For the second straight year, Oyster Bay’s Julia Elbaba captured the women’s singles title at the U.S. Open National Playoffs Eastern Sectionals, defeating Briarcliff Manor’s Rachel Lim 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 in Thursday’s final.
Elbaba got off to a slow start in this match and struggled to find her rhythm early on. Lim took advantage of this, breaking in the third game to open up a 2-1 advantage. After three straight holds, Lim found herself with a 4-2 advantage, and she would break again for the 5-2 lead, going on to serve out the set 6-2.
But the former University of Virginia standout responded in the second set. She had a calm hold in the opening service game of the set, a huge mental lift after she dropped five of the last six games to close out the first set.
“That first game was so big mentally. It’s not actually a crucial game, but from a mental standpoint it was huge,” said Elbaba. “Rachel came out very strong today; she was definitely playing better than me early on. She was more confident and more consistent than I was, so I sort of had to regroup after losing that set.”
She did just that, playing much sharper and aggressive tennis. After Lin held to even things at 1-1 in the second, Elbaba rattled off the next 11 games, rolling to the three-set victory.
“I was a little too fired up in the beginning so I needed to sort of calm down,” said Elbaba. “I was able to hit with more margin. I didn’t aim for lines as much and decided to work the points a little more. I made sure that I stayed composed.”
Elbaba now advances to the U.S. Open National Playoffs Championships in New Haven, Connecticut from August 19-22. She fell in the final of that draw a year ago in a tight three-set match against fellow New Yorker Jennifer Elie.
“Last year I lost in the New Haven final, and I had a match point. So I definitely feel like I can go all the way this year, I have the confidence,” said Elbaba. “It’s a new batch of girls so there is going to be a lot of tough matches.
It’s always been my dream to play in the U.S. Open, so I am just going to continue to work hard.”
In the Men’s Singles final, Columbia’s Shawn Hadavi outlasted Myles Schalet 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. After Schalet forced a third set, Hadavi dominated the final set. He broke for the 2-0 lead, and after consolidating it with a hold, broke one more time for the 4-0.
From 0-5 down, Schalet trimmed the deficit down to 2-5, but Hadavi responded with a break in the eighth game to close things out and win the title.
“It was a really tough match and I was just happy to come out on top,” said Hadavi. “I was able to hit all the right shots in the third set.”
Hadavi advances to New Haven, where he will compete in the Men’s singles draw from August 19-22.
The St. John’s duo of Gustavo Loza and Vaidik Munshaw captured the men’s doubles championship, defeating the Princeton duo of Damian Hume and Alen Salibasic 6-2, 6-2.
Both sets looked like mirror images of each other, as Loza and Munshaw broke open 2-2 ties in each set, winning the final four games in each to notch the straight set victory.
“They were serving really well, and so we decided to just pick spots and go down the lines on a lot of the key points,” said Loza.
The men’s doubles championships will be held from August 21-24 in New Haven.
The women’s doubles final on Thursday consisted of four local high school players, as Oyster Bay’s Courtney Kowalsky and Jericho’s Samantha Galu took on Little Neck’s Michelle Sorokko and Brooklyn’s Dasha Kourkina.
Kourkina and Sorokko got things started early, breaking Kowalsky’s serve in the opening game to take the early lead. The two would take it over from there, winning 12 of the match’s 16 total games on their way to a 6-3, 6-1 victory.
“We play two-back and for us it’s a good strategy,” said Sorokko, referring to her and Kourkina both playing back at the baseline. “This is our fifth year playing together so we know each other’s movements really well.”
The pair hopes their chemistry and success together will transfer into New Haven.
“I know there are some pretty tough teams there so it will be a challenge,” added Sorokko. “But we’re excited to have the opportunity.”
Former Grand Slam champion Alona Bonadrenko-Dyachok paired with husband Nickolay Dyachok to win the Mixed Doubles title, defeating Madison Appel and Myles Schalet 6-2, 6-3.
With Appel serving in the seventh game of the second set, the Dyachok duo broke for the 4-3 lead, and one more break in the ninth game to close things out.
“They were a good team but I’m glad we were able to win. It was a lot of fun,” said Nickolay Dyachok afterwards
The Mixed Doubles championships in New Haven will take place from August 24-27.
To see more photos from Thursday's finals, Click Here.