Falconi tops UGA star to clinch ITA All-American singles title

Sophomore Irina Falconi defeated Georgia’s Chelsey Gullickson in straight sets 6-2, 6-1 this past Sunday to earn the 2009 Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championship singles title. Her victory gave the Jackets their sixth national title since 2007.

Falconi’s victory marked the first singles title for any Jackets player at the annual fall ITA event, and the second straight year that Tech had won a title at the annual event at the Riviera Tennis Club in Pacific Palisades, Ca. Falconi teamed with then-junior Amanda McDowell last year to win the doubles title at the 2008 ITA tournament.

Falconi, who was the No. 8 seed in the tournament, started her first round match in the tournament on Oct. 8 with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Anastasia Petukova of Fresno State. A day later, she competed in her second round match against Notre Dame’s Kristy Frilling, and Falconi once again was able to win in straight sets as she took the match 6-4, 6-1.

Falconi advanced to the quarterfinals later in the day against Tennessee’s Caitlin Whoriskey, and with a 6-1, 6-1 win she earned a spot in Saturday’s semifinal match.

Falconi’s semifinal opponent, Venise Chan of Washington, provided the sophomore with her toughest challenge to that point. The match lasted three hours, but Falconi was able to hold off Chan for a 7-5, 7-6 (8-6) victory to secure a spot in the finals.

Her opponent in the title match was a local rival: Georgia’s Chelsey Gullickson, the No. 2 player in the nation. Despite being the lower ranked player in the match, Falconi had no trouble defeating Gullickson as she won 6-2, 6-1 to secure the singles title.

“It feels unbelievable to win this title…Winning is a great feeling no matter whether it is a regular match or capturing a national title,” Falconi said in an interview with ramblinwreck.com.

Falconi and McDowell teamed together in doubles this year in hopes of a repeat championship. In the opening match, they defeated Cal’s Mari Andersson and Jana Juricova, 8-6. Andersson and Juricova came into the tournament ranked No. 2 in the ITA preseason doubles poll, and they were the No. 1 seed in the tournament. This marked the second straight year that the duo defeated the tournament’s top seed.

Despite the big opening win, though, the tandem dropped their second match as they were shutout 8-0 by Florida’s Lauren Embree and Allie Will, ending their hopes for a repeat title.

Falconi and McDowell will lead the Jackets next week as they host the ITA South Region Championships at the Bill Moore Tennis Center.