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Niculescu spoils Flipkens’ birthday celebrations

10 January 2017, by Leigh Rogers

Third seed Monica Niculescu has continued her impressive form to reach the Hobart International quarterfinals. The world No.40 scored a 6-3 6-2 victory over former Wimbledon semifinalist Kirsten Flipkens in a 70-minute match on Centre Court today.

“The score looks easy, but it was not. She has a tough game,” Niculescu said.

“I thought I did really well today. I was strong and took my important moments, so I’m happy I could play this could level here.”

The first set was evenly poised until Niculescu secured a break in the seventh game. Flipkens had chances to break right back but couldn’t take them. From there the third seed’s momentum continued to build.

Niculescu broke again, taking the first set in 35 minutes and only losing seven points on serve. The second set followed a similar trend, with Niculescu landing 88 per cent of first serves and not allowing Flipkens into the match.

“I think my speed on serve is a bit better than last year, it is improving,” Niculescu said. “I cannot say that my serve is my strength but I’m happy that I can play this tennis and that I’m feeling good.”

Flipkens went into the match having won three of her five previous matches against Niculescu, but had no answers today. It was not the present she was hoping for as she celebrated her 31st birthday.

This is the third time Niculescu has qualified for the Hobart International quarterfinals in eight visits, equaling her best results recorded in 2013 and 2014.

As one of only three seeds left in the draw, the 29-year-old said she was not getting carried away about her title chances. Her immediate focus is on a quarterfinal against either Czech Lucie Safarova and Japanese qualifier Risa Ozaki, who play in the second round tomorrow.

“I never look at the draw, usually I take it step-by-step,” Niculescu said. “I saw there were many withdrawals, but until now I’ve had a tough draw…I played Jelena (Jankovic) and Kirsten (Flipkens) which is not fun.

“I have to stay focused and try to play the same.”

> See the full singles draw

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