©Colette Lewis 2008--
There is no substitute for being at a tennis tournament. If you went to the Girls 18s Clay Courts draws tonight and saw that 14-year-old Grace Min, seeded tenth, defeated No. 2 seed Alexa Guarachi 0-6, 6-1, 6-3, you would wonder what turned the match around, what provided Min with the momentum to take the next two sets easily. But you wouldn't know that the last game of match took nearly twenty minutes to complete, that Min needed nine match points to finally finish it, and faced two break points in that remarkable game, which would have put the match back on serve.
"I kept saying, okay, this next point, you're going to get this next point, but I didn't, I still didn't, until like the ten millionth one. She finally just hit a return error," said Min, who hit a gutsy forehand winner in the corner to save one of the break points. "If I lost that game, she would have been serving at 4-5, and that wouldn't have been good, since she has a really good serve. I really needed that game."
In the first set, Guarachi looked much more at ease, and Min had difficulty getting a first serve in, compounding her predictament. Guarachi was in control with her forehand, banking the first set very quickly. But Min jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set, and the errors began to come in bunches for the second seed. Guarachi chided herself during a wayward stretch in the second set, saying "you're just giving her confidence." Guarachi had dropped the middle set in her match on Wednesday against Britney Sanders but had broken open a tight match by winning the final three games, so she was capable of reversing the momentum that Min had taken in the second set. But Min refused to indulge in any tentative play, even when chance after chance came and went in the final game.
"The mindset, playing not to lose, did bring me down a couple of times, not in this match, but in previous tournaments," Min said. "I definitely learned from those tournaments. And I didn't have anything to lose, she was the two seed, I was the ten seed, and I was just going out there to compete hard. I was confident with the way I was playing so I was just, go for it."
Min will play No. 5 seed Kristie Ahn, who defeated unseeded Kate Fuller 6-1, 6-2. The previous time Ahn and Min met, in the round of 16 at the USTA Spring Championships, Ahn prevailed in two sets, but needed a slew of match points before she finally closed it out, a scenario much like that of Min's today.
Min wasn't the only player to drop the first set of her match 6-0 and yet go on to win. Hideko Tachibana, the No. 11 seed, suffered through that demoralizing scenario too, but took the final two sets from No. 7 seed Alexandra Cercone 6-4, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal contest with No. 3 seed Lauren Embree, who downed Danielle Collins, a 17 seed, 6-3, 6-1.
Top seed Beatrice Capra cruised past No. 13 seed Hanna Mar 6-2, 6-1 and will face Rachel Saiontz, the No. 9 seed. Saiontz dropped the first set to Danielle Lao, a 17 seed, but came back convincingly, for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory.
No. 4 seed Jacqueline Cako has been dominant throughout the week, and today was no exception, as she served exceptionally well in her 6-2, 6-1 win over No. 12 seed Monica Chow. Cako meets No. 16 seed Kaitlyn Christian, who upset No. 6 seed Keri Wong 7-6(1), 6-4.
The doubles quarterfinals also delivered several upsets, with the heat and humidity beginning to ratchet up as the day dissolved into evening.
Top seeds Embree and Saiontz came out strong against the No. 6 seeded team of Cercone and Jacqueline Kasler, but couldn't sustain it, as Cercone and Kasler took a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 decision in an entertaining match that featured some blistering ground strokes and jaw-dropping gets. Cercone and Kasler will play No. 7 seeds Alexandra Leatu and Ellen Tsay in Friday's semifinals. Leatu and Tsay beat a nine seeded team, Fuller and Julie Sabacinski 5-7, 6-2, 6-3.
The third team to come back from a set down to win was the eighth seeded team of Lauren Herring and Min, who took out No. 4 seeds Lilly Kimbell and Zoe De Bruycker 5-7, 6-0, 6-2. Herring and Min will play the second seeded team of Cako and Courtney Dolehide, who downed Mar and Kate Turvy, the fifth seeds, 6-1, 6-3.
For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.
For coverage of USTA Clay Court championships in Florida, go to collegeandjuniortennis.com
Thursday, July 17, 2008