Playing in their first USTA Pro Circuit tournament was an exhilarating experience for two local residents on Tuesday, the first day of main-draw action at the first annual Central Coast Pro Tennis Open, a $60,000 women’s event taking place at the Templeton Tennis Ranch.
Granted a wild card into the tournament, Arroyo Grande High School 16-year-old junior Delanie Dunkle and current Gonzaga University junior from Nipomo Sophie Whittle battled a tough unseeded team of Hanna Chang and Lorraine Guillermo, falling 6-3, 6-3.
“We didn’t get much practice before and it was our first time ever playing together,” said Whittle, who was also granted the local singles wild card and will play her first-round match Wednesday against Francoise Abanda, the No. 3 seed from Canada who is currently ranked No. 114 in the WTA World Tour rankings. “It was fun to play an experienced team like that.”
Chang is 19 and has won two ITF Pro Circuit Futures singles tournaments during her career while Guillermo was a top player for four years at Pepperdine University.
Whittle will remain in Southern California this weekend and travel south to Pacific Palisades where she is entered in the ITA Women’s All-American, one of college tennis’ four Grand Slams.
Dunkle, whose father Bill is a local tennis teaching pro, said she was a little bit nervous before the match, but more excited. “It was close and I felt like we were in every point,” Dunkle said. “I knew we had to be aggressive at the net to have any chance, and I thought we did that pretty well.”
Dunkle said playing her first USTA Pro Circuit event was a thrill. “It’s going to be fun to tell everyone at school what I did today,” she said, adding: “This makes me want to go out and work that much harder so that hopefully one day I’ll be out here regularly.”
Three first-round main draw singles matches were contested on Tuesday with No. 7-seeded Anna Schmiedlova of Slovakia, Marina Erakovic of New Zealand and Laura Robson of Great Britain all capturing straight-set victories.
The 23-year-old Schmiedlova is currently ranked No. 164 in the world. She has won 11 ITF singles and two WTA singles titles during her career. She reached a career-high singles ranking of No. 26 in the world in 2015. Later in the day she teamed with Anna Tatishvili in a first-round doubles win.
The former Wimbledon Junior Girls’ winner Robson opened with a strong 6-1, 6-0 win over Italy’s Camilla Rosatello.
Like Schmiedlova, Tatishvili also won a singles match, her third in three days as she was one of four qualifiers to earn her way into the main day. She joined Russians Alisa Kleybanova and Elena Bovina, and former USC star All-American Sabrina Santamaria as qualifiers into the main draw.
Thirteen singles matches will take place on Wednesday with top-seeded Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland opening up against Newport Beach resident and recent USTA National Girls’ 18s champion Ashley Kratzer. Fellow Americans Taylor Townsend, Sonya Kenin, Jamie Loeb, Maria Sanchez, Louisa Chirico, Robin Anderson, Sachia Vickery and Danielle Lao are all on the schedule.
Admission to watch the exciting pro tennis is free during the week’s early rounds. On Friday night, Saturday and Sunday for the semifinals and finals, tickets are just $10, or fans can purchase a three-day pass for $25. Children 12 and under are free.