Defending champion on song
TENNIS: DEFENDING champion Roberta Vinci was in the groove at Felixstowe Lawn Tennis Club yesterday, the Italian serve-and-volleying past unseeded Manisha Malhotra to reach the final of the LTA Ladies' $25,000 tournament where she will meet second seed Lucie Ahl today.
DEFENDING champion Roberta Vinci was in the groove at Felixstowe Lawn Tennis Club yesterday, the Italian serve-and-volleying past unseeded Manisha Malhotra to reach the final of the LTA Ladies' $25,000 tournament where she will meet second seed Lucie Ahl today.
Last year's biggest bolt from the blue at Bath Road, a doubles quarter-finalist at the 2001 French Open with Sandrine Testud, was dominant on serve and returned with purpose and menace. The result was never really in doubt, Vinci cruising the semi-final 6-3 6-4.
Claudio Galoppini, Vinci's coach, said: "Roberta loves coming to Felixstowe. She always plays well here because she's got a great volley and great touch. The courts here are really nice for her – the points are fast and she doesn't have to play too many groundstrokes."
Ahl, the British No. 2 from Devon, had a more difficult ride in her match, taking onehour 30 minutes to knock-out Jo Ward 7-6 6-3, an unseeded right-hander from Middlesex who has twice in the last two years lost all her momentum here in the semi-finals.
Ahl, 26, said: "I'm now playing with some self-belief. I'm starting to believe in myself a bit more, knowing before I go on court that I can beat players. I used to try too hard and get too worked up about things, but I sorted things and I'm now playing with a bit more balance."
Vinci has climbed over 200 places in the rankings over the last 12 months.
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Galoppini believes that if she builds up her slight physique, the 18-year-old world No. 221 from Bari "can shoot into the top 150 in one year and the top 50 in two years after that".
Vinci's name has always been a psychological boost. Lorna Woodroffe, the runner-up last year, said: "Some Italians I met the night before laughed at me when I told them who I was playing. They asked me if I realised the name signified victory and success."
Even the mis-hits were bouncing into the court for Vinci yesterday. Smashing countless returns past Malhotra's racquet and feet, ghosting into the net to punch away the winner, wrong-footing her opponent with delicate dinks into the service box, she had a good day at the office.
Finding the crucial breaks in the sixth game of the first set and in the opening game of the second set, the only distraction for the fifth seed, who destroyed top seed Annabel Ellwood in the last eight, was when Galoppini was accused by the linesman of illegal coaching during the match.
Ahl versus Ward contained a topsy-turvy, 28-point tiebreak. Ahl, the world No. 164, showed that trademark mental toughness and determination, surviving six set-points against her before taking the fourth chance of her own, forcing the error at 14-13.
And although Ward, whose body language immediately changed for the worse, occasionally threatened with her biting, slice backhand approach, Ahl was in command of the second set. She broke twice before serving out the match at the second attempt.
"I've been working on my speed and fitness – that's an important part of my tennis – and it all seems to be coming together. I've been improving my whole game in recent months, working on my serve and looking to dictate points with my forehand," she said.
LTA Ladies' $25,000 tournament singles semi-finals: (GBR unless stated) R Vinci (ITA) bt M Malhotra (IND) 6-3 6-4, L Ahl bt J Ward 7-6 6-3
Doubles quarter-finals: T Musgrave (AUS) & J Pullin bt M Adamczak (AUS) & E Hewson (AUS) 6-4 6-3, H Crook & V Davies bt D Haak (NED) & J Mens (NED) 4-6 6-3 7-6, M Joubert (RSA) & N Sewell (AUS) bt B Sevulovski (AUS) & S Stone (AUS) 7-6 7-6, N Grandin (RSA) & K Grant (RSA) bt E Baltacha & N Trinder 7-6 6-2. Semi-finals: T Musgrave (AUS) & J Pullin bt H Crook & V Davies 7-5 6-2, N Grandin (RSA) & K Grant (RSA) bt M Joubert (RSA) & N Sewell (AUS) 6-2 6-2
Ashton Graham East of England championships men's singles second round: N Gould bt R Searle 6-7 7-6 7-6 Quarter-finals: J Sirianni (AUS) bt S Lockwood 6-4 7-5, D Kiernan bt N Gould 6-4 6-3, S Rhodes bt B Fulcher 3-6 6-4 7-6, R Hanger bt D Corrie 7-5 3-6 6-4 Semi-finals: R Hanger bt S Rhodes 6-2 6-0
Ladies' singles second round: J Mens (NED) bt N Tippins 6-0 6-1, E Hewson (AUS) bt E Syssoeva (RUS) 6-3 6-3, A Janes bt N Woodhouse 6-0 6-2, C Grier bt A Hawkins 6-2 2-6 7-6, K Simkin bt N Payne 5-7 6-3 6-2, A Barnes bt J Osman 6-3 1-6 6-1, S Borwell bt I Vichnevskaya (RUS) 2-0 ret, K Grant (RSA) bt B Calderwood (AUS) 6-0 7-5 Quarter-finals: A Janes bt C Grier 6-2 6-2, A Barnes bt K Simkin 6-3 6-1.