Romanian Women Enjoying Good Run Of Form

Sorana Cirstea (photo: @TennisChampIst/Twitter)

WASHINGTON, April 27, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

Lost in the shuffle of the weekend tennis headlines being made in Stuttgart, Barcelona and elsewhere was the good run of form being enjoyed by Romanian women’s players. There are currently four ranked among the WTA’s Top 100 and a fifth one who is close to joining the others.

In Stuttgart, in her return to the WTA tour after recovering from a shoulder injury, World No. 3 Simona Halep, the top-ranked Romanian, beat a pair of Russians, No. 20 Marketa Vondrousova and No. 34 Ekaterina Alexandrova – both in straight sets – and reached the semifinals of the WTA 500 Porsche Tennis Grand Prix before losing to World No. 7 Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus. Halep has been a fixture near the top of the women’s game for more than seven years, rising to World No. 1 along the way.

Also, there’s newly-ranked World No. 58 Sorana Cirstea, who won the WTA 250 TEB BNP Paribas Tennis Championship Istanbul in Turkey on Sunday. The triumph represented her first WTA singles title since 2008. The 31-year-old Bucharest native last won on the WTA tour as an 18-year-old. According to the WTA, the 12 year, six-month gap between titles is third-longest in tour history.

Cirstea’s nine-spot jump from No. 67 to No. 58 is the biggest rise this week among the WTA Top 100. It also marks Cirstea’s highest singles ranking since September 24, 2018.

In addition, there’s No. 64 Patricia Maria Tig, who won last year’s Istanbul title, and No. 75 Irina-Camelia Begu. Near the Top 100 is Ana Bogdan, who is ranked No. 102, and reached the Istanbul quarterfinals last week. Five others are ranked between 130th and 200th.

On Saturday, during a virtual interview among a small group of international media covering the Istanbul event, Cirstea was asked by Tennis TourTalk to describe the current state of tennis in Romania. She said: “We are very close, all of us, age-wise. I think we support each other and motivate each other by our results. We’re of a very good generation, a really good one. We all have our strengths, but we are strong girls with good games. For a country like Romania, where there is no system, really no support from the federation – nothing – I think it’s amazing. Tennis is certainly the No. 1 sport in Romania.”

Meanwhile, during one of her virtual press conferences in Stuttgart, Halep gave props to Cirstea. “She is playing well. All the credit to her and for sure she is a good player. So, good luck to her.”

Anderson battles past Tiafoe at Estoril

On Monday, Kevin Anderson of South Africa battled for two hours and 47 minutes to beat American Frances Tiafoe, 4-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4), in the first round of the ATP 250 Millennium Estoril Open on clay in Estoril, Portugal. The 105th-ranked Anderson, 34, broke a three-match losing streak that extended back to early February in Melbourne, and the win leveled his win-loss record at 3-3 for this season. He struck 20 aces against the 64th-ranked Tiafoe and saved a match point at 5-6 in the second-set tie break. Later, he rallied from 1-4 down in the third set. Next, Anderson will face No. 4 seed Kei Nishikori of Japan, ranked 41st, in the second round.

“It was obviously a very, very close match. Overall, I felt really happy with a lot of things,” Anderson, a former Estoril semifinalist, said during an on-court interview. “It’s been a little bit of a tough stretch for me with not playing very much with a few injuries. To get out there and play tennis like that – even if I had to play a five-set match – there were a lot of positives. So, I’m really happy about that. Getting through, obviously, is a big bonus. …

“I love it here. Obviously, it’s a difficult time for everyone to put on a tournament. … I really appreciate [the effort]. I’m pleased to be back.”

WTA 1000: Qualifying draw set for Mutua Madrid Open

The qualifying draw for the WTA 1000 Mutua Madrid Open took place Monday in the Spanish capital city and the 48-draw field that begins play on Tuesday is filled with quality players and offers some intriguing first-round match ups, too.

Top seeded is No. 54 Anastasija Sevastova of Latvia, followed by No. 55 Kristina Mladenovic of France, No. 59 Laura Siegemund of Germany, and No. 60 Alizé Cornet of France. The next four seeds are: No. 63 Danka Kovinic of Montenegro, No. 65 Hsieh Su-Wei of Taiwan, No. 66 Kaia Kanepi of Estonia and No. 67 Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic. In all, there are 24 seeded players.

In the first round of qualifying, Sevastova will face No. 116 Tsventana Pironkova of Bulgaria, Mladenovic takes on 716th-ranked Spanish wild card Ane Mintegi del Olmo, Siegemund opposes fellow German Andrea Petkovic, ranked 109th, and Cornet plays No. 136 Wang Xiyu of China. Also, No. 12 seed Leylah Fernandez of Canada, ranked 72nd and a hard court titlist in Monterrey last month, will play in-form 205th-ranked Croatia Ana Konju, who was a quarterfinalist last week in Istanbul.

The 12 players who win two rounds of qualifying will advance to become part of the 64-player main draw. Top seed in the main draw is World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia, who Sunday won the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix, her third WTA tournament title of 2021.

Bianca Andreescu: Out of Madrid after positive Covid-19 test

World No. 6 Bianca Andreescu of Canada has withdrawn from the upcoming Mutua Madrid Open after testing positive for Covid-19. She posted a message Sunday night on her social media platforms.

Naomi Osaka: It’s all about practice

John Isner: Happy 36th Birthday

What they’re saying

Jennifer Brady on playing doubles with Ashleigh Barty: “She doesn’t really let the score bother her or anything let her down. She just takes it one point at a time. I enjoy playing with he. We have good banter out there, we’re having fun. Yes, it’s good fun.”

Ashleigh Barty of playing doubles with Jennifer Brady: “I think it’s important to complement each other well with the tennis regard. Obviously, getting on the court is important. But I think, Jen and I have a great relationship off the court, we enjoy each other’s company genuinely. As she said, we have a lot of fun on the court, particularly Ion doubles. It’s about going out there, trying different things, doing it with a smile on your face. I do think we complement each other well and we keep it pretty relaxed, which is a bonus as well.”

What they’re writing

The Guardian’s Tumaini Carayol tackles the thorny issue of the absurdity of wild cards.

What they’re podcasting

In a new episode of 3️⃣, both Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal each finished with epic matches in Belgrade and Barcelona. However, each had different outcomes. Amy Lundy Dahl, Gill Gross and Joel Drucker talk through how that affects each player’s path on the road to Roland Garros.

What they’re sharing on social media

Ashleigh Barty / Proud of our week

Daria Kasatkina / Happy to see Carla back!

Garbiñe Muguruza / My day in Madrid

Jannik Sinner / From A to B with elegance 


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