Foot Fault!

Calling all the lines of professional tennis

Challenger Stories: A Day In Wrexham

We may follow the ATP and WTA religiously, but it’s the ITF Challenger events where all the drama really happens. This week, a $25k is being held in Wrexham and Adam went down to check it out.

I have to say firstly that all other challenger events I have attended have always had quite a few spectators. Here at Wrexham, I could probably count the spectators on one hand, and as a result I felt really awkward and conspicuous trying to take pictures.

When I arrived, Lina Stanciute and Nicha Lertpitaksinchai were finishing up and I tried to catch the ending. I saw Stanciute five years ago take a set off Rezai in the Hasselt qualies and I remember being quite impressed then, and she appeared the same way today. Her game hasn’t changed much at all, really consistent hard-hitting, clear why she has achieved some solid results of late. From what I could see, Nicha just hadn’t the power or the weapons to keep up with Lina. I heard someone, a coach I think talking to another person and they said that they predicted Stanciute would win the title, a prediction I probably agree with.

I caught the end of Shiho Akita vs Anna Fitzpatrick and Akita is a lot of fun, she was loud with her ‘c’mon’s’ after nearly every point but she is a total fighter, chasing every ball down. Fitzpatrick seemed to struggle. She can rally well from the baseline but when the point gets tough, an error would soon follow from her. I was impressed with Akita, and in the final set I saw she looked in a different league.

Also, Akita seems quite.. strange, she’s really distinctive with her short bright orange hair and later on in the day was watching a match and listening to her ipod and singing along really loudly, getting her a lot of weird and dirty from other players and passers by.

Garbine looking chilled as ever

Garbine Muguruza-Blanco vs Naomi Broady was a bit of a bitch fest. First of all, Garbine is only eighteen and will surely will be a top 100 player at some stage in her career. She struck me as being solid and having no real weaknesses, reading Broady’s fast serve really well and not allowing the Brit to get any free points. In the rallies she’d hit well and mix things up by throwing in a couple of moonballs and when she grew impatient would come forward and attack more, even volleying a couple of times which was nice to see. She hit nice and cleanly, making very few unforced errors against Broady which made things very tough for her from the get-go. I think back to when I first saw Broady in Birmingham 2008 against Ruutel and I think she’s become much more defensive.

Now for the drama… After getting broken halfway in the first set, at the change of ends Broady tells the umpire ‘tell her to hurry up between points.’ The umpire tells Garbine, she just shrugs and if anything slows down even more between points. Midway through the second, an absolutely priceless moment came. As there are no ballkids here in Wrexham, the players have to pick up their own balls. Broady was about to serve and only had two balls on her end so the umpire told Garbine to send them down to her. Garbine slowly walked from the baseline to the net, where one of the balls are. When she was a couple of centimetres away, she saw Broady also at the net about to collect that ball, so she walked slowly to the baseline where the other ball was. She picked it up and tried to send it down to Broady but it ended up hitting the net. So again, Garbine slowly walks to the net and finally manages to pass it down to Broady, who is of course not happy and complaining to the umpire that she is taking so much time deliberately. Then a couple of games later at the next change of ends, Garbine was warned again, this time because her entourage, two men, who had their seats at the baseline were talking to her between points, although the umpire admitted he couldn’t hear what was being said. Once again, she just shrugged it off and finished the match pretty quickly, not allowing the drama to get to her. The handshake between the two was priceless.

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