FOUNTAIN VALLEY — Nicole Knickerbocker comes from a tall family.
Her father, Louis, stands 6-foot-2. Her brother Brandon, who will be a sophomore at Newport Harbor High this fall, is 6-1.
Nicole, a 12-year-old, already stands 5-5.
“We’re expecting her to be at least 5-10,” said her mother, Diana.
Nicole Knickerbocker’s tennis game also seems to be growing day by day.
That remains true, even as she suffered a tough 7-5, 6-4 loss to Jordan Hickey of Los Angeles in a Southern California Junior Sectionals girls’ 12 round of 64 match Thursday at Los Caballeros Racquet & Sports Club.
Nicole, who trains at Newport Beach Tennis Club and will be an eighth-grader at Ensign Intermediate, is entering more and more big tournaments. She already has a big forehand. She showed it off, even in the loss.
“I was making more shots at the end of the match,” Nicole Knickerbocker said. “In the beginning, I was kind of tight. In the end, I was hitting more relaxed so I made more balls in.
“My backhand is OK, but it’s not as powerful as my forehand. When my forehand’s off, it’s a little bit difficult to win more games.”
She stayed in there against her opponent, who is also 12 but was several inches shorter and a lefty. Knickerbocker had three break points with Hickey serving at 5-5, but Hickey rallied to hold. She then broke Knickerbocker’s serve in the next game to take the first set.
Hickey opened up a 5-1 lead in the second set before Knickerbocker rallied to win three games in a row.
“Back on serve,” Diana Knickerbocker said, watching the match. “It’s always a nail-biter. It’s harder on the parents than it is the kids.”
She then watched Hickey break her daughter’s serve one last time, ending the competitive match. Hickey moves on to play No. 6-seeded Gracie Mulville of Simi Valley in a round of 32 match Friday.
Nicole Knickerbocker, who is coached by Craig Johnson at NBTC as well as her father, said she is seeing the improvement in her game. She also hits a lot at Corona del Mar High; Diana said she’s unsure where her daughter will go to high school.
“I think it’s going pretty well,” Nicole Knickerbocker said. “I’ve been winning a lot. I think I’m getting better and better, every time I play.”
In other main draw action Thursday at Junior Sectionals, No. 7-seeded Jenna Moustafa of Newport Coast defeated Shweta Kumar of Irvine, 6-0, 6-0, in a girls’ 14 round of 64 match. Moustafa plays Emilee Duong of Placentia in a round of 32 match at 2:15 p.m. Friday at Costa Mesa Tennis Center. Newport Beach resident Danielle Willson fell to Lola Gorbacheva of Los Angeles, 2-6, 7-6, 6-1, in another round of 64 match.
Newport Beach resident Austin Di Giulio, who defeated Govind Nanda of Redlands, 6-0, 6-2, in a boys’ 14s round of 64 match, was the other local winner Thursday. Di Giulio plays No. 5-seeded Ryan Seggerman of Coronado in the round of 32 at 11:45 a.m. Friday at Fountain Valley Tennis Center.
Three Newport residents fell in the boys’ 12s round of 64. Diego Fernandez was edged by Elijah Strode of El Cajon, 7-6, 5-7, 7-5, Thomas Day lost to No. 9-seeded Siem Woldiab of La Mesa, 6-0, 6-1, and Max McKennon lost to Max Cohen of Santa Barbara, 6-0, 6-4.
The older age divisions begin main draw play on Friday.