Longhorn legend Peyton Stearns brought the home crowd to its feet Sunday afternoon at Austin’s Texas Tennis Center, as she secured a 6-1, 6-0 victory against Clervie Ngounoue to win the H-E-B Women’s Pro Tennis Open singles championship.
Stearns registered a break on Ngounoue’s opening service game of the match, and she continued to build momentum from there, winning 17 of the remaining 27 points in the first set en route to a resounding victory.
The 20-year-old from Ohio dictated the tone of the majority of the match, orchestrating point after point in dominant fashion. Stearns deployed an effective inside-out forehand to move Ngounoue from one side to the other with impeccably placed shots, consistently clipping the baseline to make matters even more difficult for the 16-year-old Ngounoue, who had won eight of her nine sets played in the tournament prior to Sunday’s championship defeat.
“I think it’s a big weapon I have,” said Stearns of her inside-out forehand. “Setting up the game I look for that shot. It’s pretty big. When I do look for my forehand, it seems that I play a lot better than I do if I’m not.”
Stearns ran away and hid after a brief match intermission, winning over 68% of the point opportunities en route to a second set sweep.
The former Longhorn ended the match with a powerful shot down the line, forcing Ngounoue into a tough position that she just couldn’t come back from.
Stearns consistently set up winners for herself, two or three shots ahead of time, placing balls just out of reach of Ngounoue. Her serve was also devastating, with 76% of her first serves producing winners. Stearns did not commit a single double fault throughout the match.
Despite being down for virtually the entirety of the match, Ngounoue fought to the bitter end. Down four games to zero in the second set, Ngounoue forced deuce with a tough forehand, exclaiming, “Mine!” as she pumped her fist.
“To me, losing matches and not being that way is worse,” said Ngounoue about her approach to tough matches. “I wouldn’t say it’s completely a part of my personality, but giving up definitely is not.”
The crowd was behind Ngounoue as she fought back against Stearns until the very last point. Keeping your head up against such a strong opponent can be difficult, but Ngounoue never gave up. “I think it’s something that everybody has to learn,” she said.
Stearns plans to take a week off to train before playing at the W25 in Florence, South Carolina, on October 11.
By: Ignacio Perez & Corey Smith
Photos By: Joseph Sweeney