Dementieva captures Rogers Cup

Steve Simmons, Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:34 AM ET

The female version of the Rogers Cup, Toronto style, has proven to be the perfect tune-up for the U.S. Open in recent years.

So perfect, in fact, that the past three winners of the big event have gone on to win the bigger event.

But that streak is almost certain to come to an end. We know that because Elena Dementieva won the Rogers Cup Sunday.

Not that there is anything wrong with Dementieva, but you can make book on the fact she is not about to become the fourth consecutive Toronto champion to go from Rogers to Slam. She just doesn’t have it in her. Her game is not complete enough to expand to that level.

What she has — and it was proven all week — is the ability to hang in there long enough, battle, wait at the baseline and out-patience her opponents into making enough mistakes to lose. Fun tennis to watch it wasn’t. Winning tennis on the weekend — first over Serena Williams on Saturday, then over Maria Sharapova in this forgettable final — it was.

“I was not playing at my best,” Dementieva admitted after one of the larger victories of her career, a 6-4, 6-3 triumph that was worth $350,000 US to her. “But I was able to find the winning way and fight through the match.”

As finals go, this was one of them. Not for the record books. Not necessarily for the highlight reels. A disposable Rogers Cup. It was two hours with some drama, less excitement, and 74 unforced errors, 48 of them by the clear crowd favourite, the leggier of the two Russian women, Sharapova.

The match was a bit of an exercise in tedium but, in a pragmatic way, Dementieva shone. She is far more the grinder than her hockey playing boyfriend, Maxim Afinogenov. She knew what she had to do to win. She waited for Sharapova to make mistake after mistake.

And, in one less-than-inspriring three-game stretch in the first set, each game was won when the opponent double faulted on the final point of the game. That’s not winning a championship: That’s how Sharapova lost one.

The form that made Sharapova a star — the tennis form — isn’t exactly back at the tender age of 22 and just post- shoulder surgery. Sharapova played some points well today — just not enough of them. And not in any kind of consistent way.

But she didn’t do the big-time tennis thing and lay down the way Serena did in the semifinal. She kept up the good fight, without any real arsenal, right to the end. And after playing late night matches on Friday and Saturday, she had at least some reason to want to give up.

Dementieva took advantage of that, extending every point to bland eternity, rather than attempt to hit winners. Dementieva hit just 16 winners. Sharapova had 48 unforced errors. Simply put, that was the match.

“I felt like Lleyton Hewitt today,” the champion said. “I was fighting for every point, so many long rallies. It’s not the way I like to play. It was a more defensive game. That was my tactic for today’s game ... I was just waiting for my chances and didn’t rush.”

For getting to the final, Sharapova was paid $175,000. But for her, getting through the week was encouragement enough. She has not won a tournament since returning from injury, and today was her first final in a long time. She is still crawling before she can walk.

“I think it was a great week for me,” said Sharapova, smiling as she held up the runner-up trophy. “It’s nice to finally hold a trophy.”

steve.simmons@sunmedia.ca


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