July 17, 2011
ATLANTA - Tennessee senior Natalie Pluskota won her first career professional tennis title with a 7-5, 4-6, [10-8] decision in the doubles draw of the Norman Wilkerson Memorial Tournament. Alongside Florida's Alexandra Cercone, the duo knocked off the tournament's top three seeded teams to claim victory on the USTA Futures circuit.
"It feels really good to win," Pluskota said. "Alex and I worked really well on the court together. We had tough matches. To beat the one, two and three seeds is pretty exciting. It's exciting to win the whole thing just because it was our first time and it's good to get that first one out of the way because we know we can compete at that level."
The pair trailed 5-2 to start the championship match before winning the next five games to take the first set. An even match through two sets, Pluskota and Cercone battled through adversity to win a tightly-contested 10-8 tiebreaker against the No. 2 seeded pairing of Alexandra Hirsch and Amanda McDowell.
Pluskota and Cercone swept their way to the tournament semifinals, including a 6-3, 6-2 victory versus the top-seeded tandem of Angelina Gabueva and Federica Grazioso. After dropping the first set, 1-6, the doubles champions forced set three and prevailed.
Pluskota, who owns a 76-23 doubles record at Tennessee, is a two-time ITA All-American doubles and All-SEC selection. In 2010, Pluskota was a part of the ITA doubles team of the year, paired with former Lady Vol Caitlin Whoriskey.
Norman Wilkerson Memorial Tournament
Doubles Main Draw
Round 1: Natalie Pluskota(USA)/Alexandra Cercone (USA) def. Aleah Marrow (USA)/Amanda Rodgers (USA), 6-2, 6-4
Quarterfinals: Pluskota/Cercone def. Angelina Gabueva (RUS)/Federica Grazioso (ITA), 6-3, 6-2
Semifinals: Pluskota/Cercone def. Lauren Herring (USA)/Sanaz Marand (USA), 1-6, 6-4, [11-9]
Final: Pluskota/Cercone def. Alexandra Hirsch (USA)/Amanda McDowell (USA), 7-5, 4-6, [10-8]