Olivia Sanchez is the featured player for March 2010 on ITFTENNIS.COM
ITF Spotlight On.... February 2010 - Olivia Sanchez
By Nick Fishpool
Former WTA Top 100 player, Olivia Sanchez from France, won her first singles titles on the ITF Pro Circuit since October 2007 and is this month’s featured player.
During the month of February, Sanchez competed in three $25,000 hard court tournaments in the USA, first up was a trip to Rancho Mirage in Riverside County for the first of two tournaments Sanchez entered into in the state of California. Rancho Mirage, located in the heart of the Palm Springs Valley at the base of Santa Rosa Mountains, was hosting an ITF Pro Circuit women’s tournament for the second year in succession. 27-year old Sanchez had to earn her place in the singles main draw via the qualifying event where she was named the No. 4 seed. Apart from one set dropped in the opening round and needing a tie break win in the first set of the final round, Sanchez enjoyed a relatively comfortable passage into the main draw. The first round of the main draw saw Sanchez up against Ukrainian player Tetyana Arefyeva who she defeated 62 63 to set up a second round meeting with seventh seeded Russian Anastasia Pivovarova. Her seeded opponent took the opening set 64 before Sanchez fought back to claim the victory, dropping just three games in the final two sets. Another seed awaited Sanchez in the quarterfinal, No. 4 seed Madison Brengle from the USA. Brengle was also unable to halt Sanchez’s progress as the Frenchwoman recorded a 63 64 win to move into the Semi Final. American Lilia Osterloh, the top seed here, was taken to three sets by Sanchez in their Semi Final match and with the score at one set all Sanchez upped her game and won through to her first final since her triumph in Mexico City in 2007 with a 60 final set win. Unseeded Slovenian Tadeja Majeric was now all that stood in the way of Sanchez ending a near two and half year wait for a singles title. The opening set of the final was closely contested with Sanchez eventually taking it 75, but the next set was dominated by Sanchez who took it without the loss of a single game. Success in the final was the eighth of her career.
Following her success in Rancho Mirage, Sanchez journeyed 117 miles west to Laguna Nigel in Orange County for her second tournament of the month.
Unlike in Rancho Mirage, Sanchez was a direct acceptance into the singles main draw and wasted little time defeating American Wild Card entrant Lindsey Nelson in the opening round with the loss of just four games. This victory brought about a second round match against the No. 1 seed from Japan, Kurumi Nara. The match against Nara was a very tight affair and having taken the opening set 75, Sanchez then completed her victory winning an even closer second set 76(5). Sixth seed Abigail Spears from the USA was then seen off in the Quarterfinal in three sets as was Rika Fujiwara, the No. 3 seed, in the Semi Final which saw Sanchez come from a set down to earn her place in the final for the second week running. Having already disposed of three of the tournaments seeded players in each of the previous three rounds, another now faced her across the net in the final, No. 4 seed from Luxembourg, Mandy Minella. As with her matches against seeded opposition so far, this was also a close contest and in the end it was Sanchez who was celebrating having won back-to-back singles titles after having gone so long without any title wins. This win was made all the more impressive as she had beaten three of the top four seeds, including the No. 1 seed on her way to the title.
A very long journey followed this triumph as she headed back east for over 400 miles to Arizona, where the city of Surprise in Maricopa County was the setting for Sanchez’s final tournament of the month. Surprise, now in its third year of staging a women’s ITF Pro Circuit tournament, was not just the name of the city but also the emotion experienced by Sanchez following a shock first round exit in straight sets to Abigail Spears, the American beaten by Sanchez in the Quarterfinal in Laguna Nigel the previous week. Although seeded eighth, Spears’ victory over the unseeded Sanchez still came as a surprise given Sanchez’s form in her previous two tournaments which had seen her beat a total of seven seeded players from ten main draw matches, collecting two titles along the way. Some consolation could be taken from the fact that Spears went on to claim the singles title.
Despite this disappointing end to an otherwise highly successful month, Sanchez still goes into March in good form and is now just one more singles title away from taking her career title successes into double figures.
She seems to be playing well, can she keep it up