McHale earns two finals at Girls' 18 Nationals

March 10, 2009 03:45 PM

By Marcia Frost

There will be no repeat champion again this year (the last was Laura Granville 1998-99), as two new faces will be in the final of the Girls' 18s Nationals at the Berkeley Tennis Club and Claremont Resort & Spa.

The last time Beatrice Capra and Lauren Embree met on the court was in October 2008 at the USTA/ITF Pan American Closed Championship. It was Capra who walked away with the win. Things were different today, as the 17-year-old fell in a match full of long points and deuces.

Despite the long games, the match began in 18-year-old Lauren Embree's favor, as the fourth seed took control beyond the 1-1 start to a 4-1 lead. An incredible serve and winners brought the right points to eighth-seeded Capra until she won four straight games to even the score.

It looked like she would keep the momentum going, but two set points came and went, and then it was Embree who had the set at 7-5. From there, it remained on serve through the first few games, and then, as the Floridian said, "she missed a couple of shots and everything started going my way." Lauren Embree earned her place in the final with a 6-1 second set.

The second semifinal of the day was a different story with a different ending. The two Eastern players had played each other since they were younger, but their last meeting was actually in December at an Australian Open wild-card playoff. It was Christina McHale's match then in straight sets, but today Gail Brodsky made her work a lot harder. The second-seeded defending champion never let up the pressure, as the two power players (who both have a habit of hitting low balls) went at it for two and a half hours in front of nearly 300 spectators.

Third-seeded Christina McHale took an early break for 2-1 and kept it through the 6-3 set finish. The second was much closer and full of breaks back and forth, but it was actually Brodsky who had the important one at 6-5 and then held it for the second set. The third was similar -- close games and three breaks. At 5-4, though, a determined Christina McHale didn't need all of her triple match point, before she got a hug at the net from her opponent.

After a rest, it was back on the court for three of the four singles semifinalists for doubles. The first semifinal went to third-seeded Kristie Ahn and Courtney Dolehide, an incoming freshman for UCLA, over Kaitlyn Christian and Gail Brodksy. The second seeds dropped the match in three tight sets.

Christina McHale and Lauren Embree got a preview of the final, as they faced each other on the opposite side of the court. It was the top-seeded McHale and partner Asia Muhammad who prevailed in straight sets, but Embree and Allie Will will have plenty of future time to get together, as they will both be playing for the University of Florida.

McHale has a chance to become the first player in nine years to win singles and doubles. The last one to complete that feat was Kristen Schlukebir, who won in 2000, taking the doubles with Tanner Cochran.

In the consolation matches, Asia Muhammad defeated Kaitlyn Christian and then Nicole Gibbs for a place in Sunday's 5th place playoff. Her opponent, Jacqueline Cako, had a rough day on the court, making it through three sets with Alexandra Cercone before another one that went the distance over Ester Goldfeld.

Sunday's playoff matches will begin at 9 a.m. with the singles final scheduled for 10:30 am and the doubles to follow. All matches are at the Berkeley Tennis Club, and admission is free. The matches will also be broadcast live on

Visit the tournament’s official site for stories, photos and schedules. Also look for the USTA Girls' 18 National Championships on Facebook (which has photo albums for each day), as well as updates on Twitter through MarciaLF24.

Click on the links below for complete results and draws from all USTA National Championship tournaments:

Boys' 16s, 18s
- Kalamazoo, Mich.

Boys' 14s - San Antonio, Texas

Boys' 12s - N. Little Rock, Ark.

Girls' 18s - Berkeley, Calif.

Girls' 16s - San Diego

Girls' 14s - Peachtree City, Ga.

Girls' 12s - Alpharetta, Ga.