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Lepchenko stays focused, earns win in Lexus final

There wasn’t a whole lot of celebrating by Varvara Lepchenko on Sunday after she won the Lexus of Las Vegas Open. She was probably too tired.

No falling on her back. No running into the stands to hug family and friends. Just a big fist pump and the relief that Sorana Cirstea didn’t force her to go three sets in Lepchenko’s 6-2, 6-2 victory at Red Rock Country Club.

“It’s always tough at the end of a tournament,” said Lepchenko, who was seeded second in the $50,000 USTA Women’s Pro Circuit event and took home first prize of $7,315. “You’re not 100 percent. We were both trying to squeeze the lemon and I’m happy to have won.”

Perhaps Lepchenko can use some of her winnings to treat herself to a day at the spa and recover. On Sunday, she played with a heavily taped left thigh — a souvenir of her long week that included a three-set match in the quarterfinals. But she appeared to be moving well enough to employ her superior defense, putting ball after ball back at Cirstea, the No. 3 seed, who found herself making too many unforced errors to win.

“I was just trying to stay focused,” Lepchenko said. “You want to be aggressive, but you also have to be smart.”

Lepchenko got up an early break in the third game of the match and managed to get a second break at 3-1 when Cirstea double-faulted.

“I wasn’t serving very good and she put a lot of pressure on my return,” Cirstea said. “I didn’t know how to handle it.”

It was more of the same in the second set. Lepchenko broke Cirstea in the third game to go up 2-1, and after an exchange of breaks later in the set, Lepchenko put the match away.

Cirstea, who earned $3,990 for finishing second, admitted her slow start cost her.

“I didn’t have the same energy I had in my other matches,” she said. “I wish I could have played better. I started hitting the ball well at the end, but it was too late by then.”

Lepchenko’s ability to return was evident all week, and she handled Cirstea’s hard groundstrokes with little problem. It was the key to her victory.

“I work hard on my defense. It’s something I take a lot of pride in,” Lepchenko said. “But you also have to be able to attack and I thought I did a good job there, too.”

Tournament co-director Jordan Butler said the event will return to Red Rock Country Club in 2011 and possibly increase the purse to $75,000.

“We’re trying to grow this and we think it can work (here),” he said. “We had good crowds on the weekend. We’re encouraged by what we saw.”

In the doubles final, fourth-seeded Lindsay Lee-Waters and Megan Moulton-Levy rallied to defeat Irina Falconi and Maria Sanchez, 1-6, 7-5, 10-4.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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