Sharon Fichman, 18, from Toronto, Canada competed in two tournaments this month, both in the USA, and is the latest featured player from the ITF Women’s Circuit.
Fichman who has represented her nation in the Fed Cup at both junior (2004 [runners-up] and 2005) and professional (2005, 2006 and 2009) levels took part in clay court tournaments in the Florida state cities of Boca Raton and Lutz.
Beginning with a visit to Palm Beach County, Florida for Boca Raton’s first tournament on the ITF Women’s Circuit since 2004 and its first ever $25,000 tournament, Fichman was looking to follow in the footsteps of current WTA Tour stars, Maria Kirilenko, Gisela Dulko and Na Li, all previous winners here. Fichman enjoyed a comfortable start to the tournament, easing to straight sets victories in the opening two rounds. These wins took her into a quarterfinal match with eighth seeded Italian Anna Floris. The Italian was on course to eliminate Fichman having taken the first set 62 but Fichman re-discovered her form from the previous rounds and fought back to record a 26 62 61 triumph. Next was a semi final against Ahsha Rolle, the fifth seed who, like Fichman, has experience of Fed Cup action having played in the USA’s semi final loss in 2008. The watching crowd may have been anticipating a close match but Fichman continued to show impressive form as she took apart her American opponent, losing three games in a 62 61 win as she moved into her first singles final since July 2008. Her opponent in the final was 17-year old qualifier Gabriela Paz from Venezuela, competing in her first final for two years. This final between the two rising teenage stars, both of whom are rapidly closing in on the WTA top 200, was closely fought with the title eventually going to the Venezuelan 64 76(4). Fichman’s wait for a second career singles title would have to last at least another week.
The doubles event saw Fichman teaming up with Kimberly Couts for the first time and together they came through the qualifying event as top seeds. In the main event they managed to navigate through three tough matches but came up short in the final, losing in straight sets to the fourth seeds. Still, this could be considered a successful debut for the partnership, a partnership that would continue across state in Lutz.
After the Boca Raton final, Fichman made the long 264-mile journey from east coast Florida across to Hillsborough County near the west coast for a $25,000 tournament in the city of Lutz. The city, which had been a major filming location for the 1990 Tim Burton movie “Edward Scissorhands” staring Johnny Depp, was hosting its first ever tournament on the ITF Women’s Circuit. Fichman was handed a difficult opening to the tournament having been drawn to play number one seed Angela Haynes of America in the opening round and it was the American who seized the advantage, taking the first set 63. Having travelled so far to play this tournament, Fichman was not about to leave so soon and duly raised her game and won the next two sets 62 62 to knock the top seed out of the tournament. The confidence gained from this win over an opponent ranked inside the WTA top 100 just over three years ago, stayed with her into the next round where she defeated American Wild Card entrant Grace Min 60 64. This win brought about a re-match of the Boca Raton final as she once again faced Gabriela Paz. This match between last weeks singles finalists was not as close as in Boca Raton with Fichman emerging as the winner on this occasion following Paz’s retirement from the match with Fichman leading 61 30. Dutch Fed Cup player Michelle Gerards’ attempt to reach the final, and in doing so prevent Fichman going through to a second final in as many weeks, proved unsuccessful as Fichman triumphed in their semi final clash in straight sets 62 64.
In the final, Fichman was to take on third seed Lauren Albanese, 19, from the USA, in what was the first meeting between the two players since Fichman’s victory in 2005 at the 35th Banana Bowl junior tournament in Brazil. Both players were looking to bring to an end individual runs of unsuccessful singles final appearances. Fichman was now competing in her sixth final since winning her only title, back in November 2005 in her debut singles final appearance. For Albanese, it was a fifth singles final since winning her only title in July 2006 in what was also her debut singles final appearance. With both players having waited so long to claim a second career singles title a tense match was anticipated, and the spectators were not to be disappointed. Both players fought hard throughout but only one player would be taking the trophy home and that player was to be Sharon Fichman. The first set was narrowly won 64 and the second set was even closer, eventually requiring a tiebreaker to separate the two players. The title was secured as Fichman won in the tiebreaker to wrap up a 64 76(5) victory.
Continuing in their partnership formed in Boca Raton, Fichman and Kimberly Couts made it two finals from two tournaments and, unlike in Boca Raton, they were the ones celebrating at the end of the final. En route to winning the title the pair defeated two of the four seeded teams, including the number one seeds in the semi final and did not drop a set all week.
Fichman, having made a great start to 2009 with appearances in the singles and doubles finals at both tournaments played this month and claiming both titles in Lutz had further reason to celebrate with the release of the WTA Rankings on February 2nd 2009 as she had reached career high rankings of 232 in singles and 309 in doubles. She also earned a recall to the Canadian Fed Cup squad for the early February ties against Puerto Rico and Bahamas in Americas Group 1. These two ties saw Fichman compete in the doubles rubbers and increase her impressive win-loss count in Fed Cup doubles play to 6-1. Her win-loss record in Fed Cup singles play remains at 1-0 following her only singles appearance, which came on her debut for Canada in April 2005.
On the ITF Women’s Circuit, she now has a career record of two singles titles from seven finals and in doubles two titles from four finals.
If she can maintain this form in the coming months then we should expect to see her continuing her climb up the rankings and break into the WTA top 200.