Tennis: Willson finishes a winner

Danielle Willson did not stick around for long after winning the girls' 16 doubles title Friday at the 21st annual Costa Mesa Summer Junior Classic tennis tournament.

Top-seeded Willson and partner Katherine Nguyen of Fountain Valley defeated Jordyn Boothroyd and Kayti Luu of Irvine, 6-0, 6-1. But soon after, Willson had to run to John Wayne Airport to catch a plane. She's visiting her aunt in Las Vegas this weekend.

"It'll be a nice break," said Willson, who has had a busy schedule this summer.

She was the only Newport-Mesa resident to win a title Friday at the Costa Mesa tournament. The other finalist was Newport Beach resident Lauren Friedman, who was partnered with Milana Molnar of Ladera Ranch in the girls' 12 doubles. Friedman and Molnar fell to top-seeded Cami Brown of Irvine and Kaytlin Taylor of Huntington Beach, 6-3, 6-4.

Willson, who will be a freshman at Corona del Mar High, has been doing a lot of winning lately. Last weekend she captured 16s singles titles at the "War by the Shore" tournament at The Tennis Club, as well as the Chapman University tournaments. But she was upset in her first singles match at Costa Mesa, against Abigail Csengery of Texas.

"She literally just 'moonballed' the ball, as high as the lights," Willson said. "It was back to novice tournaments. I just got really frustrated. I couldn't handle it. It was just so bad and so annoying.

"It's really hard mentally when you win two tournaments in a row. Then you have a lot of pressure on yourself, but you just have to act like nothing happened, I guess."

Her doubles partner, Nguyen, chimed in.

"Wise words Dani, wise words," said Nguyen, who will also be a freshman and is considering Fountain Valley High or Mater Dei, with a smile.

Willson and Nguyen won the first 10 games of the match against their older opponents, Boothroyd and Luu, before Nguyen's serve was broken at 4-0 in the second set. Willson also had some dicey moments trying to serve the match out, but she was able to overcome them.

"We kind of relaxed a little bit," Willson said. "We were overconfident, which is kind of bad, even though we were warned not to get overconfident a lot of times."

Relaxing in Las Vegas, though, will feel good for Willson. Then it's back to action next weekend, at a United States Tennis Assn. National "Warm Up" tournament in Long Beach. The tournament is a warm-up for the upcoming hard court season.

Friedman, meanwhile, was a doubles winner last week at the War by the Shore. But playing this week with a different partner, she found the going tough in Friday's finals.

After Friedman and Molnar lost the first set, they were up a break of serve, at 4-2, in the second set. But Brown and Taylor rallied, winning the last four games to capture the match.

"I was nervous at some points," said Friedman, who will be a sixth-grader at Newport Elementary. "We were really trying to focus and trying to win the second set. It was really tough. It got a little tricky."

Friedman's next tournament starts Saturday, the Lakewood Junior Open. She is playing singles, as well as doubles with partner Devyn Marinos of Los Angeles. Friedman knows what she wants to work on for the next time she steps on the doubles court.

"I think that I could have done a little better [Friday]," she said. "I was not hitting my backhand very well. I need to get more underneath the ball, and that's something I really need to work on. Also, my overheads. I should have hit a lot of overheads today."

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