June 22, 2017

Veteran Hantuchova Stops Teenager Vekic for Birmingham Crown

AEGON Classic - Day Eight

By Tumaini Carayol

(June 16, 2013) BIRMINGHAM, UK – There are times when the narrative needs no narration. When the pieces of the puzzle slip so seamlessly into place that to elaborate would only complicate things beyond reprieve.

Such a situation has presented itself throughout the week, not least on Sunday as Donna Vekic‘s and Daniela Hantuchova‘s names appeared opposite each other ahead of the final push for glory. Already the 30 year-old Hantuchova had brushed aside three youngsters on her unlikely route to the final. 18 year-old Laura Robson, arguably the face of Generation

Next ever since her glorious rise to prominence at the 2008 junior Wimbledon.  Kristina Mladenovic, whose junior credentials read eerily similar to Robson’s, followed a round later. This final match was the last barrier – the final frontier in this Birmingham-based battle between the rising and established.

But with her notoriously smooth strokes in full-flight, it was the 30 year-old who denied Vekic her first title, achieving a first of her own as she recorded her maiden title on her favorite surface and in the tournament that marked her WTA main draw debut all those years ago in 1999.

The contest itself was decidedly straightforward. Despite the closeness of both sets, the veteran always held the upper hand on her adversary. Only a comically botched forehand at 5-2 in the tiebreak threatened to throw her bid for the title into a tailspin. But after seeing her lead all but deteriorate, the Slovak composed herself with a typically perfectly-timed forehand down the line at 5-5, which struck the said line and sent the chalk flying into the air. From then onwards, she refused to look back. Although chances to kill the match far earlier were plentiful, Hantuchova held firm and closed out the match 7-6(5) 6-4 with effortless aplomb to capture the AEGON Classic.

“Donna has a great future ahead of her, no doubt,” she said afterwards.

“I waited a long time for this success, so it’s very special, and I never thought I would ever play anyone 14 years younger than me, so that makes it even more special.

“I am very motivated this year and hope to get back to where I was. To see Serena and Francesca doing well past 30 keeps us oldies going.”

Despite what logic would suggest, while the fresh and young Vekic rests and bides her time ahead of her debut assault on the All England Club, it’s this old and well-traveled victor who will now pack her bags and head towards ‘s-Hetogenbosch in search of more victories and more glory.

Tumaini Carayol  was covering the AEGON Classic in Birmingham for Tennis Panorama News. He is a contributing writer at On The Baseline, and writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault.