By KEITH NIEBUHR, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 8, 2002
SARASOTA -- If Jelena Dokic has an Achilles' heel, Tatiana Panova hasn't found it.
"She's really believing in herself," Panova said. "She hits the ball hard. She works every point. Her forehand is okay and her backhand is okay. She has no weaknesses."
Panova has first-hand knowledge.
The top-seeded Dokic, who lives in Tampa, defeated the 25-year-old Russian 6-2, 6-2 in 55 minutes in Sunday's final of the Sarasota Open on the clay courts at the Meadows Country Club for her fourth career victory. Dokic, ranked No. 9, hit more winners, had fewer errors, served better and was stronger at the net than the 25th-ranked Panova.
"She played a good match," Panova said. "I expected it, so I'm not upset. I played good, but she's a top player."
The final appearance was the eighth for Dokic, 18, who earned $22,000, and third for Panova, who was bidding for her first win. Dokic beat Panova 6-3, 6-1 in their only previous meeting, at the 2001 Italian Open.
"I'm pleased with the way it's gone," Dokic said. "I played well. Better than (Saturday)."
By using an aggressive plan that kept the 5-foot-3/4 Panova scrambling, Dokic controlled the tempo and forced an off-balance Panova into several errors. Panova never won consecutive games and never was in control.
"I wanted to attack," Dokic said. "That's what my game is based on. My aim was to be aggressive and keep her running."
The 10th-seeded Panova played two three-set matches during the tournament. Another match, Saturday's two-set semifinal win over second-seeded Meghann Shaughnessy, lasted 2 hours, 23 minutes. Panova did not appear to have her usual energy Sunday.
"She was physically not like me," Panova said. "I cannot do my game like usual. I'm so tired, I'm just going to go relax and have a massage."
One day after starting slowly in a semifinal win against Virginie Razzano, Dokic lost one point in the opening game, then broke Panova's serve for a 2-0 lead. Ahead 5-2, she broke Panova for the third time, after falling behind 40-15, to claim the set.
In the second set, Dokic, ahead 3-2, broke Panova's serve after falling behind 30-15. Dokic held for a 5-2 lead, then easily broke Panova in the final game, losing one point.
Dokic consistently won the crucial points.
"I played good, but I was running all over," Panova said.
For Dokic, who had leg injuries this year and missed a few events, not losing a set here in five matches was a needed boost heading into the clay-court season, which culminates with the French Open in late May. She is scheduled to play at the Bausch & Lomb Championships in Amelia Island this week and the Family Circle Cup the following week in Charleston, S.C. Both are clay events.
"My game is suited for clay," Dokic said.
Dokic would like to become a top-five player. With more weeks like this, that might be realistic.
"I think my game is getting there," she said.
HOUSTON -- Andy Roddick at last feels like he belongs on the U.S. Davis Cup team. And why shouldn't he?
Backed by a serve that reached 137 mph, Roddick overpowered Alberto Martin 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 to clinch the Americans' 3-1 quarterfinal win over Spain.
American James Blake, part of Saturday's winning doubles team, led Tommy Robredo 6-1, 5-4 in the final singles match before it was halted by rain.
The United States plays defending champ France in the semifinals.
"I wouldn't go so far as to say 'leader,' but I definitely feel like I'm part of the team now and not just visiting," Roddick said.
"I'm definitely familiar with the Davis Cup ropes now. I freak out a little bit during Davis Cup. It's just the emotion of playing for your country and the crowd going nuts and playing for your team, it's just a rush."
Roddick improved to 7-0 in his brief Davis Cup career, equaling the best start for an American since Andre Agassi in 1988-89. Roddick gave the United States an insurmountable 3-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
"I was returning better today and I started hitting my backhand well," Roddick said. "That's the difference when I play well."
Martin filled in for Alex Corretja, who strained a ligament in his right hand while beating Pete Sampras on Friday.
Martin didn't break Roddick until the eighth game of the second set. But Roddick served out that set and broke Martin in the first game of the third.
"I was struggling out there today but Andy also was playing better than me and deserved the victory," Martin said.
Roddick served out the match with two aces and a service winner clocked at 136 mph on the grass surface.
In other quarterfinals, all won by the hosts, France eliminated the Czech Republic 3-2, Russia defeated Sweden 4-1 and Argentina edged Croatia 3-2.
PORTO OPEN: Angeles Montolio beat fellow Spaniard Magui Serna 6-1, 2-6, 7-5 in the final at Porto, Portugal.
-- Information from Times wires was used in this report.