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Liz Cruz/Gabriela Niculescu Defend National Championship Title
March 7-10, 2019
The 2019 Nationals lived up to its billing as the premier event on the APTA circuit, with four fantastic days of play aided by cooperative weather that only poured rain after play ended on Saturday. The Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, the players’ party, and the fan-friendly atmosphere all contributed to the success of the weekend.
On Thursday, the Women’s Viking President’s Cup teams battled it out all day. Both Region II and Region V went undefeated, but Region II amassed 22 points throughout the day while Region V racked up 21, making Region II women champions for the first time since 1990.
On Friday, the first two rounds offered few surprises, with only the 15th seeds, Hallie Bodman and Marina Ohlmuller, failing to reach the Round of 16. Bodman/Ohlmuller lost to Lucy Nutting and Jaclyn Williamson. Things got really interesting in the Round of 16, when the surplus of competitive matches showcased the depth in the women’s game. In the top half of the draw, the higher seeds all prevailed in straight sets, but Marcela Rodezno Hernandez and Mirian Warner (9) gave Kerri Delmonico and Lauren Gebbia (8) a battle before falling, 7-5, 6-3, and Maria Manley and Pam Ruoff (14) made Liz Cruz and Gabriela Niculescu (3) fight hard for their 6-4, 7-5 win.
In the bottom quarter of the draw, Martina Ondrejkova and Ana Marija Zubori (10) upset Jessica Guyaux/Myrthe Molenveld (6) in straight sets, and Roxy Enica/Laura Berendt only needed two sets to oust the unseeded Lucy Nutting and Jaclyn Williamson, but the other two matches in the bottom of the draw were not as straightforward. In one, Heather Prop/Wendy Shpiz (7) dropped the first set to Cooey Lyon and Charlotte Sikora (11) before roaring back for a 1-6, 6-2, 6-0 win. The other match, the one everyone pointed to when the draw came out, between Ana Brzova/Amy Shay (16) and Jade Curtis/Viktoria Stoklasova (4), deserved the hype. Shay, playing without injured longtime partner Cynthia Dardis, teamed up with three-time APTA National Champion Ana Brzova. Although Brzova has competed sparingly in the past few years, her skills were sharp and she and Shay played well above the level of their seeding. Their opponents, Stoklasova, who teamed with Brzova for two of her National titles, and Curtis, won all three tournaments they played in this season and were considered by many to be the favorites to win Nationals. The first set was all Curtis/Stoklasova, but Brzova/Shay were able to use their first-rate volleying and overhead skills to get back in the match and eventually wear down their opponents. Brzova/Shay took the match, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, in a contest that was played at the level of a National final.
The top three seeded teams advanced in straight sets to the semifinals, as did Brzova/Shay, who needed two and a half hours to get by Prop/Shpiz. Both winning semifinalist teams put on dominating performances. In a repeat of last year’s National final, Cruz/Niculescu beat Hanisch/van Starrenburg, this time by the score of 6-1, 6-2. In the other match, Berendt/Enica overwhelmed Brzova/Shay, 6-2, 6-0.
On Sunday, hundreds of fans crowded the bleachers and patio at the Fox Chapel Racquet Club, ready to enjoy the day watching the best paddle players in the country. The women’s final did not disappoint. As each team outdid each other with their speed, spins, and power, the oohs and ahs from the crowd intensified. Cruz/Niculescu had no answers for Enica’s powerful rollers and Berendt’s drives in the first set, but they switched sides for the second, and with Cruz on the ad side, they were able to use Enica’s pace into the back-side screens to their advantage. Gaining confidence, Niculescu blitzed more, and the complexion of the match changed. Cruz/Niculescu won the match, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, defending their 2018 National title successfully, and giving them both a total of three National Championships. That Niculescu was able to repeat as National Champion after having a baby only three months ago makes the feat even more remarkable.
Main Draw: Liz Cruz/Gabriela Niculescu def. Laura Berendt/Roxy Enica, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3
Quarterfinal Reprieve: Martina Ondrejkova/Ana Marija Zubori def. Kerri Delmonico/Lauren Gebbia, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2
Round of 16 Reprieve: Jade Curtis/Viktoria Stoklasova def. Marcela Rodezno Hernandez/Mirian Warner, 6-3, 6-0
Round of 32 Reprieve: Chelsea Nusslock/Alexis Prousis def. Victoria Eichleay/Jill Isenhart, 6-4, 6-3
Round of 64 Reprieve: Cindy Prendergast/Lauren Zink def. Rebecca Wolf/Mary Yarbrough, 6-1, 7-6
Round of 64 Consolation Reprieve: Kym Kochis/Robin Newman def. Wan Collier/Meghan Trombold, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4
Consolation: Elizabeth Joseph/Nathalie Lemieux def. Shauna Muller/Karen Urban, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1
Consolation Reprieve: Wendy Bermingham/Kathleen Parker def. Bizzy Driscoll/Julie Kammerer, 6-2, 6-1