By Steve Pratt
SUMMERLIN (Sept. 28, 2014) – Breaking into the top 100 is the goal of any professional tennis player, and it’s a place Madison Brengle is likely headed to for the first time on Monday once the WTA ranking are released.
Missing among all the great headlines at the Red Rock Pro Open in Las Vegas this week was how the 24-year-old worked her way through the draw without dropping a set, including a dominating performance on Sunday in a 6-1, 6-4 final win over rival Michelle Larcher De Brito of Portugal to capture the $7,600 winner singles check at the USTA Women’s $50,000 Pro Circuit event played at the Red Rock Country Club.
But more importantly than the cash, the Dover, Del., native is also the welcome recipient of 80 valuable WTA points. The points will likely be enough to leap-frog the No. 4 seeded and currently No. 110 world-ranked Brengle into the top 100.
“Everyone wants to be in top 100 because that gets you right into the Grand Slams; that’s why we’re playing,” Brengle said. “I’ve been working really, really hard back home with my coaches so it just kind of solidifies the work I’ve been putting in. It’s just makes you want to keep going and getting better.”
The 21-year-old No. 8-seeded Larcher De Brito held a 5-2 career head-to-head over Brengle coming into the match, including the only time the two had met in a final. But several unforced errors early on allowed Brengle to get up early on Larcher De Brito and win the first set easily, 6-1.
“We’ve played so many times before,” Brengle said. “Michelle is such a fighter out there and she doesn’t give you anything. What she does so beautifully is she can re-direct the ball and she has really good control of it. So I had to play as solid as I could and keep the ball deep and move it around a lot.
“She really moved the ball around great yesterday against Anna (Tatishvili).”
Brengle did not face a seeded player on her way to the final, but beat players who, unlike Larcher De Brito, rely on a power game.
“I played some big hitters like (Julia) Boserup, (Samantha) Crawford and (Nicole) Vaidisova and they were all knocking the cover off the ball,” Brengle said. “So I had to play a little more defense this week, and I had to track down a lot of balls.”
Brengle has played Las Vegas before, but knows the goal is to not return here, but instead be a regular on the WTA Tour and play bigger events like former Las Vegas Pro Circuit players Lauren Davis, Sorana Cirstea, Varvara Lepchenko and CoCo Vandeweghe have.
“I’m older now and hopefully a little bit wiser,” she said. “As you get older you know what works for you preparation wise and my fitness is better than it’s ever been.
“I just have to keep going and keep improving. I really do enjoy playing and I have a great time out there.”
In the doubles final it was the No. 2-seeded team of Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay and Maria Irigoyen of Argentina taking out local Las Vegas resident Asia Muhammad and former USC All-American Maria Sanchez, 6-3, 5-7, 11-9 in a entertaining super tiebreaker.
The packed crowd of more than 400 enjoyed the matchup of the tournament’s top-two seeded teams. The winners from South America will split the $2,786 first-place check while the runners-up take home $1,393.
“This is the largest crowd out for a doubles match I’ve ever seen in Las Vegas,” Muhammad told the crowd after her match. “It was a really great week and I hope we keep this pro event in Las Vegas for years to come.”
SUNDAY’S FINAL RESULTS
Madison Brengle (USA)  def. Michelle Larcher De Brito (POR) , 6-1, 6-4
Veronica Cepede Royg (PAR) / Maria Irigoyen (ARG)  def. Asia Muhammad (USA) / Maria Sanchez (USA) , 6-3, 5-7, 11-9