Friday was near perfect weather for the singles quarters and the doubles final. American Cici Bellis took on top seed Yanina Wickmayer. And Nicole Gibbs played Tatjana Maria.
Under the radar a bit, American Jennifer Brady came thru in straight sets against Russian Marina Melnikova, 6-2, 7-5.I plan to catch more of Jennifer Saturday in the semis.
Lastly, Maria Sakkari of Greece defeated American Samantha Crawford, 6-1, 6-7, 2-6. Despite the loss, Crawford smiled when we spoke post match. Reflecting on the loss, she acknowledged that her opponent did a good job keeping balls out of her strike zone and she had trouble returning her kick-serve. Good take-aways for next time.
Nicole Gibbs defeats Tatjana Maria 6-4, 2-6, 6-1
This match held moments of brilliance from both players and momentum shifts. Of note, Maria made it to both the singles quarters and the doubles final. So she’s played a lot of tennis in just a few days. Down 5-3 in the first set Maria played a stellar service game to hang on. With Gibbs on serve, Maria issued a challenge pushing the score to deuce, but Gibbs held tough and served out the set to 6-4.
In the second set, Maria stepped up her service game. She broke Gibbs first service game with a drop shot and net kill. Gibbs was also struggling with first serves. Maria celebrated the break with a fist pump. Maria was quickly up 3-0 over Gibbs. Here Gibbs took an opportunity to speak with her coach.
Gibbs easily held her next service game despite a double-fault. With Maria back on serve Nicole issued a challenge with net shots, overhead winners and hustle. The final game went to deuce, but Maria held taking the set 6-2.
The third set was all Nicole. Speaking with her after the match, she stated she focused on tracking Tatjana’s serve to able to anticipate her spots and be on point to return. The tactic worked well and as a result Tatjana had a high number of second serves. Gibbs pointed out this significant key statistic when we spoke.
Looking ahead in the draw Gibbs refused to project. She did not want to look to the potential match-up with Bellis. She stated I just focus on the next opponent, and she was not sure who that was. She acknowledged that yes the goal in entering any tournament is to win, but you can’t get ahead of yourself.
Overall, she loves the tournament especially the location and how easy it is for players to get around. She also praised the helpful tournament staff. Shout out to tournament director Ben Goldsmith and his largely volunteer team.
Yanina Wickmayer defeats Cici Bellis 6-4, 6-3
This was a very competitive match with both players hitting powerful groundstrokes. While Yanina lost focus being broken twice by Bellis, in the second set, she stayed calm and found her way to close out the match in straight sets.
Post match I caught up with Yanina. She said she did not know much about Cici’s game and had never seen her play, but she did know Bellis was a fighter.
Her coach did some scouting of Cici and gave her tips. Her strategy was to focus on herself her game and be aggressive. Yanina also had positive words for the tournament and staff.
Bellis spoke with me post match, although today was not her day. She says she is happy with her game. She loves playing aggressive tennis and is confident coming in to net. Lastly, Serena Williams is her inspiration.
Doubles final champions Cepede Royg and Gabriela Ce defeated Oksana Kalashnikov and Tatjana Maria, 1-6, 6-4, 10-8.
Friday South American team Veronica Cepede Royg and Gabriela Ce captured the first Carlsbad Classic doubles title. With a bit of luck, they got into the tournament as alternates to the doubles draw. This tournament held a bunch of firsts for the team. This is the first time Gabby and Veronica played together and the first WTA event for Veronica. The team wore a smile a mile wide at the trophy ceremony. Something tells me they'll be back next year.
The match was exciting and the win could have gone either way as the tiebreak final score was 10-8. I highly recommend watching live doubles if you never have. It’s a dynamic high powered high speed tennis experience.
After the trophy ceremony, Veronica spoke with me of not playing well in the first set and realizing that they needed to relax and just go for it. Most of all enjoy the occasion, "we are in the final." The two were seen laughing a bit and then got down to business. They took the second set and were rolling in the tiebreak up 4-0 when Tatjana and Oksana fought their way back to 8-8. Veronica stated partner Gabby was pushing her the whole time. They told each other enjoy, relax and just hit like you always do. Well it worked. They captured the tiebreak, set and match 10-8.
Tomorrow the singles semis will narrow the field to the final two. We have battle of the Americans, Gibbs against Brady and top seed Wickmayer going up against 13th seed Maria Sakkari.