2020 Women’s Darien Invitational Grand Prix Preview

October 14, 2020
Darien, CT

The 2020-2021 APTA Grand Prix season commences on Saturday in Darien, CT, and with the draw size limited due to Covid restrictions, every match from the first round on has blockbuster potential.

The most intriguing first-round match does not involve any of the seeded teams. Liz Cruz and Gabriela Niculescu, each owners of three National Championship titles, are returning to the circuit after their recent pregnancies. They are taking on perennial top player Amy Shay, and Jolene Sutter, a relative newcomer to the upper echelons of the women’s game. Neither of these teams will remain unseeded for long this season. The winner of this match plays the winner of the match between top seeds Florentina Hanisch/Ana Marija Zubori and Boston’s Victoria Cran/Lindsey Herchel.

Hanisch and Zubori are a new team with talent to spare. Hanisch, who won the 2017 APTA Nationals with long-time partner Annica Cooper, and Zubori, who won two Grand Prix titles last season (Chicago Charities and Boston Open) with her long-time partner, Martina Ondrejkova, individually have all the requisite skills and speed to be number one. On Saturday, we will see if they can make it all work as a team.

Seeded second, the 2020 APTA National Champions Macie Elliott and Marcela Rodezno are looking to pick up right where they left off in March. If they can continue the stunning display of power and athleticism that earned them their first National title, they will be in contention for the title in Darien. If they get past their first-round match, they could play last season’s Lake Invitational finalists, Kerri Delmonico and Lauren Gebbia, in the next round in what should be a highly-entertaining contest.

The other half of the 2017 APTA National Championship team, Annica Cooper, is teaming up with Myrthe Molenveld, who reached the finals of Boston and the semis of the Lake Invitational with Jessica Guyaux last season. Seeded third, this team has great reach at the net and are strong in the backcourt, making them another new team to keep an eye on. If they win their first-round match, they face a possible clash with Guyaux and Jaclyn Williamson in the next round.

The fourth seeds, Roxy Enica and Martina Ondrejkova, played together years ago but have been playing with other partners ever since. Ondrejkova won Nationals in 2016 with Niculescu, and Enica was a National finalist twice, in 2017 with Cruz and in 2019 with Laura Berendt. This is a veteran hard-hitting team that will be tough to beat if they bring their A game.

This 16-team draw is loaded with many of the best players in women’s paddle. You can watch the tournament from the first ball hit at 8AM Saturday on the APTA YouTube channel.

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Liz Cruz

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Gabriela Niculescu

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Ana Zubori

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