SUMMERLIN, November 7, 2018 (by Steve Pratt)
Former champion Varvara Lepchenko proved just how tough winning back-to-back titles on the USTA Pro Circuit can be on Tuesday during first-round action at the Red Rock Pro Open.
The 32-year-old No. 4-seeded Lepchenko of Allentown, Pa., who won this $80,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in 2010, looked shaky in a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 loss to unseeded Kurumi Nara of Japan in a match televised on Tennis Channel. The former WTA world-ranked No. 19 Lepchenko was coming off a win just nine days ago at the Mercer Tennis Classic in Macon, Ga., where she did not drop a set en route to her first singles title since 2011 and landing in first place in the USTA Australian Open Wild Card Challenge.
Currently ranked No. 129 in the world, Lepchenko has been a fixture on the WTA for the past several years having reached the fourth rounds of both the US Open in 2015 and French Open in 2012.
Nara, who plays for Japan’s Fed Cup team, has won one WTA singles title and five others on the ITF Circuit during her career. She reached her career-high of No. 32 in the world in singles in 2014.
In the night match pitting two well-known American players, former Red Rock Pro Open champion Lauren Davis (2012) beat wild card Kayla Day, 6-4, 6-2.
Two former USC stars had to come back after losing the first set, but both prevailed in the final round of qualifying to make it into the main draw. Former Red Rock Pro Open doubles champion Maria Sanchez, who graduated from USC in 2011 and is originally from Modesto, Calif., beat former University of North Carolina player Sanaz Marand, 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-1, in a match that lasted 2 hours, 40 minutes.
Giuliana Olmos of Mexico, also a former Trojan, came back to beat 17-year-old USTA wild card Alycia Parks, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. “She was really good but went for a lot on her shots and was playing really aggressive,” Olmos said. “I knew I had to take my time and be patient and my experience helped me get through it.”
Also moving onto the main draw was 32-year-old Jennifer Elie from Brooklyn, N.Y., who beat Beatrice Gumulya, 6-2, 6-2. Elie dropped just 10 games in total during her three matches since Sunday. In another All-American matchup for a spot in the main draw, Hanna Chang beat former University of Virginia star Julia Elbaba, 6-1, 6-3.
Later in the day, Sanchez teamed with Las Vegas resident Asia Muhammad to win their first-round doubles match with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Gumulya and Jessy Rompies, who are both from Indonesia. Muhammad and Sanchez are now 18-1 on the year in doubles. Muhammad opens up singles play on Wednesday in the first match on Stadium Court at 10 a.m. when she faces the qualifier Chang. Muhammad is the older sister of former NBA player Shabazz Muhammad, who began this season playing for the Milwaukee Bucks but was waived last month and is now playing in China. The former UCLA star was named Mr. Basketball USA and Naismith Prep Player of the Year in his senior year prepping at Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas.