03 Nov 2015

Spotlight On... Valeriya Strakhova - October 2015


By Nick Fishpool

Photo: Eric VisintainerValeriya Strakhova (UKR)

October 2015

Competing in four tournaments across two continents, 20-year-old Valeriya Strakhova is our featured player of the month.

Over the course of October, Strakhova claimed a number of titles and reached the doubles final at all four tournaments, each with a new first time partnership!

The Ukrainians action began with back-to-back tournaments in the Tunisian port of El Kantaoui and culminated in back-to-back tournaments in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, all played on her favoured hard court surface.

In the opening El Kantaoui tournament, Strakhova found herself as the top seed in both singles and in doubles where she was partnered by Valentini Grammatikopoulou, of Greece.

This first time partnership was to prove successful and by the end of the week the duo were crowned champions.

A triumphant week was also had in the singles event. Strakhova opened with contrasting wins over qualifiers. Round one saw her race to a 61 60 win whilst in round two she had to come from behind to earn a 46 75 62 victory.

Her quarterfinal match, with the British eighth seed Mirabelle Njoze, also saw her fall behind before emerging victorious.

From here in she only dropped a further seven games as wins of 75 60 and 62 60 in the semifinal and final respectively brought about a first singles title since August.

The singles title match saw her defeat her doubles partner of the week and second seed, Grammatikopoulou, the day after the pair had triumphed in the doubles final.

Staying in El Kantaoui, Strakhova’s second tournament saw her repeat her feats of the previous week and pick up titles in both events.

This week saw her once again seeded number one in singles but this time, in what was again a first time partnership, seeded second in doubles. Her partner for the week was Bosnian Jelena Simic.

Strakhova and Simic’s run to the doubles title came via three tough matches, having received a first round Bye, and saw them defeat the fourth and third seeds in the semifinal and final respectively and gave Strakhova back-to-back doubles title triumphs for the second time in her career.

En route to the singles title, Strakhova was in impressive form and never conceded more than five games in any round and recorded four set wins without loss of a game including a second round 60 60 victory.

The singles event also saw her face two familiar faces from the previous week. For the second quarterfinal running, Strakhova took on, and defeated, Njoze, this time with the loss of only two games and in the final she faced Jessika Ponchet, of France, a player she had knocked-out in the previous week’s semifinal.

Last week a 75 60 win took her past Ponchet and in this week’s encounter Strakhova again dropped five games as she posted a 62 63 win to claim the title.

Following her successes in Africa, Strakhova headed to Asia for tournaments in Thailand.

A third tournament of the month also brought about a third different doubles partner. Unseeded in the first of two Bangkok events, Strakhova teamed with Emma Laine, of Finland, another first time partnership.

After her two singles title wins over the previous two weeks, it seemed as though a third could well be on its way as Strakhova opened her account with a 60 60 defeat of Yuqi Sheng, of China.

Nungnadda Wannasuk, playing in her homeland, had other ideas however and a 64 67(2) 61 scoreline brought an early exit for the second seed.

The week did see her contest a third straight doubles final though. Following wins of 61 62 in each of the first two rounds, the pairing of Strakhova and Laine held off a semifinal fightback from the top seeds to win 60 46 [11-9] to reach the final.

Hopes of making it a hat trick of doubles titles with three wins in as many weeks was soon ended as Thai third seeds Nudnida Luangnam and Peangtarn Plipuech took the title with a 62 63 victory.

The month ended the following week with a second Bangkok event and a fourth successive new doubles partner.

Strakhova teamed up with Ayaka Okuno, of Japan, and the duo seeded two, had little trouble navigating their way through to the final by virtue of wins of 62 62 either side of a Walkover and knocking-out her partner of the previous week, Laine, in the semifinals.

A place in the singles final was also earned this week, her third in four weeks. As third seed, Strakhova came through a tough opening match, requiring two tiebreaks to earn the win. Her 76(5) 76(1) victory was then followed with further straight sets wins including a 64 63 defeat of the second seed Jia-Jing Lu in the semifinals.

The day before the singles final, Strakhova was in action battling for the doubles title. One half of the opposing team was Plipuech who had been on the winning side in last week’s final.

This time unseeded and playing with Chompoothip Jandakate, the two Thai players were unable to deliver the doubles title for the home crowd and with a 62 76(2) win, Strakhova claimed a third doubles title of the month.

A winning end to the month was not to be however. The following day she took on the Japanese top seed Hiroko Kuwata in the singles final and a close contest saw the number one seed triumph 75 64.

This loss also ended Strakhova’s winning run in singles finals. Prior to this defeat she had won each of the last eight singles finals she had contested stretching back to July 2014.