Resolute Lepchenko tops Lucic, reaches Lexus final

Varvara Lepchenko didn’t let Mirjana Lucic off the hook this time.

Unlike in their meeting a week ago in Albuquerque, N.M., Lepchenko avoided a midmatch lull and gained a 6-4, 6-3 victory Saturday to reach today’s championship of the Lexus Las Vegas Open at Red Rock Country Club.

The second-seeded Lepchenko, from Uzbekistan, will face No. 3 Sorana Cirstea of Romania at 1 p.m. for the $7,315 first prize in the $50,000 USTA Women’s Pro Circuit tournament. Cirstea advanced by ousting her countrywoman, top-seeded Edina Gallovits, 6-3, 6-4.

Lepchenko entered Saturday’s match determined not to repeat the outcome of her semifinal match against the veteran Lucic in the Coleman Vision Championship in Albuquerque. The left-handed Lepchenko won the first set and was up a break in the second, but went on to lose in three sets.

“I remembered to be more aggressive, especially on my serve,” she said. “The last time we played, I relaxed a little. Today I went for my shots every time.”

Lepchenko played superb defense, returning balls the fourth-seeded Lucic seemed certain would be winners. When Lepchenko broke her to win the first set, Lucic threw her racket toward the net in disgust, drawing an abuse warning.

Lucic, a 28-year-old Croatian and 1999 Wimbledon semifinalist, rallied in the second set, breaking Lepchenko at 4-2 and drawing even at 4-4. But Lepchenko held serve, then Lucic was unable to extend the match in her service game after falling behind 15-40.

“I just wanted to play well from the start to the end,” said Lepchenko, ranked No. 103. “I’ve played well against some good players, and (Lucic) is a good player. But when I’m on offense and hitting the ball well, I feel I can play with anybody.”

Lepchenko will be playing Cirstea for the first time today. Cirstea is ranked No. 104, but a year ago rose as high as No. 23.

Cirstea broke Gallovits at 2-2 in the first set, and the top seed seemed unable to solve her. Cirstea had a letdown during the second set, when Gallovits fought back from a 4-1 deficit to tie it. Cirstea held serve to go ahead 5-4 and hit a sizzling forehand winner to reach match point. Gallovits sailed a return long to end the match.

“For me, the most important thing was to stay in control of the point and also attack her serve, especially her second serve, and try to pressure her,” Cirstea said. “I had a very first tough match here, but I feel like I’m playing better with each match.”

The singles final will be preceded by the doubles final at 11 a.m., with Lindsay Lee-Waters and Megan Moulton-Levy facing Irina Falconi and Maria Sanchez.

Contact sports reporter Steve Carp at or 702-387-2913.

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