LAS VEGAS, Nev., (Oct. 2, 2010) – Sorana Cirstea has played on the grandest stages in tennis, including the All-England Club at Wimbledon and Roland Garros at the French Open. 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 Cristea, 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 today’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, who she now holds a 3-0 career head-to-head against, including a straight-set 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, N.M., 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.

Saturday’s Semifinal Singles Results

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 Finals 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 All State, 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



Year                Winner                                                Runner-up

2009                Regina Kulikova (RUS)                      Aniko Kapros (HUN)

2008                Camille Pin (FRA)                               Asia Muhammad (U.S.)

2007                Caroline Wozniacki (DEN)                 Akiko Morigami (JPN)

1999                Erika de Lone (U.S.)                           Hila Rosen (ISR)


Year                Winner

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)

Winner                         $2,660

Runner-up                     $1,425

Semifinalist                 $760

Quarterfinalist             $380

Round of 16                $285

USTA Pro Circuit

With 94 tournaments throughout the country and prize money ranging from $10,000 to $100,000, the USTA Pro Circuit is the pathway to the US Open and tour-level competition for aspiring tennis players and a frequent battleground for established professionals. Last year, more than 1,000 men and women from more than 70 countries competed on the USTA Pro Circuit for approximately $3.2 million in prize money and valuable ATP and WTA Tour ranking points. Maria Sharapova, Andy Roddick, James Blake, Lindsay Davenport, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Jelena Jankovic are among the top stars who began their careers on the USTA Pro Circuit. The USTA Pro Circuit is world-class tennis administered on the local level and played on local tennis courts as part of the fabric of communities nationwide — an opportunity for current and new fans to experience the excitement and intensity of the professional game in their neighborhood.

Nole Through to Semis

It was a battle but in the end, Novak Djokovic got through to the semis in four sets by eliminating 10th seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco 7-6 (2), 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 over on Ashe Stadium this afternoon.

Known by the nickname Nole, the No.4 seeded Serb struggled at times with his forehand spraying more than half his 41 unforced errors. But when push came to shove, the 2007 U.S. Open runner-up was up to the challenge against the dangerous lefty Verdasco- advancing to a third consecutive semi in Flushing where he could meet five-time reigning champ Roger Federer.

“Well, it feels great. I mean, I haven’t done that in the past three Grand Slams this year, so mentally was very important for me to overcome today’s challenge and to be able to win quarterfinals and to get to the semifinals first time in the Grand Slams in 2009,” said a very pleased Djokovic.

“So now that I’ve done it I feel kind of a relief, and I hope I just can continue playing well and challenge eventually Federer if he gets to the semifinal.”

At the outset, both players started slowly with each making uncharacteristic miscues in a weary set which kept the crowd fairly quiet. There were no breaks of serve but Djokovic nearly cracked late when he played a loose game giving Verdasco two break chances. However, the 22 year-old former 2008 Australian champion withstood it to hold.

Predictably, it went to a tiebreaker where Djokovic came to life forcing errors from Verdasco to cruise 7-2 for a set lead.

“Yeah, I don’t think we had a great first set. First set quality of the match wasn’t its best. I’ve made a lot of unforced errors, he’s made a lot of unforced errors, and I was lucky to get through in the tiebreak,” the winner admitted.

Before he could get too comfortable, it was his older 25 year-old opponent who quickly turned it around by picking up the pace in an easy second set that started with a break for 2-1 thanks to consecutive winners from the backhand and forehand.

Suddenly, Djokovic’s game went off as his forehand continued to fail while Verdasco was producing great tennis using his big forehand to open up the court and crack many of his 46 winners. Hitting a cleaner ball, he was able to dictate play even taking advantage by finishing a few points at net.

With the 2009 Australian Open semifinalist on his game, Djokovic struggled mightily having his serve broken three times in the uncompetitive 34-minute set which leveled the match.

“He stepped it in. He played very aggressive, and he deserved that second set,” Nole assessed.

With it hanging in the balance, it setup a seesaw third set which had a bit of everything. A now warmed up Verdasco continued to go for more forcing Djokovic into extended rallies that made for some more entertaining tennis. Pushed even more, the higher seed upped the ante going shot for shot from one side of the court to the other as each played great defense.

Due to how competitive the points were, the players each traded service breaks in the middle of the set. With Djokovic pressing for another break, a feisty Verdasco battled back from Love-30 down, reeling off the next four points thanks to his forehand where he ripped a couple of clean winners down the line holding for 4-3. Obviously frustrated, Nole stared at his box during the changeover muttering to himself.

“The dangerous thing about Verdasco is to let him take over the control of the match, because he’s physically very strong and he’s able to do a lot of things, especially from his forehand side, as we could see today. He improved a lot his backhand, so he stays much closer to the line,” explained Djokovic of why it was so tricky.

Instead of letting the moment get to him, he remained focused turning up a serve which allowed the Serb to save 10 of 14 break points including a few in the pivotal third. Djokovic got plenty of first serves in doing well by winning 71 percent of the points (66 of 93), also mixing in a few timely aces which he doubled up Verdasco in 10-5.

Ultimately, Verdasco tightened up with the 11th game proving costly. Close to holding for 6-5, he missed an easy forehand volley pushing it way out. A pair of double faults and another error donated the crucial game to Djokovic, who pumped his fists letting out a yell to his corner.

He then closed it out to pull within a set of a possible semifinal rematch with Federer pending his quarterfinal versus Robin Soderling later tonight which follows the highly anticipated women’s quarter between American teen sensation Melanie Oudin and ninth seeded Dane Caroline Wozniacki.

With momentum, Djokovic continued to play steadier and headier tennis letting his wilting opponent self destruct. Nursing an abdominal strain which he was treated for in the fourth set, Verdasco began trying to end points earlier. But with Nole continuing to play solid D and get balls back drawing wild misses from the flustered Spaniard.

In particular, Fernando’s forehand went off which explained 17 more miscues (58) than the more consistent Djokovic. He also struggled with his serve often missing the first while tossing eight doubles which allowed the No.4 player to gain even more confidence.

“He likes when the ball is coming a bit slower to him so he can, you know, do more things with it. That’s why I tried to mix up the pace, you know, play some high balls and then fast balls to his forehand and try to just get him out of that comfort zone that he got in in the second set. I managed to do that,” Djokovic added.

He finally finished off his ailing opponent breaking twice for a 5-1 cushion. Following a Verdasco hold, Djokovic served it out at love finishing him off at the net as the two exhanged hands.

“I managed to come back, and that’s what it matters. You know, I just tried to focus myself in the third set and work on some things. I returned more balls in on his serves, and I think serving well was as well one of the key elements in today’s win.”