Dylan Cleaver on sport
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Dylan Cleaver: Journey beats the finals

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Marina Erakovic and Sofia Arvidsson in action against Alize Cornet and Edina Gallovits during the ASB Classic doubles semi-final. Photo / Dean Purcell
Marina Erakovic and Sofia Arvidsson in action against Alize Cornet and Edina Gallovits during the ASB Classic doubles semi-final. Photo / Dean Purcell

Often the journey is better than the destination and so it proved at the ASB Classic.

Full of unpredictable twists and turns Monday through Friday, the weekend threw up a finals flop with two one-sided matches that lacked intrigue and quality.

Marina Erakovic and her Swedish partner Sofia Arvidsson were made to look like the novice pairing they are by doubles specialists Kvete Peschke and Katarina Srebotnik, losing 3-6 0-6.

Defending champion Yanina Wickmayer was equally ineffectual in the singles final, losing 3-6 3-6 to feel-good finalist Greta Arn.

The tournament was ignited and cursed by the best match coming in round one. Wickmayer and former world No 1 Dinara Safina played a second set, won by the Russian, that was as good as any women's tennis seen on these courts.

Nothing in the rest of the tournament came close to matching that for quality, though there were several engrossing contests.

Shuai Peng's unrelenting chasing led to a three-set win over Svetlana Kuznetsova and a three-set semifinal against Wickmayer that was good theatre even if it wasn't great tennis.

Sofia Arvidsson was just one clean winner away from significantly reducing the size of Arn's cheque on the back courts, while Heather Watson smiled her way through qualifiers and into the quarter-finals, giving hope that there is more to British tennis than a grumpy Scotsman.

Then there was Sharapova. There's something about Maria, though we're probably none the wiser as to what after her rather perfunctory performance over three games. It's normally the men who come here and play with one foot on the plane to Melbourne, not the women who still have a week to prepare for the Australian Open.

Still, she was the main reason the tournament was a sell-out and that's going to please the organisers, sponsors and concession holders no end.

It would have pleased them even more if she had hung around Stanley St until the weekend, but Arn proved a fully committed No 88 beats a slightly disinterested superstar any day.

The saving grace of finals day was that Good (Arn) triumphed over Surly (Wickmayer). The Belgian's sullen display during the ceremonies won her few friends.

We know how important sponsors are but seriously, by the time ASB and other benefactors were thanked for the 100th time, Wickmayer wasn't the only one who felt like centre court had become a place of purgatory.

- NZ Herald

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