Fleishman All Smiles After Narrow Victory

By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer

Fleishman All Smiles After Narrow Victory

Janet Fleischman couldn’t wipe the grin off her face. And who could blame her? After all, the top seed in the women’s draw of the Mercedes-Benz Greater Richmond Tennis Championships had just outlasted No. 2 seed Nina Sorkin in the final Saturday.

It was the 37-year-old’s third straight title in the annual event, and the 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4) decision came over someone half her age in Sorkin, 18, a talented junior who is headed to Virginia Tech in a few weeks.

“She’s an amazing player,” said Fleishman, who is the mother of two and a head pro at Raintree Swim and Racquet Club, where the tournament was held. “She’s got a full-court game … can come to the net and be aggressive at the net.”

In this two-hour match, played on one of Raintree’s indoor courts because of inclement weather, Fleischman and Sorkin traded ground strokes in long rallies, each occasionally coming in to put away a swinging volley or a drop shot.

More often than not, Fleishman was the winner after some of those baseline exchanges.

“That’s what she did in the tie-breakers, kept it in,” said Sorkin, the four-time All-Metro player of the year during her high school career at Deep Run.

In the first breaker, Fleishman was in control, taking a 4-1 lead when Sorkin double faulted and hanging on. The second tie-breaker was the exact opposite, with Sorkin going up 3-0 only to see Fleishman reel off six straight points.

“I tried to be aggressive at times and sometimes they weren’t going in because I wasn’t getting enough spin on the ball,” said Fleishman. “So then I would go back to being a little more conservative. I guess you could say I was mixing it up.”

Whatever Fleishman did, it seemed to throw Sorkin off her powerful baseline game just enough to tip the scales.

Sorkin said she was bothered by a lingering hip injury but was able to play through it. The four-time 5A state singles champion tried to come to the net more often than usual and score with swinging volleys or drop shots.

“This match, I wanted to try and be more aggressive. Practice being more on offense,” said Sorkin. “I missed a lot but she kept hitting these high [bouncing] balls, making it harder to be aggressive. She’d either hit it really high or smack it.”

So focused was Fleishman that she didn’t realize she was down two set points in the opening set. Fleishman was serving at 4-5 when Sorkin allowed a pair of set points to evaporate with some uncharacteristic errors.

“You know, I think I was focused more on keeping some energy at that point,” said Fleishman, with another big grin.

Fleishman had beaten Sorkin in the 2015 final but it wasn’t anywhere near this close. The year before, Sorkin had become one of the youngest winners in the history of the tournament when she took the crown at 15.

  “I know she can play better than what she did there today,” said Fleishman. “I’ve seen her in practice, be aggressive, really step up and take advantage of balls. If she had done that a little more today … it was a point here or there.”

Fleishman became the oldest women’s champion since Rachel Gale won the last of her six titles at 37 in 2006. The former standout at Wake Forest University also is the first player to win three in a row since Leanne Seward from 1978-80.

The victory was worth $500 to Fleishman, while Sorkin was able to take home $250 because of new NCAA regulations that allow collegiate players to accept up to a certain amount of prize money for expenses in school.

Fleishman will have her name engraved again on the Lindsay Wortham Trophy, awarded to the ladies champion.

In the women’s doubles final, Sorkin and Alyssa Hahn defeated Mason Davis and Olga Barshcheuskaya 6-4, 6-3.