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Kirilenko to feature in Pattaya


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Extracted from The Nation: The Nation


Russian sensation Maria Kirilenko will be the big attraction at this year's US$170,000 WTA Pattaya Women's Open at the Dusit Resort hotel from February 3-11.


Ranked 29 in the world, the 19-year-old is known for her good looks and some noticeable successes on court. Her best result was winning the Beijing title in 2005, where she beat Maria Sharapova in the semi-finals. Kirilenko's results were less impressive in 2006, nevertheless she finished the year in the top 30 and is primed to climb the rankings again this year.


Her fashion sense has also earned her some rave reviews. She was voted the best dressed female player by Australian Tennis magazine during the Down Under tour last year.


Also joining the Russian beauty in the tournament, presented by Pattaya City and the Chonburi Municipal Administration and the Tourism Authority of Thailand, is rising French star Marion Bartoli, who finished 2006 at No 18 after winning three WTA tour titles in Auckland, Tokyo and Quebec City.


Bartoli who is playing for the second time in Pattaya, has fond memories of her last visit to the beach resort as she won the doubles title there in 2005 with Amanda Groenfeld. Bartoli is likely to be top seed for this year's edition.


The qualifying round for the tournament takes place from February 3 to 5, with the main draw running from February 5 to 11. Tickets are on sale at Bt300 for February 5-8 and Bt300, Bt500 and Bt100 for February 9-11.


A-Rod says he is closing in.


The best way to build confidence is usually by winning. For Andy Roddick, however, two losses to Roger Federer at the end of last year showed him he might finally be closing the gap with tennis' top player.


"Probably for the first time in two or three years after those matches I felt like the gap was maybe going my way for once," Roddick said in San Jose.


"So that's exciting. There's still a long way to go, but I'm a lot more optimistic about it than I was maybe the last couple years."


Roddick's strong finish in 2006 included a run to the US Open final before losing in four sets to Federer and three blown match points to the No 1 player in the world in the season-ending Masters Cup.


Now as he prepares for the Australian Open, which begins next week, Roddick is hoping to get another chance at Federer so he can end an eight-match head-to-head losing streak. Roddick is just 1-12 in his career against Federer.

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