld
Join Date: May 2002
Tashkent: Andrew's tournament-review
TASHKENT OPEN (Tashkent, Uzbekistan; outdoor hard; WTA Tier IV)
Iroda's comeback just keeps getting better and better. In her first WTA tournament of 2006, Kolkata, she reached the semis and lost to Olga Poutchkova. In this her second WTA tournament of the year, she beat Poutchkova in the semis, but fell short of regaining the WTA title she won in June 2000.
This was Iroda's first WTA singles-final since Hyderabad in February 2003, where she lost to Tamarine Tanasugarn - a defeat she avenged in the second round here.
Iroda hasn't won a WTA singles-title since she won Vienna and Knokke-Heist (her second and third titles) back to back in July 2001. But the way her comeback is going, who's to say she won't soon be dominating the WTA Tour like that again!
With this run, Iroda goes up from 221 to 158 in the rankings - just below Tatiana Perebiynis and Tamira Paszek, and above Alicia Molik, Yan,Zi and Mashona Washington.
What an amazing array of outfits! Apparently, there is a shop called "Tulyaganova Fashion" in the centre of Tashkent!
First round (Monday 2nd October)
+ Iroda Tulyaganova [WC] d. ANASTASIYA YAKIMOVA , 6-3 7-6 (7/5)
I'm impressed with this result because I saw Yakimova play at the French Open 2006 against eventual champion Justine Henin-Hardenne. IIRC, Yakimova served for the second set and had set-points against Henin.
It's a great sign of where Iroda's comeback is at that she can pull off upsets like this. I even expected it in a way - my belief in Iroda has really grown since her run to the semi-finals of Kolkata; finally we have something resembling the pre-July 2003 Iroda back again!
Tulyaganova, a former Top 20 player, took control early and quickly claimed the first set. She couldn't maintain the same level of intensity, though, and Yakimova, a good mover with good anticipation, started wearing her down. Tulyaganova survived a break-point in the sixth game of the second set and held on to force the tie-break. A forehand error and a muffed overhead put her 5-3 behind but she rallied and won the next three points, getting to match-point with a half-volley which Yakimova thought was long. It might have upset Yakimova's composure because she double faulted to end the match.
Tulyaganova was happy about her win and said she hoped to do better in the coming matches. She next plays Thailand's Tamarine Tanasugarn, who eliminated last year's runner-up Akgul Amanmuradova, 64 75.
James Storms at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/IrodaT/
I heard from a friend of mine who wrote:
"I spoke to Anvar in Tashkent, he watched the 1.round match of Iroda. He says she is not in good shape, and she got very tired in the last games.
"It was maybe ok that she lost 1.round in the doubles."
Second round (Wednesday 4th October)
+ Iroda Tulyaganova [WC] d. Tamarine Tanasugarn, 6-4 6-1
Tanasugarn has been a difficult opponent over the years, but her 2006 results have been lacklustre.
: "Tulyaganova, dressed in a shimmering blue outfit, defeated Tour veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn, 64 61, in a scrappy match. The first set, which featured seven breaks of serve, lasted 40 minutes. But the match became less competitive after Tanasugarn took a medical timeout after the third game of the second set. She returned with a strapped left ankle but it didn't help much as she didn't win another game."
Tulyaganova, dressed flamboyantly as ever, in a shimmering turquouise blue outfit, defeated tour veteran Tamarine Tanasugarn 6-4, 6-1 in a scrappy match. The first set, in which there were seven breaks of serve, lasted 40 minutes.
The match ended as a contest after Tanasugarn, having mobility problems, took a medical timeout after the third game of the second set. She came back on court with a strapped left ankle but it didn't help much, she didn't win another game.
Tulyaganova, who was eliminated in the second round the two previous years here (both times by Italy's Antonella Serra Zanetti) was happy to make it to the third round this time but felt she could be serving better.
Asked to compare this form with that during her semi-final showing in Kolkata two weeks ago, Tulyaganova said "Just about the same."
: "She got very tired in at end of the match"
Quarter-finals (Friday 6th October)
+ Iroda Tulyaganova [WC] d. Kateryna Bondarenko, 6-1 6-2
Kateryna won the Wimbledon Girls' Singles title in 2004, just as Iroda did in 1999. But she hasn't made any real impact on the WTA Tour, and seems to be a far cry from her older sister Alyona (who won Luxembourg the week before) in both tennis-ability and beauty.
The match lasted 1h10m. Iroda wore a shimmering mauve outfit.
"It was easier than I expected. She was making too many mistakes, couldn't put the ball in court. But I'm glad that I was able to keep my concentration."
[Re. her form compared to Kolkata]
"It's the same, but here I have the crowd with me."
Semi-finals (Saturday 7th October)
+ Iroda Tulyaganova [WC] d. OLGA POUTCHKOVA , 6-4 6-0
A very pleasant surprise after Iroda's loss to the same opponent in the semis of Kolkata!
Poutchkova was playing for the fourth week in a row, after her runs at Bali (qf), Kolkata (r/u) and Guangzhou (qf). The match was competitive until Iroda led 6-4 1-0*, then Poutchkova self-destructed.
Tulyaganova had to work hard for her win over Poutchkova today. Dressed as flamboyantly as ever, in a gold and black outfit today, she was broken while serving for the first set in the ninth game [5-3], double-faulting at break-point.
She, however, broke Poutchkova in the next game [4-5], wrapping the set in 39 minutes on her second set-point, Poutchkova having the saved the first by splendidly racing up to retrieve a dropshot and hit a backhand winner.
The first game of the second game was perhaps the turning point. Tulyaganova held after six long deuces, saving three break-points along the way.
Something snapped in Poutchkova after that. She got a code violation for unsporting conduct when she banged the ball in frustration at a linesperson. Then she tried hitting every ball for a winner and self-destructed.
Associated Press: "The Uzbek saved two break-points in the first game of the second set before Poutchkova double-faulted twice on her serve in the next game and appeared to give up."
I watched this match and I should say Iroda was lucky and Olga was TOO nervous. Olga played good in the first set, but lost contol in the second as she was not agree with referee decisions.
Iroda was lucky and calm. That's plus for her. But her play should be improved, in particular, first serves. She also made a lot short balls and I cannot support her decision.
She surely must consider her tactics before the match with Sun.
WTA Quotes of the Week: "On court, she believes that she can do anything. She has great self-belief. But I wanted to show her that I have self-belief too - twice that self-belief.
"One must lose with dignity.
"If she [Sun] has reached the final, she must be playing well. For sure, it will not be an easy match tomorrow."
"I just angry with myself. I lost control... I've had a long tour and I'm tired."
Final (Sunday 8th October)
- Iroda Tulyaganova [WC] lt. Sun,Tiantian, 2-6 4-6
The match lasted just 1h06m, with Iroda's serve being broken six times (four times in the first set, twice in the second).
A disappointing result compared with the earlier rounds, but it doesn't do much to detract from an excellent week and comeback from Iroda. Winning the title would have been the cherry on the cake, but if Iroda can go on like this and stay injury-free, there are a lot more cherries she can put on that cake, so I'm looking forward to having them.
Sun is the reigning Olympic doubles-champion (with Li,Ting), but had never previously been beyond the quarter-finals of a WTA singles-event. She had beaten Serena Williams at Beijing 2005 and Vera Zvonarëva at Beijing 2006, but that was with the partisan support of her home-crowd, and on a day of tears and tantrums for Vera.
Iroda and Vera are both members of my Eternal Fanship, and I was
planning to promote Vera ahead of Iroda at the end of 2006. But Iroda's sudden and dramatic return to form makes me less inclined to do so. It will be fascinating to see how their 2007 results compare, and I'm sure that Nicole Vaidišová will be angling for promotion too...
The final was played on Court 2 with a scheduled start-time of 14:00 (GMT + 5 hours). With a member of my Eternal Fanship in a WTA singles-final, I was disappointed that there were no live scores; the livest source was the following thread:
Sun won the first set 6-2 (observed 14:50).
Sun led *5-2 in the second (observed 15:04).
Sun won 6-2 6-4 (observed 15:16).
Sun, who went to three sets in her first match of the tournament but cruised through three more rounds in straight sets to reach the final, was again in solid form under sunny Sunday skies, keeping the ball deep, returning well and rarely giving away any free points in the rallies. Aside from a slight hiccup while serving for the match, allowing 5-2 to become 5-4 before closing it out, Sun's cool was evident throughout.
For Tulyaganova, the championship defeat marks an end to what was shaping up to be a profound return to the winner's circle. Having gone as high as No.16 in the world on the rankings just a few years ago, her momentum was derailed by an elbow injury that required surgery, and financial struggles while working her way back onto the circuit.
But despite not winning her home title, the 24-year-old Uzbek was cracking forehands and big serves throughout the week like she had never left the game's upper echelon, taking out seeds Anastasiya Yakimova and Olga Poutchkova, and she even showed flashes of her former brilliance against Sun, though not at critical junctures of the match.
The former Top 20 player was playing just her second Tour event of the year, having reached the Tier III Kolkata semifinals two weeks ago as a 342nd-ranked qualifier, falling to Poutchkova. She came into Tashkent as a wild card ranked No.221.
The one-hour, six-minute final was a disappointment for the large crowd which had come to cheer their favourite player, Tulyaganova. But it simply wasn't her day and she admitted as much later. Nothing went right for her against a player who rarely put a foot wrong the whole match.
There was nothing spectacular about Sun's play. But she was solid and she was consistent in everything she did: serving, returning serves and hitting groundstrokes. There were very few unforced errors from her racket, and the only blip in her game was when she was broken while serving for the match the first time, at 5-2 in the second set.
She served one double fault and made two other unforced errors. But, having got the cushion of two breaks in the set, she had a second chance and made no mistake that time, sealing the win on her second match-point when Tulyaganova mishit a forehand.
The key to Sun's success was her mental strength. Like in her semi-final against Victoria Azarenka, she seemed calm and assured on court. She did show any sign of nerves despite being in her first singles final and against a player who had the noisy backing of a partisan crowd in a packed stadium.
On the other hand, Tulyaganova appeared affected by the occasion. She appeared more nervous than her opponent, and dropped serve in the opening game of the match, something which Sun said was a key factor in her win.
Tulyaganova also never really found her rhythm, especially on her forehand, several of which she hit into the net when she had an open court in front of her.
In earlier rounds too Tulyaganova had made poor starts but unlike her earlier opponents, Sun was playing practically error-free tennis. She did not ease up, and soon Tulyganova was broken again and found herself 4-0 down.
Finally, Tulyaganova found some sort of groove and held her next two service games, but Sun wasn't slowing any. She she took the first set on her first set-point, when Tulyaganova failed to finish a point at the net and Sun, lobbing smartly, set up a winner for the next shot.
Tulyaganova started the second set well, but with Sun not relaxing one bit, it was always going to be uphill for her. A double-fault and a backhand error saw her give Sun a break-point in the fifth game and the Chinese cashed in straightaway with a powerful, inside-out forehand return of serve.
After holding for 4-2, Sun broke Tulyaganova again, after two deuces, the first game in the match which went to deuce. It was as good as over then though Tulyaganova did delay the inevitable by breaking Sun the first time she served for the match.
"She played well, she served well. I tried my best, but it was not my day today.
"It is not a loss for me, it's a win, because I've come back from all of my injuries, and reached the final at the Tashkent Open."
"It feels good!
"It was easier than I expected it to be. In fact, it wasn't as easy as it seems. Iroda is a very good player, and she was playing at home.
"It was not that easy as one may guess from the scoring. Tulyaganova is back in tennis after injury, and it was not that easy to beat her."
Doubles: First round (Tuesday 3rd October)
- Iroda Tulyaganova/Akgul Amanmuradova lt. VICTORIA AZARENKA/TATIANA POUTCHEK , 6-4 4-6 1-6
Amanmuradova was hampered by an ankle-injury that made her slower than usual, as noted for her singles-match the day before.
ITF WOMEN'S CIRCUIT (Beijing, China; hard; ITF $50k)
The following information pertains to the week commencing 23rd October:
Iroda is on the entry-list for ITF Beijing, with a priority of 2. Her first priority was ITF Podolsk, but she withdrew from that on 8th October.
Dr. Andrew Broad
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