Sixteen-year-old Brooke Austin went 3-0 against University of Georgia players Sunday, completing a perfect weekend by defeating Bulldog Maho Kowase 10-4 in the finals of the Adidas Shoot-out at the USTA Collegiate Invitational at the Tualatin Hills Tennis Center.
Austin, the only member of the eight-player USTA junior team to reach the shootout, went undefeated in round robin play, with her 6-2, 6-4 victory over Georgia's Kate Fuller Sunday morning providing the confidence she needed to face the high-pressure stakes of the three rounds of match tiebreakers that would decide the overall tournament champion.
"This morning I played really well when I played Kate in the singles regular match," said Austin, who had to win that match to advance to the shoot-out. "I was just not missing. I was rallying until I got the short ball, and it was working. I just kept doing it, and somehow I won the whole thing."
Austin was the first player to reach the shoot-out semifinals, blowing past Michigan's Brooke Bolender 10-3. There she met top seed Lauren Herring of Georgia, who had beaten Grace Ysidora of Washington 10-6 in the quarterfinals. Despite two double faults, Austin kept her ground strokes near the lines at the end of the tiebreaker, and a couple of forehand errors by Herring in the final three points gave Austin a 10-8 win.
Kowase had made it to the final with two wins over UCLA Bruins, taking the quarterfinal from Chanelle Van Nguyen 12-10, and the semifinals from Kyle McPhillips 10-6. McPhillips had reached the semifinals with an 11-9 win over Texas A&M's Nazari Urbina, but against Kowase, she made a few more errors, while Kowase gave her very little.
The crowd of teammates and local tennis fans gathered on the second level overlooking the six courts had their attention pulled in two directions until the semifinals, and it wasn't until the final that all eyes and attention could be trained to just one match.
Austin set the tone with a return winner to open the final tiebreaker, and she never trailed, with 3-3 the most encouraging score Kowase saw. Austin's hard, flat strokes don't clear the net by much, and if her timing isn't perfect, she can catch the tape, but that happened only once in the final, while Kowase was not as precise with her strokes. With Austin leading 6-4, Kowase didn't get a second serve return in play, and a forehand winner made it 8-4. Another error made it 9-4, and Austin's forehand on the first and only match point was struck so perfectly that Kowase was saying "nice shot" almost before it landed.
"She just played amazing," said Kowase, a junior from Japan. "It's an indoor court, maybe she liked the sound, I don't know what, but she played lights out. I have to give credit to her."
Although Kowase is in her third year of college competition, she appreciated the experience of playing against younger players.
"I've never had the opportunity to play against the USTA, and they're juniors, but they hit the ball really well," Kowase said. "I say, okay, I need to hit like that, getting some lessons from them. I think it's good for them too, seeing how to fight and how to play tennis, instead of hitting shots. So I think it's good for both players."
Austin, who began playing with a new model of Wilson racquet right before the tournament, was nearly at a loss for words when asked about her three wins over Georgia players, all of whom will be playing at the USTA/ITA Intercollegiate Indoor Championships next week.
"I'm not really sure what to say," said Austin, who is the first USTA junior to win a Shoot-out in the four events that have featured collegiate and USTA juniors competing to decide an overall champion and a Pro Circuit wild card. "It's a great feeling. They're a really, really good team, and it's great to know I can go out there and compete with them."
In addition to a Pro Circuit wild card, Austin also won a pair of custom designed shoes from tournament sponsor Adidas. Already a member of the Adidas junior team, Austin has experience with the process.
"The year I first got sponsored was one of the years they first came out with it, so they let me design a pair then," said Austin. "I think I'll probably put 'fight' or something like that on them. And I'll do different colors for sure."
Although Austin was the only USTA junior to reach the shoot-out, her teammates went 5-2 in Sunday's round robin matches, putting their overall record at 15-8 (Jessica Ho could not play her match on Sunday due to a wrist injury).
The overall records in round robin play for the eight schools with players in the competition:
Texas A&M 5-4
Portland State 0-4
Grant Chen, the UCLA men's assistant coach who served as organizer and tournament director for the event, was pleased with inaugural event for women.
"Coach Peter Wright (Cal-Berkeley) has done an incredible job with the Napa Valley event, and I told him imitation is the best form of flattery," said Chen, who was director of tennis at UCLA when he began organizing the Portland event. "Some of the Bruins had participated there as juniors and some as college players, and I really wanted that to happen for the girls. I think it's terrific for everybody."
"It's great for tennis--great for junior tennis, great for college tennis and fantastic to bridge the gap between the two. I think it's a win-win situation for everybody."
Complete results can be found at the tournament website.
At the USTA Men's Collegiate Invitational at Disney World, University of Southern California's Roberto Quiroz, a 5-8 seed, won the Gold draw, beating unseeded freshman Michael Redlicki of Duke 6-1, 6-3. Redlicki earned a title in doubles however, teaming with Jason Tahir to defeat Kentucky's Tom Jomby and Kevin Lai, 8-6, in a final between two unseeded teams. Complete draws can be found at the Florida State site.