Monday, February 27, 2017

Ex-pro, 16-year-old win titles in Rio del Oro Open

Allie Will displays her trophy after winning the
women's open singles title at Rio del Oro in
Sacramento. Photo by Paul Bauman
   SACRAMENTO -- At the end of the 2014 season, Allie Will gave up a promising pro tennis career after only two years on the circuit.
   In her last singles match, the former University of Florida star lost to No. 376 Jasmine Paolini of Italy, 7-6 in the third set, in the first round of qualifying in the $50,000 Tennis Classic of Macon (Ga.).
   "I couldn't afford it," Will, a 25-year-old Fairfield resident, lamented Sunday. "Financially, it was really hard for me. I was kind of living week by week, and I think that was adding a little too much stress and took the fun out of the game for me. I rolled my ankle and was going to be out a little bit, I wasn't enjoying it as much, so I thought I'd go back and finish my education and go from there."
   Will didn't play in a tournament for 2 1/2 years (other than reaching the doubles quarterfinals in a $10,000 event in Gainesville, Fla., where the University of Florida is located, in March 2015).
   Last weekend, Will finally succumbed to the urge to play -- albeit at a much lower level. Seeded No. 1, she defeated No. 3 Muskan Mahajan, an impressive 14-year-old from San Ramon, 6-2, 6-1 Sunday to win the women's open title in the $2,500 Rio del Oro Open/Senior/NTRP at the Rio del Oro Racquet Club.
   Will lost only six games in four tournament matches.
   "It was just exciting to be out on a tennis court again after (2 1/2) years of not playing," said the 5-foot-10 (1.77-meter) Will, who did not play doubles. "It's just fun to be out here competing, and to end up with (the title) is exciting."
Jenson (J.T.) Brooksby, left, defeated Andrew Ton, right,
in a matchup of teenagers for the men's open singles title.
Photo by Paul Bauman
   Meanwhile, two junior stars met in the men's open final. No. 2 seed Jenson (J.T.) Brooksby, 16, of Carmichael wore down No. 4 Andrew Ton, 17, of Milpitas 6-4, 6-1.
  Brooksby reached the boys 16s singles final in the USTA National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., last August, and Ton won the 16s doubles title with Maximillian Wild of Murrieta, Calif.
   Brooksby is ranked second nationally in singles in the 16s.
   Will was born in San Mateo, grew up in San Carlos and moved to Boca Raton, Fla. After playing No. 1 on Florida's 2011 and 2012 NCAA championship teams, she gave up her senior year and turned pro.
   Will reached career highs of No. 280 in singles and No. 98 in doubles. Although she did not win any singles titles, she advanced to the final of the $25,000 Redding Challenger in 2012 and the semifinals of the $50,000 Sacramento Challenger in 2013. Will collected 11 ITF (minor-league) crowns in doubles.
   After earning a telecommunications degree at Florida, Will moved back to Northern California, where most of her family lives. She teaches at the Cello International Tennis Academy (CITA) in Fairfield.
Will beat Muskan Mahajan, an impressive 14-year-old,
in the final. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Will said she has no plans to return to pro tennis. But she doesn't rule it out, either.
   "I'm just trying to take it one day at a time, just trying to make sure I'm in shape," Will said. "If I really want to make that happen, I have to make sure my game is ready and I'm in the best shape I can be. Since getting older sometimes makes things harder, you have to make sure you take care of your body first."
  Brooksby, who has grown to 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters) and 135 pounds (61.2 kilograms), already has begun playing in professional tournaments as an amateur. He came within a tiebreaker of beating Argentina's Marco Trungelliti, ranked No. 153 in the world at the time, in the second round of qualifying in the $100,000 Stockton Challenger last July. Brooksby also qualified for $25,000 Futures tournaments in Berkeley last October and Long Beach last month before losing in the first round of the main draw each time.
   "It's fun," Brooksby, a home-schooled sophomore in high school, said of playing in pro tournaments. "It's good to compete against pros and see where you need to get."
   The biggest difference between the pros and juniors, according to Brooksby, is that the pros "won't give you any points. You have to earn everything."
Brooksby dominated in the second set
of the final with his impeccable ground-
strokes. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Brooksby broke Ton, a 5-foot-6 (1.68-meter) left-hander, in the last game of the first set before dominating with his impeccable groundstrokes.
   "I knew Andrew's game pretty well in advance," said Brooksby, estimating that he has played Ton five times, with mixed results, "but I felt I was hitting pretty big, running him off the court and backing him off the baseline. I knew he likes to come to the net a lot, so I was able to keep him back. I think I have the advantage there."
   Ton said his serve let him down in the match.
   "I've been a little injured the last couple days. That can't be an excuse. He played well, but I think it came down to the serve in the second set. The first set was really tight. Then in the second set, my serve just wasn't there," Ton admitted.
   Ton will play at Navy in Annapolis, Md., beginning in the fall, following in the footsteps of his 25-year-old sister Stephanie.
   "I wanted to get a great education while getting good competition in college tennis," Andrew explained. "I was also looking at the coaching staff and team. I wanted a place where they'll help me grow not only as a tennis player but as a person, and I've always wanted to serve my country. It's kind of been in my blood."
   Whether pro tennis is in Will's blood remains to be seen.

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