De Los Rios wins Challenger

Last year’s runner-up, Rosana de los Rios, swept through the competition this week and battled northwestern winds of 18-20 miles Monday to win the United States Tennis Association Women’s $25,000 Pro Circuit Challenger, 6-4, 6-1, at the Pelham Racquet Club.

Weather was a constant foe at the club this week, as wind and a light mist of rain added to the chilly 46-degree temperature Monday. Rain had already canceled tournament play Sunday and altered the schedule throughout the week.

“The conditions today were terrible. The wind, the courts, everything was bad,” De Los Rios said. “But we have to play.”

Those conditions, which were much different than the 84 degrees and windless weather back home in Asuncion, Paraguay, forced De Los Rios to change her approach.

After taking a 4-0 lead on Argentinean Jorgelina Cravero, De Los Rios began hitting shots long or wide. Cravero rallied to tie the opening set, 4-4. That’s when something had to change.

“My game is very aggressive with my forehand, but with these conditions sometimes, with the wind, the ball can go in or out. You have to focus on the game,” she said.

De los Rios began to play more conservative and forced Cravero to make mistakes. After the approach worked in the next game, she stuck with it the rest of the way, winning the set, 6-4 and going closing out the match with a 6-1 second set. Cravero’s only win in the second set came in the second game.

“She played really, really well today,” said Cravero of San Francisco, Argentina. “She hit better winners.”

Cravero was one of the surprise players of the week, playing close matches through the week. The only one that wasn’t close was her quarterfinal upset of No. 1 seed Patricia Mayr of Austria, 6-0, 6-2, Friday.

Monday was the second meeting between the two pros from bordering South American countries. Cravero, 27, beat De Los Rios, 33, to win the 2006 $25,000 Challenger in Palm Beach, Fla., 6-2, 6-4. The two have a chance to battle each other again, April 11-16, when they both compete at the Family Circle Cup in Charleston, S.C.