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Francesca Curmi beats French no. 4 player Oceane Dodin in Madrid

Young Maltese tennis player Francesca Curmi’s great form continued during the Spanish Women’s Professional Tournament held in Madrid last week.

Curmi, ranked 484 in the WTA rankings, qualified for this prestigious tournament through the ranking points she earned in recent months. 

This tournament had total prize money of US$80,000 and featured many players ranked within the top 200, including German top seed Tamara Korpatsch, ranked number 89.

The going was inevitably going to be tough for Curmi, but she truly exceeded expectations.

The Qualifying Rounds

In the first qualifying round on Monday, her opponent was Spanish world number 478 Lucia Cortez Llorca.  The Maltese player gave a self-assured performance and disposed of the Spaniard in straight sets 7-5, 6-4.

Next up was formidable Italian Nuria Brancaccio on Tuesday with a WTA ranking of 271.

A 22-year-old with a great future having already achieved five singles and five doubles finals to date, Curmi had met Brancaccio in the Mediterranean Games tournament last summer in the doubles event

An epic game lasting 2hrs 5 minutes saw Curmi winning a tight first set at the tie break, only for Brancaccio to come back strongly in the second winning it 6-4. 

The third set was a true marathon with Curmi showing her trademark never-say-die attitude to win it 12-10 after saving a match point at 9-10.  Curmi thus made it to the main draw.

The Main Draw

In the first round, Curmi’s opponent was none other than Austrian Sinja Kraus, 20, WTA ranked number 195 and who just last week had some good performances for the Austrian team in the Billie Jean Cup.

The first set saw Curmi storming out of the blocks and taking her more-quoted opponent by surprise, to win 6-2.  The Austrian however showed her class in the second, winning it 6-3. 

But Curmi was not to be denied, showing great staying powers to come back from 3-4 down and win the third set 6-4 to wrap up the match.

By now the competition was truly heating up. 

In the last 16, Curmi was drawn to cross swords with none other than the French number 4 female player Oceane Dodin, who is currently ranked WTA 109  and having a career high WTA ranking of 46. .

So far in her tennis career Dodin beat the likes of former world number 1 Jelena Jankovic, former world number 4 Johanna Konta and former world number 5 Sara Errani, apart from giving a good run for their money to former world number 1 Simona Halep and Venus Williams.

This was Curmi’s best match in the tournament and possibly throughout this year as she completely dominated her opponent and won in straight sets 6-3, 6-2 in just one hour two minutes of play.

This meant a prestigious quarter-final tie where she was the only person in the last eight who was not ranked in the Top 350 in the world. 

Due to weather conditions, this match was played on the same day in the afternoon giving Curmi just a few hours of rest after beating Dodin before having to play again – and having also the drawback of having played two qualifying matches more than her opponent.

On the opposite side of the net she here found none other than Polish 24-year-old Magdalena Frech, the Polish number 3 player currently WTA ranked number 116 but having also reached number 82 a few months ago. Frech also represented Poland in the Billie Jean Cup.   

The Maltese player once again gave the best of herself but finally succumbed to her very strong opponent 6-4, 6-4 after 1hr 31 minutes of play.

Next up…

Of course, a sportsperson’s expectations from a tournament depend on various factors, including the level of competition, one’s form and physical and psychological well-being. This level of tournament is such that for most players even just making it to the main draw is itself an achievement.

To beat four substantially higher ranked players in the same tournament shows that Curmi’s progress up the rankings has not been a fluke.

She earned valuable experience and important ranking points which have now propelled her up 59 places to number 425 in the WTA world rankings. That is an impressive improvement when one considers that she ended last year ranked 1124.

Her year is not yet over as she continues to feature in challenging ranking tournaments, next up being the ITF Spain 80K in Valencia.

Curmi has succeeded in making it to the main draw of the Valencia tournament, beating world number 354 Ilona Georgiana Ghiorale in a close match after a 6-1 6-1 victory over South Korean Jiho Shin.

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