By Brodie Elgin
(August 9, 2013) TORONTO – Down two match points late Wednesday night to Caroline Wozniacki, one more lost point would have made for a respectable, closely fought second round loss for Sorana Cirstea. They were impressively saved, the second with a blistering down the line backhand winner, and Cirstea quickly reeled off 15 straight points and eventually won the match in three sets. She did not face another match point all match.
It was the sort of odd break that can give a player a new found life in a tournament. The Romanian defeated Jankovic in straight sets less than 24 hours later, and was faced with the tough task of playing Czech Petra Kvitova in the quarterfinals. It was also the first time Cirstea had played on the Toronto centre court.
An admitted slow starter, it was more of the same from Cirstea who fought back from 0-3 to tie the match at 3-3, but was less than impressive later in the set as she was broken to love to drop the set, 6-4. Having played Cirstea four times prior, Kvitova was ready for the challenge in the second set. “Well, I knew that she can come back, for sure. I mean, when we played in Rome she came back too and in the second set, and I was ready for it. ”
Cirstea did indeed play well, quickly winning the first four games of the second set. Things quickly got away from her, and she called her coach down after losing three straight games. “he came at 4‑3 in the second set, and he pointed at the little girl in the stand and said, Where does she want to be? I said, Here in my place playing. So he said, Okay, so that’s why you are here for. That’s why you have been doing all the work. That’s why you have been sacrificing everything for these moments. There is no other place in the world where you’d rather be. That speech had nothing to do with tennis. It was just motivational.”
Eventually forced to serve to stay in the set, Cirstea did so convincingly and eventually took the set 7-5. It was a similar story to start the third as Cirstea took the first four games yet again. There was no let up this time, as the Romanian won the set and the match, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.
Having previously won a WTA title in Tashkent as well as making the Roland Garros quarterfinals at age 19, this is one of the greatest weeks of Cirstea’s career, still only 23 years old. “It’s probably the best tournament in a long, long time. As I said, it might come as a surprise, you know, to many people. I don’t think for me and my team it’s such a big surprise, because we have been working consistently on things. From week to week I got better. So it’s come kind of like a natural step.” Her continued calmness on court and new sense of self belief helped her win her tenth match this season after dropping the first set. “Maybe before in the important moments I didn’t really have that belief in me which now, you know, I know that any moment I can turn it around.”
In particular, Cirstea is becoming more comfortable in reeling in her aggression when things aren’t going her way, and developing a plan B in difficult situations. “When I have a great day, you know, everything, it’s going my way, I hit winners left and right. But when I don’t really have a good day, I don’t really have much to rely on, which now we have been working to have that base now, to have that solid game that no matter what happens, know that sort of game, it’s day in, day out. So of course now I have that base. I can play long rallies, you know, and then just accelerate whenever I feel is the right moment.”
Overall, it was a disappointing loss for Kvitova as the defending champion from the 2012 Montreal version of the Rogers Cup. She admitted to feeling tired after not being able to sleep well following her Thursday night victory over Samanth Stosur. “At the beginning of the second set I [started] to feel a little bit low on energy. The serve was really bad after this, and I didn’t find energy from my legs,” said the Czech. “Unfortunately, when I finished so late here, I didn’t sleep well after.”
Next up for Sorana Cirstea is Li Na, a player she has played five times but beaten only once – 2012 Wimbledon. “She’s always a very solid player.She’s quite aggressive. It’s gonna be a very, very good match.”
Brodie Elgin is the writer of mindtheracket.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @MindTheRacket. He is covering the Rogers Cup in Toronto for Tennis Panorama News, follow @TennisNewsTPN for updates.