SUMMERLIN, November 8, 2018 (by Steve Pratt)
Patience was the key for Nicole Gibbs during her first-round win on Wednesday at the Red Rock Pro Open.
The former two-time NCAA singles champion from Stanford University, Gibbs rallied to beat qualifier and fellow former Pac-12 player Maria Sanchez (USC), 7-5, 6-0, at the USTA Pro Circuit women’s $80,000 tournament taking place at the Red Rock Country Club. Sanchez got off to a fast start as she broke Gibbs’ serve twice and led 5-2, before Gibbs reeled off 11 straight games to advance to the second round.
“I was having trouble with the elevation because the ball does carry a little bit so I was having a tricky time finding the court in the first set,” said Gibbs, who also led the Cardinal to a 17th NCAA team title in 2013. “Credit to Maria who was really taking it to me. I think I kind of just waited around for my better tennis to show up and capitalized when it did.”
Gibbs, 25, holds six career USTA/ITF Pro Circuit singles titles and four doubles titles. Three years ago she made a run to the singles semifinals and won the doubles title at the Red Rock Pro Open. “I remember going through a really tricky first round here a couple of years ago and just not knowing where the court was. Early on I was just trying to get adjusted to the altitude so I just bore in mind that patience was going to be important and if I stuck around I was going to get through it.”
Gibbs said 2018 “hasn’t been my best year” and that she would love nothing more to finish the year strong with a tournament title in Las Vegas. “I’ve been as high as No. 70 in the world so to be around 140 now is not exactly where I want to be,” she said.
Gibbs next faces her former junior rival Grace Min in the second round on Thursday. Min beat last year’s Red Rock Pro Open singles champion Sesil Karatantcheva, 7-6 (4), 6-4. It was the second consecutive day a former Las Vegas Pro Open singles champion lost in the first round as Varvara Lepchenko lost on Tuesday. Gibbs and Min have split the four matches they’ve played on the pro level with Gibbs winning twice on hard courts and Min twice on her favorite surface clay.
Las Vegas’ Asia Muhammad had a tough day as she fell to qualifier Hanna Chang 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Muhammad and Sanchez are still alive in the doubles as the No. 2 seeded team will play in the quarterfinals Thursday.
No. 2 seeded Heather Watson of Great Britain got off to a good start in Las Vegas as the former Wimbledon mixed doubles champion beat Ulrikke Eikeri of Norway, 6-3, 6-2.
Former Wimbledon Girls’ singles winner (2015) Sofya Zhuk, just 18 years old and from Russia, fell in her first round to qualifier Giuliana Olmos, 6-7 (4), 7-5, 7-5. It was the fourth straight win in four days for Olmos, the former USC standout who also came back from a set down to win her final round of qualifying on Tuesday.