Ukrainian Kateryna Bondarenko added her name to the list of champions on the WTA tour by defeating 18-year-old Belgian Yanina Wickmayer 7-6, 3-6. 7-6 at the DFS Classic in Birmingham, England, a grass court tune up event.
With defending champion Jelena Jankovic and last year’s finalist Maria Sharapova opting to skip the tournament, the draw opened even further when Marion Bartoli, the only top ten player participating, was ousted in the second round.
Despite this being their first final, both players kept their composure in the first set. Bondarenko had break points in the fifth game, but the teenager retained her cool and served herself out of trouble. With each competitor holding serve, the set was decided in a tiebreak that went in Bondarenko’s favor.
In the second set, Wickmayer outshone her opponent. The Belgian took a double break lead, aided by her big serve to send the match to a decisive third set. Nerves played into the third set, with multiple exchanges of breaks, four out of six games. Once the jitters were set aside, the level of play elevated once more. Fittingly, the championship was determined by a tiebreak, with Bondarenko, the former junior Wimbledon champion, coming out on top. With this victory, Bondarenko’s ranking will climb from 69 to 45, while Wickmayer’s ranking, a pro only the last couple of years, will rise from 85 to 66.
At this tier III event, the doubles team of Cara Black/Liezel Huber, ranked number one in the world, took on 2008 French Open Doubles champion from Spain Virginia Ruano Pascual who teamed up with another partner, Severine Bremond of France. Black/Huber easily disposed of their rivals 6-2, 6-1.
This upcoming week Svetlana Kuznetsova, world number four, and Marion Bartoli, last year’s Wimbledon runner-up, will be the top seeds at Eastbourne, a tier II contest also on grass. While Elena Dementieva, Anna Chakvetadze, Dinara Safina respectively ranked number 5, 8 and 9 in the world will be sharpening their grass court skills at the Ordina Open in the Netherlands, a tier III event.
Among the notables absent from pre-Wimbledon grass tournaments are the top three players Ana Ivanovic, Maria Sharapova and Jelena Jankovic. Serena Williams and Venus Williams, the defending Wimbledon champion, continue their tradition of skipping competitive play prior to the action at the All England Club.