Soderling supreme

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Published — Monday 15 February 2010

Last Update 15 February 2010 3:00 am

ROTTERDAM: Roland Garros finalist Robin Soderling became the first Swede in nearly two decades to win the Rotterdam Open as he defeated injured former champion Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 2-0 Sunday.

Anders Jarryd in 1993 was Sweden’s last winner at the Ahoy arena. Soderling lost the 2008 final here to Frenchman Michael Llodra. World number eight Soderling broke a personal title dry spell dating back to last July in Bastad as he earned the victory in 54 minutes.

Youzhny was unable to go on, ending his participation after losing serve in the second game of the second set after taking treatment in the first set.

“I’m sorry I could not finish,” said Youzhny. “I couldn’t move so well. I tried my best, I had been hoping to do better today.”

Soderling’s success this week capped his return to form after losing first-round matches in both of his previous 2010 events, Chennai and the Australian Open.

“I’ve always wanted to play well here again,” said the former finalist.

“It was a good week for me but a bit up and down, Soderling said that an enforced rest at home after going out in Melbourne finally put him right physically and mentally.

“I didn’t start so well in the fist few matches, but along with my coach we worked and my game is back. I’m playing really well once more.

“But that’s all over - I feel perfect again.”

The 25-year-old improved to 5-2 on the season and ran his record against Youzhny to 3-1 with win in their last three meetings. Soderling and Youzhny had combined in the semi-finals to eliminate the tournament’s top two seeds, with the Swede eliminating number two Nikolay Davydenko and Youzhny working an evening victory over world number two Novak Djokovic.

Youzhny was playing his fifth final in his last eight events while Soderling found himself in a title match for the first time in his last 13 tournaments.

The 45-minute opening set was break-strewn, with the Swede managing three while losing his own serve twice.

Youzhny, who had said he would be fragile for the final after winning his semifinal the previous evening, was stretched out on court for treatment on the hip problem.

But the number 20 made a recovery, breaking Soderling in the ninth game as the Swede served for the first set. Soderling got it straight back to take the opener as his return off a net cord landed a winner on a first set point.

Dementieva delights

In Paris, world No. 7 Elena Dementieva came from a set down to defeat Czech Lucie Safarova 6-7, 6-1, 6-4 to win the Paris Indoor Open for the first time on Sunday.

The 28-year-old Russian, who lost to Amelie Mauresmo in the final last year, was forced to work hard by Safarova.

The unseeded Czech, a losing finalist here in 2007, made a bright start as she broke Dementieva’s opening service game.

The top seed, who also had to come from a set down to win in the quarter and semifinals, broke back but it was Safarova who showed the cooler nerve in the tiebreak, taking it 7-5 with a rasping cross-court backhand.

Dementieva came back powerfully in the second set, though, twice breaking serve.

The left-handed Safarova, ranked 46th in the world, got her serve working again in the third set until her opponent cranked up the pressure in the seventh game to break for a 4-3 lead.

Safarova saved two championship points in her next service game and a third on Dementieva’s serve. But the Russian made no mistake with her fourth as she claimed a cheque for $107,000.

Zvonareva triumphs

In Pattaya, Thailand, Russia’s Vera Zvonareva made a successful defense of her Pattaya Open title after a tough 6-4 6-4 win over local favorite Tamarine Tanasugarn on Sunday.

Zvonareva had a fierce battle with the tenacious Tamarine, who was inspired by the partisan home crowd and tested the Russian throughout a physical one hour, 51-minute match.

The world number 14 got off to an impressive start and raced to a 3-0 lead but Tamarine soon clambered back into the match and piled the pressure on her opponent as the intense heat took its toll in the second set.

Zvonareva regained her composure after being frustrated by a series of contested line calls, fending off a late fight back to become the only player to retain the title at the 19-year-old tournament.

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