By Christopher Lancette
WASHINGTON – Unseeded Magdalena Rybarikova completed her remarkable romp through the 2012 Citi Open by upsetting top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova (No. 28) 6-1, 6-1. The world No. 102 knocked out all three of the top-seeded players en route to winning a tournament she barely planned to attend.
“I didn’t expect this,” Rybarikova said. “I am absolutely happy. I don’t know what to say. It’s amazing.”
|Magdalena Rybarikova – Photo by Wonok Kim|
Rybarikova dominated from the start, breaking Pavlyuchenkova in the opening game. She displayed calm nerves and a combination of power and placement throughout the match, never giving the more heralded player a chance. The win gives Rybarikova her third career title and a pending boost in the rankings.
“I didn’t have anything to lose,” she said. “I was very relaxed and able to play my game.”
Despite winning the championship, Rybarikova said what so many players say at the end of a tournament – even when they win: There will be no big celebration tonight.
“Maybe more tomorrow,” she said, “because tonight I’m very tired … I just want to sleep tonight and tomorrow celebrate for sure.”
The men’s side offered more competition today. Tommy Haas punched his ticket to Sunday’s championship match by upending top seed Mardy Fish 6-3, 7-5 and will square off against second seed Alexandr Dolgopolov, who overpowered Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-4.
Haas earned his first trip to the tournament’s finals by playing steadily and attacking Fish’s second serve.
|Tommy Haas – Photo by Wonok Kim|
“Mardy probably has a slight edge on the first serve, I think,” Haas said. “His first serve is even better than mine, I would say. He has more speed, better placement at times, so I knew if I get some opportunity on the second serve, I’m going to have to take as many as I can and try to put some pressure on him, which I think I did really well throughout the whole match.”
Haas turned the match in his favor after fighting off a Fish charge in the second set. Down 4-5 and serving at 30-40, Haas came in behind a curious drop shot from Fish and won the point – causing Fish to slam his racket into the ground in disgust. (Fish said later that he was attempting to hit a deep slice instead of a drop and that he saw that play as a turning point.) Haas drew even two points later with a forehand winner. Haas went up 6-5 by breaking Fish in the next game, hitting winners off an inside-out backhand and crushing returns from the back side, too. The game ended on a poorly timed double fault by Fish.
|Mardy Fish (L) congratulates his close friend Tommy Haas after the match – Photo by Wonok Kim|
While Fish contributed four double faults and 26 unforced errors on the day, Haas gave away but one point on his serve and made only seven unforced errors in the match – none of them occurring in the second set.
“I didn’t even register that,” Haas said of the perfect second set. “That’s obviously something that doesn’t happen often in my game since I play quite aggressively at times and mishit a few balls here and there. In order to beat people like Mardy Fish, you have to play at a very high level and I guess that speaks for itself – that stat.”
Haas has now won six of his last seven matches against Top 15 players and will see his ranking climb next week regardless of Sunday’s result.
On the other side of the bracket, Dolgopolov (No. 25), turned his first appearance at this event into a shot at the title – moving to 22-15 on the year.
The Ukrainian broke Querrey in the first game of the match, held on through a shaky first service game of his own, and denied Querrey of the advantage that often comes with his big serve.
“That was really important,” said Dolgopolov, who has spent 41 career weeks in the Top 20 and will return there next week. “It’s tough to break his serve. To start the game with that gave me confidence even though I almost lost my serve … That was a big moment in the match.”
How did Dolgopolov neutralize Querrey’s booming serve?
“The players know each other,” he said. “Most of them watch matches and try to see where a player is serving in the important moments. I analyzed a bit his service so that was the main thing – and just to step in the court and with a good reaction try to return as many serves as you can on the first serve, and be aggressive on the second serve. I do that anyway with the other players but with the servers that’s really big. They get a bit unconfident and try to go for bigger serves. I think at that point he hit a few double faults as well. That made him uncomfortable on the serve.”
|Alexandr Dolgopolov – Photo by Wonok Kim|
The critical moments of the second set came at 4-4 with Querrey serving at deuce. Dolgopolov ran Querrey around, cranked an approach shot, hit an aggressive volley and then finished the point on an overhead smash. Dolgopolov won the next point and then took the match onto his strings in the next game. He opened with a sizzling forehand slice volley winner and followed that with a forehand winner into the corner, another put-away at the net and an inside-out backhand winner.
For his part, Querrey said he was pleased with his work in the nation’s capital but knows there’s something he must do more often.
“I just need to play a little more fearless on those big points and I didn’t do a very good job of that today,” he said.
The men’s final takes place on stadium court at the Fitzgerald Tennis Center at 4 p.m. Sunday. The men’s doubles match is scheduled for 1 p.m., when the team of Sam Querrey and Kevin Anderson will face Treat Conrad Huey and Dominic Inglot.
Follow Christopher Lancette on Twitter @chrislancette