ASHLAND The biggest win of Gail Brodsky’s professional career will certainly lighten her workload in the coming weeks.
She arrived in Ashland without a spot in the main draw of the Braidy Industries $60,000 Women’s Tennis Classic. Brodsky earned her place in the bracket through qualifying and will leave a champion after she defeated Maegan Manasse, 4-6, 6-1, 6-0, in the title match on Court 1 at the Ashland Tennis Center.
It’s been a whirlwind six months for Brodsky after returning to professional tennis at the urging of her husband, she said to the large crowd on hand during the awards ceremony.
Brodsky could not contain her emotions after the winning point when she approached the net to shake hands with her competitor. She said she was still “in shock” after the match.
“I just can’t believe it,” Brodsky said. “The week has been kind of a blur. I definitely got lucky in a few matches. I could have lost in my first-round match. I am so happy I was able to pull through. Maegan is a friend and an amazing competitor. I knew that she would come out fighting, so I knew I had to give it all I had today.”
Brodsky’s victory will put her in the main draw of upcoming tournaments. It was a welcome thought to Brodsky after a grueling yet satisfying week in Ashland. She had to finish her qualifying matches on Tuesday after the main draw had already started.
Brodsky defeated the No. 5 seed the next day in the midst of seven straight wins. It did come with a well-timed break after the No. 2 seed had to withdraw three games into their quarterfinals match with an injury on Friday. She said it was unfortunate for her opponent, but it gave her some much-needed rest.
“I was lucky enough to get a bye in the first round of qualifying,” Brodsky said, “but today was my seventh match of the week. It definitely is a grind. It’s difficult because you have to stay focused so many days in a row. … Physically, I got lucky in the quarterfinals when my opponent withdrew at 2-1. That was one of the days I was physically struggling. It helped me make it through the week.”
Manasse’s schedule was just as crowded. The Californian was on the court every day of the tournament but persevered to her first finals appearance in a $60,000 tournament.
“It’s definitely been a long one coming through qualifying,” Manasse said. “I counted, and I played 10 matches in eight days, including two doubles matches. I really have to put this match aside and take this whole tournament in and realize I’ve done such a great job. I am looking forward to my next couple of tournaments.”
Manasse broke serve in the seventh game of the match with the assistance of three straight unforced errors from Brodsky.
Manasse won two of the next three games to take the first set. It didn’t take long for Brodsky to regroup as she broke serve to take a quick 2-0 advantage in the second.
“My biggest advantage right now is the fact that I’m playing for the love of the game,” Brodsky said. “I feel no pressure to win. I am playing because I love the sport and I love competing. I am happy being out there every single minute of the day right now.”
Brodsky duplicated that feat several times over the course of the final two sets. She took two more service games in the second from Manasse to even the match.
“Gail definitely started playing much better in the second and third sets,” Manasse said. “She hit a lot of great balls that I just didn’t have an answer for. I was trying to get my rhythm back, but she was just too good for me today.”
Manasse’s usually strong groundstrokes that found their mark in the first set started to falter late in the match. Brodsky turned her play around during the same stretch and closed out the match, winning the third set at love.
“Once in a while, I can flip a switch and things start to come in focus,” Brodsky said. “I am able to pinpoint my shots, zone in and compete a little harder.”
After the conclusion of the match, Brodsky’s first call was to her family back home in Seattle. The mother of two said she receives so much support from her family.
Brodsky and her husband coach out of a USTA regional training center in Kirkland, Washington. Her class watched the finals match on the Internet.
“My family is very happy,” Brodsky said. “I got so many texts from people back home. Some of the kids that my husband and I coach were able to watch on the live streaming. I got a photo of a couple of little girls sitting around their phone watching. It’s such an incredible and special feeling.”
The roles will be reserved next week when Brodsky heads down Interstate 64 for the Lexington Challenger tournament. This time around she gets to wait and see who she plays while others compete in qualifying.
Brodsky won’t forget her experience in Ashland anytime soon.
“I actually played in this event 10 years ago before I stopped playing,” Brodsky said. “The last year that they had it was 10 years ago. I was able to make it to this one. The organization here is incredible. Jack and Juanita Ditty do an incredible job of making sure the players are happy and everyone is taken care of. I think this is an incredible event.”