Top seed falls during epic round of 16 in Berkeley

March 10, 2009 03:45 PM

By Marcia Frost

BERKELEY, Calif. -- The USTA Girls' 18 Nationals is the most prestigious junior tennis championship of its kind, and Thursday 16 girls proved that they deserved to be here, as play -- and the weather -- heated up.

The temperatures have been unusually warm at the Berkeley Tennis Club and Claremont Resort & Spa. The beautiful weather brought out a large number of spectators who were treated to a group of amazing matches.

First up was the eighth-seeded Beatrice Capra (Ellicott City, MD) vs. Ellen Tsay (Pleasanton, CA) (17-32). It was a bit of a back-and-forth match, with Tsay dominating the first set over a struggling Capra, who was only able to get one game. In the second, it was pretty much the opposite, as the higher seed was determined not to fall. Though the score in the third was 6-2 in Capra's favor, it was the most competitive set.

Competition was definitely a word that could be used for the match on center court between No. 14 Allie Will (Boca Raton, FL) and No. 2 Gail Brodsky, the defending champion. Will, who will be attending the University of Florida in a few weeks, never let up the pressure or confidence, even after dropping the first set, 6-3. She came back for an early break and kept it going for a 6-3 set of her own. The third stayed on serve until 4-3, when Brodsky took and held it for a 6-3 finish.

Fifth-seeded Nicole Gibbs (Manhattan Beach, CA) held steady through a tight first set and then took command over Courtney Dolehide (Hinsdale, IL) (17-32), 6-4, 6-0. Sixth-seeded Asia Muhammad (Henderson, NV) won the first four games before 12th-seeded Brooke Bolender (Delray Beach, FL) was to get into the match. Unfortunately, a wrist problem kept her from staying in and completing it, and Muhammad moved on with a 6-3, 1-0 finish.

Third-seeded Christina McHale (Englewood Cliffs, NJ) and fourth-seeded Lauren Embree (Marco Island, FL) struggled through their first sets, but each had quick seconds, as they beat Nicole Melichar (Stuart, FL) and Brett Ellen Keeler (Bee Cave, TX), respectively. Both were unseeded players who had terrific runs. It was a battle of incredible points that gathered a crowd watching another non-seed before No. 11 Alexandra Cercone (Seminole, FL) finally got past Kaitlyn Christian, 7-6 (5), 1-6, 6-3.

The final match of the day was also the shocker, as 15th-seeded Ester Goldfeld (Brooklyn, NY) took out the No. 1 player in the tournament, Kristie Ahn (Upper Saddle River, NJ). As solid as Ahn has been playing, Goldfeld went one better on Thursday, serving aces and winners with quick accuracy. The frustrated top-seed fell 6-3, 6-3 in a match that was much closer than the score indicated.

After the match, Goldfeld was more than happy with her play. "I am so excited," she said. "I was a bit more solid than she was today. I knew it was going to be a tough match, and I prepared for it mentally."

Ahn did end the day on a high note, as she and partner Courtney Dolehide defeated Mara Schmidt (Lakewood Ranch, FL) and Tina Tehrani (New Canaan, CT) for a spot in the doubles quarterfinals. The third seeds will be facing Mallory Burdette (Jackson, GA) and Mary Clayton (Plantation, FL) (9-16). Also advancing in doubles were the teams of Christina McHale and Asia Muhammad (1); Cierra Gaytan-Leach (Corona Del Mar, CA) and Nicole Gibbs; Lauren Embree and Allie Will; Emina Bektas (Indianapolis, IN) and Lilly Kimbell (New Braunfels,TX); Jacqueline Cako (Brier, WA) and Olivia Janowicz (Palm Bay, FL) (9-16); and Gail Brodsky and Kaitlyn Christian (2).

The day ended with a fireside chat at the Berkeley Tennis Club, with local resident and renowned journalist Joel Drucker moderating a Q&A with Jose Higueras. The former top professional player and current USTA Director of Coaching for Elite Player Development spoke about his thoughts on teaching rather than coaching. "One thing I never do is to tell a player what to do. I give him information." Higueras added, "There is a huge amount of anxiety about winning, but not enough anxiety about learning."

Friday's quarterfinals singles matches will begin at the Berkeley Tennis Club at 10 a.m., followed by doubles in the afternoon. Admission is free.

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.