The winner and the runner-up were lined up on the court for a postmatch picture, holding glass trophy vases and smiling for a photographer, when champion Varvara Lepchenko jumped out of the picture, ran to her equipment bag, and pulled out a small camera. She handed it to runner-up Kelly Liggan’s coach, Bill Belser, who obliged and snapped some souvenirs for the 21-year-old from Uzbekistan.
The greater tennis world keeps track of what goes on in the United States Tennis Association pro circuit, a proving ground for players from around the world, and both finalists will move up when the weekly world rankings are released today, UzA reported.
Lepchenko and Liggan each plowed through four matches to reach the final of the Citibank US$50,000 Challenger Event at the Sportsmen’s Tennis Club in Dorchester. The top-seeded Lepchenko, a 5-foot-11-inch lefthander with a dangerous spin on her shots, did not lose a set, dropping more points to herself with moments of distraction than to her intimidated opponents.
The unseeded Liggan, a 28-year-old Irishwoman who got a late start in competitive tennis, was pushed to a third set in the quarterfinals and semis and was playing her first final at the K level. She was not intimidated but she was, ultimately, overwhelmed.
Lepchenko dominated the first set, but suffered one of her lapses in the second. Liggan clambered back and took the set even as Lepchenko was running her ragged. But when Liggan hurt her left knee stretching for a return of serve in the third set, she needed a medical timeout. She returned to play one more game before conceding the title to Lepchenko, 6-4, 4-6, 5-0 retired.
Their histories informed their expectations, as Lepchenko, No. 2 in prize money last year on this circuit, expected to win the match, even when she lost focus and dropped the second set. Liggan didn’t expect anything. She never has.
"I was still better, I knew from the beginning I would be winning," said Lepchenko, who has been ranked as high as 84th in the world, and sits at 130 before today’s new rankings.
Despite the strong noontime sun, swirling wind gusts dipped onto the court with inconsistent frequency, and judging the effect was difficult. Lepchenko used an abbreviated toss on her serve, bringing her arm in front of her as she took the racket up, and then punched a low serve. "It was very hard to adjust to the wind," said Lepchenko. "I kept trying. In the first, I was all right, and then the wind got bigger."