Smashnova Ends Distinguished Career With 6-0, 6-0 Loss to Germany's Muller

Haaretz Sports Staff
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Haaretz Sports Staff

Israel's leading women's tennis player for over a decade, Anna Smashnova, closed out her distinguished career when she lost to Germany's Martina Muller 6-0, 6-0 in a first-round match at Wimbledon yesterday.

Smashnova chose to play her last tournament at Wimbledon despite her lack of success there: She advanced past the first round at the esteemed tourney just twice.

In yesterday's match, Muller, ranked number 34 in the world, easily defeated Smashnova, who had defeated the German in their two previous encounters in 2001 and 2003, both on clay.

Smashnova ended her career with 12 titles, 13 finals, and a girl's Grand Slam championship. She also holds the record for most ties played in Federation Cup competition - 73. She was 43-30 in Fed Cup play between 1992 and 2006.

Smashnova was born in Minsk, Belarus and won the girl's Soviet Union youth championship in 1989 at the age of 14. A year later, the late Freddy Krivine, one of the founders of the Israel Tennis Centers, invited her to immigrate here, a move that put Israeli women's tennis on the map.

In 1991, she won the girl's singles title at the French Open and became a big hit overnight.

After turning pro in 1994, she was named Tennis Magazine's Female Rookie of the Year. That year she pulled off her greatest achievement, when she upset world number 5 Jana Novotna, 6-4, 6-2 in the first round of the French Open. Later that same year, she upset world number 14 Lori McNeil 6-2, 6-4 in the US Open.

Her best results in a Grand Slam competition were at the French Open, where she advanced to the fourth round in both 1995 and 1998.

Smashnova graduated from the American International High School in 1995, and completed her mandatory service with the Israel Defense Forces in 1997.

She won her first top-level WTA tour singles title in 1999 at Tashkent, and her second career title in 2000 in winning the Sanex Trophy in Belgium. Unseeded in the tournament and ranked only 88th in the world, Smashnova beat former world No. 8 Anna Kournikova in the semifinals, and then defeated top-seed Dominique Van Roost in the final.

Smashnova's major breakthrough came in 2002, when she won four titles and beat 11 Top 20 ranked players including Jelena Dokic, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters.

That same year, she married Claudio Pistolesi, her former coach (whom she later divorced), after which she played for a period of time as Anna Pistolesi and Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi.

In July 2006, Smashnova won her 12th tour title at Budapest, keeping her perfect record in WTA Tour finals - a record she held alone among players with 10 or more titles. But the following month she lost to Meghann Shaughnessy in the final of the Forest Hills women's event, which turned out to be the last final of her career.

Smashnova announced in March that she would retire following this year's Wimbledon tournament.