Opponents' injuries help qualifier end Canada's WTA Tour drought
Aleksandra Wozniak had to survive through eight matches in nine days to win her first WTA Tour singles title. Somehow by the end of the week the qualifier was still playing at her best and it was her opponents who had worn down.
Wozniak became the first Canadian to win a WTA Tour singles title in 20 years, taking an advantage of an injury to Marion Bartoli to win the Bank of the West Classic 7-5, 6-3 on Sunday.
Wozniak won the semifinal when top-seeded Serena Williams pulled out with a knee injury in the second set. Then Bartoli was slowed in the final by a sore left hip that left her limping badly late in the match.
"I don't know what's happening," Wozniak said. "I guess I make them run too much or something. Yesterday (Serena) pulled out and today she got hurt, Marion. I don't know. I just keep playing aggressive and doing what I needed to do to win."
Wozniak, 20, needed to win three matches in qualifying -- including a three-setter against Angela Haynes in the first round just to make the main draw. She followed with five more wins to become the first Canadian since Jill Hetherington at Wellington in February 1988 to win a women's singles title. Wozniak was only 5 months old at the time.
Only three other Canadian women have won tour titles: Patricia Hy-Boulais, Taipei, 1986; Helen Kelesi, Tokyo, 1986; and Carling Bassett-Seguso, Strasbourg, 1987.
"It's great. I think I made history at home," Wozniak said. "Everybody was watching the match. I'm just proud of being Canadian."
Wozniak also became just the third qualifier to win a tournament this year and the first to do it in a Tier II tournament -- one with more than $600,000 in prize money. She was the first qualifier to win this event since the inception of computer rankings in 1982.
The match was tight for most of the first set, before Wozniak took charge with Bartoli serving for the set at 5-4. She won 12 of the final 14 points to take the set, using her powerful backhand to break Bartoli's serve twice.
Then in the opening game of the second set Bartoli began grabbing at her left hip, which got worse as the match progressed. After losing that first game at love, Bartoli asked the referee to get the trainer on call and Bartoli took a medical timeout trailing 2-1.
"This morning when I was warming up I felt already a little pain but it was not that bad," Bartoli said. "When I started the match it really started to hurt. I just tried the whole first set to forget about the pain and just play."
Bartoli came back on the court limping noticeably and struggled to move. She gamely played on but never was able to threaten Wozniak and lost the match when her backhand hit the net cord and fell back to her side.
Wozniak gave a subdued fist pump and ran to the net to congratulate her opponent.
"I think I still didn't feel it," she said. "I was still in my bubble. It's my first title. I'm usually a person who doesn't show much emotion on court. I just tried to stay calm, and after the tournament was over then I'm happy."
Wozniak will achieve her goal of making it into the top 50 for the first time in her career. Now she has her sights set on the Top 10.
Bartoli, who has three career titles, has not won one since 2006. This was her first final since losing at Wimbledon to Venus Williams last summer. She struggled early this year while dealing with fatigue from mononucleosis, but felt she had started to regain her form in recent weeks.
"It's really disappointing for me," Bartoli said. "I was able to play some really great tennis to be able to be in the final. I thought I really had a shot to win a Tier II event. But each day is different."
Wozniak earned a $95,500 pay day, the biggest of her career and almost as much as the $111,777 she had earned all year before this week. Her previous best pay day was $54,773 for making it to the third round of the French Open earlier this year. She lost her only previous final in a much smaller tournament in Morocco last year.
In the doubles final, Cara Black and Liezel Huber beat Elena Vesnina and Vera Zvonareva 6-4, 6-3.