Pennetta outlasts Suarez for ninth singles crown

MADRID: Italian Flavia Pennetta claimed her ninth WTA singles title here on Sunday as she defeated Carla Suarez of Spain 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

The 28-year-old second-seeded Italian — ranked 16 in the world — took just over two hours to dispose of her doughty 21-year-old Spanish opponent, who was seeded eight.

Pennetta — a two-time US Open quarter-finalist and a top class doubles player having reached the 2005 US Open final — bested her opponent especially on her first service, converting 72 percent of her first serves into points compared to just 52 percent for Suarez.

Pennetta, who won her first title back in 2004 on clay in Sopot, Poland, was also the better on saving break points, getting out of trouble on nine of the 13 occasions she was a break point down while Suarez only managed to save herself on four of the 11 occasions.

The Italian was the only one of the top three seeds to more than justify her seeding as third seed Kim Clijsters — fresh from her victory in Miami — crashed out in the second round and top seed Victoria Azarenka of Belarus withdrew during her quarter-final.

Elsewhere, third-seeded Sam Querrey reached the final of the US Men’s Clay Court Championships on Saturday with a victory over Wayne Odesnik, who was playing with the threat of a drugs ban looming.

Querrey, who said before the match that he would “refuse to lose” to Odesnik, triumphed 7-6 (7/3), 1-6, 7-5, rallying from a third-set deficit to deny Odesnik his second straight trip to the final.

Odesnik pleaded guilty in an Australian court on March 26 to importing human growth hormone into Australia.

He has denied taking the banned performance enhancer and is playing pending an investigation by the International Tennis Federation that could result in a suspension.

Regardless of the outcome of the ITF’s probe, Querrey said Odesnik owed the sport an apology.

“I think you have to wait and find the verdict at the end of it all,” Querrey said. “Yeah, he should apologise.”

Odesnik referred all questions about his case to his lawyer.

Odesnik, who lost in the final here last year to Australian Lleyton Hewitt, made the most of Querrey’s struggles with his big serve, but surrendered the match along with his own serve in the final game.

In the final, Querrey will face Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Chela, who beat sixth-seeded Argentinian Horacio Zeballos 7-5, 6-2.

Querrey, who said before the match he would “refuse to lose” to Odesnik, shook hands with his compatriot at the end of their match, but he was brusque with him during the contest.

When Querrey questioned an Odesnik ace in the first-set tiebreaker, Odesnik said, “It was good.”

Querrey retorted: “I don’t need your input, buddy.”

When Odesnik questioned a line call in the third set, Querrey said: “It was only out a good four inches.”

Odesnik had the upper hand after breaking Querrey in the fifth game of the third set, but Querrey broke back in the sixth game and overcame two double faults to hold his serve in the seventh.

“I had two double faults in that game and then it was deuce,” Querrey said. “I said ‘whatever, hit it as hard as I can and see what happens.’ It worked.”

Odesnik won only one point in the final game as Querrey closed it out with an overhead.

Querrey will be gunning for his second title of the year against Chela, who reached his first final since 2007 in Acapulco, where he beat Carlos Moya.

“It would be a big joy, it would mean a lot,” Chela said of a possible title. “This would be my fifth title. It would be great to win here.”