Pro Circuit Round-up:
Lepchenko wins 12th career title
Arthur Kapetanakis | October 29, 2018
Team USA dominated the USTA Pro Circuit slate last week, as five Americans claimed trophies across two events. Leading the way was Varvara Lepchenko, who claimed her 12th career title, and first since 2011, by winning the $80,000 event in Macon, Ga., where Caty McNally and Jessica Pegula ended the week as doubles champions. On the men’s side, Evan Zhu was the singles winner at the $25,000 Collegiate Series event in Waco, Texas, where Nicolas Meister claimed his third straight Pro Circuit doubles crown.
The 32-year-old Lepchenko, a member of the WTA’s Top 20 in 2012, did not drop a set in five matches, taking out four Americans on her way to the final before defeating Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay, 6-4, 6-4, for the title. The win gives her an early lead in the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge.ADVERTISEMENT
“It was close,” Lepchenko said after the match. “It was important to close out that first set. I ran into some trouble late in the match, but came through.”
She knocked off Allie Kiick, 6-2, 7-5, in an all-American semifinal after getting past Ashley Kratzer, former junior world No. 1 Whitney Osuigwe and Danielle Lao in the opening three rounds.
The hard-court title was the biggest of her career in terms of prize money; she had previously won a pair of $75,000 events, in 2006 and 2010. All but one of her titles have come on hard courts, and each has come on U.S. soil. So much stateside success would have been impossible to imagine during Lepchenko’s childhood. She was born and raised in Uzbekistan, but moved to the U.S. with her father in 2001, seeking asylum. She has represented her new home country on the court since 2007, and became an American citizen in 2011. Lepchenko currently resides in Allentown, Pa., and has twice won the $25,000 ITF event in her new hometown.
In 2012, she earned a career-high ranking of No. 19 after reaching the third round or better in three consecutive Grand Slams, the best major stretch of her career. On the heels of that prolific season, she was selected to represent the U.S. at the 2012 Olympics and the 2013 Fed Cup. Lepchenko has twice advanced to the last 16 at the Slams, at both the 2012 French Open and the 2015 US Open. Her 10 career US Open singles main-draw victories are the most of any major. In 2013, she reached the doubles semis at the Australian Open and the quarters at the French with partner Saisai Zheng of China. She has ended the year in the WTA’s Top 100 in each of the last seven years, finishing in the Top 50 three times.
Other Americans who made deep runs at the Georgia event include No. 2 Jessica Pegula, Kayla Day, Hailey Baptiste and Lao, who were all quarterfinalists. Madison Brengle, the event’s top seed, was upset by Lao, 6-3, 6-3, in the first round.
McNally and Pegula claimed the doubles title by defeating Ingrid Neel and her partner, Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan, 6-1, 5-7, [11-9], in the championship match. The champs also won a third-set match tiebreak in the quarterfinals.
On the men’s side, it was a banner week for UCLA Bruins past and present in the Texas Collegiate Series event. In an all-American singles final, the Bruins’ Evan Zhu defeated wild card Roy Smith of Baylor in the final. Zhu took the first set, 6-3, before Smith was forced to retire.
Like Lepchenko, the unseeded Zhu did not lose a set on the week. He took out No. 4 Maxime Tchoutakian, the only seed he faced, 6-4, 7-5, in the quarterfinals. In the other half of the draw, Smith defeated qualifier Jonathan Chang, 6-2, 6-2, in an all-U.S. semifinal. Trent Bryde was also a quarterfinalist.
In the doubles event, three out of four finalists were Americans. Nicolas Meister and his partner, Frenchman and UCLA senior Maxime Cressy, won a title for the third straight week with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over JP Fruttero and Danny Thomas. Mesiter, a UCLA alum himself, was ranked as high as No. 180 in the ATP World Tour for doubles in 2016.
American Ian Dempster was also a doubles semifinalist, reaching the last four as the No. 3 seed with Bolivia’s Boris Arias.
Other notable results from Americans on the ITF Circuit include:
- Maria Sanchez was a doubles finalist at the $60,000 ITF event in Saguenay, Canada.
- Chiara Scholl reached the singles quarterfinals at the $25,000 ITF event in Santa Margherita di Pula, Italy.
- Robert Galloway and Nathan Pasha were doubles finalists at the $50,000 ATP Challenger event in Las Vegas.
- Paul Oosterbaan reached the singles quarterfinals at the $25,000 ITF Futures event in Tay Ninh, Vietnam.
- Jeremy Sonkin was a singles semifinalist at the $15,000 ITF Futures event in Monastir, Tunisia.
(Photo credit: Rick Limpert)