x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Triumphant Kulikova is hoping to follow in some famous footsteps

Regina Kulikova has set her sights on qualifying for her first grand slam tournament in Australia next month after winning the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge.

Regina Kulikova celebrates her victory over Sandra Zahlavova last night to clinch the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge title.
Regina Kulikova celebrates her victory over Sandra Zahlavova last night to clinch the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge title.

DUBAI // Regina Kulikova has set her sights on qualifying for her first grand slam tournament in Australia next month after winning the Al Habtoor Tennis Challenge last night. The Russian defeated Sandra Zahlavova of the Czech Republic 7-6 (6), 6-3 to claim a trophy already inscribed with some of the bigger names of the WTA Tour such as Jelena Jankovic, Katerina Bondarenko and Marion Bartoli.

The win, her eighth title on the ITF Tour, gives her 65 ranking points and leaves her US$11,500 (Dh42.216) better off. Kulikova, a beneficiary of a grant from the Boris Yeltsin Fund in 2004, has previously played in the qualifiers of three grand slam tournaments: the French Open earlier this year and Wimbledon and the US Open in 2008, but has so far failed to make it to a main event. The 20-year-old hopes she will be lucky this time.

"Winning this tournament is really important for me," she said. "If you look at the names who have won the title earlier, it is a prestigious tournament. Now I hope I can follow in the footsteps of the past winners. "It is good to get these points. This is the end of the year and I am getting some important ranking points going into the new season. Now I will be going to Australia and trying my best to get through the qualifiers and make my first appearance at a grand slam.

"The Habtoor winners have gone on to do well and I hope that charm will work for me as well. Hopefully I will be able to keep the legacy going." As the unseeded Kulikova celebrated, seventh seed Zahlavova rued her missed chances. "I think I had my chances, but I failed to take them," said the 24-year-old. "So I have no one to blame except myself. "Had I won the first set, you never know, the final result could have been very different."

Earlier on Friday, the top-seeded pair of Vladimira Uhlirova and Renata Voracova won the doubles title as they defeated Julia Goerges and Oksana Kalashnikova 4-6, 6-2, 10-8. arizvi@thenational.ae