SUMMERLIN, November 9, 2018 (by Steve Pratt)
Having already suffered two lopsided losses against Heather Watson on foreign soil in 2018, Southern California’s Danielle Lao knew she’d be in for a battle against the No. 2 seed on Thursday at the Red Rock Pro Open.
Watson took the first set, but Lao was able to figure Watson’s game out in the final two sets as Lao advanced on to the quarterfinals with a, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1, upset victory against the one-time Wimbledon mixed doubles champion.
“In the second set I got a couple of breaks and won some big points and the momentum rolled my way,” said Arcadia’s Lao, who is traveling this week with longtime coach Kal Moranon and Andy Gerst of the Kramer Club in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. “The second and third sets were 1 and 1, but the games were a lot closer than the score says.”
The 26-year-old Lao, who majored in Communications and minored in Business at USC earning her degree in 2013, will be joined in the final eight by her former USC teammate qualifier Giuliana Olmos. Born in Austria and raised in Northern California, Olmos won her fifth straight match in Las Vegas taking out unseeded Varvara Flink, 6-3, 6-2.
Lao, who qualified for the US Open main draw the past two years, next faces 2015 Red Rock Pro Open doubles champion Nicole Gibbs in Friday’s quarters. Just last week in Tyler, Texas, Lao beat the former two-time NCAA singles champion Gibbs in the second round dropping just five games in the straight-set win.
Unlike last season, Lao has played this season injury-free and isn’t defending any ranking points until February. “I don’t look at the numbers too much,” she said of her ranking where she sits at No. 181 in the world. “You keep an eye on them so you can plan your schedule but I’m just looking to improve. After I take a loss I looked to see what parts of my game I need to keep working on.”
For the third consecutive day a former Red Rock Pro Open champion was eliminated as No. 6-seeded Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic downed 2012 winner Lauren Davis, 6-2, 6-1.
In other second-round action, top-seeded Belinda Bencic downed Great Britain’s Naomi Broady, 6-4, 6-2, and Gibbs beat fellow American Grace Min, 6-2, 7-5.
In doubles, Las Vegas’ Asia Muhammad and partner Maria Sanchez improved to 19-1 on the year as the No. 2 seeds beat the French pairing of Manon Arcangioli and Sherazad Reix, 6-2, 6-0.