Feature: Tennis Stars Go West

Aug. 2, 2007

By Elizabeth Pratt
The Stanford Daily

August 2, 2007

Stanford, CA (CSTV U-WIRE) -- International tennis stars took over Taube Family Tennis Center this past weekend, but a few of Stanford's own also made their presence felt at the 37th annual Bank of the West Classic.

The event is the longest-running women's-only professional tennis tournament in the world, and boasts a former champions list that reads like a who's who of women's tennis: past winners include Billie Jean King, Martina Hingis and Venus Williams. This year, the Tier II Sony Ericsson Women's Tennis Association (WTA) tour event featured a 28-player singles draw and a 16-team doubles draw with $600,000 of total prize money on the line.

The weekend before the start of the tournament, a 16-player qualifying tournament took place to fill four spots in the main singles draw, and the winners of a four-team doubles qualifying tournament took the final spot in the main doubles draw.

Three Stanford players were given wild cards to participate in the qualifying tournament: rising seniors Lejla Hodzic and Whitney Deason, as well as their former teammate, Anne Yelsey '07. Hodzic and Deason both lost in the first round, but Yelsey went as far as the second, knocking out American Mami Inoue 6-4, 6-1 in the first round before falling to American Raquel Kops-Jones (ranked No.186 in the world) 6-2, 6-3. Hodzic had lost to American Jennifer Yen 6-1, 6-3, and American Alexandra Stevenson took out Deason 6-2, 6-2.

Two former Stanford players did, however, make it to the main singles draw: Amber Liu '06 and Lilia Osterloh, who attended Stanford from 1996-1997 before turning pro.

Liu, the 2003 and 2004 NCAA singles champion, had a strong first-round showing but fell 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 to Grecian Eleni Daniilidou, ranked No. 44 in the world.

Osterloh, who won the NCAA singles championship as a freshman in 1997, recorded two upsets in the tournament on her way to the quarterfinals. In the first round, she eliminated another former NCAA singles champion, No. 72 Jill Craybas, 6-2, 7-5. And in the second round, Osterloh recorded the biggest upset of the tournament by stunning 2007 Wimbledon finalist and No. 2 seed Marion Bartoli (ranked No. 12 in the world) 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

The Card alum's run came to an end in the quarterfinals, where she lost to the No. 8 seed, Austrian Sybille Bammer (No. 21 in the world) 6-2, 6-1. As a result of her strong play at the Bank of the West, Osterloh jumped 26 spots in the WTA singles rankings, from No. 106 to No. 80.

Stanford was represented in the doubles tournament as well. Liu and Yelsey, who previously played together in their collegiate careers, received a wild card for the main doubles draw. They played the top-seeded team of Japan's Ai Sugiyama and Slovenia's Katarina Srebotnik in the first round, losing 6-1, 6-2.

Though many American players competed in the Bank of the West, it was the international contingent who made the most noise. In the singles final, 20-year-old Russian and No.1 seed Anna Chakvetadze defeated unseeded Indian Sania Mirza 6-3, 6-2. Chakvetadze moved up to No. 6 in this week's WTA rankings, a career high after her back-to-back titles at Cincinnati and Stanford. Mirza moved up from No. 35 last week to No. 31 this week in the singles rankings, matching her career high.

The final singles match featured almost no net play, with both players slugging it out from the baseline. Though Chakvetadze turned in seven double faults in the first set, her baseline play was solid, which allowed her to prevail over the hard-hitting Mirza. Usually it was Mirza who determined the fate of a rally by crushing a winner or, more often, committing an unforced error.

Following the singles championship, both players returned to court 30 minutes later to compete in the doubles championship match. It was the first year that both singles finalists also reached the doubles final of the Bank of the West since 1997, when Martina Hingis routed Conchita Martinez 6-0, 6-2 in the singles title match before teaming up with Lindsay Davenport to overpower Martinez and Patricia Tarabini 6-1, 6-3 for the doubles title.

Chakvetadze could not follow in Hingis' footsteps to take home two championships in one day, however. Much to the delight of the Mirza's vocal Indian fan base, Mirza and her Israeli partner Shahar Peer, the No. 3 seeded doubles squad, took down the unseeded team of Chakvetadze and Belarussian Victoria Azarenka in two exciting, hard-fought sets 6-4, 7-6 (5).

Chakvetadze and Mirza seemed content to split the titles, passing the time between awards ceremonies chatting and paying each other compliments during their speeches.

'I played very consistent tennis, and I am confident that I can continue to do that in future tournaments,' Mizra said, while Chakvetadze called her win 'a great feeling.'

(C) 2007 The Stanford Daily via CSTV U-WIRE

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