2014/04/16

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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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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