Saturday, March 17, 2007

Hantuchova has a message for the WTA: "I'm back"

In her first tournament win in five years--and only the second in her strange career--14th-seeded Daniela Hantuchova defeated 2nd-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova in the finals today at the Pacific Life Open in Indian Wells, California. Hantuchova got the job done in straight sets--6-3, 6-4, which was no surprise to anyone who has been following this tournament. She saved a match point and took Martina Hingis out in the quarterfinals, and won a grueling three-hour semifinal against Shahar Peer.

As the commentators noted, this is a new Hantuchova, who can move a bit faster, who now has a forehand to go with her powerful backhand, and who--most of all--believes she can win, and isn't caving under the pressure of her own perfectionism. Hantuchova's only other tournament win was also at Indian Wells, in 2000. After that huge success, she began second-guessing everything she did. Her parents divorced, which caused her significant psychic pain, and the sports press speculated that she had an eating disorder because she became so thin. Hantuchova remained silent about her problems, but later, said that she became thin because, after learning about her parents, she could not eat. She also said that she did not discuss any of these matters with the press out of regard for her parents' privacy.

It has been a slow climb back for Hantuchova, who was once number 5 in the world. After today's win, she will be number 12 in the world. The Daniela Hantuchova of even a year ago would have choked today's match away, but this new Hantuchova stayed as cool as the desert was hot throughout her match with Kuznetsova.

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