- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 31, 2011

Nadezhda, Nadia Petrova’s full first name, means hope in Russian. In the three years since Petrova’s most recent WTA title, it would have been easy for her to abandon her namesake.

Perhaps the good-luck charm she needed came in the form of Lulu, a French bulldog she bought shortly after Wimbledon. Petrova snapped her winless streak at the Citi Open, defeating Shahar Peer 7-5, 6-2 on Sunday as fans sheltered themselves from the heat beneath colorful umbrellas. Petrova has 29 WTA titles in her career, 10 in singles and 19 in doubles.

“I’ve been waiting for this one patiently, and I’m very happy to have this title,” she said. “I’m sure it’s going to give me lots of confidence for upcoming tournaments, and I feel like I’m in a better place right now. Before Miami, I had vertigo for six weeks, which really knocked me off my feet.

“I felt a little down, and I haven’t been in a happy place since then. Wimbledon was a turning point for me, and this trophy is a good achievement.”

Peer, who set a record among Israeli players when she reached world No. 11 earlier this year, jumped to a 2-0 lead, but Petrova took the next three games en route to winning the first set.

“I started really well and then backed off a little bit,” Peer said. “I need to learn to keep this way of playing for a longer period of time. That’s my next step.”

The second set began in the same manner as the first. Peer took a 2-0 lead before Petrova won the next six games, showcasing the dominant serve that made her world No. 3 in May 2006.

“I wasn’t really happy with my first serves at the beginning,” Petrova said. “Then in the second set I changed, started using more kick and it was working really well by the end of the set.”

Petrova’s victory in the fifth game came on a 105 mph ace, and with fans along one baseline chanting, “Let’s go, Shahar, let’s go!” and waving an Israeli flag, she broke Peer’s serve to claim the match.

“She’s a great player,” Peer said of her opponent. “She’s a player that can get out of a very tough situation with her serve. She was playing well, and she deserved to win today.”

In spite of her loss, Peer took a lot of positives out of the tournament, particularly the fact that her fitness enabled her to compete in spite of the heat.

“If I was doing well this week after playing three days in a row in very hot conditions, and finishing two days in a row really late and didn’t get a lot of sleep, it’s a good sign that I’m in good shape,” she said. “Winning four matches in a row after not doing it for so long, playing very good tennis, beating very good players, improving each match progressively - obviously, you want to finish it with a win, but I don’t want to go down on myself. I had a great week.”

Peer will reward herself with a baseball game at Nationals Park on Monday night. She has only been to one other game, but she is too young to remember it.

Petrova, on the other hand, will fly home Sunday night to see Lulu, and she will bring the trophy from her newest WTA title with her. Asked whether she thinks there will be more, Petrova did not hesitate.

“Yes,” she said, “I hope so.”