Barbieri stunned by near-perfect Dalila…
Gioia Barbieri has won a lot of admirers in her short stay in Lagos, majorly because of her unmistakable intensity on the tennis court. Be it on the practice courts or during actual matches, Gioia smacks that forehand with similar gusto, backed up by the now customary grunt. Having seen off the wily Nina Bratchikova in the second round, she perhaps went into her quarter final against Dalila Jakupovic as slight favourite.
Jakupovic had progressed through the draw almost unnoticed, but she shot into everyone’s consciousness with one of the performances of the tournament so far on Thursday afternoon.
Barbieri’s forehand had been one of the highlights of the Governor’s Cup, but Jakupovic has got the steadier backhand- and crucially, she moves and defends better. Most impressive was the way Dalila negated Barbieri’s fierce forehand by forcing the Italian wide with wicked short angles, and going down-the-line without hesitation. Placement over power- Smart.
Jakupovic saw an early 4-1 lead evaporate over the heat of a Barbieri fight-back, but the Slovenian stepped it up again to hold for 5-4, before making another move on the Barbieri serve. The Italian cracked under pressure, spraying a couple of forehands long and wide before giving up the set 6-4.
The Barbieri forehand continued to misfire early in the second set, and that helped Japukovic to an early break of serve, but despite another Italian resurgence, the Slovenian found the greater consistency- both physically and mentally- to close out a fine 6-4 6-2 win. She’s a very good player, Jakupovic, and she’ll be very tough to beat.