Russian Nadia Petrova played spoiler Saturday, denying world No. 3 Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in her bid for a successful title defense at the Pan Pacific Open.
Radwanska, the third seed, failed to become the first player to win back-to-back titles since Lindsay Davenport achieved the feat in 2003-04. Petrova claimed prize money of $385,000.
World No. 18 Petrova steamrolled Radwanska in the opening set before Radwanska rallied to take the next, but the Russian took control near the end of the last set in a 6-0, 1-6, 6-3 victory on a spectacular day on center court at Ariake Tennis Forest Park.
“To be honest with you, I don’t know where I found the strength and willpower to fight to three sets. This is the biggest title I’ve ever won. This is a great accomplishment,” said Petrova, who won her 12th career WTA title.
“I was really low on energy in that third, but my coach was really giving me a lot of mental support,” she said.
Radwanska, the 2012 Wimbledon finalist, had held a 3-1 career record against Petrova, but the 23-year-old was a shell of herself early on before bouncing back to make things interesting.
The 30-year-old Petrova, the 17th seed in her sixth appearance here, went better than her 2008 semifinal loss to win her second title of the season following her victory at ‘s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands.
The pair played evenly in the third set with neither conceding a break point, until things took an awkward turn for Radwanska in the eighth game.
Radwanska doubled faulted for the first deuce of the set, and she doubled faulted again to give Petrova advantage before the Russian broke the Pole with a passing shot just out of reach.
“She was just a little better than I was today. I was hoping for the title again this year, but just couldn’t quite get there,” said Radwanska, who choked up in her post-match interview. “Her serves and returns were really working for her today.”
Petrova rolled in the ninth game to triple match point before Radwanska pushed within 40-15. But the Russian served out the match, ending it with a forehand smash after 1 hour, 41 minutes.
“The first set was perfect tennis; I put a lot of energy into it. But I hit an energy low in the second set. After I had a change of clothes following the second set, I got back in the game.”
Petrova had 11 aces to just six for Radwanska. “I was very happy with my service game in the first and third set but hit a slump in the second. I thought she started to have trouble with some of my high kick serves.”
In the doubles final, Raquel Kop-Jones and partner Abigail Spears of the United States defeated Germany’s Anna-Lena Groenefeld and Czech Kveta Peschke 6-1, 6-4.
The tournament turned out to be something of a dud after world No. 1 Victoria Azarenka pulled out before her quarterfinal match with dizzy spells, and world No. 2 Maria Sharapova bounced out of the final eight after a loss to Australian Samantha Stosur on Thursday.
Nishikori into semis
Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko retired from his Malaysian Open quarterfinal against Kei Nishikori on Friday after suffering a muscle injury in his left leg.
The former world No. 3 and winner of the inaugural Malaysian Open in 2009 had lost the first set against the third seeded Nishikori 6-4 before calling it quits.
Davydenko, who has dropped to No. 44 in the world, first pulled up injured in the eighth game of the first set. He called for a medical timeout and only played another two games before losing that set. He then decided to quit the tournament, handing Nishikori a semifinal berth.
In the semis, the 22-year-old, who at No. 17 is the highest ranked Asian in the world, will meet second seed Juan Monaco of Argentina.
“Now that I have qualified for the semifinals, my thoughts are on my opponent and close friend Monaco,” Nishikori said.
“I have been practicing with him since we arrived in Malaysia. I expect a difficult match as we know each other’s game very well . . . He likes to play from the baseline so I will have to adjust my game plan accordingly.”
World No. 11 Monaco easily defeated Canadian Vasek Pospisil 6-3, 6-4 in an earlier match.
Seventh seed Julien Benneteau of France also smashed Alejandro Falla of Colombia 6-2, 6-2.
Friday’s last quarterfinal saw world No. 5 and top seed David Ferrer of Spain put away Dutchman Igor Sijsling 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.