2018 APTA Women’s Nationals Recap

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March 8-11, 2018
Chicago, IL

2018 APTA Womens ChampsLiz Cruz and Gabriela Niculescu could hardly be considered underdogs as Nationals commenced—after all, they were both repeat champions. Liz Cruz won the title in 2015 with Ana Brzova, and Gabriela Niculescu teamed with Martina Ondrejkova to win in 2016, and they had only lost three matches all season. However, despite their stellar season, they were not the favorites to win the title. All three of their losses came at the hands of the top seeded and top ranked team of Cynthia Dardis and Amy Shay, who came into Nationals as most people’s bet to win the APTA National Women’s title. It would be their first and the timing seemed right.

The early rounds went mostly according to form, with only two of the seeded teams failing to reach the Round of 16. Cathy MacKinnon and Chris Maglocci took out the Shaheen Bhanji and Lea Morris (16), and Andrea Noyes and Judy Takach downed Sandy Cvetkovic and Martina Ohlmuller (14) before falling to Agata Cioroch and Lisa Teer. Only one of the top eight seeds failed to win their Round of 16 match, as Jane McNitt and Chelsea Nusslock got the win over Mirian Cruz and Marcella Rodezno (6).

Things started to get really interesting in the quarterfinals. Dardis/Shay, who beat Lisa Rudloff and Mariya Slupska in straight sets in the Round of 16, faced Suzanne Lemery and Kelly Rohrbach (5), who had struggled to put away their fellow Chicagoans, Hallie Bodman and Liz Hayward (10), in three sets. Lemery/Rohrbach had never beaten Dardis/Shay, but Rohrbach explained, “We went into the match knowing we had to do something different this time, and tried to be more aggressive and force the action.” Although they lost the first set, this proved to be a winning plan, and Lemery/Rohrbach scored the biggest upset of the tournament and the season, winning the match, 3-6, 6-3, 7-5, and creating an opening in the semifinal draw.

The second seeds and defending champions, Florentina Hanisch and Annica van Starrenburg, also nearly were quarterfinal upset victims, but they somehow faced down two match points and survived against McNitt/Nusslock. The 6-7, 6-1, 7-6 score was indicative of just how tense and close the match was.

While less dramatic, the other two quarterfinals also featured well-played matches. Cruz/Niculescu (3) beat Jade/Curtis and Liz Jaffe (7), 7-5, 6-4, and Kerri Delmonico and Jessica Guyaux (8) scored a 6-2, 6-4 upset over Roxy Enica and Myrthe Molenveld (4).

In the semifinals, Hanisch/van Starrenburg pulled another Houdini act. After going down 5-2 in the third set and facing a match point against Delmonio/Guyaux, they somehow found a way to take their second 7-6 set in the third marathon win of the day. Cruz/Niculescu had a completely opposite experience in their semifinal, spending only a few minutes on the court when Lemery was forced to default with an injury.

The finals promised a matchup of hard-hitting, athletic players, but with their nemesis, Dardis/Shay, out of the way, there was no stopping Cruz/Niculescu. Cruz played almost error-free paddle, hitting deep lobs and placing her drives well, allowing Niculescu to poach and hit her huge roller overhead for winners over and over again. Although they fought hard, Hanisch/van Starrenburg couldn’t slow down the Cruz/Niculescu speed of play, and went down, 6-1, 6-3. After the match, Niculescu remarked that, “I was so nervous, but I went out there and played hard and I’m so happy to win.” Cruz confirmed that she, too, felt the nerves, and was happy to be able to play so well in the finals.

Thank you to Tournament Directors Shannon Vinson, John Noble, and Alan Graham, and the entire tournament committee for putting together a fantastic four-day event.

Results:
Main Draw: Liz Cruz/Gabriela Niculescu def. Florentina Hanisch/Annica van Starrenburg, 6-1, 6-3
Quarterfinal Reprieve: Jade Curtis/Liz Jaffe def. Jane McNitt/Chelsea Nusslock, 6-7, 6-2, 6-1
Round of 16 Reprieve: Mirian Cruz/ Marcella Rodezno def. Heather Prop/Wendy Shpiz, 7-6, 6-3
Round of 32 Reprieve: Katie Adams/Molly Brown def. Delphine Owen/Catherine White, 6-1, 7-5
Round of 64 Consolation: Jill Feher/Kristiin Mets def. Sandy Cvetkovic/Marina Ohlmuller, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4
Round of 64 Consolation Reprieve: Elizabeth Joseph/Nathalie Lemieux def. Kate Kapanowski/Vanessa Steiner, 6-2, 7-6
128 Consolation: Cindy Prendergast/Lauren Zink def. Dori Easdale/Jill Gilbert, 7-5, 6-2
128 Consolation Reprieve: Amy Hutter/Shelly Morse def. Kymberly Kochis/Sue Pijawka, 6-1, 6-2

Photos below by Lauri Harris

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