Hantuchova wins battle of the generations

Daniela Hantuchova is victorious against opponent 14 years her junior in the final of the Birmingham WTA tournament.

    Hantuchova wins battle of the generations
    Hantuchova from Slovakia celebrates with trophy after beating young Donna Vekic from Croatia [AP]

    Daniela Hantuchova won the sixth title of her career and a battle of the generations which saw the defeat of the new golden girl in the Birmingham WTA final.

    Many of the crowd came to see whether Donna Vekic, at 16 the youngest player in the world's top 350, could win the Wimbledon warm-up event.

    However after almost snatching the first set the teenager was beaten by an opponent nearly a decade and a half older.

    The former world number five from Slovakia showed she still has remarkable resilience as she beat the sensational new girl from Croatia 7-6 (7/5), 6-4.

    Hantuchova had spent fully 12 hours on court during a week in which she had suffered from an ankle injury and three times looked to be heading for defeat.

    To see Serena (Williams) and Francesca (Schiavone) doing well past 30 keeps us oldies going

    Daniela Hantuchova, Slovakian tennis player

    But she was solid and punishing off the ground and steadier in the head than Vekic.

    After twice coming within two points of taking the first set, the youngster slung her racket across the court when the set slipped away and for that got a code violation warning.

    But Vekic had already progressed one round further than Maria Sharapova in her first appearance here, had showed she has a fierce and hard-to-read forehand drive, and became the second youngest finalist the tournament has ever had.

    "Donna has a great future ahead of her, no doubt," said Hantuchova, who had at last won the tournament which, in 1999, had been the first WTA Tour event of her career.

    "I waited a long time for this success, so it's very special, and I never thought I would ever play anyone 14 years younger than me, so that makes it even more special.

    "I am very motivated this year and hope to get back to where I was," said the player who has fallen from the top ten to a ranking in the sixties.

    "To see Serena (Williams) and Francesca (Schiavone) doing well past 30 keeps us oldies going."

    A vital moment in the first set came at 5-5 in the tie-breaker when a Hantuchova drive near the sideline brought up a puff of chalk and put her set point up instead of set point down.

    Then in the second set after Vekic had made a break of serve to go 2-1 Hantuchova broke back at once, and then broke Vekic again in the final game when she achieved a better balance between boldness and security with her driving.

    "I have such mixed emotions," said Vekic, after only the second WTA Tour final of her career.

    "I've had a great week and I am happy with that, but I can't be happy about losing this.

    "But at least I wasn't nervous as I was in the final in Tashkent, and I will be back to try to win this."

    Vekic also claimed that there were no lasting effects from the injury time out which she took early in the second set, apparently because she was struggling to breath.

    "I will have a day off and I will be fine," she reckoned.

    "And definitely ready to do well at Wimbledon."

    SOURCE: AFP


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