Photo: Gioia BarbieriGioia Barbieri (ITA)
Italian former Junior Fed Cup player, Gioia Barbieri, is our featured female player for this month.
The 22-year old player only made two appearances during the month but, following a three-month injury lay-off due to a metatarsus fracture in her left foot, the young Italian was just happy to be back out on court.
Her return to the ITF Pro Circuit came in Portschach, Austria at a $10,000 clay court tournament in which she was named as the number two seed and faced an Austrian wild card entrant in the opening round.
Barbieri had a good workout in her first game back, emerging a 63 64 victor. Further progress was made when her German second round opponent retired from their match having lost the first three games of the second set; Barbieri having already won the first 64.
In her quarterfinal she swept aside a Croatian qualifier 61 63 and pushed on to claim a place in the final with another straight sets win in the semifinal.
Competing in her first tournament after her lengthy absence, a place in the final, despite her high seeding, was probably beyond her expectations, but, here she was on the verge of a dream comeback.
Opposing her was Nastja Kolar, an unseeded Slovenian player who had eliminated the top seed in round two.
Ahead of her singles final though she had a doubles final to take care of with her fellow Italian, Giulia Sussarello; a player she was teaming up with for the first time. The Italian duo was up against the Slovenian partnership of Polona Rebersak, whom Barbieri had beaten in the singles semifinal, and her upcoming singles final opponent, Kolar.
The Slovenians got off to an incredible start, winning the opening six games to take the set. Barbieri and Sussarello hit back to take the second with the loss of just two games but missed out on the title as they went down 10-4 in the deciding match tiebreak. This defeat ended Barbieri’s record of having won her previous five doubles finals, a run which stretched back to March 2012.
With the singles final to prepare for the next day, Barbieri had to put the disappointment of this doubles final defeat behind her quickly.
The singles final presented the Italian with a quick chance to avenge that doubles final loss but it wouldn’t be easy with Kolar now looking to add the singles title to her doubles triumph.
In this final, it was Barbieri who made the faster start and quickly claimed the first set 62 leaving her one set win away from a first singles title since her win in Viserba, Italy during late July 2012.
The second set saw Kolar put up more resistance but ultimately was unable to take the set and force a deciding third set with Barbieri victorious 62 63.
An amazing return to the game for the 22-year old!
The final week of August took her back to her homeland for another $10,000 clay court tournament.
For this tournament, being staged in Bagnatica, Barbieri was named as the eighth seed and was only competing in the singles event.
Barbieri found she had little trouble negotiating her way through the opening three rounds, recording three straight sets victories which included a 61 60 demolition of the top seeded Italian Maria-Elena Camerin, a former Fed Cup and WTA Top 50 ranked player in the quarterfinal.
Having seen off the number one seed, Barbieri next faced the third seed, another of her compatriots, Alberta Brianti. Barbieri took the first set 62 but required a tiebreak to settle the second set, which she won 7-4, to move into the final.
Since her return to singles play, Barbieri had yet to drop a set in the nine matches played and now took on the 26-year old second seed from Germany, Anne Schaefer, for the title.
A 63 opening set win looked to put Barbieri on course for a second title in as many weeks, but, Schaefer struck back to inflict Barbieri’s first set loss since her return, taking the set 63. The title would now be decided in a third set.
In this set, Barbieri dominated. Conceding just the one game, Barbieri secured back-to-back singles titles for the first time with a 63 36 61 win.
With two singles titles and a doubles runner-up finish from her first two tournaments upon return from a long injury lay-off, welcome back Gioia Barbieri.