$10,000 St Joseph, MO - Irina Falconi (champion - singles & doubles)
19-year old Irina Falconi is our featured player this month. This American teenager, who favours hard court surfaces, spent the month competing on the ITF Pro Circuit in America, taking in three tournaments across three states.
Her first tournament of the month took her to the South Central American state of Texas, the second largest US state, for a $50,000 hard court tournament held in the Tarrant County city of Grapevine. Hosting its first ever tournament on the ITF Women’s Circuit, Grapevine saw Falconi gain entry by virtue of a Wild Card in both the singles and doubles events.
Falconi was pitted with a tough opening round encounter with American seventh seed Lindsay Lee-Waters and despite losing the first set, Falconi fought back to claim the win 46 75 76(1). Maybe feeling the effects of this hard fought victory, Falconi dropped the first set of her second round match with Qualifier Mashona Washington, 62, before completing a 26 63 63 win to move into the quarterfinal where she was to face Japan’s Junri Namigata, seeded four. At the end of the first set, Falconi once again found herself trailing in a match, but, surprisingly given her opponent’s high seeding, Falconi dropped just three games in the next two sets, eventually winning 26 63 60. Across the net from her in the semi final was the top seeded player, Stephanie Dubois. Desperate to make her first singles final since May 2007, Falconi put up a valiant display before bowing out of the tournament in a thrilling match which her Canadian opponent took 76(1) 75. In the doubles event, with partner Amanda Fink, she made a first round exit, losing 62 36 [10-8] to the fourth seeds.
Upon leaving Texas, Falconi made her way east to the state of Georgia, known as the Peach State and the Empire State of the South, for a $10,000 tournament taking place in the capital city, Atlanta. This was the third time that Atlanta had staged a tournament on the ITF Women’s Circuit (previous tournaments were held in 2003 and 2008). As in Texas, Falconi started with a first round match against seeded opposition, this time taking on fifth seeded American Gail Brodsky. An evenly contested match saw Falconi progress 46 63 64 to the second round where she saw off Lindsay Burdette, a qualifier, with the loss of just five games, winning 63 62. This match also brought a welcome end to a run of five matches in which she had lost the opening set. The No. 1 seed here, Alexandra Mueller, was next to face Falconi on court. With Mueller taking the opening set 62, any thoughts the watching spectators may have had of an expected win for the top seed were soon vanquished as Falconi came back strong to level the match at one set all before going on to chalk up an impressive 26 61 64 victory. Through to her second semi final of the month, Falconi wasted little time in seeing off the fourth seeded Alison Riske 64 63 to reach the final. Playing in her first singles final since winning the title in Monterrey in May 2007, Falconi was up against seventh seed Jennifer Elie, her fifth successive American opponent. In a shock to all the first set was over in minutes as Falconi overcame her opponent 60. The second set was more evenly balanced but Falconi was soon celebrating ending a two year absence without a title as she wrapped up a 60 64 victory. Just as in the previous week, her doubles tournament ended with defeat in the opening round, coincidently by the same scoreline of 62 36 [10-8], this time with Julia Moriarty.
After winning the singles title in Atlanta, GA, Falconi had a 7-day break from playing on the ITF Pro Circuit before competing in her final tournament of the month.
St. Joseph, the largest city in Northwest Missouri on the Missouri/Kansas border, was hosting its fourth ITF Women’s Circuit tournament (having hosted in 2004, 2006 & 2007) and it was here that Falconi looked to end the month with another title. In the opening round she came up against Bulgaria’s Svetlana Krivencheva, an experienced professional player who was once ranked at 142 back in 1998. Krivencheva, making her first appearance in a singles main draw since losing in the final at Atlanta in July 2008, was unable to make her experience count as Falconi dominated the match, winning 62 60. No. 1 seed, Coco Vandeweghe, was then seen off in three sets 46 63 75 in the second round. Falconi followed this up with another three set victory, this time 46 61 76(7) over Russian qualifier Olga Boulytcheva. Falconi, looking to make it to a second consecutive singles final, faced another qualifier in the semi final, USA’s Sabrina Santamaria. 16-year old Santamaria, playing her career first semi final having lost in the first round of her only other appearance in a main draw, may have been overwhelmed by the occasion as she took just two games as Falconi ran out a 62 60 winner and book her place in the final. Standing in the way of a second singles title this month for Falconi was another American, Caitlin Whoriskey. Falconi moved a step closer to the title by taking the first set 63 and she then secured the win by repeating this score in the next set. There was also success in the doubles event for Falconi here. Partnering Ashley Weinhold for the first time, the pair claimed the title, a first for Falconi, by defeating the third seeds 64 76(6) in the final having won in each of the previous rounds also in straight sets.
A memorable month for Falconi, she ended a 2-year title drought, won the singles titles in Atlanta and St. Joseph in what were her first two singles finals of 2009 and also made it a clean sweep of titles in St. Joseph by winning her first doubles title, this was also her first ever appearance in a doubles final.
At the time of writing, Falconi is ranked just inside the WTA top 500 and will be looking to build on the success of this month as she looks to move further up the rankings ladder.