For two years, Anne Mall of Dana Hills had been playing high school tennis in the shadows of Keri Phebus of Corona del Mar.
On Friday at the Lindborg Racquet Club, Mall finally got a taste of life in the sunny side.
Mall upset Phebus, 6-3, 7-5, in a semifinal and later defeated Nicole Hummel of San Marino, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, to win the Southern Section girls’ tennis individual championship.
“I think my confidence level was up,” Mall said. “I knew I could win if I played smart.”
Dana Hills had a chance for a sweep, but its doubles team of Heather Bolton and Anna Zaricki lost, 6-1, 6-2, in the finals to Rolling Hills’ Stephanie Landsdorf and Amber Basica.
For Mall, it was redemption time. It was her first victory over Phebus, the two-time defending champion who won their two nonleague sets this year, 6-2, 6-4. Phebus, top-ranked nationally in the girls’ 18s, entered the match with a 28-0 record.
Mall, a junior who will skip high school tennis next season to concentrate on U.S. Tennis Assn. play, actually had a tougher time against Hummel.
She fell behind, 2-0, in the opening set but broke Hummel’s serve in the fifth and seventh games for a 6-2 victory.
In the second set, Mall aggravated a pulled groin muscle she sustained in the quarterfinals on Thursday, limiting her mobility and contributing to her second-set loss. She had the thigh taped between the second and third sets and was able to rebound, though it wasn’t easy.
Hummel tried to make Mall run by sending shots down both sidelines, but Mall was able to return many of them for winners. Mall clinched the match by breaking Hummel’s serve in the final game without giving up a point.
“It hurt a lot,” Mall said. “I kind of let her back in when I got hurt.”
Mall never gave Phebus much of an opportunity.
She jumped to a 5-1 lead in the opening set with aggressive play, and after a quasi-comeback attempt by Phebus, Mall nailed the set, 6-3. Phebus attempted to get aggressive herself but was never able to sustain momentum.
“I was just playing not to lose instead of playing to win. You can’t win when you play like that,” said Phebus, who also will pass up her last year of high school eligibility.
The doubles match was no contest from the start. The Dana Hills team could not get its serves in and was easy pickings for the Rolling Hills pair, which had breezed through tournament.