Photo: Giampiero SpositoSimona Briganti (ITA)
ROME, ITALY: ITF Beach Tennis action made its first stop in Italy of 2014 on 30-31 March for the magically titled ‘Fifth Wizard Anniversary’ tournament; a Grade 3 event held in Rome.
The event attracted a lot of home interest and each of the main draws provided spots for two pairs from qualifying events. The two women’s qualifiers put up valiant efforts before making first round exits as did their male counterparts which saw one pair, Aldo Castore and Luca Steffanizzi, win through to round two where they faced the Top 100 ranked Russians, and second seeds, Nikita Burmakin and Sergey Kuptsov.
The Russian pair had already posted a 75 61 first round win over qualifiers Luca Grieco and Stefano Loconte and endured another tricky opening set, this time requiring a tiebreak to settle it before pushing on to a 62 second set win.
Probably the biggest shock of the tournament came in the women’s event when the unseeded duo of Simona Briganti - making her return from almost a year out with a knee injury - and Flaminia Daina recovered from a 60 first set loss in the quarterfinals to defeat the top seeds Eva D’Elia and Veronica Visano 06 62 75, both of whom are ranked within the world Top 5.
Briganti and Daina are, however, not new to the game. Daina picked up four titles over the course of 2013, including the European Championships crown, whilst Briganti, although without a title win since an Italian Grade 1 in August 2012, was a prolific title winner over the opening four years of the ITF Beach Tennis Tour and is a three-time World and European Champion.
Upon reaching the semifinals stage of the tournament, only the third seeded wild card entrants Marco Faccini and Luca Rosatone, of the four seeded pairs failed to make it in the men’s event. A similar story in the women’s event as third seeds Arianna Carli and Camilla Ponti fell in two close sets to join the top seeds in a quarterfinal exit.
All four men’s semifinalists had yet to drop a set between them coming into the round and it was the top two seeds who maintained their run of straight sets wins to set up a final showdown.
Unlike in the men’s event, both women’s semifinals were played out over three sets. Second seeds Giulia Curzi and Giorgia Gadoni saw off the conquerors of the third seeds in the previous round 64 26 76(2) and in the final would face Briganti and Daina who came through a tense semifinal 46 75 63 win over Elisabetta Cappelli and Annalisa Prati who had been seeded fourth.
In reaching the men’s final, Burmakin and Kuptsov had come through three close matches but the number one seeds Alessandro Calbucci and Michele Folegatti never allowed their Russian opponents to get close to them and dominated the final, dropping just two games in a 62 60 triumph.
Having already fought off seeded opposition in the last two rounds, Briganti and Daina had to see off one more seeded pair to collect a well-earned title, and, they did just that. Having fallen behind in their quarterfinal and semifinal matches, the unseeded duo narrowly avoided that fate again to take the opening set 75 and then in edging another close set 64 claimed the title to cap a remarkable tournament performance.