Willson a winner

NEWPORT BEACH — Danielle Willson definitely was able to smile a little bit more Friday afternoon at The Tennis Club Newport Beach, and it was easy to understand why.

On Thursday, Willson fell in a tough girls' 14 singles semifinal at The Tennis Club Junior Tournament, better known as the "War by the Shore." But the Newport Beach resident was able to come back the next day and earn a title.

Willson and partner Emilee Duong of Placentia, the top-seeded team, defeated No. 2 Shweta Kumar and Ashley Teng, 6-3, 6-0, to win the girls' 14 doubles title.

"I'm more happy because I actually won something," said Willson, who earned her first War by the Shore title. "I mean, it's better to win where you live."

Willson was actually the only Newport-Mesa resident to win a title. Corona del Mar High players Kenzie Purcifull and Riley Gerdau fell to Michelle Lo of Hong Kong and Le Yu Jin of China, 6-2, 6-1, in the girls' 18 doubles final. And Newport Beach resident Nicole Knickerbocker and partner Michelle Hung fell in the girls' 12 doubles final to Wing Ka Lin and Adithya Karunaratne of Hong Kong, 6-2, 6-2.

Willson, ranked No. 50 in Southern California in girls' 14 singles by the United States Tennis Assn., is plenty familiar with her partner Duong. They won a tournament in Lakewood in May.

They raced out to a 5-0 first-set lead before Kumar and Tang began to rally.

"We just made careless mistakes, but then we just picked ourselves back up," Willson said.

Willson has more tennis ahead. She said she's on the waiting list for next week's Costa Mesa Summer Junior Classic. And later this month, she said she will participate in the USTA Zone Team Championships in Colorado Springs, Colo. for the first time.

Purcifull and Gerdau had a tough championship match in the 18s. From 1-1 in the first set, Lo and Jin won four straight games before Gerdau was able to hold serve.

It was similar in the second set. After Purcifull held serve to begin the set, the Hong Kong team reeled off six straight games.

"Coming into this match, we were really intimidated," Gerdau said. "Not only were they good, but we were just not reciprocating the goodness. It's just embarrassing that we lost like that; I can't believe it. At least we made it this far. I'm happy about that."

They don't have to feel too bad. Lo, just 16, is a top junior player in Hong Kong. She won the girls' 18 singles title earlier Friday.

Lo said this is the third title she's won at the War by the Shore. Three years ago she collected 14s singles and doubles titles, and five years ago she did the same in the 12s.

"It's a great experience," Lo said of coming to California. "I like the weather."

Purcifull and Gerdau are gearing up for the CdM girls' tennis season. Gerdau will be playing singles next week at Costa Mesa, and doubles with CdM teammate Siena Sharf.

"We've gotten so much better than last year," Gerdau said of the Sea Kings this year. "The difference from last year to this year is amazing. We're getting better and better."

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