Roommates Marino and Pervak Advance in Midland

Rebecca Marino

MIDLAND, Mich., February 11, 2011 – Rebecca Marino is the first to tell you that she’s not playing her best tennis at the Dow Corning Tennis Classic this week. She was two points from defeat in the first round, pushed by a 15-year-old in the second round and stretched to three sets in the quarterfinals by a qualifier.

Faced with adversity from the moment her flight to Midland was canceled on Monday, the Canadian has been consistently persistent ever since. She ended the Cinderella run of 30-year-old American Alexandra Stevenson 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 on Friday to reach the semifinals.

“In this tournament, I don’t think I’m playing how I would like to play,” said Marino, 20. “But I think I’m improving and I hope I can continue to get my ranking up.”

The second-seeded Marino entered the $100,000 USTA Pro Circuit event on quite the hot streak. She reached the second round of the US Open as a qualifier, won three consecutive $50,000 ITF tournaments last fall and then pushed Francesca Schiavone to 9-7 in the third set at the Australian Open.

Enjoying a career-high ranking of No. 84, Marino played a pair of singles matches for the Canadian Fed Cup tie in Serbia last weekend, which complicated her plans to compete in Midland. Her third and final flight on Monday was canceled, keeping her overnight in Chicago.

She practiced for the first time at the Midland Community Tennis Center on Tuesday at 6 p.m., before edging Americans Alexa Glatch and Victoria Duval on consecutive days.

Back on court at 10 a.m. on Friday, Marino sluggishly stumbled through the early stages of her third singles match in 48 hours. Stevenson broke the six-foot Canadian’s serve in the opening game, and then bashed a short ball for a down-the-line forehand winner for the insurance break and a 5-2 lead.

Stevenson secured the first set 6-2 in only 24 minutes with a service hold at love.

“I had a rough start and I’m not very happy with that,” said Marino. “But I think as soon as the second set started, I told myself that I had a clean slate. That was pretty much it. I woke up a bit.”

After being limited to three forehand winners in the first set, Marino found her strongest stroke when she needed it most. Facing two break points in the first game of the second set, Marino saved both with unreachable forehands, and a third when Stevenson sliced a shot into the net.

Following six deuces, Marino held with an ace up the tee. That sparked a stretch in which Marino hit seven aces in nine service points – including three on second serves.

But there was still the issue of breaking Stevenson. Through the midway point of the second set, Marino had yet to earn a break point.

Leading 3-2 in the second set, Marino managed to reach 15-40. The 1998 Midland champion saved the first break point with a daring down-the-line backhand winner off of a deep ball, and then the second with a service winner.

One deuce later, the players engaged in the longest rally of the match as Marino crushed forehands and Stevenson stayed alive with slice backhands. After opening up the court, Marino ended the exchange with a crosscourt forehand winner.

She finally broke Stevenson’s serve by stretching to return a strong first serve, and then bashing a backhand winner.

Marino went on to serve out the set with another second serve ace down the tee.

“I thought she was going to clue into it a bit, but I guess not and I don’t mind,” said Marino. “I love hitting that one because it catches everyone off guard.”

Neither player faced a break point in the final set until Stevenson let two game points slip away at 3-3. All Marino needed was one chance to take a 4-3 lead, unloading on a backhand return deep down the middle of the court that Stevenson couldn’t get out of the way of.

Though her serves and forehands draw undeniable attention, Marino’s backhand proved to be the difference in Friday’s match.

“I was happy that it was better today than it was yesterday,” said Marino. “That was one thing that I thought I could have improved. So after I got off the court, I worked on that and I think that helped a bit to get the feel.”

Marino hit her 12th and 13th aces of the match to hold for 5-3 before clinching a spot in the semifinals by forcing a Stevenson error.

In the semifinals, Marino will take on another player currently at a career-high ranking: Irina Falconi. The unseeded American will move up to around No. 143 on WTA Tour after defeating countrywoman Madison Brengle 6-2, 6-3.

Competing in college at this time last year, Falconi is fast approaching her goal of direct entry into the French Open main draw. She’ll need to be in the Top 104 by April 11 to guarantee a spot.

“I’ve been traveling a lot, just getting used to the whole weekly in-and-out,” said Falconi, 20. “All these girls have been doing it for such a long time and I’m playing catch up. I’m getting there quicker than I thought.”

Falconi is eight inches shorter than Marino, which creates a mismatch in power when the two play. But the American is adept at other facets of the game, and has not been afraid to serve-and-volley on a regular basis in Midland.

In their only career meeting, Marino defeated Falconi 7-6(6), 6-7(3), 6-2 at the USTA Pro Circuit event in Troy, Ala., last fall.

“It helps when you’re six-feet-tall and have a 130 easy serve and a 120 second serve,” said Falconi. “I’ve played her before and she’s a hell of a competitor. Sure she can hit the ball hard, but all these girls can hit the ball Mach 50.”

Joining Falconi and Marino in the semifinals is No. 7 seed Ksenia Pervak of Russia, who has yet to drop a set at the Dow Corning Tennis Classic this week. She defeated qualifier Ahsha Rolle 7-6(4), 6-4 on Friday.

With Rolle hampered by a right ankle injury, Pervak played a patient match while the American unleashed ferocious forehands and serves in an effort to shorten the points.

“She is not the quickest player, but she has big serves, big forehands and it’s not typical for women to hit backhand slices, which are very uncomfortable,” said Pervak. “Her weapons help her not to run, so the injury was not a big deal.”

Pervak held the only break point of the entire first set in the opening game, which Rolle saved with a running forehand winner. On serve in the tiebreak at 3-4, Rolle lost her two service points, allowing Pervak to take a one-set lead with a crisp cross-court backhand.

Pervak prevented trouble at 3-3 in the second set by calmly taking her time between points. She held for 4-3 after saving two break points with winners and a third when Rolle ripped a forehand long.

“I was already nervous, so to show this would have been too difficult,” said Pervak. “I tried to be calm and I knew that my serve was very important because her serve was pretty hard to break.”

The Russian broke Rolle’s serve for the first time in the last game, dipping a crosscourt forehand pass at the American’s feet to wrap up the win.

She and Marino are roommates this week at the residence of Bruce and Carey Racey. Mr. Racey is the transportation coordinator at the tournament and has housed players 13 of the last 14 years during the Dow Corning Tennis Classic.

He’s never hosted a semifinalist before – much less two.

“It’s my first time staying with a family and I can say that it’s been very good,” said Pervak. “At first, I was a little bit scared because I didn’t know them, but they are very nice people. They’ve done their best for us and I appreciate it.”

For Racey’s dream final of Pervak vs. Marino to come true, the Russian will need to dethrone one of the most successful players in the history of the Dow Corning Tennis Classic.

Lucie Hradecka of the Czech Republic is one win away from becoming the first player to reach three consecutive singles finals in the tournament’s 23-year history.

Playing in front of a sold-out crowd of 1,300 spectators on Friday evening, Hradecka saved two match points to edge German Sabine Lisicki 6-1, 2-6, 7-6(3).

“We played good tennis and I was trying to concentrate and put in all my power,” said Hradecka. “It was very tough to concentrate on my serve. There was a lot of pressure if I were to lose my service games.”

In the first set, Lisicki missed too many first serves, allowing Hradecka to hammer return winners as if the tennis ball were placed squarely on a tee.

But the 2009 champion and 2010 runner-up lost the range on her flat, two-handed groundstrokes in the second set, allowing Lisicki to even the match.

Twice in the final set, Hradecka had a break advantage against the German, who until an ankle injury last season was a regular on the WTA Tour and ranked inside the Top 25.

Lisicki rallied each time, erasing 0-3 and 2-4 deficits before breaking Hradecka with an inside-out forehand winner to take a 6-5 lead and serve for the match.

She double-faulted her first match point away at 40-30, and then lost an advantage when Hradecka cracked a deep return that drew an error.

“On her first match point when she hit the double fault, I thought to myself that maybe I had a chance,” said Hradecka.

She was right.

Hradecka converted her first break point of the 12th game to force a tiebreak when a Lisicki down-the-line forehand was called wide.

The German argued that the ball hit the line, but to no avail, and Hradecka hit consecutive forehand winners to secure her first match point at 6-2 in the tiebreaker. She clinched victory on her second chance with another crosscourt forehand that Lisicki could not handle.

“I certainly never gave up, even after a pretty bad first set for me,” said Lisicki. “I had my chances to win and I didn’t take them. The muscle memory is still not 100 percent there, where everything goes automatic. I think that was one of the reasons why I couldn’t finish it off because usually I have no problems serving a match out.”

After the match, Lisicki was honored with the tournament’s Barbara Malan Toughest Competitor Award. Having been generous all week with media, volunteers and fans, Lisicki left Midland in the same manner in which she arrived: Graciously.

“I didn’t get the trophy that I wanted to, but I got an amazing award,” Lisicki told the fans in an on-court presentation. “I enjoyed my time in Midland. I’m really sad and disappointed that I cannot continue to play in front of you.

“It was a really tough year for me last year. I’m just coming back now and I’m fighting. I want to get back where I was. I hope that soon I’ll be up there again and I don’t have to come back, but I wouldn’t mind coming back.”

Semifinal Saturday at the Dow Corning Tennis Classic features two separate sessions. General admission tickets to each session cost $12 for adults and $8 for children.

Falconi and Marino will contest the first singles semifinal starting at noon. Following a short rest break, the American will return to the court with Alison Riske to play Gabriela Dabrowski and Whitney Jones in a doubles semifinal.

In the 6 p.m. evening session, Hradecka will play Pervak, and then Jamie Hampton and Anna Tatishvili will take on Ahsha Rolle and Mashona Washington in the other doubles semifinal.

By Joshua Rey


With more than 90 tournaments throughout the country and prize money ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, the USTA Pro Circuit is the pathway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis players and a frequent battleground for established professionals. The USTA launched its Pro Circuit 32 years ago to provide players with the opportunity to gain professional ranking points, and it has since grown to become the largest developmental tennis circuit in the world, offering more than $3 million in prize money. Last year, more than 1,000 men and women from more than 70 countries competed in cities nationwide. Among those who have played at the Dow Corning Tennis Classic are seven-time Grand Slam winner Justine Henin, former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova, reigning French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and 2011 Australian Open runner-up Na Li.


15-year-old Duval Has First Pro Win at Dow Corning Tennis Classic

MIDLAND, Mich., February 9, 2011 – After leaving Florida and landing in Michigan earlier this week, 15-year-old Victoria Duval said that she couldn’t wait to play in the snow.

On Wednesday, she turned Stadium Court at the Dow Corning Tennis Classic into her own personal playground, falling to the surface and waving her arms in the shape of a snow angel after defeating Mashona Washington 6-3, 6-3 in a first-round match.

The wild card Duval delivered on her very first professional victory in a main draw, dictating play with her forehand against the 34-year-old qualifier.

“In the first three games I was tight,” said Duval, who does not have a WTA Tour ranking. “But I said: ‘You know what. I have nothing to lose right now. Just go for it.’ I was so free and I hit so loose, which helped me a lot. Next round, I’m going to be even looser.”

Washington entered the match with 16 years of professional experience, cracking the Top 50 in 2004 and reaching the Dow Corning Tennis Classic final in 2002.

But while Washington scolded herself as she struggled to find the range on her shots, Duval appeared as if she were simply playing a practice match back at IMG Academies in Bradenton.

“You don’t see very many pros get emotional like the juniors,” said Duval. “I just said, ‘I belong here and I have to do what everyone else does.’ I stayed calm and it worked.”

Leading 6-3, 4-3, Duval earned two break points by running Washington ragged behind the baseline before bringing the veteran to the net with a short slice. Though Washington reached that ball, she was helpless when Duval passed her with an inside-out backhand winner.

Duval clinched the break, and then the match, by pushing Washington deep into the court and forcing forehand errors. Unable to contain the emotions she’d been bottling up for 76 minutes, Duval squealed as she raced to grab her towel, and then collapsed to the center of the indoor court.

The snow was outside, but Duval didn’t care: She spread her arms wide as if she could penetrate the hard court and permanently leave an imprint of her body.

“I’m going down in five, four, three, two, one,” Duval said she told herself. “I’m beyond excited. I can’t even believe it.”

After a quick call to her mother, Duval was handed another cell phone by a smiling Sabine Lisicki, who also trains at IMG. The man on the other line was Nick Bollettieri, who congratulated Duval on the first of many professional wins.

Drawn to play a qualifier, Duval could have been matched against big-hitters Alexandra Stevenson, Ahsha Rolle or Alexa Glatch. She was happy to have faced Washington, a counterpuncher whom she believed could not overpower her. ’Turns out, she was right.

“I like the way she plays,” said Duval, the No. 1-rated sophomore in the nation according to TennisRecruiting.net. “She doesn’t have too many weapons, but also makes you earn every point. I like a good challenge and I was ready for anyone in the qualies. But she seemed to suit my game the best.”

Duval said that she plans to play the French Open and Wimbledon junior tournaments this season after compiling a 32-11 singles record on the ITF Junior Circuit in 2010.

She is making her eighth appearance at a professional event, having lost her pro debut 6-0, 6-1 to Rebecca Marino one year ago in Memphis.

Who should await Duval in the Midland second round but the 6-foot-tall Marino, who overpowered Glatch in a 24-minute first-set before surviving 6-1, 1-6, 7-6(5).
“It wasn’t my best day of tennis, but I’m glad I was able to pull through and tough it out,” said Marino, “especially after losing the second set quite easily and being down a break in the third… I was able to come back and fight through that very scrappily – if that is a word (laughs).”

Marino didn’t make it to the Midland Community Tennis Center until Tuesday night, having played Fed Cup in Serbia over the weekend. On Monday, she rode with her teammates from Novi Sad to Belgrade, and then flew from Belgrade to Munich and Munich to Chicago before a cancelation forced her to stay overnight in the Windy City.

But the Vancouver-native showed no signs of jetlag at the start against Glatch. She followed a knifing slice backhand winner with a devastating down-the-line forehand winner on consecutive points, proving that there’s more to her than a serve.

Glatch stayed steady in spite of the barrage of shots coming off her opponent’s racquet. The American served for the match at 5-4 in the final set, and again at 5-4 in the deciding tiebreaker.

With the win on her racquet, Glatch made the mistake of pitting her strength (the serve) against Marino’s (the forehand). Marino read Glatch’s first serve and pummeled a deep forehand return to force an error and even the tiebreak at 5-5. She proceeded to bash back-to-back inside-out forehand winners to finish Glatch off.

“It’s these matches that make you realize how much you want to play and what it takes to stay in matches,” said Marino, who finished with 11 aces in just 13 service games.

Like Marino, Frenchwoman Stephanie Foretz-Gacon needed a third-set tiebreak to advance to the second round. She and Heather Watson of Great Britain pushed each other physically over the course of two hours and 54 minutes, but they saved their best shots for last.

Foretz-Gacon took a 5-3 third-set lead by retrieving two straight overhead smashes from Watson, blocking the second one back at the Brit’s feet to draw a half-volley error.

Watson broke back for 4-5 by winning one of the longest rallies of the match, throwing up a backhand lob that nearly hit the ceiling before Foretz-Gacon finally let loose on a forehand long.

Watson’s ranking has jumped from No. 556 to No. 142 since she played in Midland last season, and she showed why as she served to stay in the match at 4-5.

Moments after she couldn’t put Foretz-Gacon away with her overhead, Watson was faced with déjà vu. On game point, the Brit hit two swinging volleys and another smash, but could not get the ball past the Frenchwoman. On her fourth shot from the net, Watson took the pace off her forehand volley and dropped it short for a winner.

“It was always close – like 30-all every game,” said Foretz-Gacon. “I knew she could come back, so I was prepared for that. I fought until the end.”

After each player held, Foretz-Gacon earned two match points by taking a 6-4 lead in the tiebreaker. Watson saved the first in a scintillating 16-shot rally and the second with a daring inside-out forehand return winner.

Foretz-Gacon rebounded to earn a third match point at 7-6, and this time she took the pace off one of her shots, slicing a short backhand cross-court that caused Watson to lose control and miss her own backhand wide.

“I was really happy to win the final-set tiebreak like this,” said Foretz-Gacon after her 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(6) win. “Thanks to my backhand slice – I didn’t hit too many today. But it was perfect, I hit it low on the court and it was a hard shot for her to get.”

Also advancing on Wednesday were qualifiers Stevenson and Rolle, who have both won four matches in as many days. Stevenson, the 1998 Midland champion, flummoxed No. 8 seed CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-2. Rolle had an even easier time with No. 3 seed Evgeniya Rodina, running roughshod through the Russian 6-1, 6-1 in 51 minutes.

Stevenson and Foretz-Gacon will meet in the second round on Thursday, while Rolle takes on Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal.

Now in her fourth full season on the WTA Tour, the 18-year-old Larcher de Brito got a monkey off her back on Sunday by winning her first professional title at the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.

After winning matches at the French Open, Wimbledon and US Open in 2009, Larcher de Brito dropped out of the Top 200 last season.

“I lost a lot of motivation,” said Larcher de Brito. “I used to have a lot of fight in me, but this past year I haven’t been fighting at all. I don’t know what happened, but I’m getting over it now.”

Larcher de Brito was the last player accepted into the Midland main draw, making the cut on Saturday when Stephanie Dubois of Canada withdrew.

She nearly made the trip to Michigan in vain, arguing with the chair umpire about line calls as she fell behind 3-0 in the third set against Julie Coin of France.

Just like that, something clicked inside Larcher de Brito. She won 20 of the next 25 points to take a 5-3 lead, reversing her negative emotions by yelling: “Come on,” “Vamos,” and “Davai”. Though Coin held for 4-5, Larcher de Brito served out a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 win at love.

“When I was 3-love down, I thought I was going to go home,” said Larcher de Brito, who made her pro debut at the 2007 Dow Corning Tennis Classic. “But I got myself together and started getting more balls in, because I had been trying to hit winners all the time.”

All eight second-round singles matches will be played on Thursday, highlighted by a 7 p.m. encounter between two of the quickest players on tour: No. 4 seed Anne Keothavong of Great Britain and American upstart Irina Falconi. After missing six months with a knee injury, Keothavong has worked her way back into the Top 100, while Falconi has flown up to No. 156 in just seven months as a professional.

Following that contest, Rolle and Washington will team up to take on Rodina and Liga Dekmeijere in the feature doubles match. Already in 2011, Rolle and Washington have won a pair of doubles titles on the USTA Pro Circuit.

Rolle vs. Larcher de Brito, Marino vs. Duval and Stevenson vs. Foretz-Gacon are among the singles matches scheduled during the day session. Lucie Hradecka, the 2009 champion and 2010 runner-up in Midland, will play Anna Tatishvili at noon on Court 3.

By Joshua Rey

Admission to the Dow Corning Tennis Classic is free until the 7 p.m. feature session. General admission tickets to see Keothavong vs. Falconi and Rolle/Washington vs. Rodina/Dekmeijere cost $12 for adults and $8 for children.

Dow Corning Tennis Classic

Midland Community Tennis Center

Midland, Mich.

Purse: $100,000

Surface: Hard-Indoor

Wednesday, February 9 – RESULTS

Singles – First round

[6] Magdalena Rybarikova (Slovakia) def. Aleksandra Wozniak (Canada) 6-4, 6-1

[Q] Ahsha Rolle (United States) def. [3] Evgeniya Rodina (Russia) 6-1, 6-1

Michelle Larcher de Brito (Portugal) def. Julie Coin (France) 6-2, 3-6, 6-4

[7] Ksenia Pervak (Russia) def. Alison Riske (United States) 6-3, 6-3

[5] Sorana Cirstea (Romania) def. [WC] Jessica Pegula 7-6(6), 6-3

Madison Brengle (United States) def. Olga Savchuk (Ukraine) 3-6, 6-3, 7-5

[4] Anne Keothavong (Great Britain) def. [WC] Brittany Augustine (United States) 6-0, 6-2

[Q] Alexandra Stevenson (United States) def. [8] CoCo Vandeweghe (United States) 6-3, 6-2

Stephanie Foretz-Gacon (France) def. Heather Watson (Great Britain) 5-7, 6-3, 7-6(6)

[WC] Victoria Duval (United States) def. [Q] Mashona Washington (United States) 6-3, 6-3

[2] Rebecca Marino (Canada) def. [Q] Alexa Glatch (United States) 6-1, 1-6, 7-6(5)

Doubles – First round

Beatrice Capra and CoCo Vandeweghe (United States) def. [1] Marina Erakovic (New Zealand) and Lucie Hradecka (Czech Republic) 0-6, 6-4, [10-6]

Jamie Hampton (United States) and Anna Tatishvili (Georgia) def. Rebecca Marino and Marie-Eve Pelletier (Canada) 6-3, 7-5

Thursday, February 10 – SCHEDULE

Stadium Court – starting at 10 a.m.

Sabine Lisicki (Germany) vs. [6] Magdalena Rybarikova (Slovakia)

[WC] Victoria Duval (United States) vs. [2] Rebecca Marino (Canada)

[Q] Ahsha Rolle (United States) vs. Michelle Larcher de Brito (Portugal)

Jamie Hampton (United States) and Anna Tatishvili (Georgia) vs. [3] Ksenia Pervak (Russia) and Ipek Senoglu (Turkey)

Stadium Court – starting at 7 p.m.

Irina Falconi (United States) vs. [4] Anne Keothavong (Great Britain)

Liga Dekmeijere (Latvia) and Evgeniya Rodina (Russia) vs. Ahsha Rolle and Mashona Washington (United States)

Court 5 – starting at 10 a.m.

Sorana Cirstea (Romania) vs. Madison Brengle (United States)

Anastasia Pivovarova (Russia) vs. [7] Ksenia Pervak (Russia)

[4] Sorana Cirstea (Romania) and Anastasia Pivovarova (Russia) vs. Amanda Fink and Lena Litvak (United States)

Court 3 – starting at 10 a.m.

[Q] Alexandra Stevenson (United States) vs. Stephanie Foretz-Gacon (France)

Anna Tatishvili (Georgia) vs. Lucie Hradecka (Czech Republic)

Beatrice Capra and CoCo Vandeweghe (United States) vs. Gabriela Dabrowski (Canada) and Whitney Jones (United States)


With more than 90 tournaments throughout the country and prize money ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, the USTA Pro Circuit is the pathway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis players and a frequent battleground for established professionals. The USTA launched its Pro Circuit 32 years ago to provide players with the opportunity to gain professional ranking points, and it has since grown to become the largest developmental tennis circuit in the world, offering more than $3 million in prize money. Last year, more than 1,000 men and women from more than 70 countries competed in cities nationwide. Among those who have played at the Dow Corning Tennis Classic are seven-time Grand Slam winner Justine Henin, former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova, reigning French Open champion Francesca Schiavone and 2011 Australian Open runner-up Na Li.