Grammatikopoulou Claims Challenger Title in Senegal

Grammatikopoulou Claims Challenger Title in Senegal

20-year-old Greek tennis player Valentini Grammatikopoulou defeated South African Chanel Simmonds in the final of the Open Feminin de Dakar. This was her first title of the year and 11th overall professional title of her career, though only the second at the challenger level. 

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Grammatikopoulou was the second seed in the $25,000 tournament in the Senegalese capital. After winning her first round 6-4 6-3 over Barbora Miklova of the Czech Republic, the Greek recorded a not-so-straightforward second round win over Russia’s Polina Golubovskaya, 4-6 6-0 6-0. In the quarterfinals, she faced the fifth seed from Great Britain, 18-year-old Katie Swan, the number 301 player in the world. Swan, coming off her first challenger title just a few weeks ago, proved to be an extremely tough opponent for the young Greek. However, the Greek would rally back from a one-set deficit to take the match, 5-7 6-4 6-4.

Perhaps the most difficult match for Grammatikopoulou would come in the semifinals, against third-seeded Georgina Garcia Perez of Spain, world number 251. After dropping the first set 6-3, the Greek would come back to take the second set 7-6, with the tiebreak score being 13-11. After saving three match points in the tiebreak, it seemed that the Greek would cruise through the third set. However, it was the Spaniard who would race out to a 5-3 lead in the decisive set. Despite this, the Greek would continue to fight and save an additional three match points to eventually force a third-set tiebreak. This time, the Greek dominated the tiebreak 7-2 to take the match, 3-6 7-6(11) 7-6(2) and book her place in the finals. Despite 11 aces from the big-serving Spaniard, it was the Greek’s fighting spirit that would win her the match in just under three hours. Not only did she save six match points, but she also won her third consecutive match from being one set down.

Seventh-seeded Chanel Simmonds of South Africa would be Grammatikopoulou’s opponent in Sunday’s final. The world number 330 would prove to be no match for the Greek early on, as Grammatikopoulou stormed through the first set in just 23 minutes, taking it 6-0. The second set would be more tight, as the South African found herself up 4-1 after being broken in the first game of the set. Once again, the Greek player came from behind to force a tiebreak to determine the set. Grammatikopoulou got off to quick start in the tiebreak and never looked back, taking it 7-1 to win the match 6-0 7-6(1). 

With this win, she claimed her first title of the year, and 11th overall professional singles title of her career. It was just her second title at the challenger level, with the other one coming in Minsk, Belarus in June 2016. Grammatikopoulou had also been a runner-up at the challenger level three times in 2016 and once in 2017.

In addition to her singles success, Grammatikopoulou teamed up with Dutch player Rosalie van der Hoek in the doubles tournament. Being unseeded in the event, the pair would pull off a string of upsets to reach the final, where they ultimately fell short to the top-seeded Russian-Montenegrin duo of Sizikova and Veselinovic, 6-3 6-3.

With the singles title in Dakar, Grammatikopoulou will gain 50 ranking points and move up some 30 spots or so from her current ranking of 212. This will guarantee her place in the qualifying draw of the 2018 Australian Open in Melbourne. In this year’s event, she reached the second round of qualifying, so she will be keen to go further in January. However, her next event will be the $25,000 tournament in Nules, Spain, which begins on December 4. The Greek will be one of the top-seeded players in the event. 

By Andrew Stamas
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