First service

By SKIP BANDELE [email protected]

Despite the inclement weather, 17-year-old Maria Joao Koehler managed back to back wins over Dutch opponents Lesley Kerkhove and Nicolette Van Uitert to reach the final of Vale do Lobo’s 10,000 dollar ITF Satellite tournament last week.

The young Porto star was then outclassed 6-1, 6-1 by 18-year-old Italian No2 seed Julia Mayr but still earned enough ranking points to break into the world’s top 500.

The ladies international circuit continued this week at Albufeira’s Montechoro event featuring the return from Federation Cup duty of former Portuguese champion Frederica Piedade and moves to Portimao from this Monday.

Elsewhere, both Rui Machado and Frederico Gil made very promising starts to the Brazil Open with victories over higher ranked opponents but were then eliminated by fourth and sixth seeds Igor Andreev and Pablo Cuevas respectively.