By Brad Hunter
MEMPHIS, Tennessee (February 20, 2012) – The first match I sat down to watch at The Regions Morgan Keegan Championships was the Court 1, first round WTA match between 17-year old American Lauren Davis and 25-year old American Varvara Lepchenko. Davis was awarded a wildcard into the event, and Lepchenko was fresh off a Round of 16 run in Doha where she beat Alexandra Wozniak and Julia Goerges before falling to Agnieska Radwanska. Lepchenko, ranked 90, started quickly by powering her way to a 2-0 lead, blasting groundstroke winners and mixing in touch angle volleys and paralyzing Davis’ game. Lefty Varvara , who plays a bit like Petra Kvitova , can seemingly hit clean groundstroke winners from all over the court, off both sides and from many court positions. She was a bit agitated from the start though, taking looks at the line judges for calling two foot faults on her early and quickly getting angry at herself for making errors. Davis, ranked 221, began hitting her topspin forehand deeper into the court, and using her flatter backhand to pounce on short balls. Davis, who trains at the Evert Academy, is a good competitor, and showed this by sneaking in to knock off volleys on important points and building herself a 5-2 1st set lead. A frustrated Lepchenko took the opportunity to call her coach out for a quick chat and it helped her calm herself and win the last 5 games of the set to take it 7-5. Lepchenko kept her edge the rest of the match, taking the 2nd set and the match 6-3. Her play was patchy at times, possibly due to some fatigue from making the trip from Doha but her more powerful ground strokes and ability to consistently end points from midcourt and the net was too solid for quick, sparky Davis.
Before the end on the Davis/Lepchenko match on Court 1, 25-year old Russian Vera Dushevina and 17-year old American Madison Keys started their match on the adjacent Grandstand court. Keys, ranked 256 and a wildcard entrant who also trains at Evert Academy, is one of the most talked about young Americans after her splashy US Open performance last year. Dushevina, ranked 89, who famously gave Venus a 1st round 3-set scare in US Open in 2009, used her experience to take the match 6-2, 7-5.
Another American wildcard entrant into this event, 18-year old American Sloane Stephens, started strongly on the Grandstand court against 23-year old New Zealander Marina Erakovic, winning the 1st set 6-4 by hitting an array of backhand winners. Sloane, ranked 86, and known for her powerful forehand and run to the 3rd round of the US Open last year never looked settled. She lost 12 of the last 13 games and the match to 54th ranked Erakovic.
Taking the Grandstand court in the next match, was 22-year old American qualifier Alexa Glatch and 22-year old Ukranian Lesia Tsurenko. Glatch, ranked 186, looked like the clear favorite to win, using her qualifying momentum, heavy forehand and versatile backhand slice to build a 6-2, 5-3 lead. Many times, between points, Lesia was breathing heavy and loudly and grabbing her midsection. Whatever her ailment was, Lesia, ranked 125, found a better level to her game and began playing an aggressive all-court game to overwhelm Glatch and steal the match. Lesia even fought off a match point on the 2nd set tiebreak.
Although a tough day for Stephens, Keys, Glatch and Davis, all four ladies are still around in the Memphis tourney and will be back on the court playing doubles tomorrow. Keys and Davis team up to play Erakoviv and Pervak and Stephens and Glatch team up to play fellow Americans Jamie Hampton (who took out defending champion Rybarikova yesterday in the first round) and Melanie Oudin (who plays Foretz Gacon in the first round on Tuesday). Also seen scouting the American gals, Lead National Coach of Women’s Tennis, Tom Gullikson.
Brad Hunter is in Memphis covering the Regions Morgan Keegan Championships and the Memphis International as media for Tennis Panorama News.
RESULTS – MONDAY, 20 FEBRUARY, 2012
Women’s Singles – First Round
(7) Johanna Larsson (SWE) d. (Q) Irena Pavlovic (FRA) 46 64 75
(Q) Jamie Hampton (USA) d. (8) Magdalena Rybarikova (SVK) 76(7) 60
Alberta Brianti (ITA) d. Mirjana Lucic (CRO) 76(5) 57 61
Olga Govortsova (BLR) d. Vesna Dolonts (RUS) 61 75
Evgeniya Rodina (RUS) d. Irina Falconi (USA) 61 63
Men’s Singles – First Round
I Dodig (CRO) d  B Tomic (AUS) 57 64 76(8) – saved 2 M.P.
D Young (USA) d G Dimitrov (BUL) 76(4) 46 76(6)
Doubles – First Round
J Isner (USA) / S Querrey (USA) d  S Gonzalez (MEX) / C Kas (GER) 76(1) 76(2)
SCHEDULE – TUESDAY, 21 FEBRUARY, 2012
STADIUM start 10:00 am
[WC] M Oudin (USA) vs S Foretz Gacon (FRA) – WTA
R Marino (CAN) vs  K Pervak (KAZ) – WTA
J Blake (USA) vs R Sweeting (USA) – ATP
[WC] S Querrey (USA) vs A Falla (COL) – ATP
Not Before 7:00 PM
 J Isner (USA) vs G Muller (LUX) – ATP
[WC] R Harrison (USA) vs [WC] J Sock (USA) – ATP
GRANDSTAND start 10:00 am
[Q] R Kendrick (USA) vs S Stakhovsky (UKR) – ATP
 J Larsson (SWE) vs V Lepchenko (USA) – WTA
V Dushevina (RUS) vs [Q] J Hampton (USA) – WTA
 P Parmentier (FRA) vs A Hlavackova (CZE) – WTA
O Govortsova (BLR) vs M Krajicek (NED) – WTA
S Arvidsson (SWE) / J Larsson (SWE) vs  L Dekmeijere (LAT) / N Petrova (RUS) – WTA
COURT 1 start 10:00 am
 M Erakovic (NZL) vs E Rodina (RUS) – WTA
J Benneteau (FRA) / O Rochus (BEL) vs  J Melzer (AUT) / P Petzschner (GER) – ATP
A Bogomolov Jr. (RUS) / L Kubot (POL) vs S Lipsky (USA) / R Ram (USA) – ATP
T Huey (PHI) / X Malisse (BEL) vs  F Cermak (CZE) / F Polasek (SVK) – ATP
M Erakovic (NZL) / K Pervak (KAZ) vs [WC] L Davis (USA) / M Keys (USA) – WTA
A Glatch (USA) / S Stephens (USA) vs J Hampton (USA) / M Oudin (USA) – WTA