Niculescu at the 2019 Wimbledon Championships
|Born||25 September 1987|
|Height||1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)|
|Turned pro||May 2002|
|Plays||Right-handed (two-handed backhand)|
|Coach||Călin Stelian Ciorbagiu|
|Career record||515–353 (59.3%)|
|Highest ranking||No. 28 (27 February 2012)|
|Current ranking||No. 141 (21 September 2020)|
|Grand Slam Singles results|
|Australian Open||3R (2011, 2012, 2014)|
|French Open||2R (2014)|
|US Open||4R (2011)|
|Olympic Games||2R (2016)|
|Career record||446–260 (63.2%)|
|Highest ranking||No. 11 (2 April 2018)|
|Current ranking||No. 55 (21 September 2020)|
|Grand Slam Doubles results|
|Australian Open||SF (2018)|
|French Open||QF (2010)|
|US Open||3R (2009, 2010, 2016, 2017)|
|Fed Cup||SF (2019), 31–21 (59.6%)|
|Last updated on: 3 February 2020.|
Monica Niculescu (born 25 September 1987) is a Romanian professional tennis player. She reached her career-high singles ranking of world No. 28 in February 2012, and has three singles titles to her credit on the WTA Tour since she turned pro in May 2002, the last one coming at the end of 2016, at the BGL Luxembourg Open. Although she was a steady top 30 player for several years and enjoyed relative success in singles, she is also a doubles specialist, where she achieved a career-high ranking of No. 11 in April 2018, after partnering with Grand Slam winner and Olympic medalist Andrea Sestini Hlaváčková at Indian Wells. Her biggest doubles result up to date is reaching her first Grand Slam doubles final at Wimbledon in 2017, alongside Chan Hao-ching. She was also runner-up at three Premier Mandatory events: the 2015 Wuhan Open, with fellow Romanian Irina-Camelia Begu, the 2016 Rogers Cup, with former world No. 1 Simona Halep, and the 2017 Cincinnati Open, partnering former world No. 1 in doubles, Hsieh Su-wei.
She is popular among spectators and other players alike for her unconventional style of play, employing an extreme grip as well as two hands for both her forehand and backhand. She is also best known for her trademark forehand-slice, her winning deamenour and her exceptional shot-making abilities at the net. Niculescu currently holds the Open Era record of highest first serve percentage in a year (91%-in 2011, tied with Sara Errani).
Niculescu has defeated many top-ten opponents throughout her career, having 25 wins against top-ten opponents to date.
2002–2005: Junior years
As a junior, Niculescu had the remarkable gift to win quite easily every final she reached. Thus, before reaching the age of 18, she won eleven ITF singles finals, losing only one set:
- in Bucharest (Aug 2002), 6–1, 7–6 against Tsvetana Pironkova
- in Cavtat (Apr 2003) 6–4, 6–1 against Darija Jurak
- in Timişoara (Aug 2003) 6–2, 6–3 against Veronika Rizhik
- in Albufeira (Feb 2004) 6–1, 3–6, 6–0 against Irina Kotkina
- in Portimão (Feb 2004) 6–4, 7–6 against Nadja Pavić
- in Bucharest (May 2004) 6–2, 6–2 against Simona Matei
- in Iași (Aug 2004) 7–6, 6–0 against Raluca Olaru
- in Cairo (Mar 2005) 6–4, 6–2 against Galina Fokina
- in Ain Alsoukhna (Mar 2005) 6–3, 6–4 against Magdaléna Rybáriková
- in Antalya (May 2005) 6–2, 6–2 against Ekaterina Dzehalevich
- and in Coimbra (Aug 2005) 6–3, 6–1 against Aravane Rezaï.
She also won eight out of 14 ITF finals played in doubles as a junior, in most of them partnered by her older sister, Gabriela Niculescu. She played finals in girls' doubles in Roland Garros (2004, paired with Mădălina Gojnea) and twice in Wimbledon (2004 and 2005, paired with Marina Erakovic).
By the end of 2005, now already a senior player, she was No. 271 in the WTA rankings and No. 4 in Romania.
2006–2008: Constant progress as a senior, top 50
Niculescu made her WTA debut in 2006 Istanbul, where she won to then junior Sabine Lisicki but could not pass the third qualification round. In 2007, she continued to play many ITF tournaments, and she also played in qualifications in all four Grand Slam and three other WTA tournaments, but only in Dubai she reached the main draw. Still, winning several ITF tournaments and gathering many small points, she finished the year 2007 in top 200.
In 2008, she reached the quarterfinals in Tashkent, and in all four Grand Slam tournaments she reached the first round, with round two reached in Wimbledon. Gathering points constantly on WTA Tour, and also including some smaller successes in ITF tournaments, Niculescu was ranked 48th in the world, and second in Romania, at the end of 2008.
2009: Setback and out of top 100
Niculescu opened the season at the Brisbane International, where she lost to Tsvetana Pironkova in the first round in three sets. She also lost in the first round of the Moorilla Hobart International to Alona Bondarenko. At the 2009 Australian Open, Niculescu beat Katie O'Brien in the first round, 6–4, 6–4, before losing to Sara Errani in the second, 2–6, 3–6. Alongside Sorana Cîrstea, Niculescu was the 14th seed in women's doubles; they lost to Nathalie Dechy and Mara Santangelo in the second round, 3–6, 3–6.
In the other three Grand Slam events, she did not go past round one of the main draw. Her best results of the year were quarterfinals in Tashkent and Strasbourg.
At the Open GDF Suez held in Paris, Niculescu defeated Timea Bacsinszky in the first round, before losing to eventual champion Amélie Mauresmo in the second. She then took part in the Dubai Tennis Championships. She beat Peng Shuai in the first round in three sets, 3–6, 7–5, 6–2, and then lost to world No. 3, Jelena Janković, 3–6, 2–6. Niculescu also partnered Elena Vesnina in doubles, and the two reached the quarterfinals in women's doubles; they lost to Anabel Medina Garrigues and Francesca Schiavone. Niculescu had two consecutive first-round losses, at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells (fell to Anna-Lena Grönefeld) and Sony Ericsson Open in Miami (fell to Tamira Paszek). Partnering Alisa Kleybanova, she reached the quarterfinals at the BNP Paribas Open, where they lost to Maria Kirilenko and Flavia Pennetta. At the Sony Ericsson Open she partnered Kleybanova again, but they lost to second seeds Anabel Medina Garrigues and Virginia Ruano Pascual.
At the end of the year, she had slipped out of top 100.
2010: Comeback to top 100, first WTA semifinal
In 2010, Monica started the season in Auckland, coming from qualifying. In the first round, she lost to fifth seed Virginie Razzano, 5–7, 4–6. In doubles, she partnered Ioana Raluca Olaru, and they defeated Anabel Medina Garrigues and Carla Suárez Navarro, 7–5, 7–5. In the second round, they lost to Cara Black and Liezel Huber, 3–6, 2–6.
At the Australian Open, she lost in the first round to Jelena Janković, 4–6, 0–6. In doubles, she partnered Chan Yung-jan and defeated Monique Adamczak and Nicole Kriz, 6–3, 6–1. The pair defeated Alla Kudryavtseva and Ekaterina Makarova in the second round, 6–4, 6–4. In the third round, they lost to sixth seeds Lisa Raymond and Rennae Stubbs, 5–7, 3–6.
In Marbella failed to qualify in singles, but in doubles she partnered Sophie Lefèvre. They defeated Kristina Barrois and Ioana Raluca Olaru in the first round, 6–3, 4–6, [10–7]. However, in the second round, they lost to Virginia Ruano Pascual and Meghann Shaughnessy, 2–6, 4–6.
She made again her best in Tashkent, where she reached her first WTA semifinals but lost to Elena Vesnina.
Although in the first half of the year she was struggling between ranks 100 and 150, by the middle of the year she reached top 100 again and ended the year as No. 82 in the world, and No. 2 in Romania.
2011: Consistent game, advance to top 30
At the Australian Open, Niculescu defeated Timea Bacsinszky in straight sets, 6–0, 6–3. Facing off against the 32nd seed, Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, Niculescu cruised through the match winning 6–4, 6–1. In the third round, she lost to the 2010 French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, 0–6, 6–7.
Niculescu defeated Patricia Mayr-Achleitner in the first round and compatriot Alexandra Dulgheru in the second round, 6–3, 6–0, to advance to the third round of the US Open. In defeating Lucie Šafářová, 6–0, 6–1, Niculescu advanced to the fourth round of a Grand Slam singles competition for the first time in her career, where she lost 4–6, 3–6 to unseeded Angelique Kerber.
At the Tier-1 China Open, she shocked the world with a dominating victory over fourth seed Li Na, 6–4, 6–0 in the first round and advanced to the semifinals, where she lost to eventual runner-up, Andrea Petkovic.
She advanced to her first WTA final at the International tournament in Luxembourg, losing to Victoria Azarenka, 2–6, 2–6. En route to the final, she spent many hours on court with a 6–7, 7–5, 7–6 first-round victory over Karin Knapp, a second-round 7–6, 3–6, 6–1 win over Anabel Medina Garrigues, and a 7–5, 4–6, 6–3 win in three hours over 2010 finalist Anne Keothavong in the semifinals.
The end of the year found her as No. 30 in the world and No. 1 in Romania.
2012: Career high, small setback, still top 60
Her best result was again the final in Luxembourg, lost to Venus Williams.
Although in February Niculescu had reached rank No. 28, her career high so far, the inconsistent results during the season made her go down to world No. 58 by the end of the year.
2013: Steady position, first WTA title
Aside two WTA semifinals in Shenzhen and Monterrey, Niculescu won her first singles WTA title in Florianópolis.
She played in round one of all the Grand Slam events, but lost the games constantly.
Yet, winning enough games and points in WTA tournaments, she kept her top-60 position, finishing the season as No. 59 in the WTA rankings.
2014: Second WTA title, top 50 again
In all, Niculescu had an improving season, reaching round three at Australian Open, round two at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, quarterfinals in Shenzhen, Hobart and Florianópolis, and semifinals in Bucharest. The best result was her winning the tournament in Guangzhou, as her second WTA title.
Thus, she entered top 50 again by the end of the year.
2015: Tough matches, steady game
Much of early 2015 was particularly difficult for Niculescu, as she often faced difficult draws. For instance she drew world No. 1 Serena Williams twice in a row in the second round of Indian Wells and Miami. While she managed to test Williams with a 5–7, 5–7 score, she was not able to win a set against her in either match. She also suffered first-round losses at Shenzhen, Hobart, the Australian Open, Dubai, Prague, and the French Open.
Niculescu won the Marseille clay 100K tournament in June. Shortly thereafter, she defeated first-seeded Agnieszka Radwańska 5–7, 6–4, 6–0 at the Nottingham grass tournament to earn a place in the final where she lost to teenager Ana Konjuh 6–1, 4–6, 2–6. All five matches she played went to three sets. She then lost in the first round at Birmingham to the 10th seed, Barbora Strýcová.
Niculescu earned a spot in the fourth round at the Wimbledon Championships for the first time, defeating Monica Puig 5–7, 6–3, 6–1, Jana Čepelová 6–3, 6–3, and Kristýna Plíšková 6–3, 7–5. This is the second time she has made it past the third round at a major. Despite winning the first set of her fourth-round match 6–1 and having a positive head-to-head record against the player, she was defeated by 15th-seeded Timea Bacsinszky, who took the next two sets.
2016: Doubles success
2017: Wimbledon doubles final and first WTA 125 series crown
At the Australian Open, she lost to Anna Blinkova in the first round. Then, Niculescu played doubles with Abigail Spears, but they lost in the first round to Andrea Petkovic and Mirjana Lučić-Baroni. She won the WTA 125 Series Open at Limoges on 12 November.
Nicolescu plays right-handed, with powerful topspin backhand and unpredictable forehand slice. She has great volleying ability and great footwork.
Her mother, Cristiana Silvia Niculescu is a pharmaceutical sales representative; her father Mihai Niculescu is an engineer. Niculescu has an older sister, Gabriela, who was a professional tennis player too and attended University of Idaho, after transferring from USC after her junior year.
Grand Slam tournament performance timeline
|Australian Open||1R||2R||1R||3R||3R||1R||3R||1R||2R||1R||1R||1R||1R||Q1||0 / 13||8–13||38%|
|French Open||1R||1R||Q3||1R||1R||1R||2R||1R||1R||1R||A||A||1R||0 / 10||1–10||9%|
|Wimbledon||2R||1R||2R||2R||1R||1R||1R||4R||2R||1R||1R||2R||NH||0 / 12||8–12||40%|
|US Open||1R||1R||1R||4R||1R||1R||2R||2R||3R||3R||1R||1R||A||0 / 12||9–12||43%|
|Win–Loss||1–4||1–4||1–3||6–4||2–4||0–4||4–4||4–4||4–4||2–4||0–3||1–3||0–2||0–0||0 / 47||26–47||36%|
|Titles||0||0||0||0||0||1||1||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||Career total: 3|
|Finals||0||0||0||1||1||1||1||1||2||1||0||0||0||0||Career total: 8|
Grand Slam finals
Doubles: 1 (1 runner-up)
|Loss||2017||Wimbledon||Grass||Chan Hao-ching|| Ekaterina Makarova
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Monica Niculescu.|