MIDLAND, Mich., February 13, 2011 â€“ To all those planning on playing at the 2012 Dow Corning Tennis Classic, be forewarned: If you see Lucie Hradeckaâ€™s name on the entry list, youâ€™re unlikely to leave Midland happy.
Blasting bazooka-sized two-handed forehands and backhands on Stadium Court, Hradecka upended American Irina Falconi 6-4, 6-4 to clinch her second title at the $100,000 USTA Pro Circuit event.
She also won the 2009 Dow Corning Tennis Classic singles title, finished as the 2010 singles runner-up and shared last yearâ€™s doubles title with Laura Granville.
â€œI think a lot of players on the tour will say, â€˜So Lucie, can you not go to Midland because, you know, maybe it starts to be boring with you in the final?â€ said Hradecka before breaking into laughter. â€œIt would be a pleasure to come back and play.â€
The name of Hradeckaâ€™s game is power, power and more power, but she also has the foot speed and court awareness to limit her unforced errors on the Midland Community Tennis Centerâ€™s quick indoor courts.
When she serves as she did in Sundayâ€™s final, the 25-year-old Hradecka is much better than her WTA Tour ranking of No. 106 would indicate.
Hradecka won 82 percent of the points when she made her first serve (27 of 33) and 61 percent when she had to hit a second (14 of 23). Falconi failed to earn a single break point opportunity in any of Hradeckaâ€™s 10 service games.
â€œI didnâ€™t face a break point? Okay, good to know,â€ Hradecka said modestly. â€œToday, I really concentrated on my serve. I took my serve point-by-point, which was part of my plan.â€
While Falconi fought to make inroads on Hradeckaâ€™s serve, she took fairly good care of her own delivery. But one sloppy game at 2-2 cost Falconi the first set. After three errors, the unseeded American double-faulted to hand Hradecka the only break sheâ€™d need to take a one-set lead.
Hradecka held at love in the 10th game to win the first set. Falconi won back-to-back points on Hradeckaâ€™s serve only three times in the match.
In the second game of the second set, the ex-Georgia Tech star reached 30-15 by ending a well-constructed point with a swinging forehand volley. But one Hradecka service winner later, the score was 40-15.
Falconi followed a low forehand volley with a backhand volley winner to get to 40-30, but Hradecka made a run-around forehand winner look effortless on the next point to hold serve.
Such was the struggle the 5-foot-4 Falconi found herself in against an indoor-court specialist.
â€œFor small people like me, you have to scamper more [indoors] because youâ€™re on your heels the whole time,â€ said Falconi.
Hradecka hit a forehand return winner off a Falconi second serve to break for a 2-1 second-set lead. She consolidated the break with another forehand winner, handling a slice backhand from Falconi by attacking the ball and not letting the ball attack her.
â€œAll she needed was one break in each set,â€ said Falconi. â€œWhen she got that, it was really hard to breakâ€¦ I know Iâ€™ll see her again, and hopefully Iâ€™m not playing on lightning-fast courts and Iâ€™ll have a little bit more time.â€
Falconi saved two break points at 2-4, holding when she ended a 16-shot rally with an inside-out forehand out of Hradeckaâ€™s reach.
Another hold by the American forced Hradecka to serve for the title at 6-4, 5-4. The pressure point in the game came at 30-30, when Falconi tried to end an exchange with a swinging forehand volley from just inside the baseline. Hradecka reached that volley, and then another, before Falconi missed a crosscourt backhand volley wide.
After saving two match points against Sabine Lisicki in the quarterfinals, Hradecka forced a forehand error from Falconi to come full circle as the 2011 Dow Corning Tennis Classic champion.
â€œThe match against Sabine was important because sheâ€™s such a great player,â€ said Hradecka, who joins Laura Granville, Jill Craybas and Helen Kelesi as a two-time Midland champion. â€œI told myself that I must be playing good if I beat Sabine.â€
Hradecka has now won 17 ITF Womenâ€™s Circuit singles titles to go with 29 ITF doubles titles and nine WTA Tour doubles titles. But sheâ€™s yet to win a WTA singles title, break into the Top 50 or defeat a player in the Top 40.
â€œItâ€™s true that I have a lot of titles at the ITFs,â€ said Hradecka. â€œOn the WTA, I have reached three finals and thatâ€™s it. Itâ€™s difficult to say that those players play better. The players hit the same, but the difference is that those players have a different mind. On the WTA, if your opponent gives you chances, they give you just one or two â€“ never more.â€
Following the final, Falconi was presented with the tournamentâ€™s Larry Reed Most Promising Newcomer award. With only seven months of experience as a pro, she had never before been in the final of an event above the $25,000 level.
Falconi should rise to around No. 138 in next weekâ€™s WTA rankings, which means she has two more months to jump about 34 more places so that she receives direct entry into the French Open main draw.
â€œIâ€™ve still got a ways to go,â€ said Falconi. â€œIt was a great week. Itâ€™s easy to lose sight of what your goal is, but thatâ€™s the goal right now. April 11th is the big day. No. 138 could have been 132, but thereâ€™s always next week, and the week after that, for the next two months.â€
Falconi and fellow American Alison Riske were scheduled to contest the doubles final against Jamie Hampton of the United States and Anna Tatishvili of the Republic of Georgia. However, Riske obtained a fever following Saturdayâ€™s semifinals and was unable to participate. Therefore, Hampton and Tatishvili were crowned the Midland doubles champions via walkover.
Article by Joshua Rey
Dow Corning Tennis Classic
Midland Community Tennis Center
Sunday, February 13 â€“ RESULTS
Singles â€“ Final
Lucie Hradecka (Czech Republic) def. Irina Falconi (United States) 6-4, 6-4
Doubles â€“ Final
Jamie Hampton (United States) and Anna Tatishvili (Georgia) def. Irina Falconi and Alison Riske (United States) walkover (Riske – fever)