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Vazquez perseveres to capture Girls 18 title at Texas Grand Slam

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Cassandra Vazquez lost three consecutive points in the biggest game of her Texas Grand Slam championship match and squandered four match points in the final game, but she still managed to take the title.

What Vazquez did after those trials proved to be the difference as she beat top-seeded Rhiann Newborn 6-4, 6-4 in the Girls 18 Singles final on Thursday afternoon at the Mitchell Tennis Center.

Vazquez recovered from wasting three break points to win a marathon ninth game that was the key to the opening set. Later she survived failing to convert on her first four match points, holding on to win the state's largest junior tennis tournament for the first time.

"Just knowing that I'm the state champion at such a young age, that's big," Vazquez said. "I'm really happy."

Vazquez, who trains at the Westside Tennis Academy in Houston, turned 16 last month and will be a junior in the fall. She could have competed in the Girls 16 bracket but opted to "play up" for the second consecutive year.

Seeded third, Vazquez rolled to the title without dropping a set in six matches. Her path to the final was smoothed when No. 2 seed Liza Fieldsend lost to unseeded Maria Smith in the quarterfinal round. Vazquez beat Smith 6-0, 6-0 in the semifinals.

"I was kind of concerned about the semifinal match, but the No. 2 seed getting knocked out really helped me yesterday," Vazquez said. "After that, I felt really confident."

Newborn and Vazquez held serve through the first eight games before the pivotal ninth. Newborn overcame a love-40 start but missed on three game points before Vazquez finally broke and then held to take the first set.

The second set was filled with service breaks until Vazquez held to win the match. She missed on a couple of good chances to end it, then banged a backhand down the line for a clean winner to end the one-hour, 53-minute match.

"That wasn't a very smart shot," Vazquez said. "It was kind of like a do-or-die. After I lost those match points the nerves started to get to me. At that point I just went for it."

The 18-year-old Newborn, also from Houston, won the Girls 16 championship two years ago. She survived a couple of three-set matches on her way to this year's final.

"It was a good tournament, very competitive," said Newborn, who hopes to turn professional. "I played my best and I lost, but at least I lost in the final."

The Grand Slam crowned two other singles champions Thursday, both in the 14-year-old division. Steven Christie of New Braunfels beat Christopher Muniz of San Antonio 6-3, 6-2 for the boys title. Tamijean Fumagalli of New Braunfels topped Alexandra Champion of Houston 6-3, 6-4 in a well-played girls final.

In the Girls 12 Singles semifinals, Bryan's third-seeded Jacy Smith lost to No. 1 seed Jasmin Tripathy of Lubbock 7-5, 6-0. Smith will play for third place against Katherine Jakeway of The Woodlands at 10 a.m. Friday.

Friday's singles finals will be Boys 18s at 8 a.m., Boys 16s at 10 a.m., and Girls 12s at 10 a.m.

The championship match in Boys 12 Singles will be at 9 a.m. Saturday.


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