Alison Riske has a great summer so far. She started by winning the ITA Summer Clay Court Championships (which is an open tournament for college, junior, and high school players). She then followed that up by winning the consolation bracket USTA G18 National Clay Court Champioships. Finally she was the runner-up at the USTA G18 National Championships, which earned her the qualification wildcard. She is 17 and will be a junior in high school come fall.
Based on Cirstea's results (and the fact that she reached the finals of Budapest), I thought Cirstea would have had an easy time with Riske. I didn't start watching until the last few points of the first set (I wasted time watching Barte vs. Erakovic, the waste being Barte). Due to an error in the scoreboard, I didn't realize until the umpire had called "set Riske" that she had taken the first set. All match long Cirstea had this disgusted look which can only be described as a combination of "I can't believe this nobody is beating me" and "I am playing like utter crap." Cirstea employed the bathroom break after being stunned in the first set.
It worked for the first game as Riske made a bunch of errors. As for Riske's game
she doesn't go for broke as a lot of young players do but rather she hits the ball with nice pace and depth. I would say her backhand is better than her forehand and I don't know if its her grunt but you can tell she's putting everything she has behind her shots. She has a decent first AND second serve unlike Cirstea's sorry second serve which Riske took advantage of repeatedly, standing way inside the baseline and often hitting winners or set-ups for easy winners.
Cirstea couldn't string points together for the life of her today. She definitely showed flashes of brillance, hitting some very nice winners but then would make really stupid mistakes. I believe Cirstea was up 4-2, 40-15 in the second set and Riske won 4 straight points to break back, case in point. She definitely improved my Romanian vocabularly, particulalry the bad stuff, as she kept on yelling at herself. Cirstea just seemed to have an off day, dangerous against Riske who is coming in with nothing to lose.
In the tiebreak, I expected Riske to show nerve and fold but Cirstea handed Riske 4 or 5 straight points with the stupided unforced errors. Cirstea was able to claw back into the tiebreak from 6-1 to 6-4 thanks to Riske tensing up but 4 match points was too much.
Riske is a really likeable player both in terms of watching her play and her demeanor. I thought it was cute how she thanked the ball boys every time they gave her balls to serve. When she converted match point, she audibly said "Oh my god, I won." After the hand shake, she met up with (I believe her mother) and her expression basically said "Holy crap, I can't believe I won." It was really refreshing. I just wish Cirstea had extended the match longer so I could have expanded my Romanian swear vocabulary.
A few pics from the match (not the greatest), the first three are of Cirstea and the last two of Riske.
Here's a short interview with Riske before she headed to the Open, http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07227/809533-139.stm