The semifinalists at the H-E-B Women’s Pro Tennis Open didn’t spend too much time in the heat at the Texas Tennis Center, as all four won in straight sets.
Sixth-seeded Peyton Stearns, the former Longhorn national champion, dominated Ashley Lahey, 6-0, 6-1. After struggling in her match on Thursday, Stearns played almost a perfect match. “Today I just had my head screwed on right,” said Stearns, the who won the NCAA singles title in May. “I was also hitting my forehand, which is something I didn’t do these last few days.”
Sterns next faces Nicole Khirin, the current Longhorn who defeated American teenager Tatum Evans, 6-3, 6-2. Khirin, the Israeli national singles champion, showed no signs of the ankle injury she suffered in her three-set comeback in the second round.
In the only quarterfinal between seeded players, No. 2 Yuki Naito of Japan defeated No. 5 Jamie Loeb, 6-4, 6-3. Loeb, the 27-year-old New Yorker, started playing more aggressively in the second set and exchanged a series of breaks before the 21-year-old Naito prevailed. “I’m just trying to play my tennis,” said Naito, pictured above. “I’m just trying to stay focused on my matches and improving with every point.”
Naito will go against Clervie Ngounoue, the American teenager who defeated Jana Kolodynska, 7-5, 6-3. Ngounoue is the 16-year-old Australian Open junior doubles champion. Even though Kolodynska kept it close in the first set, Ngounoue was in control the rest of the way, closing out the match with a backhand passing shot down the line.
Two women who lost their singles matches earlier in the day triumphed in the doubles semifinals. Loeb teamed up with Elysia Bolton for a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Hsu Chieh-Yu and Maria Kononova. Loeb and Bolton, seeded second, will go for the doubles title against Lahey and Martyna Kubka, who were 6-2, 7-5 winners over the Longhorn team of Malaika Rapolu and Marlee Zein. Rapolu and Zein served for the second set at 5-3, but as Lahey put it: “It’s really tough to close out a set, so we took advantage of that.”
By: Lindsey Plotkin and Ignacio Perez
Photo by Kayla Thompson