By Joshua Rey, special to USTA.com
MIDLAND, Mich. – The singles quarterfinals are set at the Dow Corning Tennis Classic and the last two tournament champions still have hopes to add another Midland title to their trophy cases… barely.
Laura Granville saved one set point, and Lucie Hradecka saved three to survive tough opening sets and increase their respective Midland winning streaks to seven.
Granville (Chicago) missed the 2009 event with a left wrist injury that she suffered in the first set of the 2008 final, which she won. In all, the injury kept her off the tennis tour for 13 months.
“I just got wrong-footed, and I fell hard on my butt, but I also fell on my left hand because my racquet was in my right hand,” said Granville, a 7-6 (6), 6-0 winner over Anna Tatishvili of Georgia Thursday. “I thought I was OK; I was just embarrassed at the time. Then after the match, I started to feel my wrist, and it was never the same.”
When Granville did return to the USTA Pro Circuit, she won two titles in as many months before an unexpected illness prevented her from playing at Wimbledon, where she had twice reached the fourth round.
“I felt really good going into the grass-court season, and I was excited to go over to England,” said Granville. “And then I got mono, which was another setback. I wasn’t super happy with the rest of my year, but I’m trying to take baby steps.”
Playing the petite Tatishvili, Granville encountered an opponent big on heart but not on height. At 5’2”, 99 pounds, Tatishvili established a mysteriously, massive presence on the baseline against the American, smacking a down-the-line forehand winner at 30-30 in the third game and then holding for 2-1 with an ace on the T.
Tatishvili’s onslaught continued on Granville’s serve, as she followed a cross-court forehand winner with a clean backhand return winner to reach Love-40. But the four-time finalist rallied with two winners of her own and then withstood a mammoth forehand return from Tatishvili to draw an error and get to deuce.
Granville escaped trouble and held with a knifing backhand volley.
“That was huge because going down 3-1 with her serving, it could have easily been 4-1,” said Granville. “I just didn’t give up the game, and then I settled down, and it was pretty even throughout the rest of the first set.”
Tatishvili’s two-handed backhand helped her take a 5-4 lead as she hit down-the-line, cross-court and drop-shot winners off her favorite shot to hold in the ninth game.
Her next service game was anything but easy. She shrugged off three double faults and six deuces to hold for 6-5.
But Tatishvili’s service struggles would come back to haunt her in the tiebreak. With a set point at 6-5, Tatishvili double-faulted for the seventh time in the set. Two points later, Granville clinched a one-set lead with a crisp, cross-court backhand and never looked back.
“The first set could have gone either way,” said Granville. “At 6-all in the tiebreak, I think it’s just luck who wins that. She played really tough in the first set, and I just tried to stay calm and hold my serve.”
Three of Granville’s countrywomen fell in the second round Tuesday. Marta Domachowska of Poland ousted Lilia Osterloh (Aliso Viejo, Calif.), 6-2, 6-4, and Canadian Rebecca Marino fired a flurry of forehands past Madison Brengle (Dover, Del.) to earn a 6-2, 6-3 win. Playing her fifth match in as many days, qualifier Beatrice Capra (Ellicott City, Md.) failed to win a game against Arantxa Rus of The Netherlands.
Though there may not be many natives remaining, local favorites like Hradecka are still pleasing crowds in America’s "Best Tennis Town." The Czech won the Midland title in Granville’s absence last year and, like Granville, struggled through the first set of her second-round singles match.
Hradecka’s opponent, Valerie Tetreault, held a set point in the 10th game. But after Hradecka hit a fault, the No. 1 seed unloaded a monstrous second-serve ace past a stunned Tetreault.
“The point before, I served, and I thought the ball was good, but the umpire called it out, so I was a little bit pissed,” said Hradecka.
Two games later, Tetreault earned two more set points. A two-handed, crosscourt forehand from Hradecka erased the first, and a little let-cord luck helped the Czech dodge the second.
At 5-6, Ad-Out, Hradecka hit a backhand that dribbled off the net and onto Tetreault’s side of the court. The Canadian did well to reach the ball and direct a slice approach down the line. Hradecka responded with a high-flying lob winner over Tetreault’s head. Two more Hradecka forehand winners sent the match into a tiebreak, which the world No. 64 took 7-3.
“I think it was the first point that I played off the net, and she played probably five or six, so it was a bit lucky for me,” said Hradecka, who went on to win, 7-6 (3), 6-3.
The Midland dream team of Hradecka and Granville advanced to the doubles semifinals Thursday in Hradecka’s sixth win since Sunday, when she swept a pair of matches in her Fed Cup debut to send the Czech Republic into the semifinals.
Still, she never hesitated at taking the transatlantic flight to Midland.
“I live here with a great family, and I like it here,” said Hradecka, “so I decided that for sure I would come.”
The woman Hradecka beat in the 2009 Midland final, Eleni Daniilidou of Greece, was routed in straight sets by Anne Keothavong of Great Britain, who is playing her first tournament since injuring her left knee last July.
The Union Jack is flying high inside the Midland Community Tennis Center, thanks to Keothavong and British No. 1 Elena Baltacha, who routed 2006 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Severine Beltrame, 6-2, 6-0.
Baltacha has now won 22 of her last 28 matches, dating back to a $75K ITF Women’s Circuit title she won in England last September. After representing Great Britain in Fed Cup play last week in Portugal, Baltacha has made a smooth transition to Midland’s indoor surface, dropping just four games in four sets this week.
“I absolutely love it,” said Baltacha, who’s making her Midland debut this year. “Before I actually came out here, I heard from a couple players who said how quick it was, but it’s not very quick. I was saying to my coach actually this morning that it reminds me of a center we’ve got back in England.”
Baltacha, 26, is currently enjoying a career-high Sony Ericsson WTA Tour ranking of No. 83, with the potential to rise even higher in the coming weeks – she has just a single ranking point to defend until April 6. Her renaissance is even more surprising, considering the injuries and illnesses that have hindered her in the past, including mono, tonsillitis, chicken pox, back surgery and a liver condition that requires her to take 10 pills a day.
“If anyone said to me, ‘Would you go back and do it again?’ I would,” said Baltacha. “Situations like that either make you or break you. I have been through a lot, but at the same time, I have worked very hard to overcome it.”
Midland’s singles quarterfinals get underway Friday at 10 a.m., with Baltacha playing Marino. Hradecka follows against in-form Swede Sofia Arvidsson, and then Keothavong is third on against Domachowska. Granville and Rus will make their second feature match appearance of the week when they play at 7 p.m. And in Friday’s final match, Tamaryn Hendler and Nicole Vaidisova will play Daniilidou and Jasmin Woehr in a doubles quarterfinal.
Admission to the Dow Corning Tennis Classic is free until the 7 p.m. feature session. General admission tickets to see Granville vs. Rus and Hendler/Vaidisova vs. Daniilidou/Woehr cost $12 for adults and $8 for children.
Dow Corning Tennis Classic
Midland Community Tennis Center
Thursday, February 11 – RESULTS:
Singles – Second round
(1) Lucie Hradecka, Czech Republic, def. Valerie Tetreault, Canada, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3
(5) Sofia Arvidsson, Sweden, def. Kathrin Woerle, Germany, 6-3, 6-3
Laura Granville, United States, def. Anna Tatishvili, Georgia, 7-6 (8-6), 6-0
(8) Arantxa Rus, The Netherlands, def. Q-Beatrice Capra, United States, 6-0, 6-0
Rebecca Marino, Canada, def. Madison Brengle, United States, 6-2, 6-3
(3) Elena Baltacha, Great Britain, def. Severine Beltrame, France, 6-2, 6-0
Anne Keothavong, Great Britain, def. Eleni Daniilidou, Greece, 6-1, 6-1
Marta Domachowska, Poland, def. Lilia Osterloh, United States, 6-2, 6-4
Doubles – Quarterfinals
(1) Laura Granville, United States, and Lucie Hradecka, Czech Republic, def. Maureen Drake, Canada, and Petra Rampre, Slovenia, 6-1, 6-2
(3) Monica Niculescu, Romania, and Meghann Shaughnessy, United States, def. Monique Adamczak, Australia, and Megan Moulton-Levy, United States, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5
(4) Lilia Osterloh, United States, and Anna Tatishvili, Georgia, def. Teodora Mircic, Serbia, and Kathrin Woerle, Germany, 6-2, 6-3
Doubles – First round
Tamaryn Hendler, Belgium, and Nicole Vaidisova, Czech Republic, def. Courtney Dolehide and Angela Haynes, United States, 6-1, 6-4
(2) Eleni Daniilidou, Greece, and Jasmin Woehr, Germany, def. Madison Brengle and Jamie Hampton, United States, 6-3, 2-6, (10-6)
Friday, February 12 – SCHEDULE:
Stadium Court – starting at 10 a.m.
Rebecca Marino, Canada, vs. (3) Elena Baltacha, Great Britain
(1) Lucie Hradecka, Czech Republic, vs. (5) Sofia Arvidsson, Sweden
Anna Keothavong, Great Britain, vs. Marta Domachowska, Poland
Stadium Court – starting at 7 p.m.
Laura Granville, United States, vs. (8) Arantxa Rus, The Netherlands
Tamaryn Hendler, Belgium, and Nicole Vaidisova, Czech Republic, vs. (2) Eleni Daniilidou, Greece, and Jasmin Woehr, Germany