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Friday, June 26, 2009

One to watch: Sorana Cirstea

Photo Titled Cirstea forehand
Cirstea forehand

Bubbly Romanian teenager Sorana Cirstea is a likeable person - so much so that she seems to have a close relationship with almost everyone on the WTA circuit.

Take the third round of this year’s French Open for example, when she took on Caroline Wozniacki. “Caroline is my best friend,” said the 19-year-old from Bucharest. “We do everything together. Sometimes I have trouble leaving my emotions out of my game - it’s hard to forget that when you step on the court.”

It may have been hard, but she most certainly did leave her emotions in the locker room, squeezing past the Dane 7-6 (7-3), 7-5. Wozniacki was one of three seeds whom she beat on her way to the quarter-finals. Alize Cornet was dispatched in the second round and before she claimed the scalp of Jelena Jankovic in the last 16. That three-set epic , which she won 9-7, in the decider thrust her into the general sporting consciousness for the first time.

Cirstea was 14 when adidas approached her and helped her take her first steps on the ITF circuit, but since then she has gone on to re-write her country’s history books. Ruxandra Dragomir was the last Romanian to reach the final of a WTA event, in 2000, which Cirstea emulated at s’Hertogenbosch in 2007, while her appearance in the last eight at Roland Garros also equalled Dragomir’s performance in 1997.

This week, she has again put sentiment to one side to eliminate a close friend from a Grand Slam tournament. After going deep at Eastbourne in the Wimbledon warm-up tournament, Sania Mirza did not have time to re-pack her suitcases before making the short journey north to London SW19, so it was her pal Sorana who stepped into the breach and leant her the necessary clothing – before unceremoniously dumping her out of The Championships in the second round on Wednesday.

Today, the No.28 seed is facing Victoria Azarenka who, despite being the same age as Cirstea, is 19 places above her in the world and defeated her in their two meetings to date, dropping only four games in the process – a 6-1, 6-3 success here last year and a “double bage” (6-0, 6-0) prior to that at the French.

Unfortunately for the Romanian, she and Azarenka have never played doubles together – otherwise she would no doubt have relished the opportunity to send yet another friend crashing out of the tournament.

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