2014/04/18

Davis Wins Dow Corning Tennis Classic

Lauren Davis

By  McCarton Ackerman

(February 10, 2013) The Dow Corning Tennis Classic at the Midland Community Tennis Center concluded on Sunday with two marathon matches in the singles and doubles finals. The fighting spirit that No. 1 seed Lauren Davis of the US has shown all week was on full display in her third-set tiebreaker win over unseeded Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia, while the unseeded pairing of Melinda Czink of Hungary and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia prevailed in the doubles final.

In a match that took well over two hours, Davis took the title with a 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (2) win over Tomljanovic. The teenagers are no strangers to each other, having practiced together many times at the Evert Tennis Academy in Florida.

Tomljanovic struggled to find the range on her shots early on in the match, allowing Davis to comfortably take the opening set. The wear and tear on the American’s body after numerous long matches this week began to show in the second set as Tomljanovic reeled off five consecutive games on her way to the second set.

“After the first set, my energy level went down,” said Davis. “But if you want something bad enough, you’ve got to find the energy.”

Things looked bleak for Davis in the final set as she went down 2-0 to the Croatian. But as she has done all week, the No. 1 seed showed remarkable resistance in clawing her way back into the match. She fought off break points on her serve at 4-4 and 5-5 to help bring the match into a tiebreaker and saved her best tennis for the end. As she continued to track down balls that would be winners against most players, Tomljanovic began to overhit on her forehand. Winning the first four points of the tiebreaker, Davis rode the momentum the rest of the way and converted on her second match point.

Davis, currently ranked No. 90, had never won a title at the $100,000 level before. Currently ranked No. 90 on the WTA Tour, she is projected to rise to around No. 75 in the rankings.

“I have so many dreams and so many visions, and this is part of it,” said Davis. “It’s another step to where I want to go.”

In the doubles final, Melinda Czink and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni rallied from a set down to defeat the Brazilian-British team of Maria-Fernanda Alves and Samantha Murray 5-7, 6-4, 10-7.

“I’ve had such a great week here,” said Czink. “Some of the WTA tournaments should come here and see how you guys run this because it really is a great tournament.”

The Dow Corning Tennis Classic has completed its 25th year on the USTA Pro Circuit, making it the longest-running women’s event on the USTA Pro Circuit. Several former competitors at the event have gone on to win Grand Slam titles and reach the top 10 in the rankings. Past competitors include seven-time Grand Slam singles champion and Olympic gold medalist Justine Henin, three-time Grand Slam singles champion Maria Sharapova, two-time Grand Slam singles champion Mary Pierce, 2011 French Open singles champion Na Li, 2010 French Open singles champion Francesca Schiavone, and two-time Grand Slam doubles champion Anna Kournikova.

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Lauren Davis and Ajla Tomljanovic to Square Off in Midland Final

Lauren Davis

Lauren Davis

(February 9, 2013) MIDLAND, Mich. – The  Dow Corning Tennis Classic at the Midland Community Tennis Center continued on Saturday with all semifinal singles and doubles matches taking place. Unseeded Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia continued her dream run with a win in the day session over American Mallory Burdette, while No. 1 seed Lauren Davis in the US had yet another major comeback win in the evening session against No. 8 seed Monica Puig of Puerto Rico.

In the day session, Tomljanovic stood her ground in the hard-hitting baseline rallies with Burdette, reeling off the final eight games of the match to win 7-5, 6-0. Burdette fought hard to rally from 2-5 down in the first set, but it was the last bit of momentum she would have in the match.

“At 5-5, she had the momentum and it could have gone either way. But after I held serve and broke again, I felt like it was my turn to dominate,” said Tomljanovic.

Tomljanovic, currently ranked No. 370, was sidelined by mononucleosis for most of 2012 and was limited to just six events. So far in 2013, she has already reached the finals of the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Innisbrook, Flor. “I was prepared for it to take a while for my form to come back, but I had a really good off-season and knew that I would eventually pick my form up and do something big,” she said. “I’m not too surprised to be hitting the ball like this, but I’m welcoming it.”

In the evening session, Davis rallied from 1-6, 1-4 down to defeat Puig 1-6, 6-4, 6-2. The world No. 116 Puig seemed unable to miss throughout much of the early stages of the match, reeling off five straight games to take the opening set. Midway through the second set, Davis started to add more variety to her game and displayed a willingness to attack the net when the opportunity came. She won 11 of the final 13 games in the match.

“At 1-4 in the second set, I started to get more balls back and make her play more in the rallies,” said Davis. “I have no idea how I pulled that out though.”

The 19-year-old Davis has come into her own over the last six months, breaking into the world’s top 100 on the back of strong results including quarterfinal finishes at WTA events in Quebec City, Canada and Hobart, Australia, as well winning two USTA Pro Circuit titles last fall at the $75,000 challenger in Albuquerque, N.M. and $50,000 event in Las Vegas.

Despite needing over two hours to win tonight and spending roughly ten hours on court throughout her four matches this week, Davis said she was confident that she’ll have enough in the tank for Sunday’s final.

“I feel so fresh and so new, so I’ll be fine for tomorrow,” said Davis. “I’ve been working hard on my fitness, especially during the off-season and it’s paying off for me.”

In doubles action, the Brazilian-British team of Maria-Fernanda Alves and Samantha Murray moved into the doubles final with a 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 3 seeds Julia Cohen of the US and Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia. They will play the winners of the evening session doubles match between Americans Jill Craybas and CoCo Vandeweghe and the Hungarian-Croatian team of Melinda Czink and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.

The singles and doubles finals of the Dow Corning Tennis Classic will kick off tomorrow at 1:00pm. Lauren Davis and Ajla Tomljanovic will be up first in the singles final, followed by the doubles final between Maria-Fernanda Alves and Samantha Murray against either Jill Craybas and CoCo Vandeweghe or Melinda Czink and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.

The Dow Corning Tennis Classic is in its 25th year on the USTA Pro Circuit, making it the longest-running women’s event on the USTA Pro Circuit.
Dow Corning Tennis Classic
A USTA Pro Circuit Event
Saturday, February 9
Midland Community Tennis Center
Midland, Mich.
Purse: $100,000
Surface: Hard-Indoor

Saturday, February 9 – RESULTS

Main Draw Singles – Semifinals
Lauren Davis, United States (1), def. Monica Puig, Puerto Rico (8), 1-6, 6-4, 6-2
Ajla Tomljanovic, Croatia, def. Mallory Burdette, United States, 7-5, 6-0

Main Draw Doubles – Semifinals
Maria-Fernanda Alves, Brazil, and Samantha Murray, Great Britain, def. Julia Cohen, United States, and Alla Kudryavtseva, Russia (3), 6-3, 6-1

Sunday’s February 10 – SCHEDULE

Stadium Court – starting at 1 p.m.
Lauren Davis vs. Ajla Tomljanovic, followed by Maria-Fernanda Alves/Samantha Murray vs. Jill Craybas/Coco Vandeweghe or Melinda Czink/Mirjana Lucic-Baroni

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Top Seed Davis Holds Off Kudryatseva at Dow Corning Tennis Classic

LaurenDavis9-27

Lauren Davis

By McCarton Ackerman

(February 8, 2013) MIDLAND, Mich.The hallmark 25th anniversary of the Dow Corning Tennis Classic at the Midland Community Tennis Center continued on Friday with all quarterfinal singles matches and remaining quarterfinal doubles matches taking place. Two of the four semifinalists in the singles draw are Americans, with top seed Lauren Davis and 2012 NCAA singles finalist Mallory Burdette prevailing in tough matches on Stadium Court.

In the comeback of the tournament, top seed Davis rallied from behind on numerous occasions to defeat Alla Kudryatseva of Russia 5-7, 7-6 (4), 7-5, after more than three hours of play. Kudryavtseva served for the match at 5-4 in the second set and led 4-0 in the tiebreaker. In the third set, the Russian led 5-2 and had a match point on her serve at 5-3, but was unable to convert. Davis converted on her first match point opportunity with a backhand winner down the line.

“I just never stopped believing in myself,” said Davis. “It seemed like it was almost impossible to come back at that point, so I just asked God to give me strength and help make the impossible to be possible.”

The 19-year-old Davis has come into her own over the last six months, breaking into the world’s top 100 on the back of strong results including quarterfinal finishes at WTA events in Quebec City, Canada and Hobart, Australia, as well winning two USTA Pro Circuit titles last fall at the $75,000 challenger in Albuquerque, N.M. and $50,000 event in Las Vegas.

Burdette and No. 7 seed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia engaged in a hard-hitting baseline match that took over two hours to complete, but Burdette utilized some markedly improved defense to hang in the rallies and prevail 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. “Today was obviously about first strike tennis, but this is the best I’ve ever felt in terms of my movement and the ability to play defense,” said Burdette. “I’ve been doing a ton of fitness, especially during the off-season and pushing it as hard as I can in that regard.”

Burdette didn’t even have a WTA Tour ranking last July, but opted not to return for her senior year at Stanford University after a stellar summer that included winning the $10,000 futures event in Evansville, Ind., $100,000 challenger in Vancouver, Canada and reaching the third round of the US Open.

“I really wanted to give myself a shot at this and in order to do that, I had to put all of my time and energy into my tennis,” said Burdette. “It’s been great so far. There have definitely been some rough patches, but I’m just trying to do the best I can on a daily basis.”

In the final match of the day session, No. 8 seed Monica Puig of Puerto Rico defeated American teen Jessica Pegula 6-3, 7-5. Puig, ranked No. 116, is the only singles semifinalist who has yet to lose a set. In the evening session, Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia defeated American Maria Sanchez 6-2, 6-2. The 19-year-old, currently ranked No. 370, is enjoying the best tournament of her career after an injury-plagued 2012 limited her to just six events. The lone match to be completed as of press time is an all-American doubles quarterfinal between Jill Craybas and CoCo Vandeweghe against Chieh-Yu Hsu and Shelby Rogers.

All semifinal singles and doubles matches will take place during Saturday’s play, which begins at noon. The day session will see the American-Russian team of Julia Cohen and Alla Kudryavtseva take on the Brazilian-British team of Maria-Fernanda Alves and Samantha Murray, followed by Mallory Burdette against Ajla Tomljanovic. In the night session, Lauren Davis will square off against Monica Puig, followed by the Hungarian-Croatian team of Melinda Czink and Mirjana Lucic-Baroni against the American team of either Jill Craybas and CoCo Vandeweghe or Chieh-Yu Hsu and Shelby Rogers.

The Dow Corning Tennis Classic is in its 25th year on the USTA Pro Circuit, making it the longest-running women’s event on the USTA Pro Circuit.

Dow Corning Tennis Classic
A USTA Pro Circuit Event
Friday, February 8
Midland Community Tennis Center
Midland, Mich.
Purse: $100,000
Surface: Hard-Indoor

Friday, February 8 – RESULTS

Main Draw Singles – Quarterfinals
Lauren Davis, United States (1), def. Alla Kudryavtseva, Russia, 5-7, 7-6 (4), 7-5
Mallory Burdette, United States, def. Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, Croatia (7), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4
Monica Puig, Puerto Rico (8), def. Jessica Pegula, United States, 6-3, 7-5
Ajla Tomljanovic, Croatia, def. Maria Sanchez, United States, 6-2, 6-2

Main Draw Doubles – Quarterfinals
Julia Cohen, United States, and Alla Kudryavtseva, Russia (3), def. Nicole Melichar and Chiara Scholl, United States 6-4, 6-2
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, Croatia, and Melinda Czink, Hungary, def. Alexa Glatch and Asia Muhammed, United States, 6-3, 6-3

Saturday’s February 9 – SCHEDULE

Stadium Court – starting at 10 a.m.
Julia Cohen/Alla Kudryavtseva vs. Maria-Fernanda Alves/Samantha Murray, followed by Mallory Burdette vs. Ajla Tomljanovic

Stadium Court – starting at 7 p.m.
Lauren Davis vs. Monica Puig, followed by Melinda Czink/Mirjana Lucic-Baroni vs. Jill Craybas/CoCo Vandeweghe or Chieh-Yu Hsu/Shelby Rogers

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Pegula Upsets No. 4 Seed Czink at Dow Corning Tennis Classic

Jessica Pegula 2

Jessica Pegula

By McCarton Ackerman

(February 7, 2013 )MIDLAND, Mich. – The hallmark 25th anniversary of the Dow Corning Tennis Classic at the Midland Community Tennis Center continued on Thursday with all second round singles matches and remaining first round doubles matches taking place. American teenager Jessica Pegula provided the upset of the day against No. 4 seed Melinda Czink, while top seed Lauren Davis of the US rolled through her second round match.

Utilizing a strong first serve and flat forehand, 18-year-old Pegula dictated the points in her match as early as possible. Running her veteran opponent around the court and not dropping serve once, a lone break of serve in each set was all Pegula needed to move into the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-4 win.

“I just tried to make sure I was ready after my serve because she returns well and then take advantage of any opportunities that came up,” said Pegula. “I definitely thought I executed my game plan well.”

Pegula, now ranked No. 150, jumped over 140 spots in the rankings in 2012 after strong results in USTA Pro Circuit events, including finalist showings at the $100,000 challenger in Vancouver, Canada and the $50,000 challenger in Sacramento, Calif. Today’s win against Czink was one of the biggest of her young career.

“A player like Melinda will play at a high level the whole match, so that’s what I’ve been working on now and trying to do that in every match,” she said.

In an earlier day session match, No. 1 seed Lauren Davis easily beat fellow American Alexa Glatch 6-2, 6-2. In Tuesday’s evening session, Davis struggled for nearly three hours before prevailing in her opening round match.

“I was still a little bit tired from that match, so I knew the match against Alexa today would have to be a lot less physical if I wanted to get the job done,” she said. “I stuck to my game plan and didn’t back down, so I was really happy about that.

Two other Americans also advanced into the quarterfinals. Mallory Burdette, who has climbed to No. 145 in the world after not having a pro ranking just seven months ago, dispatched fellow American and reigning US Open girls’ singles champion Samantha Crawford 6-2, 7-6 (3). Maria Sanchez also prevailed in another all-American match by defeating American teen Victoria Duval 6-2, 6-2. Duval took out No. 2 seed CoCo Vandeweghe in yesterday’s play.

Other players to advance into the quarterfinals include No. 7 seed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia, No. 8 seed Monica Puig of Puerto Rico, Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia and Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia. The lone match to be completed as of press time was an evening session doubles match between Samantha Murray of Great Britain and Maria-Fernanda Alves of Brazil against the American team of Mallory Burdette and Jessica Pegula.

All quarterfinal singles matches and remaining quarterfinal doubles matches will take place during Thursday’s play, which begins at 10:00am. The feature match of the day session will see No. 1 seed Lauren Davis take on Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia, while Maria Sanchez of the US square off against Ajla Tomljanovic in the feature evening match.

The Dow Corning Tennis Classic is in its 25th year on the USTA Pro Circuit, making it the longest-running women’s event on the USTA Pro Circuit.

Dow Corning Tennis Classic
A USTA Pro Circuit Event
Thursday, February 7
Midland Community Tennis Center
Midland, Mich.
Purse: $100,000
Surface: Hard-Indoor

Thursday, February 7 – RESULTS

Main Draw Singles – 2nd Round
Lauren Davis, United States (1), def. Alexa Glatch, United States, 6-2, 6-2
Jessica Pegula, United States, def. Melinda Czink, Hungary (4), 6-4, 6-4
Alla Kudryavtseva, Russia, def. Tatjana Malek, Germany (5), 1-6, 6-3, 6-1
Ajla Tomljanovic, Croatia, def. Olga Puchkova, Russia (6), 6-1, 6-4
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, Croatia (7), def. Jill Craybas, United States, 6-0, 4-6, 6-2
Monica Puig, Puerto Rico (8), def. Sachia Vickery, United States (Q), 6-4, 6-4
Mallory Burdette, United States, def. Samantha Crawford, United States, 6-2, 7-6 (3)
Maria Sanchez, United States, def. Victoria Duval, United States (LL), 6-2, 6-2

Main Draw Doubles – 1st Round
Chieh-Yu Hsu and Shelby Rogers, United States, def. Jacqueline Cako and Natalie Pluskota, United States (4), 7-6, 7-6
Julia Cohen, United States, and Alla Kudryavtseva, Russia, def. Victoria Duval and Sachia Vickery, United States (WC), w/o

Friday’s February 8 – SCHEDULE

Stadium Court – starting at 10 a.m.
Lauren Davis vs. Alla Kudryavtseva, followed by Mirjana Lucic-Baroni vs. Mallory Burdette, followed by Jessica Pegula vs. Monica Puig, followed by Melinda Czink/Mirjana Lucic-Baroni vs. Alexa Glatch/Asia Muhammed

Stadium Court – starting at 7 p.m.
Maria Sanchez vs. Ajla Tomljanovic, followed by Jill Craybas/CoCo Vandeweghe vs. Chieh-Yu Hsu/Shelby Rogers

Court 5 – starting not before 2:00 p.m.
Nicole Melichar/Chiara Scholl vs. Julia Cohen/Alla Kudryavtseva

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Duval Stuns Vandeweghe, Vickery Over Townsend in Michigan

 

Victoria Duval photo by Steve Pratt

Victoria Duval photo by Steve Pratt

MIDLAND, Mich., February 6, 2013 – The hallmark 25th anniversary of the Dow Corning Tennis Classic at the Midland Community Tennis Center continued on Wednesday with all remaining first round singles match taking place. 17-year-old American Victoria Duval stunned No. 2 seed CoCo Vandeweghe in the day session, while qualifier Sachia Vickery prevailed in an evening session match between American teens.

Duval, who won the Girls’ 18s National Championship last August, was responsible for the upset of the day by taking out Vandeweghe 7-5, 4-6, 6-1. Duval, who lost in the final round of qualifying yesterday, only moved into the main draw match as a “Lucky Loser” due to a player withdrawal.

“I was really lucky that I got that second chance and tried to make the most of it today,” said Duval. “Yesterday, I was rushing a lot because I really wanted to get into this main draw and was too nervous out there, but I played much smarter today.”

The win was also by far the biggest of her career and the first against a top 100 player on the WTA Tour.

“I’ve smelled those wins against top 100 players before, but to actually come through and pull it out is really nice,” she said.

In the evening session, 17-year-old Vickery used an aggressive baseline game to unseat 16-year-old wildcard Taylor Townsend 6-4, 6-3. Townsend was making her pro debut in Midland after finishing 2012 as the No. 1 ranked junior player in the world.

While Townsend used plenty of off-speed slices and spins to try and throw off Vickery, the 17-year-old had too much firepower for her opponent and won four consecutive games at one stage in the second set.

“This is my first win at the $100,000 level and I’ve had some really tough losses in the last few challengers I’ve played, so I’m thrilled to have gotten through this match,” said Vickery. “I just need to stay focused and keep doing the right things so I can hopefully keep playing better this week.”

Vickery, currently ranked No. 376 on the WTA Tour, has not lost a set in her four matches this week. She will play Monica Puig tomorrow for a place in the quarterfinals.

In other day session matches, Alexa Glatch prevailed against fellow American Julia Cohen in a nearly three-hour match 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. Maria Sanchez of the US also moved into the second round by easing past Maria-Fernanda Alves of Brazil 6-4, 6-1.

Other players moving into the second round after today include No. 4 seed Melinda Czink of Hungary No. 5 seed Tatjana Malek of Germany, No. 6 seed Olga Puchkova of Russia, No. 7 seed Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia, No. 8 seed Monica Puig of Puerto Rico and Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia. The lone match to be completed as of press time was a first round doubles match between Americans Nicole Melichar and Chiara Scholl against the Dutch team of former top-10 player Brenda Schultz-McCarthy and her niece, Jainy Scheepens.

First round doubles: Nicole Melichar and Chiara Scholl, United States, def. Brenda Schultz-McCarthy and Jainy Scheepens, Netherlands (WC), 6-3, 6-1,

All second round singles matches and remaining first round doubles matches will take place during Thursday’s play, which begins at 10:00am. The feature match of the day session will see No. 1 seed Lauren Davis take on fellow American Alexa Glatch, while No. 7 seed and 1999 Wimbledon semifinalist Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia will take on two-time Dow Corning Tennis Classic champion Jill Craybas of the US in the evening session.

The Dow Corning Tennis Classic is in its 25th year on the USTA Pro Circuit, making it the longest-running women’s event on the USTA Pro Circuit. Several former competitors at the event have gone on to win Grand Slam titles and reach the top 10 in the rankings. Past competitors include seven-time Grand Slam singles champion and Olympic gold medalist Justine Henin, three-time Grand Slam singles champion Maria Sharapova, two-time Grand Slam singles champion Mary Pierce, 2011 French Open singles champion Na Li, 2010 French Open singles champion Francesca Schiavone, and two-time Grand Slam doubles champion Anna Kournikova.

By McCarton Ackerman

Dow Corning Tennis Classic
A USTA Pro Circuit Event
Wednesday, February 6
Midland Community Tennis Center
Midland, Mich.
Purse: $100,000
Surface: Hard-Indoor

Wednesday, February 6 – RESULTS

Main Draw Singles – 1st Round

Victoria Duval, United States (LL), def. CoCo Vandeweghe, United States, 7-5, 4-6, 6-1
Melinda Czink, Hungary (4), def. Chieh-Yu Hsu, United States (Q) 6-3, 7-5
Tatjana Malek, Germany (5), def. Shelby Rogers, United States, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (5)
Olga Puchkova, Russia (6), def. Asia Muhammed, United States (WC) 6-3, 6-2
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni, Croatia (7), def. Alexandra Mueller, United States (Q), 6-1, 6-2
Monica Puig, Puerto Rico (8), def. Alexandra Stevenson, United States, 7-5, 6-4
Alla Kudryavtseva, Russia, def. Anne-Liz Jeukeng, United States (WC), 6-4, 6-2
Sachia Vickery, United States (Q), d. Taylor Townsend, United States (WC), 6-4, 6-3

Main Draw Doubles – 1st Round
Maria-Fernanda Alves, Brazil, and Samantha Murray, Great Britain, def. Irina Falconi and Maria Sanchez, United States, 3-6, 6-1, 10-6
Mallory Burdette and Jessica Pegula, United States, def. Irena Pavlovic, France, and Olga Puchkova, Russia, 7-6 (3), 6-2

Thursday’s February 7 – SCHEDULE

Stadium Court – starting at 10 a.m.
Lauren Davis vs. Alexa Glatch, followed by Maria Sanchez vs. Victoria Duval, followed by Melinda Czink vs. Jessica Pegula, followed by Sachia Vickery/Victoria Duval vs. Julia Cohen/Alla Kudryavtseva

Stadium Court – starting at 7 p.m.
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni vs. Jill Craybas, followed by Mallory Burdette/Jessica Pegula vs. Maria Fernanda-Alves/Samantha Murray

Court 5 – starting at 10 a.m.
Olga Puchkova vs. Ajla Tomljanovic, followed by Tatjana Malek vs. Alla Kudryavtseva, followed by Samantha Crawford vs. Mallory Burdette

Court 3 – starting at 10 a.m.
Jacqueline Cako/Natalie Pluskota vs. Chieh-Yu Hsu/Shelby Rogers, followed by Monica Puig vs. Sachia Vickery

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Hradecka Takes Second Dow Corning Tennis Classic singles Crown

L-R Tournament Directors Ryan Boyer and Mike Woody, players Hradecka and Falconi. Exec Sponsor Dan Futter                      (Photo Bob Spears)

MIDLAND, Mich., February 13, 2011 – To all those planning on playing at the 2012 Dow Corning Tennis Classic, be forewarned: If you see Lucie Hradecka’s name on the entry list, you’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 year’s doubles title with Laura Granville.

“I think a lot of players on the tour will say, ‘So Lucie, can you not go to Midland because, you know, maybe it starts to be boring with you in the final?” said Hradecka before breaking into laughter. “It would be a pleasure to come back and play.”

The name of Hradecka’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 Center’s quick indoor courts.

When she serves as she did in Sunday’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 Hradecka’s 10 service games.

“I didn’t face a break point? Okay, good to know,” Hradecka said modestly. “Today, I really concentrated on my serve. I took my serve point-by-point, which was part of my plan.”

While Falconi fought to make inroads on Hradecka’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 she’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 Hradecka’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.

“For small people like me, you have to scamper more [indoors] because you’re on your heels the whole time,” 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.

“All she needed was one break in each set,” said Falconi. “When she got that, it was really hard to break… I know I’ll see her again, and hopefully I’m not playing on lightning-fast courts and I’ll have a little bit more time.”

Falconi saved two break points at 2-4, holding when she ended a 16-shot rally with an inside-out forehand out of Hradecka’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.

“The match against Sabine was important because she’s such a great player,” said Hradecka, who joins Laura Granville, Jill Craybas and Helen Kelesi as a two-time Midland champion. “I told myself that I must be playing good if I beat Sabine.”

Hradecka has now won 17 ITF Women’s Circuit singles titles to go with 29 ITF doubles titles and nine WTA Tour doubles titles. But she’s yet to win a WTA singles title, break into the Top 50 or defeat a player in the Top 40.

“It’s true that I have a lot of titles at the ITFs,” said Hradecka. “On the WTA, I have reached three finals and that’s it. It’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 – never more.”

Following the final, Falconi was presented with the tournament’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 week’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.

“I’ve still got a ways to go,” said Falconi. “It was a great week. It’s easy to lose sight of what your goal is, but that’s the goal right now. April 11th is the big day. No. 138 could have been 132, but there’s always next week, and the week after that, for the next two months.”

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 Saturday’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
Midland, Mich.
Purse: $100,000
Surface: Hard-Indoor

Sunday, February 13 – RESULTS

Singles – Final
Lucie Hradecka (Czech Republic) def. Irina Falconi (United States) 6-4, 6-4

Doubles – Final
Jamie Hampton (United States) and Anna Tatishvili (Georgia) def. Irina Falconi and Alison Riske (United States) walkover (Riske – fever)

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Irina Falconi Reaches Singles and Doubles Finals of Dow Corning Tennis Classic

Irina Falconi (Photo by Bob Spears)

MIDLAND, Mich., February 12, 2011 – You never know how a young tennis player will react to pressure.

This week in Midland, WTA Tour rookie Irina Falconi has participated in her first press conference, spoken to sponsors at several functions and written a witty blog for USTA.com. Oh yeah, she’s been competing in singles and doubles at the most prestigious event on the USTA Pro Circuit too.

Factor in some of the fastest indoor courts in the country and that spells trouble for the smallest woman in the field.

But for the 5-foot-4 Falconi, it’s been no problema. The bilingual, college-educated 20-year-old won back-to-back matches on Saturday to reach the singles and doubles finals at the Dow Corning Tennis Classic.

“One of the most important things at a tournament like this is giving back,” said Falconi, who was born in Ecuador. “I honestly enjoy writing the blog and I have no problem doing it. I wish I could do more and I’ve gotten some really great reviews about it. It’s always nice to get reassurance, having people say that they like your writing. It’s the least I could do.”

She handled the heavy forehands and serves of 6-foot-tall Rebecca Marino with ease, upsetting the No. 2 seed 6-3, 6-2 in the first singles semifinal of the day.

Despite being outsized, Falconi dictated rallies and returned serves in an authoritative fashion.

“I stood about 30 feet behind the baseline,” Falconi said sarcastically. “That was one of the biggest things. She’s got to have one of the biggest serves in tennis. I felt like I was able to really read it today and I was able to find my rhythm on the return, which is huge when you’re playing a big server.”

In the first set, Falconi held a break point in each of Marino’s five service games. Though the Canadian escaped trouble to take a 2-1 lead, she blew two opportunities to break Falconi in the fourth game by missing her returns.

The former Georgia Tech All-American seized the momentum at 2-2, converting her fifth break point of the set by slicing Marino deep into her backhand corner. Marino tried but failed to run around for an inside-in forehand, netting the shot to give Falconi a 3-2 lead.

After the Atlanta resident held, Marino led 40-15 on her serve before Falconi hit back-to-back forehand winners. Marino double-faulted twice from deuce, perhaps feeling the pressure Falconi’s forehands had presented.

Though Marino recovered one break, Falconi clinched the first set by winning another forehand-to-forehand rally. Marino finished the set without a single forehand winner.

“It obviously worked, didn’t it?” Falconi said about her forehand exchanges with Marino. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Marino hit her first forehand winner down-the-line to hold for 1-1 in the second set, but Falconi’s shot-making remained remarkable.

In the opening game of the set, she followed a crosscourt forehand volley by bending low to the surface for a backhand volley winner into the open court. After breaking in the fourth game, Falconi held for 4-1 with a wide slice serve that pushed Marino off the court.

Marino had one more chance to make a match of it, holding two break points while trailing 2-4. But Falconi saved the first with a down-the-line forehand winner and the second when Marino dumped a forehand into the net.

Falconi saved one of her best patterns for the last game before breaking Marino at love. She set the Canadian up with two backhand slices, and then hit a well-disguised drop shot and a top-spin lob winner that brought fans to their feet.

“Rebecca is not exactly the typical girl that you want to lob over,” said Falconi. “I think that I put my head in gear in the last game. I wanted to get it right there and not let her hold and then break.”

After a 30-minute rest, Falconi returned to the court with countrywoman Alison Riske to play the Canadian/American pairing of Gabriela Dabrowski and Whitney Jones in a doubles semifinal.

Riske rewarded her partner with reflex volleys from the net and strong serving behind the baseline. She and Falconi broke Dabrowski to end each set in their 7-5, 7-5 victory.

Asked whether playing and studying at college is more difficult than playing two pro finals in one day, Falconi didn’t minx words.

“College is very, very easy compared to this,” said Falconi. “They’re very different. In college, you go to school every day and that was pretty rough – having to do homework. I have friends telling me, ‘Oh, I have a test today.’ But all these matches are tests to me everyday. I know what they’re going through and they know what I’m going through.”

Falconi will face another big hitter in the singles final when she battles the ‘Queen of Midland’ herself, Lucie Hradecka.

A fan favorite with the locals, the Czech defeated Ksenia Pervak of Russia 6-4, 6-4 on Saturday to clinch her third consecutive berth in the Dow Corning Tennis Classic singles final. No other player in the tournament’s 23-year history has reached the final three straight years.

Hradecka defeated Eleni Daniilidou in 2009 before falling in three sets to Elena Baltacha last year, when she was in a similar situation as Falconi. At the 2010 Midland event, Hradecka reached both the singles and doubles finals.

Unlike Falconi, she played both of her semifinals at night, which resulted in her playing a total of four matches in a 24-hour period. She also landed in Midland later than most last year after making her Fed Cup debut for the Czech Republic.

It came as no surprise when she lost energy in the latter stages of the singles final.

“This year, I think I have a little bit more power,” said Hradecka. “Before this tournament, I was at home practicing. I came here last Thursday – not Monday night like last year.”

In Saturday’s match, Hradecka earned the only break of the first set when she pummeled four straight forehands deep into the court, pushing Pervak further and further behind the baseline until the Russian missed a down-the-line backhand.

Hradecka served out the set at love, generating pace with ease on shots from Pervak that had very little on them. She crushed a down-the-line backhand winner to take a 6-4 lead.

“I was trying to move inside the court a little bit and hit through the ball,” said Hradecka.

Returning first serves from well inside the baseline, Hradecka broke open a 4-1 second-set lead. Pervak battled back to 3-4 and led 15-30 on Hradecka’s serve when the Czech reacted to a first-serve fault by smacking her racquet on the court.

She lost that point to give Pervak two chances to even the second set at 4-4. But a clean backhand winner and an ace helped Hradecka hold. She went on to convert her second match point with a service winner.

“It’s a great feeling to be three-in-a-row in the finals here,” said Hradecka, who has never played Falconi. “I don’t know [what to expect] because I didn’t see her play or practice or anything. We will see.”

General admission tickets to the 2011 Dow Corning Tennis Classic finals cost $12 for adults and $8 for children. Play begins on Sunday at 1 p.m. with the singles title match between Hradecka and Falconi. After a short rest period, Falconi and Riske will take on Jamie Hampton and Anna Tatishvili in the women’s doubles final.

Article by Joshua Rey

Dow Corning Tennis Classic

Midland Community Tennis Center

Midland, Mich.

Purse: $100,000

Surface: Hard-Indoor

Saturday, February 12 – RESULTS


Singles – Semifinals

Lucie Hradecka (Czech Republic) def. [7] Ksenia Pervak (Russia) 6-4, 6-4

Irina Falconi (United States) def. [2] Rebecca Marino (Canada) 6-3, 6-2

Doubles – Semifinals

Irina Falconi and Alison Riske (United States) def. Gabriela Dabrowski (Canada) and Whitney Jones (United States) 7-5, 7-5

Jamie Hampton (United States) and Anna Tatishvili (Georgia) def. Ahsha Rolle and Mashona Washington (United States) 3-6, 7-6(3), [10-6]

Sunday, February 13 – SCHEDULE

Stadium Court – starting at 1 p.m.

Lucie Hradecka (Czech Republic) vs. Irina Falconi (United States) – SINGLES FINAL

Irina Falconi and Alison Riske (United States) vs. Jamie Hampton (United States) and Anna Tatishvili (Georgia) – DOUBLES FINAL

ABOUT THE USTA PRO CIRCUIT:

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.

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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

ABOUT THE USTA PRO CIRCUIT:

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.

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Dow Corning Tennis Classic – Results and Schedule

Dow Corning Tennis Classic

Midland Community Tennis Center

Midland, Mich.

Purse: $100,000

Surface: Hard-Indoor

Friday, February 11 – RESULTS


Singles – Quarterfinals

Lucie Hradecka (Czech Republic) def. Sabine Lisicki (Germany) 6-1, 2-6, 7-6(3)

[7] Ksenia Pervak (Russia) def. [Q] Ahsha Rolle (United States) 7-6(4), 6-4

Irina Falconi (United States) def. Madison Brengle (United States) 6-2, 6-3

[2] Rebecca Marino (Canada) def. [Q] Alexandra Stevenson (United States) 2-6, 6-3, 6-3

Doubles – Quarterfinals

Irina Falconi and Alison Riske (United States) def. [4] Sorana Cirstea (Romania) and Anastasia Pivovarova (Russia) 6-3, 6-4

Saturday, February 12 – SCHEDULE

Stadium Court – starting at noon

Irina Falconi (United States) vs. [2] Rebecca Marino (Canada)

Irina Falconi and Alison Riske (United States) vs. Gabriela Dabrowski (Canada) and Whitney Jones (United States)

Stadium Court – starting at 6 p.m.

Lucie Hradecka (Czech Republic) vs. [7] Ksenia Pervak (Russia)

Jamie Hampton (United States) and Anna Tatishvili (Georgia) vs. Ahsha Rolle and Mashona Washington (United States)

ABOUT THE USTA PRO CIRCUIT:

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.

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Qualifier Alexandra Stevenson Reaches Midland Quarterfinals

Alexandra Stevenson

MIDLAND, Mich., February 10, 2011 – It was a different century when Alexandra Stevenson stormed onto the tennis scene, reaching the 1999 Wimbledon semifinals a year after winning her first pro singles title at the Dow Corning Tennis Classic.

Now 30, Stevenson is back in Midland and still seeking title No. 2. She has yet to speak to the media this week in an effort to stay under the radar. The way she’s playing, Stevenson is impossible to ignore.

Ranked No. 335, she swept six sets in qualifying, stunned No. 8 seed CoCo Vandeweghe in the first round and outlasted Stephanie Foretz-Gacon 6-0, 6-7(4), 6-3 on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals.

Turning back the clock at the $100,000 USTA Pro Circuit event, Stevenson has shown off a versatile style of flat serves, deep forehands and brisk backhand slices.

She stormed through the first 10 games of her second-round meeting with Foretz-Gacon. The former world No. 18 needed only four shots to hold for 5-0 – hitting an ace and three service winners – and then clinched the first set when Foretz-Gacon missed a backhand long.

The American appeared hungry for a double-bagel, winning the first four games of the second set thanks to a bevy of beautiful backhands. With one of the few one-handers on the WTA Tour, Stevenson disguised drop shots, rolled balls deep with top spin, and carved slices at angles that befuddled Foretz-Gacon.

But the 29-year-old Frenchwoman fought through a three-hour first-round match, so she wasn’t about to give anything away to her opponent. Foretz-Gacon’s winners increased as Stevenson’s first-serve percentage plummeted, and the world No. 162 broke back twice to force a tiebreak.

Stevenson’s backhand – so reliable early in the set – abandoned her in the tiebreak. She made three unforced errors off that wing before Foretz-Gacon clinched her first set point with an ace.

What seemed to be an insurmountable lead vanished when Foretz-Gacon held to open the third set. But Stevenson has encountered plenty of adversity in her 12 years on tour, and she rallied once more on Court 3 Thursday.

Serving at 0-1, Stevenson saved five break points before holding serve. Though Foretz-Gacon recovered from Love-40 in the following game, Stevenson secured the break on her fourth chance behind a slice backhand approach that forced Foretz-Gacon into a forehand error.

Another Foretz-Gacon comeback was cut short when Stevenson hit a drop shot off the net cord for a winner to earn match point, which she clinched when the Frenchwoman missed a forehand.

Joining Stevenson in the quarterfinals is countrywoman and fellow qualifier Ahsha Rolle, who survived a sprained right ankle and a pesky opponent to defeat Michelle Larcher de Brito 6-0, 3-6, 6-3.

Like Stevenson, Rolle has won five singles matches in as many days. She is also through to the doubles quarterfinals with Mashona Washington.

“Physically, I feel fine. If my ankle is alright, I’m good,” said Rolle. “Yeah it’s a lot of matches, but it’s good for me.”

Much like Stevenson did, the 25-year-old Rolle dominated her opening set. But at 3-3 in the second set, Larcher de Brito saved six break points to hold serve, and immediately broke Rolle in the subsequent game with an inside-out forehand winner.

“I couldn’t get the break – UGH,” sighed Rolle. “On some of the points, I played well but she came up with a better shot. I was like, ‘Damn.’ It was intense.”

After rolling her ankle and taking an injury timeout, Rolle took a 4-2 lead in the final set when Larcher de Brito double-faulted on break point. She served out the win three games later by hitting an ace, a service winner, a backhand volley winner and a knifing backhand drop shot that Larcher de Brito failed to retrieve.

“Even with unbelievable circumstances, I’m trying to find a way to win,” said Rolle. “As long as I keep serving well, I’m in it.”

The United States will also be represented in the quarterfinals by Madison Brengle, who prevailed in a baseline battle with No. 5 seed Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-2, 5-7, 7-5. The Delaware native also won her first-round match 7-5 in the third set.

“Both of these matches were really, really tough,” said Brengle, who beat Olga Savchuk on Wednesday. “They’re both really good players and it came down to just a couple points. I guess that’s why they get so long.”

Neither Brengle nor Cirstea could contain her emotions as momentum swung throughout the course of their match on Court 5. After Brengle hit a down-the-line forehand winner to hold for 5-2, Cirstea argued a line call by telling chair umpire Tony Nimmons, “I don’t know what you are watching.”

What he watched following the changeover was a perturbed Cirstea gift-wrap the first set for Brengle with four straight wild errors.

Even after taking the lead in the second set, the former world No. 23 provided Brengle with hints that she’s not the player she once was. After unforced errors, the Romanian repeatedly glared into the eyes of her coach, mouthed words of frustration, and held her arms up as if she wasn’t sure what to do.

But after Brengle broke back to even the second set at 5-all, it was the American who came unglued.

Brengle argued with Nimmons about an overrule on the first point at 5-5, and went on to lose the last two games of the second set.

“We both were a little bit antsy about some of the calls,” said Brengle. “It can get to you. It wasn’t just her. I definitely felt it too.”

In the third set, Brengle saved two break points at 2-2, then Cirstea countered by saving two at 2-3. The Romanian finally broke for a 4-3 lead, but failed to consolidate when Brengle hit a stroke of luck.

Holding a break point, the American swung tentatively at a forehand and caught the ball late, but it dribbled off the tape and onto Cirstea’s side of the court for a winner.

“I apologized for that because I think I hit the top of my frame,” said Brengle. “It was really lucky.”

Brengle enjoyed love service holds at 4-4 and 5-5, and then closed out her second straight three-setter with a crisp cross-court forehand that Cirstea couldn’t catch up to.

“In the last two matches – I know they’re really close – but I haven’t been getting tight,” said Brengle. “That helps at 6-5 in the third set. I feel like I’m hitting the ball well off of both sides. I’m able to dictate with my backhand and I’m getting to a lot of balls.”

In an all-American quarterfinal on Friday, Brengle will meet Irina Falconi after the former Georgia Tech star upset No. 4 seed Anne Keothavong 2-6, 7-5, 6-1. By defeating Keothavong, Falconi picked up her first career win over a Top 100 player.

Born in Ecuador, raised in Manhattan and schooled in Atlanta, the well-traveled Falconi lost the last six games of the first set. Unable to control her serves and strokes, she stared several times at her strings in disgust.
“I thought maybe they had put lead on my racquet; I don’t know what happened,” said Falconi, who turned pro last summer. “I was like, ‘Am I playing with spaghetti here?’ In the first set, she came out balling… but in the second set I was able to come back.”

Falconi turned the match around in the second set by mixing up her tactics. The American found the range on her wide serves, following them to the net twice successfully to hold for 5-2.

The world No. 91 Keothavong battled back, and held a break point to take a 6-5 lead. Falconi responded with a down-the-line backhand winner, an ace up the tee and a service winner to hold.

Though Falconi broke the Brit to clinch the second set, she dropped her serve to open the third. After breaking back, Falconi won three points in the third game by serving-and-volleying. She never trailed again.

“That’s the beauty about tennis: There’s no right or wrong way to play,” said the 5’4” Falconi. “You’ve got to do a little bit of this and a little bit of that – stuff that she doesn’t like. A lot of girls don’t serve-and-volley because it’s not something you see every day. But I was able to execute it today.”

Quarterfinal Friday at the Dow Corning Tennis Classic is highlighted by a hard-hitting encounter between two-time finalist Lucie Hradecka and former world No. 22 Sabine Lisicki at 7 p.m.

Hradecka used her two-handed groundstrokes to win the 2009 Midland title and reach the 2010 final. Lisicki owns the fastest-recorded serve in women’s tennis. Neither player has lost a set thus far at the tournament and, after practicing together earlier in the week, they are certainly aware of how well the other is playing.

Following that contest, No. 2 seeds Courtney Nagle and Sarah Borwell will play the in-form team of Rolle and Washington in the feature doubles match. Rolle and Washington are 8-0 as a pair this season, having won two USTA Pro Circuit titles in Florida last month.

Falconi vs. Brengle, Stevenson vs. Rebecca Marino and Rolle vs. Ksenia Pervak are scheduled during the day session, which is open to the public free of charge. General admission tickets to the evening session featuring Hradecka vs. Lisicki and Nagle/Borwell vs. Rolle/Washington cost $12 for adults and $8 for children.

Article be Joshua Rey

Dow Corning Tennis Classic

Midland Community Tennis Center

Midland, Mich.

Purse: $100,000

Surface: Hard-Indoor

Thursday, February 10 – RESULTS


Singles – Second round

Lucie Hradecka (Czech Republic) def. Anna Tatishvili (Georgia) 6-3, 7-5

Sabine Lisicki (Germany) def. [6] Magdalena Rybarikova (Slovakia) 6-4, 6-4

[Q] Ahsha Rolle (United States) def. Michelle Larcher de Brito (Portugal) 6-0, 3-6, 6-3

[7] Ksenia Pervak (Russia) def. Anastasia Pivovarova (Russia) 6-2, 6-1

Madison Brengle (United States) def. [5] Sorana Cirstea (Romania) 6-2, 5-7, 7-5

Irina Falconi (United States) def. [4] Anne Keothavong (Great Britain) 2-6, 7-5, 6-1

[Q] Alexandra Stevenson (United States) def. Stephanie Foretz-Gacon (France) 6-0, 6-7(4), 6-3

[2] Rebecca Marino (Canada) def. [WC] Victoria Duval (United States) 7-6(1), 6-4

Doubles – Quarterfinals

Gabriela Dabrowski (Canada) and Whitney Jones (United States) def. Beatrice Capra and CoCo Vandeweghe (United States) 6-2, 6-4

Jamie Hampton (United States) and Anna Tatishvili (Georgia) def. [3] Ksenia Pervak (Russia) and Ipek Senoglu (Turkey) 6-0, 6-2

Doubles – First round

[4] Sorana Cirstea (Romania) and Anastasia Pivovarova (Russia) def. Amanda Fink and Lena Litvak (United States) 6-4, 6-1

Ahsha Rolle and Mashona Washington (United States) def. Liga Dekmeijere (Latvia) and Evgeniya Rodina (Russia) 6-4, 6-1

Friday, February 11 – SCHEDULE

Stadium Court – starting at 10 a.m.

[Q] Alexandra Stevenson (United States) vs. [2] Rebecca Marino (Canada)

Madison Brengle (United States) vs. Irina Falconi (United States)

[Q] Ahsha Rolle (United States) vs. [7] Ksenia Pervak (Russia)

[4] Sorana Cirstea (Romania) and Anastasia Pivovarova (Russia) vs. Irina Falconi and Alison Riske (United States)

Stadium Court – starting at 7 p.m.

Lucie Hradecka (Czech Republic) vs. Sabine Lisicki (Germany)

Ahsha Rolle and Mashona Washington (United States) vs. [2] Sarah Borwell (Great Britain) and Courtney Nagle (United States)

ABOUT THE USTA PRO CIRCUIT:

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.

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