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Niculescu slices Barthel’s title hopes

Romanian Monica Niculescu eliminated former Hobart International champion Mona Barthel in an impressive second round performance this evening. After a tight first set, Niculescu stormed home in the second set to wrap up a 76(5) 61 victory against the 2012 champion.
8 January 2014, by Leigh Rogers

Romanian Monica Niculescu eliminated former Hobart International champion Mona Barthel in an impressive second round performance this evening.

After a tight first set, Niculescu stormed home in the second set to wrap up a 76(5) 61 victory against the 2012 champion.

“I played really well. I lost against her last time, so I knew I had to go for the ball and keep fighting every point,” Niculescu said.

The world no.60 couldn’t even explain how she managed to race through the second set against the sixth seed.

“The second set I don’t know? She played the same, she was aggressive and coming to the net, I was just more into the game and maybe, lucky. Then suddenly I’m 5-1 and I don’t know how,” she said.

“It’s important in tennis to stayed focused and when you have a chance, you take it. With Mona you don’t get a second chance, so I did that and I’m into the quarter-finals.”

The 26 year-old has made a stellar start to the 2014 season, reaching the singles quarter-final in Shenzhen last week where she pushed eventual winner and world no.4 Li Na to three sets, and winning the doubles title with Klara Zakopalova.

Niculescu now faces a quarter-final match against Spanish qualifier Estrella Cabeza Candela. She will also team up with Zakopalova for a doubles quarter-final tomorrow.

The elimination of Barthel guarantees a new Hobart International champion will be crowned this year.

The final match of the day only last five games, with Belgian Yanina Wickmayer retiring with illness when trailing Spanish qualifer Garbine Muguruza 4-1.