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All the little things add up to big win for Flavia Pennetta

The 27-year-old Italian takes the title at L.A. Women's Tennis Championships by beating Australia's Samantha Stosur, 6-4, 6-3, scoring financial and mental rewards.

August 10, 2009|Diane Pucin

Flavia Pennetta does not have a spectacular tennis game in the way of the big-hitting Venus and Serena Williams or the loudly grunting, fiercely competitive Maria Sharapova or the extravagantly clever but maddeningly inconsistent Dinara Safina.

But the 27-year-old from Italy has the experience to construct points using all her shots, her ground strokes and lobs, going cross court and playing behind her opponent. All these little things added up to the biggest win of Pennetta's career.

Pennetta stepped forward Sunday at the Home Depot Center by beating Australia's Samantha Stosur, 6-4, 6-3, in the finals of the L.A. Women's Tennis Championships. For the 10th-seeded Pennetta, a finalist here last year, the financial reward was a check for $107,000. The mental reward might be greater.

"Now I'm feeling tired," she said, "and very happy. About today, yesterday, all week. Every match I was improving and playing better and that's good for me."

Pennetta made it to the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open last year, her best major championship finish even though she considers herself more comfortable on clay courts.

For Stosur, 25, the loss was her fifth in five Sony Ericsson WTA Tour singles finals appearances.

In the other four finals, Stosur's pattern had been to win the first set and lose the second two -- at Seoul in 2008 she fell to Maria Kirilenko, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4; at Prague in 2006 to Shahar Peer, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1; in 2005 at Gold Coast to Patty Schnyder, 1-6, 6-3, 7-5; and in Sydney to Alicia Molik, 5-7 (5), 6-4, 7-5.

This time, though, Stosur's punishing serve was merely adequate and she played from behind much of the match, so there was never a moment that compelled the crowd to get noisy or involved.

"I don't think I was overly nervous about today's match," Stosur said Sunday. "Some days everything feels great and you can do whatever you want. It's not that I felt bad and I don't think I played badly, she just played very well."

Stosur had only one criticism of herself.

"Maybe at three-all in the second set, I didn't quite step up and go for a few balls," she said.

Stosur showed some nerves when she double-faulted on the first point of the 1-hour 21-minute match.

Although Stosur considers her serve a strength it was never fast or movable enough to befuddle Pennetta.

Pennetta earned the only service break of the first set on a forehand error from Stosur in the seventh game, a game in which Stosur served one of her eight double faults to offer three break point chances at 0-40.

In the second set, Pennetta got the early advantage by breaking Stosur in the third game.

Stosur evened the set at 3-3 when Pennetta sailed a backhand long, but Pennetta immediately reclaimed the advantage by maneuvering Stosur from corner to corner and front to back before converting another break point with a decisive overhead.

From that point, with Pennetta ahead, 4-3, Stosur only won four more points. Stosur did try to be the aggressor and force play, which accounted for the fact she had more unforced errors (32) and winners (19) than Pennetta (16 unforced, 18 winners). But the differential wasn't nearly enough.

The win puts Pennetta's computer ranking at No. 12, one spot below her career high. No Italian woman has ever cracked the top 10 -- Silvia Farina Elia and Francesca Schiavone made it to No. 11. If she were to crack the top 10, Pennetta said, "That would be a big step for me and for tennis in Italy."

If Pennetta keeps this tournament on her schedule, that just might happen.

--

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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