By Steve Pratt, special to USTA.com
LAS VEGAS – Lauren Albanese had a miserable 20th birthday one year ago, losing to Asia Muhammad in both singles and doubles at the Lexus of Las Vegas Open.
A day before her 21st birthday on Thursday, Albanese got some satisfying revenge, beating the hometown hero from Henderson in the same round as last year, 6-4, 7-5.
It was a boisterous Red Rock Country Club crowd cheering all the way for Muhammad, who lost in last year’s quarterfinals one round after beating Albanese.
"I can understand it; you would expect it with her being from here," Albanese said of the fans. "Maybe I can get them on my side tomorrow. I’ll need it. It’s no fun losing on your birthday."
Muhammad let a 5-1 lead slip away in the second set, as Albanese survived two sets points down 5-4 in the most intense game of the match. Muhammad was disappointed she couldn’t force a third set.
"I just love this tournament, and I’m encouraged with how well I played this week," Muhammad said. "Lauren played the best I’ve seen her play."
Albanese, ranked No. 238 in the world and from Jacksonville, Fla., will have her hands full Friday, as she goes up against No. 3-seeded Sorana Cirstea in the quarterfinals.
"I’m excited to play a former top-100 player and to see how I’ll do," Albanese said of Cirstea, the 2009 French Open quarterfinalist.
Cirstea is guaranteed to have several fans on hand, as she trains part time with the Adidas group in Vegas with Andre Agassi’s former coach Darren Cahill, who was on hand to watch on Thursday, while Gil Reyes and Sargis Sargsian were in attendance for her first-round match on Wednesday.
Unseeded 29-year-old American Abigail Spears beat wild-card Chelsey Gullickson to also move into the quarterfinals. The 2010 NCAA singles champion from Georgia Gullickson lost the first set at 6-0 for the second straight match. But unlike her last match, where she came back to beat Julia Cohen, Gullickson couldn’t hold off Spears, falling 6-0, 5-7, 6-4.
"I just came out and didn’t miss," said Spears, who said she was unaware of Gullickson’s slow starting issues. Spears, who was born and raised in San Diego, currently resides in Pueblo, Colo.
She will meet Mirjana Lucic, the No. 4 seed from Croatia, in the first match on Stadium Court at 10 a.m. Friday.
q: qualifier; wc: wild card
Mirjana Lucic, Croatia (4), def. Heidi El Tabakh, Canada, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
Sorana Cirstea, Romania (3), def. Julie Ditty, U.S. (q), 6-2, 6-3
Edina Gallovits, Romania (1), def. Alexandra Mueller, U.S. (wc), 6-3, 6-4
Valerie Tetreault (Canada) (8), def. Kimberly Couts, U.S., 0-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2
Abigail Spears, U.S., def. Chelsey Gullickson, U.S. (wc), 6-0, 5-7, 6-4
Varvara Lepchenko, U.S. (2), def. Lindsay Lee-Waters, U.S., 7-6 (8), 6-3
Anna Tatishvili, Georgia (6), def. Alexa Glatch, U.S. (wc), 3-6, 6-3, 7-5
Lauren Albanese, U.S., def. Asia Muhammad, U.S., 6-4, 7-5
Alexandra Mueller, U.S. / Ahsha Rolle, U.S., def. Kimberly Couts, U.S. / Anna Tatishvili, Georgia (3), 6-2, 6-3
Lindsay Lee-Waters, U.S. / Megan Moulton-Levy, U.S. (4), def. Christina Fusano, U.S. / Courtney Nagle, U.S., 6-2, 6-3
Irina Falconi, U.S. / Maria Sanchez, U.S., def. Madison Brengle, U.S. / def. Amra Sadikovic, Switzerland, 6-4, 6-3
Abigail Spears, U.S. (2) / Mashona Washington, U.S., def. Stephanie Foretz Gacon, France / Alexa Glatch, U.S., 7-6 (3), 7-5
Friday’s Order of Play:
Stadium Court Starting at 10 a.m.
Abigail Spears, U.S. vs. Mirjana Lucic, Croatia (4)
Followed by Sorana Cirstea, Romania (3), vs. Lauren Albanese, U.S.,
Followed by Lindsay Lee-Waters, U.S. / Megan Moulton-Levy, U.S. (4), vs. Abigail Spears, U.S. (2) / Mashona Washington, U.S.
Court 2 Starting at 10 a.m.
Varvara Lepchenko, U.S. (2), vs. Anna Tatishvili, Georgia (6)
Followed by Valerie Tetreault, Canada (8), vs. Edina Gallovits, Romania (1)
Followed by Irina Falconi, U.S. / Maria Sanchez, U.S., vs. Alexandra Mueller, U.S. / Ahsha Rolle, U.S.
The following is a tentative schedule of events supplementing the tournament:
Thursday, Sept. 30
– High School Day, 6-8 p.m. (Free general admission for ages 15-18).
Friday, Oct. 1
– Volkl/Becker Racquet Day, 6-8 p.m.
USTA Members Day ($10 off admission for all current USTA members)
Saturday, Oct. 2
– Super Semifinal Saturday; USTA Ladies League Luncheon.
For additional event and ticket information, please visit www.lexuslvopen.com
Las Vegas Past Champions:
Regina Kulikova (RUS)
Camille Pin (FRA)
Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)
Erika de Lone (U.S.)
2009: Aniko Kapros (HUN) – Agustina Lepore (ARG)
2008: Melinda Czink (HUN) – Renata Voracova (CZE)
2007: Victoria Azarenka (BLR) – Tatiana Poutchek (BLR)
1999: Erika de Lone (U.S.) – Annabel Ellwood (AUS)
SINGLES Prize Money Points
Winner $7,315 70
Runner-up $3,990 50
Semifinalist $2,185 32
Quarterfinalist $1,235 18
Round of 16 $760 10
Round of 32 $475 1
DOUBLES Prize Money (per team)
Round of 16 $285
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