Newport’s Rebecca Lynn wins at Junior Sectionals

Newport Beach resident Rebecca Lynn, shown competing on June 26, 2017, has reached the round of 16 at Junior Sectionals in the 18s despite being just 13 years old.
Newport Beach resident Rebecca Lynn, shown competing on June 26, 2017, has reached the round of 16 at Junior Sectionals in the 18s despite being just 13 years old.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Rebecca Lynn is among the most promising players competing in this week’s Southern California Junior Sectional tennis championships, but that doesn’t mean that winning is among her chief goals.

This is about experience, about development, and the 13-year-old phenom from Newport Beach has bigger aims down the road. The sectionals are more a means to an end, and what she wants more than anything else is to “have fun.”

Of course, triumph is more fun than the alternative, so Thursday’s 6-2, 6-3 victory over 16-year-old Sasha Tolstoff at Los Caballeros Sports Village in Fountain Valley was a nifty step forward as Lynn, playing up two age levels, tackles her third girls’ 18 event.

She advances to a round-of-16 showdown Friday afternoon against Lisa Wagner, a high school senior from Camarillo who has won her first two matches through walkovers, reaching the third round when Laguna Beach’s Kelly Keller withdrew to attend her high school graduation.

Lynn, a home-schooled high school freshman-to-be, reached the girls’ 14s championship match at last year’s Southern California Sectionals, has reached three tournament finals since and won the girls’ 16s consolation title at a USTA national event in February. She’s using tougher competition to push herself.

“Right now I’m just trying to develop my game,” said Lynn, the No. 9 seed. “I just feel the 18s, they’re great players in the 18s — bigger and stronger and they play a bigger game — so I just wanted a challenge, I guess.”

Tolstoff, also playing up an age level, provided one with a sharp serve and well-placed shots, but Lynn’s consistency made a difference. Lynn played largely from the baseline, more so than her foe, and Tolstoff’s attempts to make shots rather than keep rallies going led to costly errors -- particularly shots into the net.

“She’s a great player, very well-rounded, a very good mover, and I think that I might have gone for my shots too much,” said Tolstoff, a home-schooled high school junior from Lake Elsinore. “I wasn’t really accurate enough on the crucial points, and she’s a very disciplined player. So next time I’ll be more ready for that.”

Lynn broke Tolstoff five times, including successive opportunities to take charge of and then claim the first set and then open a 3-0 lead in the second set. Tolstoff then won three of four games, breaking Lynn for the second time to trim the deficit to 4-3, before Lynn answered with a break in the penultimate game, then swept the final game, claiming the victory with a well-placed passing shot.

The only deficit to Lynn’s game: Twice she approached the net for dink shots, knocking the ball into the net both times.

“I was a tad bit frustrated by that,” she said, “but I was luckily able to let it go and keep playing my game.”

Taking her game to the next level, and beyond, is the priority.

“I’m just trying to develop my overall game, physically and mentally,” she said. “At this point, I’m focusing on one step at a time and keep going forward. Winning anything is not my priority right now.”

SCOTT FRENCH is a contributor to Times Community News. Follow him on Twitter: @ScottJFrench