24 Feb 2015

Spotlight On... Isabella Shinikova - January 2015


By Nick Fishpool

Isabella Shinikova (BUL)

January 2015

This month sees 23-year-old Bulgarian Isabella Shinikova as our featured player.

Shinikova’s first two tournaments of the year took her to Tunisia for back-to-back $10,000 hard court tournaments in El Kantaoui.

Her first match in the singles event, where she was seeded fourth, saw her record a narrow straight sets victory, 75 63, over Amandine Cazeaux from France. The following three rounds provided her with rather more comfortable wins, all in straight sets without loss of any more than three games in a set.

This run of wins included a 60 63 semifinal win over the second seeded Dia Evtimova, a fellow Bulgarian, as she moved into a final for the first time since winning the title in Caserta back in May 2014.

The day preceding the singles final, Shinikova was competing for the doubles title with French partner Estelle Cascino. The pair, partnering for the first time since July 2013, were the top seeds and required a match tiebreak win in their semifinal over the fourth seeds Mariam Bolkvadze and Yulia Bryzgalova to reach the final.

The second seeded Czech pair, Kristyna Hrabalova and Vendula Zovincova, were their opponents in the final. A 7-3 tiebreak win gave Shinikova and Cascino the first set and they then eased through the second set 60 to secure the title to add to their triumph together back in March 2013.

Shinikova now had the chance to end the week with both event titles for the first time in her career. Standing in her way was the unseeded Egyptian Sandra Samir.

Following her semifinal elimination of the second seed and her own seeded status, Shinikova was the favourite to take the title and seemed well on course to do so when dropping just two games in the opening set.

Samir, however, hit back in the second set taking it 63 and extending the title match into a third set. In the deciding set, the two split another nine games as a 63 win saw Shinikova claim the title.

Staying at the same venue for her second and final tournament of the month, Shinikova was seeded third in the singles event and again as top seed in the doubles but this time in a first time partnership with Slovakia’s Chantal Skamlova.

After a first round singles defeat of a qualifier, Shinikova fell behind in her second round match with Italian Francesca Palmigiano but any fear of an early exit was soon allayed as she raced through the next two sets 61 62.

A straight sets win followed in the quarterfinal and a place in the final was then handed to her without having to strike a ball as her opponent, Evtimova whom she had also faced in the semifinal a week earlier, withdrew from the event due to a leg injury.

The unfortunate withdrawal of the second seed did allow Shinikova extra time to prepare for another doubles final. With Skamlova, she eased through each round only twice allowing opponents to win more than one game in a set.

The pair’s commanding performances leading into the final did not end with the semifinal victory and the duo stunned the second seeds, Silvia Njiric and Olga Parres Azcoitia from Croatia and Spain respectively, by posting a 62 60 win to take the title.

Having won both the singles and doubles titles at the same event for the first time the previous week, Shinikova did not have long to wait before repeating this feat.

With the doubles title already to her name, the young Bulgarian capped a great start to the New Year with a three set win in the singles final over the eighth seeded Belgian Marie Benoit.

Shinikova took the first set 62 before Benoit levelled the match with a close 75 win in the second set. So, as was the case just a week earlier, the singles title would go to a deciding third set. Having just levelled the match, those watching may have thought the pendulum had swung Benoit’s way but Shinikova would drop just one game as she pressed on to win another title.