It wasn't the way the week in Bali, and such a potentially great final, was supposed to end, but Aravane Rezai became the first winner of the Commonwealth Bank Tournament of Champions when Marion Bartoli retired after losing the opening set 7-5.
The match, the first all-French final since Amelie Mauresmo defeated Mary Pierce at the Paris Indoors title in February 2006, had been shaping up nicely as both players came out firing in a succession of furiously-contested rallies. Both pounded their ground strokes, made great returns and ran each other around the court as they sought an advantage.
The first four games went with serve, before Bartoli broke to lead 3-2 after a strong service return from her led to Rezai netting a forehand. Bartoli then survived two break points in the next game as Rezai netted a pair of forehands, and then she held a set point at 5-3 when Rezai double-faulted.
But then she made a poor return and Rezai went on to hold for 5-4. Then Bartoli missed another opportunity when she failed to serve out the set, netting a backhand on break point. Yet another chance went begging at 5-5 when Bartoli was unable to convert a break point as Rezai sent a terrific backhand winner down the line.
Leading 6-5, Rezai then went up 40-15 on Bartoli's serve when she won a typically long and hard-fought rally, but Bartoli then limped to her chair and called for the trainer. Obviously in great pain, she received treatment to her left leg, had it taped, and tried to continue the match. But it was hopeless, and after double-faulting to lose the set she retired with a left quad strain.
"It's a big surprise to finish like that and I'm very sorry for her," said Rezai, who added $200,000 to her bank account. "She looks like she hurt a lot and I hope it is not a big injury."
"It was a good quality. It was a big level. We fight and it was pretty nice for the people watching. We are professionals and try to win the title, and that's why it was a nice match. Winning here means so many things for myself. (sic) I proved to myself I can be at a much better ranking and much better player on the tour, and also prove to so many people, my family, my parents, my coach, that I can do better and better."
Bartoli was obviously bitterly disappointed.
"I started to feel my leg was pretty tight in the middle of the set," she said. "I started to feel some pain all over my quads and I thought maybe it was the stress and no reason to be serious. But then it hurt me a lot, especially each time I had to push and put some weight onto my left leg it was really getting worse and worse and at the end I couldn't continue."
"It was a good match and I'm very sad to finish like this. The last thing you want to do is injure yourself in the last match of the season. But what can you do? I was trying my best and perhaps it was just too much."
She will now return home, and will not pick up a racquet for the next three weeks as she allows the injury to heal.
The prestigious Bali tournament suffered a shock when Yanina Wickmayer, ranked number 18 in the world, was forced to withdraw from the Bali tournament on Thursday, November 5th, following her immediate one-year suspension by the Flemish Doping Tribunal for failing three times to comply with "whereabouts rules" that mandate players must provide complete details of their travels and movements to anti-doping officials.
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