Birmingham - Donna Vekic, the 16-year-old whose grass court promise has been
likened to that of Maria Sharapova at the same age, upset the seedings a
third time to reach the Birmingham WTA final on Saturday.
did that with a staccato, tortuous, frequently rain-interrupted 7-6
(7/5), 1-6, 6-3 win over the former champion, Magdalena Rybarikova, to
move into the final of the Wimbledon warm-up event.
opponent in the final will be Daniela Hantuchova, the experienced former
world number five from Slovakia, who came from a set down for the third
successive match to beat Alison Riske of the United States 5-7, 6-1,
This is the second final of Vekic's brief career, and
Saturday's progress has taken her one step further than Sharapova on her
debut in Birmingham 10 years ago.
The Russian went on to win the
Birminghan title and Wimbledon the following year, and the evidence of
Vekic's win over the Slovakian, as well as over Sorana Cirstea of
Romania and Urszula Radwanska of Poland earlier in the week, is that she
too is already a force on grass.
Once again the basis of her
victory was a liking for striking the ball boldly and early and taking
advantage of the speed of the surface, often setting it up with a
forcing first serve.
Asked if she knew about comparisons being made with the young Sharapova, the teenager wisely set them aside.
"That's very nice but she has her career and I have my career," she said.
equal Sharapova's achievement of winning Wimbledon at 17, however,
Vekic would have to win the Grand Slam this year as her birthday is
during the famous fortnight.
"It's nice to know, but I don't think it's possible at the moment," she said. when asked about doing that.
"But I am playing really well at the moment so hopefully I can get through a few rounds."
when asked whether she could handle the glamour side of the tennis
industry as Sharapova has, the golden-haired girl was much more certain.
"Yes," she said immediately. "I think I can do that."
though moments when doubts arose whether Vekic could handle the combined
threat of Rybarikova and the damp, blustery conditions.
her racket in frustration when she dropped serve to go 4-5 down in the
first set, and looked increasingly concerned as the games ran steadily
away from her in the second set.
However she was helped, she claimed, by the rain delay just before the end of it.
"I wasn't playing very well and it gave me a chance to spend some time with my coach (David Felgate)" she said.
"I wasn't serving very well and so after that I tried to get a higher percentage (of first serves) in. It helped.
"I was also nervous, but now I am very excited about reaching the final. I don't want to think about it too much though now."
Riske had made the last four when upsetting Sabine Lisicki, another
former champion, by 7-6 (7/2), 2-6, 6-4. in the held over quarter-final.
There was a prolonged controversy in the final game when the
German claimed that Riske had broken the rules by yelling "come on"
before the ball had died from a fierce drive volley struck close to the
"You are not supposed to do that, it's against the rules,"
said Lisicki, who reckoned she could have reached the ball, and that
according to the hindrance rule she should have been awarded the point.
after losing an argument with the umpire, she lost a contretemps with
the tournament referee as well -- and only four points later lost the
Results from the sixth day of the WTA Birmingham Open (x denotes seeding):
Alison Riske (USA) bt Sabine Lisicki (GER x5) 7-6 (7/2), 2-6, 6-4
Donna Vekic (CRO) bt Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK x16) 7-6 (7/5), 1-6, 6-3
Daniela Hantuchova (SVK) bt Alison Riske (USA) 5-7, 6-1, 6-4