| By New York Tennis Magazine Staff
Photo credit: Kenneth B. Goldberg

The United States women’s tennis team has won the gold medal and bronze medal in girls singles tennis at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico. The number two seed, New York’s Irina Falconi captured the gold medal after defeating Puerto Rico’s Monica Puig, 6-3, 6-2. The last American woman to win a tennis gold medal at the Pan American Games was Pam Shriver in 1991.Another local product, the top-seeded 19-year-old Christina McHale from Englewood Cliffs, N.J., won the bronze medal, defeating Argentina’s Florencia Molinero, 6-1, 6-1.

Currently ranked 77th in the world, Falconi turned pro 18 months ago following a stellar two-year career at Georgia Tech, where was named the 2010 College Player of the Year. She had her best result as a professional at the 2011 U.S. Open, reaching the third round after upsetting Slovakia’s Dominika Cibulkova in the second round in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Falconi competed in the three other Grand Slam tournaments this year, qualifying for the Australian Open and Wimbledon and winning a USTA playoff to earn a wild card into the French Open. 

Currently ranked a career-high 42nd, McHale became the youngest player in the WTA Top 50 after reaching the third round of the 2011 U.S. Open where she defeated the number eight seed, Marion Bartoli of France in the second round. Three weeks prior, McHale upset the top-ranked women’s player in the world, Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, at the Olympus U.S. Open Series event in Cincinnati. McHale trains at the USTA Training Center-East at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., and was one the first players to train full-time at the USTA Player Development Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla., as part of the residency program from 2007-2010.

The Pan American Games are held every four years in the year immediately prior to the Olympic Games, and tennis has been contested at the Games since the event’s inception in 1951. Among the Americans who have won a gold medal in singles at the Pan American Games are Althea Gibson (1959, singles), Arthur Ashe (1967, mixed-doubles), Patrick McEnroe (1987, men’s doubles), Pam Shriver (1991, singles, women’s doubles, and mixed-doubles), and Paul Goldstein (1999, singles).