ASHLAND A pair of Aussies and impressive young wild card doubles team continued their march Friday at the Braidy Industries $60,000 Women’s Tennis Classic.
Seventh-seeded Ellen Perez and No. 8 Zoe Hives, both from Down Under, advanced to the singles seminals with straight-set victories at the Ashland Tennis Center.
Because of a beaming sun and temperatures in the upper 80s, it was common to see players being shaded under umbrellas held by volunteers during changeover breaks in the second-year USTA Pro Circuit event.
Nothing seems to faze doubles partners Vladica Babic (Montenegro) and Julia Rosenqvist (Sweden) in their first tournament together.
The recent Oklahoma State grad and current Cal player are part of an initiative by the International Tennis Federation and Grand Slam Development Fund to help top college players gear toward the professional level.
Babic and Rosenqvist have taken the opportunity — thanks to a wild card from tournament chairman Dr. Jack Ditty — and run all the way to the finals in Ashland. They beat top-seeded Hayley Carter and Megan Manasse 7-6, 6-1 in the semifinals and will meet Sanaz Marand and Caitlin Whoriskey today for the title.
“It’s very special,” Babic said after the duo’s third win this week. “Our games complement each other and we also have a great coach (Petra Russegger).”
Added Rosenqvist: “We’re both aggressive players and try to keep it simple.”
Marand and Whoriskey beat Maria Sanchez and Katie Swan 6-2, 6-2 in the other semifinal.
In singles, Perez dispatched last year’s tournament runner-up — Manasse of California — 6-2, 6-3 — while Hives rolled past qualifier Hanna Chang 6-1, 6-3.
It’s been a big week for Australia in Ashland. The other Aussie in the 32-player main draw, Abbie Myers, secured her spot by winning two matches in the qualifier. Myers added a first-round victory before losing to Hives in the Round of 16.
Perez, 23, grew up in the Sydney area before moving to Melbourne at age 16. She made her first Grand Slam singles appearance at the 2016 U.S Open.
The former University of Georgia player was sharper Friday than during her three-set win over Catherine Harrison in the previous round.
“I was able to dictate today with my forehand and serve,” Perez said. “Everybody in these tournaments is really good. If you’re not playing at a high level, anybody can beat you.”
During her stay, Perez is receiving tournament housing with the Archer family in Huntington. She’s also enjoyed warm hospitality while playing on the recently resurfaced ATC courts.
“The courts are great,” Perez said. “Staff and volunteers have been lovely people.”
Today’s semifinals begin with Hives facing American Robin Anderson at 11 a.m., followed by a matchup between Perez and Great Britain’s Swan.
At No. 5, Anderson is the highest remaining seed and entered the tournament ranked 176th. The 26-year-old from Matawan, New Jersey, defeated Alexa Glatch 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals.
“I felt like I was able to step in, be aggressive and make her move quite a bit,” Anderson said. “Moving is a strength for me. If I can make it a running kind of match, I feel I have a good chance.”
Swan, unseeded, continued her strong run by knocking off third-seeded Ann Li from Pennsylvania 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. The previous round, Swan upended defending champion Gail Brodsky 6-1, 6-2.
In her quarterfinal triumph, Swan took a medical timeout for ankle treatment after winning the first set. Li pulled even and then rallied from a 5-1 deficit in the third set to win three consecutive games. Swan, down love-30 on her serve, reeled off the next four points — including back-to-back aces — to close out the match.
Though Babic qualified for the main draw in singles and won her first-round match, she feels like her strength rests elsewhere.
“I’m very into doubles more than singles,” she said.
Thursday night, however, Babic won $500 for first place in the Tiebreaker Prize Money Tournament.
Babic defeated Jake Stringer 10-8 in the first round as eight of the tournament’s women swept male opponents from the area. Babic added three more wins, defeating Dabin Kim in the final.
“It was so great,” Babic said. “None of the other tournaments do that. You get to compete, but it’s fun with the amateurs and all the people cheering. You’re giving back to the community, too.”
Ditty added a $250 prize for the runner-up.
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