By McCarton Ackerman
RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif., February 16, 2013 – The third edition of the Fresh Start Women’s Open at the Morgan Run Club continued on Saturday with both singles semifinals and the doubles final being played. An all-American singles final was officially locked in after No. 2 seed Nicole Gibbs and No. 6 seed Madison Brengle moved into the finals without the loss of a set this week.
In the first semifinal of the day, Gibbs held the lead throughout the entire match against qualifier Tetyana Arefyeva of Ukraine, easing into the final with a 6-4, 6-3 win. After last year’s US Open, the reigning NCAA champion took nearly three months off to recover from an abdominal strain and has been working her way back into form since.
“I struggled a little bit early on in the college season and so it wasn’t like I feeling ultra confident coming in, but this tournament has been perfect for me in terms of being able to play consecutive matches,” said Gibbs. “I’ve been working through some things this week and getting past some psychological leaps to get back on top of my game.”
The 19-year-old is ranked at a career high of No. 199 on the WTA Tour after a strong summer which saw her win the $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Denver, Colo. and win a round at the WTA Tour event in Stanford. So far in 2013, she has reached the second round of qualifying at the Australian Open.
“I was expecting a little bit of relief from college tennis in terms of being expected to win every match, but being the No. 2 seed here kind of changed that,” said Gibbs. “Once I got past the first couple of rounds, I really started to loosen up and feel like I did what I needed to do as far as proving myself.”
In the second semifinal of the day, Brengle used her steady baseline game to roll past Elitsa Kostova of Bulgaria 6-2, 6-1. Brengle is making her third consecutive appearance in Rancho Santa Fe and reached the finals here in 2011.
“I think I’ve been getting better every match this week,” said Brengle. “I’ve been working really hard on my fitness and feel like I can run down almost any ball now.”
Brengle, currently ranked No. 237 on the WTA Tour, has yet to drop a set this week. She won the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit event last March in Fort Walton Beach, Flor., but struggled with health issues in the second half of the year. After having surgery in the off-season, Brengle said she is now playing without pain for the first time in months.
“It was definitely affecting my game for a lot of last year,” said Brengle. “It’s never fun to play when you’re in pain, so I’m just glad to be out there and healthy.”
In an all-American doubles final, Asia Muhammed and Allie Will easily defeated Anamika Bhargava and Macall Harkins 6-1, 6-4. This is Will’s second doubles title on the USTA Pro Circuit this year after winning at the $25,000 event last month in Port St. Lucie, Flor. Muhammed has won six USTA Pro Circuit doubles titles throughout her career, including two in 2012.
The singles final between Gibbs and Brengle will take on place on Sunday at 10:00am PST.
Fresh Start Women’s Open
A USTA Pro Circuit Event
Saturday, February 16
Morgan Run Club
Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.
Friday, February 15 – RESULTS
Main Draw Singles – Semifinals
Nicole Gibbs, United States (2), def. Tetyana Arefyeva, Ukraine (Q), 6-4, 6-3
Madison Brengle, United States (6), def. Elitsa Kostova, Bulgaria, 6-2, 6-1
Main Draw Doubles – Finals
Asia Muhammed and Allie Will, United States, def. Anamika Bhargava and Macall Harkins, United States, 6-1, 6-4
Sunday’s February 17 – SCHEDULE
Court 1 – starting at 10:00 a.m.
Nicole Gibbs vs. Madison Brengle