Monica Robinson reached the finals of the CIF San Diego Section individual tennis tournament at the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego before losing to Victoria Robertson in the championship match.
Robertson, a Patrick Henry High School junior, won the championship with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Robinson, who is a senior at Oasis High School and played for Fallbrook High School’s tennis team.
Robinson was given the top seed in the singles tournament and earned byes for the first two rounds. She began tournament play November 7 with a pair of 6-0, 6-0 victories over Julie Lee of San Marcos and Lynn San Ramon of Mater Dei.
Robinson faced Patrick Henry junior Lindsay Brown, the tournament’s eighth seed, in the November 8 quarterfinals and prevailed in 6-2 and 6-1 sets.
“She put up a good fight. She ran down a lot of balls and she was good at re-setting the ball,” Robinson said.
Robinson won the first two games of the first set before Brown won the next two games. “I was kind of rushing my serve,” Robinson said.
Robinson then won the final four games of the set and the first two games of the second set. Brown’s only win in the second set was in the third game.
“She played really well,” Brown said of Robinson. “Her forehand was strong.”
Robinson’s quarterfinal win gave her a November 8 semifinal match against Del Norte senior Kylie Haviland, a former Murrieta resident who began her competitive tennis career with tournaments at the Fallbrook Tennis Club and who still trains with Fallbrook Tennis Club pro and Fallbrook High School girls coach Dave Ramirez.
“We have the same coach, so I knew it was going to be tough,” Haviland said.
“It was exciting. I’m just happy for them both,” Ramirez said of two of his players reaching the semifinals. “It’s just wonderful. It’s awesome.”
Robinson took 6-0 victories in both sets. “It’s a little disappointing ending with a loss like this,” Haviland said.
“She played really well to get to this point, this far in the tournament,” Del Norte coach Cherise Meoli said of Haviland.
“She’s just an offensive player on another level, so I had to play a lot of defense and that’s not my game,” Haviland said of Robinson.
“She has a great serve,” Robinson said of Haviland.
“I was in the zone playing against her,” Robinson said. “My serve, I was mixing it up well.”
“Monica was always in control,” Ramirez said.
“Monica is by far the strongest,” Meoli said. “She’s like a whole different level.”
In both of her sets against Robinson, Haviland had game point in the first game before Robinson came back. “That’s something about Monica. She plays the big points really well,” Haviland said.
“I just played each point at a time,” Robinson said.
In the first game of the second set Haviland had a 40-0 lead before Robinson captured the next five points to win the game. “Played each point at a time. I wasn’t thinking about how I was down,” Robinson said. “Once it was deuce I kind of knew I had the game.”
“It doesn’t matter who she’s playing, she sticks to her game plan,” Ramirez said of Robinson. “She plays each point like it’s her last point.”
Ramirez also noted that Robinson adjusts her plans based on opponents’ strength. “Monica has a game plan for when a girl serves pretty well,” he said.
“I think Kylie was pleased with her performance,” Meoli said. “She was pretty much on her game. Her serve helped her a lot.”
“I was really happy for Kylie. She had a great tournament,” Ramirez said.
“I’m sure Dave has some things he wants to work with me on after this match,” Haviland said.
Robinson and Robertson not only faced each other in the finals but also faced a weather forecast which included a 50 percent chance of rain November 9. Tournament officials promised a decision by 10:00 that morning whether to play that afternoon or on Wednesday, November 14. The decision was to play on Friday, although the traditional format of the singles championship following the doubles championship was altered with both matches being played concurrently in an attempt to finish ahead of the storm.
“I’m happy that we got to play on Friday instead of having to play on Wednesday,” Robinson said.
The 1:00 starting time meant that Robinson’s parents arrived later in the match. “I was a little bummed that my parents didn’t get to arrive right on time,” Robinson said.
Robinson lost to Rancho Bernardo’s Jana McCord in last year’s singles finals, which began after the conclusion of the doubles championship match.
“I don’t think it made a difference,” Robinson said of the earlier starting time. “It was different that we didn’t have a chair umpire this year.”
Finals umpire Bob Christianson split his time between the singles and doubles matches and watched from the sidelines rather than from in the umpire’s chair.
The doubles match as well as the singles match went three sets. The rain didn’t start until about an hour after the conclusion of the matches, but the wind exceeded that of the normal coastal breeze at the Barnes Tennis Center.
“There were a couple of times where the ball would just drop,” Robinson said.
“It was really windy today, but that’s usual for Barnes and I had a home court advantage,” Robertson said.
Robertson lived in Ocean Beach, which is just west of the Barnes Tennis Center, before moving to the San Carlos area which feeds into Patrick Henry High School. Robertson takes lessons at the Barnes Tennis Center.
“She felt comfortable in the environment,” Robinson said. “It was her home court but I play at Barnes, too, and I know it gets windy.”
Ramirez noted that the match was Robinson’s first of the tournament on the stadium court. “At center court the wind, it swirls down there a little bit,” Ramirez said. “That took us a little while to get adjusted to.”
Ramirez emphasized that Robertson’s play was more of a factor than the wind. “You can’t take anything away from Victoria and her ability to fight as well as she did,” Ramirez said.
“I don’t feel like it was a big issue,” Robinson said of the conditions. “Everybody has to adjust to the wind.”
Robertson is in the top 20 of the Southern California Tennis Association under-16 rankings. She won the Eastern League tournament and was undefeated in Eastern League sets. The loss to Robinson in the second set of the finals was Robertson’s third of the year; her other losses were in non-league matches including one against Haviland.
“She tends to win the big points, and that’s the difference,” Patrick Henry coach Karen Ronney said of Robertson.
“I think Monica has that ability, too,” Ramirez said.
“She knows how to close and she does it every time,” Ronney said of Robertson. “She has a sense for knowing when to hit the big points and when to go for the right opportunities.”
“She got Monica’s best ball back,” Ramirez said.
“You’ve got to give credit to Victoria hitting a lot of balls back,” Ramirez said. “Victoria did a wonderful job giving Monica another ball to hit.”
Robertson was seeded third in the CIF tournament and advanced to the finals with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Bishop’s junior Kelly Shaffer, this year’s second seed whose CIF tournament loss last year was to Robinson in the quarterfinals.
Robertson won the first two games of the finals. Robinson won the third game, Robertson took a 3-1 lead, and Robinson narrowed her deficit to 3-2 before Robertson won the final three games of the first set.
“Monica went into the match a little tight and kind of put a little too much pressure on herself, I think,” Ramirez said.
“I guess I was trying a little bit too hard,” Robinson said. “I got a little too nervous, a little tight.”
“Monica wanted it very much,” Ramirez said. “With any player when you think about winning it distracts you from the task at hand.”
Robinson won the first game of the second set. Robertson overcame Robinson’s advantage point to win the second game and then won the next two games for a 3-1 lead.
Robinson then won the final five games of the second set. She won all four points in the last game and won the set with an ace.
“I felt more relaxed in the second set,” Robinson said.
“I started going for my shots,” Robinson said. “I was really thinking about one point at a time.”
Robertson won the first game of the tiebreaking set. Robinson won the next two games, and Robertson then won the next four games to take a 5-2 lead.
“I started thinking about winning again,” Robinson said. “That can be a player’s worst enemy.”
The requirement to win by two points as well as score four points to win was triggered in the third through sixth games of the final set. Robertson took four of the six points in the seventh game. “It was close,” Robinson said.
The eighth game of the set included ten points with Robinson scoring six of those to narrow the score to 5-3. Robinson won four of the six points in the ninth game to move to within one game of Robertson.
“Unfortunately things didn’t go my way. I had a couple of unforced errors,” Robinson said. “It was a bummer.”
Robertson won four of the five points in the tenth and final game of the third set. Robertson had match point after Robinson’s return was long and won the match after Robinson double faulted on match point.
“Monica fought hard. She always fights hard,” Ramirez said. “As a coach I’ve got to be proud of her.”
“She played well at the end and fought back,” Robertson said. “Third set I fought as hard as I could.”
“I think Victoria has a way of pulling out amazing shots and incredible performances when she needs them most,” Ronney said. “She just finds a way to make the shots that she needs.”
“The most important factor for Monica was she was just too tight,” Ramirez said. “When she did relax she played her very, very well.”
Robinson had defeated Robertson in 6-2 and 6-1 sets in a Southern California Tennis Association tournament two weeks earlier.
“That’s the cool thing about tennis,” Robinson said. “Anyone can have their day.”
“She still fought really hard,” Ramirez said of Robinson. “She had a really hard and really big fight in her game.”
“It was my best fight and I was happy with the way that I fought,” Robinson said.
“Even after the loss Monica’s attitude was pretty solid,” Ramirez said. “Her attitude was: ‘Let’s go back to work. I want to fix this today.’”
Robinson, who will play collegiate tennis at Notre Dame next year, will also play in tournaments throughout the year. “That’s the great thing about tennis. The season never ends,” she said. “I look forward to working hard and redeeming myself.”
“I just want to congratulate Victoria on a good match and Monica on a great season,” Ramirez said.
Robinson, who attended Fallbrook High School in ninth and tenth grades before spending her final two high school years at Oasis, was on Fallbrook’s varsity as a freshman. She did not play high school tennis as a sophomore and returned to the team as a junior. Robinson has been taking lessons at the Fallbrook Tennis Club since she was 12.
“I’m just really happy that I got to have such great memories,” Robinson said. “I’m just really blessed to have a great group of people that support me and support my tennis.”
Fallbrook also had an entry in the CIF doubles tournament. Juniors Nataliya Yamkova and Skyler Schaar were given the twelfth seed and byes in the first two rounds. They opened play November 7 with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Gianna Heaviland and Sarah Galant of San Dieguito Academy.
“They won their first match pretty good,” Ramirez said.
Yamkova and Schaar then faced seventh-seeded Sarah Kikivis and Agostina Waisfeld of Torrey Pines. Yamkova and Schaar took a 7-5 victory in the first set while Kikivis and Waisfeld won the second set by a 6-4 score. For all matches other than the finals the CIF tournament does not play a full third set but rather a tiebreaking game to ten points if the players split the first two sets.
Yamkova and Schaar had match point at 9-8 and 10-9, but Kikivis and Waisfeld took the final three points for a 12-10 victory in the tiebreaker.
“The difference in the match was just a few unforced errors at the wrong time,” Ramirez said.
“They fought really hard, which was pretty cool,” Ramirez said of Yamkova and Schaar.
“They put themselves in a position to win,” Ramirez said. “Unfortunately they just fell a little short.”