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Tennisace
Feb 26th, 2008, 10:30 AM
Cecil beats Nadja Gilchrist in the finals 6-4, 6-7(2), 7-5.

Top seed Cecil gains girls' 18 final berth
BY JAMES BECK (CONTACT)
The Post and Courier
Monday, February 25, 2008


The serve is about the only thing that's not spectacular about Mallory Cecil's current game. Her sore right shoulder is causing that problem.

Although she concentrated more on spin rather than power-serving in Sunday's girls' 18 semifinals of the Smash Junior Tennis Cup, the 17-year-old top seed from Spartanburg was too strong for fourth-seeded Keri Wong of Jackson, Miss. The 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) victory sends Cecil into today's 10 a.m. final against second-seeded Nadja Gilchrist of Rochester, N.Y., at Family Circle Tennis Center.

Gilchrist, who defeated Cecil in last year's Smash semifinals in their only previous meeting, turned back No. 3 seed Alison Riske of McMurray, Pa., 6-3, 6-4, in Sunday's other semifinal. Riske was the nation's second-ranked junior in 2007.

Cecil demonstrated why she is the nation's fourth-ranked junior and reigning Orange Bowl doubles champion with ferocious backhands down the line and deep, penetrating forehands. "The backhand down the line is my favorite shot," the Bollettieri Academy standout said.

Even then, the 5-5 Wong, who is bound for Clemson, concentrated on Cecil's backhand. "She plays my backhand most of the time. We just like to go back and forth to the backhands," Cecil said, referring to their numerous confrontations.

"We play all the time," said Wong, who is based out of Hilton Head Island's Van der Meer Academy. "I've beaten her two or three times, but she's beaten me more."

Wong's strategy paid off, with the help of Cecil's inconsistent serving as Wong survived one match point before coming up with a service break when Cecil served for the match at 5-4 in the second set. Once in the tiebreaker, Cecil's power off both sides wore her opponent into submission as she won seven of the last eight points.

"I have been working on my forehand, and it's finally paying off," Cecil said. "This is my first final here."

And that means Cecil is only one victory from earning a wild-card berth in the April 12-13 qualifying tournament for the $1.34 million Family Circle Cup.

Gilchrist, a big-hitting 5-8 player who lost a three-setter to two-time champion Nina Pantic in last year's Smash final, is headed for the University of Georgia on a tennis scholarship.

The event is officially named the Smash State Open Clay Court Junior Tennis Cup.