– Getting back to the Top 100 remains the most immediate goal for former French Open quarterfinalist Sorana Cirstea, a 20-year-old from Bucharest, Romania, who will be one of the top-seeded players once the Lexus of Las Vegas Open kicks off Sunday, Sept. 26, with qualifying and concludes with the finals on Sunday, Oct. 3.
The event will take place at the Red Rock Country Club (2250 A Red Springs Drive) and is a women’s USTA $50,000 Pro Circuit event in which players in the WTA world rankings from anywhere between No. 75 to No. 250 will be competing for prize money and valuable tour ranking points.
Cirstea reached a career-high ranking of No. 23 in the world in 2009, the same year as her great French Open run, which was followed up by a semifinal appearance in the Los Angeles Women’s Open Championships in August of last year.
Cirstea, who has career wins over current top-10 players Caroline Wozniacki, Jelena Jankovic, Francesca Schiavone and Agnieszka Radwanska, turned professional at age 16 in 2006 and shortly after began spending time training in Las Vegas with Darren Cahill and Gil Reyes. "I love it here," said Cirstea, who spends a quarter of her year in Las Vegas. "This has turned out to be just a great place for me to train."
She knows the Top 100 is attainable if she can manage to win a round or two in Las Vegas once the main draw (32 players) singles play begins on Tuesday, Sept. 28. "Last year I had a really good year," she said. "This year, it’s been not so great. It hasn’t gone as well as planned. But it’s just about getting my confidence back and working hard to get back there."
Jordan Butler, the co-tournament director of the second-year event, along with Red Rock Country Club tennis operating partner Tyler Weekes, said this year’s field is impressive and includes some potential "future stars of women’s tennis."
Butler recently announced that Las Vegan Asia Muhammad, 19, has been granted a main-draw wild-card into the event. Muhammad is currently ranked No. 443 in the world and was a surprise quarterfinalist in the event last year and a runner-up in 2008.
Also in the field is Cirstea’s Romanian countrywoman Edina Gallovits, who just last week made a 20-percent increase in her singles ranking and is now No. 80 in the world after reaching the singles semifinals and winning the doubles event at last week’s WTA event at Guangzhou. Gallovits, who resides in Atlanta, is a 12-time singles champion on the USTA Pro Circuit and has lost just one set in 15 matches on the circuit this season, winning clay-court titles in Pelham, Ala., Dothan, Ala., and Indian Harbour Beach, Fla.
UNLV product Kristina Nedeltcheva won the Wild-Card Shootout last weekend and will get a free pass into qualifying beginning on Sunday. The other qualifying wild cards went to Las Vegas’ Sarah Toti, 18, who will play for the University of Tennessee on scholarship next year, and Henderson junior Gabrielle Smith, 14, who is currently ranked No. 8 in the USTA 14s.
The USTA awarded three main-draw wild cards to US Open National Playoff winner Alexander Mueller, 2010 NCAA singles champion from Georgia Chelsey Gullickson and Southern Californian Alexa Glatch. All three recently played at the US Open, with Gullickson, who is the daughter of former major league pitcher Bill Gullickson, losing a night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court to top-seeded Wozniacki in the first round.
Jamie Hampton, 20, is another talented American to keep an eye on. Hampton has been red hot in recent weeks, entering the world's Top 200 and winning the $25,000 Redding title last week. That gave her four Pro Circuits titles on the year, with wins in Osprey, Fla., Grapevine, Texas, and Boston.
Also in Las Vegas and trying to work their way back onto the WTA Tour are 1998 Australian Open women’s doubles champion Mirjana Lucic (Croatia) and 1998 Wimbledon singles semifinalist Alexandra Stevenson (San Diego).
Other Americans in the field include: Varvara Lepchenko (Allentown, Pa.), a seven-time singles champion on the USTA Pro Circuit who migrated to the United States from Uzbekistan in 2000 and will become a citizen in 2011, and who reached the second round at the French Open and Wimbledon this season; Julia Cohen (Philadelphia), 21, a former junior world No. 4 and All-American at the University of Miami who has found success on the ITF Women’s Circuit, winning a $25,000 singles title in Canada and reaching finals at $25,000 events in Colombia and Mexico; Lauren Albanese (Coral Springs, Fla.), who defeated Cohen in the final of the $25,000 tournament at Poza Rica, Mexico, in April and who also reached at least the quarterfinals at clay-court ITF events in Australia, Colombia and Canada this season; Lindsay Lee-Waters (Dunwoody, Ga.), a 33-year-old mother of two who has won two doubles titles in four finals on the USTA Pro Circuit this season and who nearly captured her 12th circuit singles title in May, falling in a three-set final at the $50,000 event in Raleigh, N.C.; Abigail Spears (San Diego), who in February won the singles title at the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Surprise, Ariz., and the doubles title at the $25,000 stop in Rancho Mirage, Calif.; and Kimberly Couts (Bradenton, Fla.), 21, who in $25,000 tournaments this season has reached the singles semifinals in El Paso, Texas, and quarterfinals in Pelham, Ala., and Rancho Mirage, Calif., and who teamed with Tetiana Luzhanska to win the $50,000 Boston doubles title
The 2010 Lexus of Las Vegas Open will also feature a charitable food drive to benefit Three Square, Las Vegas’ premier food bank. The food drive will run the length of the event and will include discounts on admission in return for donations.
The following is a tentative schedule of events supplementing the tournament:
Tuesday, Sept. 28 – Kids Day, 6-8 p.m. (Free general admission for ages 14-and-under).
Wednesday Sept. 29 – Players Party at J.W. Marriott, 6-9 p.m. (Free for ticket holders).
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