By Steve Pratt, special to USTA.com
– Sorana Cirstea has played on the grandest stages in tennis, including the All-England Club at Wimbledon and Roland Garros in Paris. But the 20-year-old Romanian told the Lexus of Las Vegas Open tennis fans there was no place she would have rather been on Saturday than Las Vegas.
"It doesn’t matter if it’s Roland Garros or wherever, it’s just a pleasure to play before all these wonderful people," said the No. 3-seeded Cirstea, after her 6-3, 6-4 win over her countrywoman and top-seeded Edina Gallovits in the semifinals of the USTA $50,000 Pro Circuit event, being held at the Red Rock Country Club in Summerlin.
Cirstea, who lives in Las Vegas a quarter of the year training with the Adidas group, led by Darren Cahill and Gil Reyes, will meet American Varvara Lepchenko in Sunday’s final. Lepchenko, the No. 2 seed, beat No. 4 Mirjana Lucic in similar fashion, 6-3, 6-4, in the first semifinal on Saturday.
Cirstea controlled the match, opening up a 5-1, second-set lead with her popping first serve and consistent groundstrokes.
"She is tough to play because she is such a good friend," Cirstea said of the 25-year-old Gallovits, whom she now holds a 3-0 career head-to-head record against, including a straight-sets win over her in the first round at the 2009 Wimbledon Championships.
Cirstea has dropped just one set in the tournament, which came in the first round against American Irina Falconi. "After I survived that first round, I started feeling more confidence," she said.
The lefty Lepchenko got her revenge against Lucic, who beat her last week in the semifinals at the Albuquerque Pro Circuit event. In that match, Lepchenko was actually up a set and a break before letting Lucic back in the match, which Lucic ultimately won, 1-6, 7-5, 6-1.
"I did start to remember about last week, when I was up 3-0 and 4-1 in the second set," Lepchenko said. "I just had to keep reminding myself to stay aggressive."
A native of Uzbekistan, Lepchenko currently resides in Allentown, Pa. She has lived in the United States since 2001 after receiving political asylum and became a U.S. citizen in 2007.
In the doubles final on Sunday at 11 a.m., wild cards Falconi and Maria Sanchez will face No. 4 seeds Lindsay Lee-Waters and Megan Moulton-Levy.
wc: wild card
Varvara Lepchenko, U.S. (2), def. Mirjana Lucic, Croatia (4), 6-3, 6-4
Sorana Cirstea, Romania (3), def. Edina Gallovits, Romania (1), 6-3, 6-4
Sunday’s Order of Play:
Stadium Court Starting at 11 a.m.
Irina Falconi, U.S. / Maria Sanchez, U.S. (wc), vs. Lindsay Lee-Waters, U.S. / Megan Moulton-Levy, U.S. (4)
Followed by Varvara Lepchenko, U.S. (2), vs. Sorana Cirstea, Romania (3)
The tournament title sponsor is Lexus of Las Vegas, with the presenting sponsor Hand Surgery Specialists of Nevada. Thank you to all the members who sponsored the tournament, including Dan Jackson with Raymond James, Kate Lowe of State Farm, Dwain Frazier of Allstate, Rob Weisbord of CW Las Vegas, Keith Brille of Women’s Specialty Care and Dr. Jeffrey Ng, MD, among many others.
For additional event and ticket information, please visit www.lexuslvopen.com