There were some terrific finals played on Saturday under much better conditions than Friday…cool but relatively calm.
The 55s final was played between Martha Downing, the top seed and Chieko Holt, the defending champion. Downing, playing in her first national clay court final, eked out the first set 76, the difference being her willingness to go forward. Holt though, kept Downing off balance the rest of the match, keeping the ball deep, defending beautifully and mixing up deep drives and beautiful drop shots. Holt won the 2nd set 62, with the 7th game of that set, which went on for a long time, being the critical game. Downing rallied from 14 in the 3rd to level the set, but Holt held her nerve to finish the win and defend her title. Sue Bramlette took the bronze by default over Kerry Young.
Downing didn’t go home without a gold ball though…filling in for an injured Margie Cooper, she teamed with Young to beat Cindy Leprevost/Sue Bramlette 61 64. Babb/Peiffer took the bronze.
The match of the day though was that between Heide Orth, the defending champion, and Charleen Hillebrand, who beat Orth in their last encounter (in NZ on hard courts). Orth won the first set and led 54 40-0 in the 2nd, but failed to finish off Hillebrand…a couple of fine shots by Hillebrand and an error by Orth and the match points were erased. Hillebrand tied the match at a set apiece. I saw the third set which was full of incredible tennis by perhaps the two best 65 players in the world, at least on Saturday. They used every inch of the court, going from deep in one corner to the opposite service line; drop shots and volleys, offense and defense…it was all there. Hillebrand seemed especially fond of the area just inside, on and outside the lines…she hit a lot of lines going for her shots and made Heide do a lot of running. Orth played slightly more conservatively (a foot from the lines), and that paid off, since she earned a 53 lead in the third when Hillebrand missed a few shots after extensive rallies, and Orth also made some nice volleys after opening up the court. At 53, Hillebrand increased her aggressiveness, hitting early, and forged to a 65 lead. Orth then raised her game, hitting some nice aggressive serves and groundstrokes and running Charleen ragged. Orth won the tiebreaker 73, scoring with drop shots and Hillebrand seemed the more fatigued player in the final few points.
After that match, the two faced each other in doubles, Orth pairing with Lurline Fujii and Hillebrand with Suella Steel. Fittingly, the match went 3 sets and the defending champs pulled it out. Uta Hegberg/Diane Willauer upset Sinclair Bill/Cathie Anderson in three sets.
Angela Simon remained undefeated in the 35s, beating Julie Cass 62 63 and teaming with Amy Alcini to win the doubles over Cass/Michelle King.
On Saturday, Cass had a real battle with Rachael Gale, holding off set points in the first set to win it 76, then dropping the 2nd 61 before storming back to win the third 62. Gale had upset the 3rd seed, Trish Riddell on Friday in three sets. Gale beat Shelly Works 60 63 to finish third.
Mai Ichikawa/Erika Smith rallied from 36 15 down to upset Phillipa Palmer/Margaret Kitchen in the quarters, (and from 56 0-40). (Final score: 36 76 30 ret.). Smith had turned to Ichikawa at 1-5 down and commented that their comeback would be the main dinnertime conversation…and of course it was). They lost 63 63 to Alcini/Simon and went on to beat Hartley/Hulsen (who upset Cooke/Croft in the quarters) 75 63 and claim the bronze.
Susan Boyer won her 2nd gold ball in Houston, teaming with Fran Chandler to beat Emily Schaeffer/Kathy Vick 75 61. They missed very few shots in winning the title. Cooke/Croft edged Fahrenholz/Lackey in the ¾ playoff, 75 in the third.
Nancy Reed cruised to the 75s title on Saturday (after barely escaping from the semis, where she was match points down to Mary Boswell), beating Anneke Balics 60 62. Boswell beat Ann Munro to take the bronze 60 61.
Betty Cookson/Dodo Cheney won the 85 doubles.
That’s it from Houston.