COSTA MESA — A squirrel ran across the top of the fence Saturday afternoon at the Costa Mesa Tennis Center, and attention went from the players to the furry creature with the bushy tail.
Corona del Mar resident Dan Day wasn't really too impressed.
"If you gave me a tail, I could do that," he said while watching his daughter, Eliza, in her opening match at the 108th annual Southern California Junior Sectional Championships.
Eventaully the squirrel scaled down the inside of the fence and ran onto the court. Moments later, Eliza walked off it, after suffering a 6-2, 6-3 loss to Ally McKenzie of Glendale in the girls' 14 singles round of 128 match.
Eliza wasn't too upset. She thanked her family members for coming and went to throw around a football with some of them. Eliza Day, 13, has been playing mostly satelite tournaments, trying to work her way back from a knee injury.
"I played a lot of soccer before," she said. "That's probably what caused it."
But she battled McKenzie valiantly on Saturday. After losing the first set, she went up a break of serve early in the second. Serving at 3-2, she had a long deuce game but was eventually broken, and McKenzie had the momentum.
"It would have been 4-2 and I could have come back," said Day, who is in an independent study program and hopes to attend a tennis academy next year. "It could have gone to a third set."
Yet she hung in there tough. Most of the remaining games were close, yet McKenzie closed out the match by winning five games in a row.
The last game was tough as well. With McKenzie serving at match point, her shot clipped the tape and just bounced over the net.
Day probably couldn't have caught up to that shot, even if she was the squirrel. But she wasn't down after the match.
"The first set I was just going for too much," she said. "The second set I think I just calmed down and played my game more, but [McKenzie] played really well too. It was a tough match."
Eliza talked to her cousin, Emily, who was also entered in the girls' 14s draw but also lost earlier Saturday. Her younger cousin Thomas is in the boys' 10s draw but also fell in his opening match.
Eliza's younger brother, Danny, is 8 and already playing tournaments but wasn't entered into the tough junior sectionals.
So tennis is all the family, and Eliza Day hopes to keep progressing. She is good at staying focused, whether its during a match or looking at the big picture and trying to come back from an injury.
"It's the past," she said. "I think you have to forget about it and move on. You're playing points right now, and I think you have to just focus on that."