Clervie Ngounoue and Peyton Stearns took different roads to today’s championship match at the Texas Tennis Center. Ngounoue, the 16-year-old wild card, encountered her first rough patch in the tournament before rallying then dominating second-seeded Yuki Naito, 1-6, 6-4, 6-2. Ngounoue, pictured above, broke Naito at 4-4 in the second set and never looked back. The sixth-seeded Stearns, star of UT’s two-time NCAA championship team, overwhelmed Longhorn freshman Nicole Khirin, 6-1, 6-2. After the match, the two came together for a Hook ’em photo op.
“I think today I kept my head screwed on right, better than the last two days,” said Stearns, who was visibly frustrated earlier in the week. “But I was hitting my forehand, something I didn’t do the past two days as much. And I just believed in my shots.”
This is the first match between the two. Stearns, who turns 21 on Saturday, came into the week with a career-high WTA ranking of No. 316; Ngounoue, who won the Australian Open junior doubles title in January, is No. 14 in junior singles and doubles and No. 850 in WTA singles. Ngounoue’s father is her coach, but she also trains at the Mouratoglou Academy in France.
The H-E-B Women’s Pro Tennis Open marks the year’s second final for each. Stearns lost to Katrina Scott, 7-5, 6-3, in a W25 hardcourt event in Columbus, Ohio in July. Ngounoue (pronounced “GOON-u-way”) reached the W15 final in Marrakech in March, losing to Eleonora Alvisi of Italy, 6-3, 6-1, on clay. The American teenager missed four months on the tour because of a foot injury.
“I know Peyton, so I know she’s a really good player just like today,” Ngounoue said after her match against Naito. “I’m just going to try and fight it out in every single point and see where that takes me. At the end of the day, we’re playing the same game. She’s been playing it longer, but I’m going to take my chances.”