TEMPLETON, September 30, 2018 (by Steve Pratt)
Saturday’s semifinal matches at the Central Coast Pro Tennis Open, a USTA Pro Circuit $60,000 women’s event taking place at the Templeton Tennis Ranch, showcased the great diversity of playing styles today’s pro players deploy. Sunday’s final will be a showdown between a defensive baseliner and an offensive power player.
In the first semifinal, Bulgarian Sesil Karatantcheva settled into a comfortable lead over American Grace Min, taking the first set 6-1. Mostly staying behind the baseline, she and the defensively inclined Min chased every ball in an incredible display of tenacity.
Karatantcheva had momentum that carried her to a quick 5-0 lead in the second. Undeterred, Min not only kept grinding, but picked up the pace, despite having played a three-hour quarterfinal the previous day. Min went on to win the next six games before Karatantcheva was able to break back for 6-6 and force a tiebreak, which she won 7-5 on her first match point.
Although she walked away with the win, Karatantcheva was disappointed that she let Min back into the match. “I’m not really going for it as much when I’m up and then when I start going down it’s like, ‘OK, I’m down, there’s nothing to lose,’ and I can go for it. A set and 5-0 up on a good player, you cannot afford to have that kind of comeback.”
The 29-year-old tour veteran, who turned pro when she was only 14, was optimistic she would learn from this experience, “I find myself in this position way too many times. I just hope, if I get to this moment again, that I really make this extra effort and extra step to close it out easier.”
Karatantcheva will meet American Asia Muhammad in the finals on Sunday and expects a very different style of play. “I know her; she’s going to put a lot of heat on her serve. She moves well, she’s a great athlete, but I think her best game would be if she’s very stable on the serves and she comes in and tries to finish the points at the net. I’ll really try for good returns and good passing shots, that’s pretty much the goal.”
Muhammad beats Brengle
Muhammad played fellow American and good friend Madison Brengle in her semifinal match. In the 6-4, 6-4 victory, the offensively minded Muhammad took whatever chances she could to move in and close points early.
Muhammad expects Sunday’s final to require a similar strategy, “It’s going to be just like what I had to do today. [Karatantcheva] is a baseliner, she just wants to have baseline rallies. I’m not going be really doing that, just because I do have two matches and that could be a long match. I feel like I can come forward, I don’t know if a lot of girls can do that, so I might as well try and use that.”
In addition to the singles final match on Sunday, Muhammad is set to play the doubles final right after. In the doubles final, she and Maria Sanchez, the top-seeded team, take on Quinn Gleason and Luisa Stefani.
The women’s singles final between Karatantcheva and Muhammad will be contested at 1 p.m. local time. The doubles final will follow approximately 30 minutes after the conclusion of the singles final, allowing Muhammad to rest.