Keisha Clousing is not going to play tennis Sunday and Monday.
The Wheaton Warrenville South junior earned the brief vacation after winning the Illinois State singles championship with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Alex Solovyev in the finals Saturday.
But it was the two matches before the final that proved to be the biggest challenges to Clousing’s determination and stamina.
In the quarterfinals Clousing defeated Carmel freshman Brienne Minor 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 in a grueling match that lasted more than three hours. Brienne is the younger sister of Jasmine Minor, who topped Clousing in the state finals two years ago when the Tiger was a freshman.
After losing the first set Clousing ran everything down and played attacking tennis, her greatest strength during the entire tournament.
“I knew coming into Saturday that I had to play my best to win,” Clousing said. “And it was aggressiveness that won it for me. I was attacking and hitting well from both my forehand and my backhand.”
In the semifinals Clousing had another marathon match, taking more than two hours to defeat Alex Chatt of Lyons Twp. 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.
“After the match with Minor, Keisha got that look in her eye that I’ve seen,” said Keisha’s mother and high school coach Patti Clousing. “That look says, ‘I know I’m going to win.’ As a parent, you know when your child believes in herself. But Alex is a great player and she didn’t just give up, so Keisha had to fight all the way.”
In the third set Clousing spent a lot of her time fighting to catch up. She was down 4-3 and then put away the final three games.
“Playing those two matches was like playing three matches,” Keisha said. “It’s really unusual to have two long matches like that in a row. Going into the finals I had confidence early and I maintained that to win the championship.”
The semifinals and finals wins were especially satisfying because they came against the players who defeated Clousing in last year’s semifinals (Chatt) and the third-place game (Solovyev), which gave her some sense of closure after last year’s fourth-place finish.
“I feel overwhelmed with everything today,” Keisha said. “I was so happy right after I won that the excitement and thrill went through my body. It was an amazing feeling. But now I feel exhausted.”
“Everyone was amazed at Keisha’s athleticism,” Patti Clousing said. “Her balance, her competitiveness, her quickness and her skills were all working for her at just the right time. I told her going into today that great athletes believe in themselves when greatness is needed. There were so many moments today that could have gone either way. But she never gave up.”
Lake Forest’s Maddie Lipp and Christina Zordani won the doubles title and Lake Forest won the state team championship with 39 points.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.