Sunday, November 4, 2018

Ma subdued, Jackson 'excited' after winning Sectionals

Second-seeded Connie Ma, left, beat fifth-seeded Katherine
Duong 6-2, 6-4 for the girls 18 title in the NorCal Junior Fall
Singles Sectional Championships. Photo by Paul Bauman
   FOLSOM, Calif. -- Connie Ma didn't so much as pump a fist after winning the girls 18 title in the NorCal Junior Fall Singles Sectional Championships.
   The tiny 15-year-old's subdued reaction today was understandable, considering that she excelled in low-level professional tournaments over the summer and helped the United States win the Junior Fed Cup in Budapest, Hungary, in late September.
   In comparison, Ma's march to the NorCal title was easy.
   "Maybe, but the competition was still pretty good from the quarters until the final," the second-seeded Ma, only 5-foot-3 (1.60 meters) and 95 pounds (43.1 kilograms), said diplomatically after beating fifth-seeded Katherine Duong 6-2, 6-4 in a matchup of San Francisco Bay Area players at the Broadstone Racquet Club. "The last set of the final was pretty tight."
   That was the only time in the tournament that Ma lost as many as four games in a set. She dismissed fifth-seeded Vivian Ovrootsky, ranked fifth nationally in the 14s, 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals and fourth-seeded Amber Marie Lee 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals.
   In contrast to Ma, winning the Sectional boys 18 title for the fourth consecutive time (in the summer and fall) was a big deal for Ryder Jackson. The second-seeded Jackson, a 17-year-old resident of Nicasio in the Bay Area, downed ninth-seeded Luke Casper, 15, of Santa Cruz 6-2, 6-4 in the final.
   "I think this is my last one, so I'm real excited to go out on top and play as well as I could," said Jackson, who will head to USC next year. "It's a lot of pressure to deal with because everybody wants to beat you. To handle the pressure and play as well as I did, I'm really happy about that."
   Casper, ranked 16th nationally in the 16s, sprained his left ankle when Jackson wrong-footed him while serving at 3-4, 30-15 in the second set. Casper favored the ankle the rest of the way.
Second-seeded Ryder Jackson, left, downed ninth-seeded
Luke Casper 6-2, 6-4 for his fourth consecutive NorCal
Sectional boys 18 title. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Ma, from Dublin, reached the quarterfinals of a $25,000 hardcourt tournament in Baton Rouge, La., as a qualifier in June, stunning then-No. 373 Emiliana Arango of Colombia in the first round of the main draw.
   Ma then qualified for the $60,000 Berkeley Tennis Club Challenge before losing in the first round to eighth-seeded Mayo Hibi, then ranked No. 187, advanced to the final of a $15,000 event in Evansville, Ind., and won the Evansville doubles title.
   So why play in the NorCal Sectionals?
   "To keep playing tournaments," Ma explained. "I need to work on match play and get a feel for competing still."
   Duong, from Cupertino, almost had to hit a perfect shot to win a point against Ma. Sometimes, even that wasn't enough. Ma generally kept the ball in play until Duong, ranked third in the 16s and fifth in the 18s in Northern California, made a mistake.
   "Connie is probably one of the best movers out there, so it's really hard to hit winners against her," said the 16-year-old Duong, who eliminated top-seeded Ashley Yeah in the quarterfinals and third-seeded Klara Kosan in the semifinals. "She's also really consistent, so you have to out-rally her, which is one of the hardest things to do as a tennis player. That's what makes her one of the best players in the nation."
   Jackson also did not lose a set in the tournament, although third-seeded Daniel Baturyn of San Leandro extended him to a tiebreaker in the semifinals.
   The 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Jackson overpowered the 5-foot-9 (1.75-meter) Casper in the first set, but Casper worked his way back into the match in the second set before his injury.
   "His serve was way more consistent than mine, and he got more balls back," lamented Casper, who demolished top-seeded Aryan Chaudhary 6-0, 6-1 in the round of 16.
   Third-seeded Brian Chong and fifth-seeded Rhea Rai, both of Cupertino, won the boys and girls 16 titles, respectively.
   Chong outlasted top-seeded Brian Bilsey of Belmont 1-6, 6-4, 7-5, and Rai beat unseeded Maryia Hrynashka of Rancho Cordova 6-4, 6-4.

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