Sixth-seeded Peyton Stearns is still finding success on college courts as the former Longhorn star advanced to the quarterfinals of the H-E-B Women’s Pro Tennis Open with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Martyna Kubka at the Texas Tennis Center.
Stearns, pictured above, had trouble putting away her 21-year-old Polish opponent and lost patience with her game and a few line calls at the end of the second set.
“She started playing a lot better in the second set, but I also think I started playing a little safe and I thought, ‘Up 3-1 — just put balls in the court,” said Stearns, who led the Longhorn women to consecutive NCAA titles and in May became the first UT woman to win the national singles title. “The third set I told myself, ‘ I’m not going to win by just putting balls on the court. I gotta start being a little more aggressive.’ That’s what I did.”
Stearns also said she was more in control of her emotions in that final set. But her next opponent didn’t even play two full sets. Ashley Lahey, who received the Catalyst Award in a special ceremony on Tuesday, advanced to the quarterfinals when top-seeded Fernanda Contreras Gomez retired because of illness. Gomez indicated she was in pain early in the match and became physically ill when Lahey led by 6-2, 4-3.
In the most dramatic match of the day, UT freshman Nicole Khirin of Israel overcome an ankle injury and hard-hitting Aldila Sutjiadi of Indonesia, 7-6 (9), 2-6, 7-5. Sutjiadi led by two breaks in the opening set before Khirin fought her way back, despite taking an injury timeout before serving at 5-6. She then won the tiebreak, saving set points along the way. Sutjiadi dominated the second set then squandered another lead in the third set. Khirin broke the Indonesian’s serve to win the match. Khirin will face 17-year-old American Tatum Evans in the quarterfinals. Evans upset fourth-seeded Justina Mikulskyte of Lithuania, 6-3, 6-4.
Clervie Ngounoue, the 16-year-old Washington D.C. native, hasn’t lost in a set en route to the quarterfinals as she defeated Madison Sieg, 6-1, 7-6 (0). Ngounoue, who won the 2022 Australian Open junior girls doubles title, faces a more battle-tested Jana Kolodynska. Saving match points in the second set, Kolodynska cruised to a 4-6, 7-6 (9), 6-2 victory over American Samantha Crawford.
In the last singles match of the day, second-seeded Yuki Naito of Japan had little trouble with Noel Saidenova, 6-3, 6-4. Naito, 21, said being the tournament’s top remaining seed is not going to change how she plays.. “I’m just keeping focused and playing the matches,” Naito said after the match. Naito will play fifth-seeded Jamie Loeb, a 27-year-old from Ossining, New York, in the quarterfinals.
Loeb said her 6-3, 6-4 victory over Ukrainian Anita Sahdiieva wasn’t as easy as the score indicated. “Another up and down match,” said Loeb, who needed three sets to reach the second round. “I think I lost my serve a little bit. Then I regrouped and competed to the end.”
By: Lindsey Plotkin
Photo by Kayla Thompson