Tammy Encina upset the No. 12-ranked Sara Walker of UCLA, 6-3, 6-1
May 20, 2003
Junior Tammy Encina of the University of Tennessee Lady Vol tennis squad faced one of her most challenging opponents of the season in the second round of the NCAA Singles Championship at Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, Fla., on Tuesday. Although the odds appeared to be stacked against the Miami Beach, Fla., native, Encina made No. 12-ranked Sara Walker of UCLA look nothing more than ordinary en route to a 6-3, 6-1 win. Encina, rated 59th nationally, captured All-America kudos with the victory as well, becoming UT's third honoree this year. Lady Vol senior Vilmarie Castellvi and rookie Melissa Schaub also earned the recognition by virtue of their seedings in the singles and doubles tournaments.
"I'm incredibly proud of Tammy," said UT Co-Head Coach Sonia Hahn-Patrick. "She's come a long way and has a lot of things to aspire for next year. She truly earned and deserves this honor."
Encina came out with a fury of powerful topspin ground strokes against Walker, and after the two spit the first couple of games, Encina chalked up four in a row for a 5-1 lead. Walker managed to strike back by taking the next two games, but Encina closed out the opening set by getting her first serve in when it mattered most.
Things did not start off so well for Encina in the initial game of the second stanza. Unforced errors plagued her and allowed Walker to gain an easy 1-0 advantage. After flushing the game from her memory, Encina went to work and dominated Walker the remainder of the set. Walker had several chances to get back into it, the first of which came when she trailed 3-1 but held a 40-15 lead serving in the fifth game. Encina, though, was not intimidated by Walker's upper hand and went on to win the next four points for a 4-1 advantage. After fighting off one break point in the next game, Encina held serve and broke Walker once again for the 6-1 triumph.
"I'm really excited about this win," said Encina. "I didn't get too nervous. I stayed focused and kept to my game. I didn't get too concerned with winning or losing, but just going out and playing well.
"It feels great to keep advancing. I'm not going to put any pressure on myself. I just want to go out and have fun. All I want to do is play solid and not get nervous. I'm having a lot of fun right now."
With the victory, Encina moved her record on the year to 26-14, including a 14-9 mark versus ranked foes. She extended her winning streak to seven matches and improved to 4-0 in NCAA play. Encina now faces the daunting chore of tangling with Northwestern freshman phenom Christelle Grier, who moved on with a 6-3, 6-3 decision against No. 28 Lindsay Dawaf of Florida. Grier holds a ranking of ninth but is seeded No. 2 in the tournament. The heavy hitter from Surrey, England, is 37-6 this season and also boasts the distinction of handing Castellvi two of her four losses this season. Grier was recently named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's (ITA) National Player to Watch as well.
Before Encina stepped onto the Stadium Courts, No. 1-ranked and top-seeded Castellvi found herself in a fight to stay alive in the tournament with No. 29 Maja Mlakar of Arizona. Both players came out tentative in the first set and errant shots covered the court. Mlakar eventually found some rhythm and began overpowering the quick-footed Castellvi with blistering forehand winners that painted the lines. Mlakar went on to hand Castellvi only her fifth defeat in a set this spring by a 6-4 count.
After conferring with Hahn-Patrick between sets, Castellvi began to play her game in the second frame, grinding Mlakar down with tiring rallies. The Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, native snatched a 3-1 lead after winning a deuce game on her opponent's serve that appeared as though it would never end. The win ended up being the turning point for Castellvi, as she cruised to a 6-3 victory to force a third and decisive set.
Obviously fatigued from the grueling points Castellvi forced upon her in the second set, Mlakar began to go for broke on every ball to end the rallies quickly in the final frame. Mlakar's strategy, however, backfired as she suffered many hitting miscues the remainder of the match. Castellvi wasted no time in getting off the court with a 6-0 victory to her extend her unbeaten stretch to 21 matches.
"She (Mlakar) came out hitting and probably played the best tennis she's ever played in the first set," Castellvi said following the match. "She played extremely well, hitting every line on the court, and I could barely reach some of her shots, but she wasn't able to sustain that level. I was just trying to get the ball back, make her play as many balls as I could, and she couldn't keep that level going for three sets, so I think that was the deciding factor. I didn't change my game, I didn't change my strategy, I just kept trying to put balls back into play, and it went my way today."
Castellvi will put her 42-4 record on the line tomorrow against Duke's 19th-rated Amanda Johnson, who advanced after an exhausting three-setter versus No. 79 Megan Bradley of the Miami Hurricanes, 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(6). Castellvi upended Johnson back in September, 6-2, 6-0, to claim the singles title at the adidas Invitational in Peachtree City, Ga.
Following Encina's and Castellvi's victories, the NCAA Doubles Championship kicked off, but it did not go well for the Big Orange's lone tandem in the field. The No. 4-seeded Castellvi and Schaub suffered a 6-3, 6-4 setback at the hands of Jennifer McGaffigan and Michelle Webb of Illinois. Castellvi and Schaub, ranked No. 5, held a 3-2 lead in the second set, but the Fighting Illini's 25th-tabbed duo laid claim to the next three games for a 5-3 advantage. Schaub was able to hold serve the following game, but Webb closed out the 6-4 conquest on her serve.
Castellvi and Schaub ended the year with a 26-10 record. Castellvi's career mark in doubles of 97-63 stands fifth on the school's all-time wins list.