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Championship Week
Desiatnikov Wins First Gold Ball

Abigail Desiatnikov was the No. 1 seed last week at the USTA Girls 12 National Championships in Alpharetta, Ga., but getting her first Gold Ball in singles was no easy sitter for the 11-year-old from Gates Mills, Ohio.

Girls' 12s Champion Abigail Desiatnikov
© Doug Wrege, TennisRecruiting.net
Desiatnikov beat second-seeded Ellie Douglas of McKinney, Texas, 7-6, 6-4 in the final. That's the same opponent who trounced Desiatnikov 6-1, 6-2 in the USTA Clay Court National Championships semifinals a month earlier, where Desiatnikov earned her first Bronze Ball.

In the rematch, Desiatnikov was up 4-2 in the first set, but found herself down 4-5 and 5-6. She fought to save three set points and won the set in a tiebreaker 7-4. Desiatnikov then trailed 1-4 in the second set before winning the final five games.

Match point was an inside-out backhand winner.

"I was very confident I could win," Desiatnikov said. "Even when I was down 0-3 and then still down 1-4 in the second set, I felt like I was up 4-1. I was patient this time. I knew I could play better than I did in Boca Raton [at the clay courts]."

A home-schooler, Desiatnikov is expected to be named the No. 1 player in the class of 2019 on TennisRecruiting.net when they begin official rankings next month. Although Desiatnikov has been in the top 10 on the USTA Girls 12-and-under rankings for the past two years, this victory will for the first time move her ranking to No. 1 in the rankings scheduled to be published Aug. 16.

Desiatknov had unexpectedly tough matches in the rounds of 32 and 16 in Georgia.

Against Sara Choy of San Francisco, Desiatnikov trailed 3-5 in the first set but won 7-5, 6-4. In the next round, Desiatnikov lost her only set of the tournament but rallied to beat Taylor Johnson of Redondo Beach, Calif., 2-6, 6-0, 6-2.

Desiatnikov's father and coach, Eugeny, said those early matches toughened his daughter up. "She expected to walk through, but she had to fight," he said. "Abby is lucky she encountered such great players so early in the tournament. It kept her on her toes, kept her alert."

In the next round, Desiatnikov beat one of her closest friends on the junior circuit, Amanda Anisimova of Hallandale Beach, Fla., 6-2, 6-3.

"They practice together and they're really even, but Amanda had easier matches, and Abby might have been better prepared because of those two tougher [earlier] matches," Eugeny said. "That's when her belief in herself started, in that round. She dominated from then on."

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Page updated on Wednesday, August 12, 2015
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