Nothing came easily for either Kida Ferrari or Presley Southerland in Ferrari's 6-4, 6-4 victory Tuesday in the United States Tennis Association's Southern Closed 16's Championships at Rebsamen Tennis Center in Little Rock.
The round-of-32 match affair began in full sunshine in temperatures that rose from 85 to 90 degrees throughout the 1-hour, 36-minute match. According to the National Weather Service, the heat index increased from 95 to 101. Though eventually done in by Ferrari's powerful forehand, Southerland's tenacity impressed her opponent.
"She definitely gave me a run in the match," said Ferrari, 15, of Fairhope, Ala. "She was tough."
The assets that put Southerland in the winner's bracket reflected those that allowed her to enter the tournament in the first place -- a bundle of willfulness and persistence that helped her overcome a back injury and the effects of seven months spent in a back brace last year.
"I hadn't seen any of these girls for a while," Southerland said.
Southerland said lower back pain had bothered her through much of the fall of 2016. She said she played through a full schedule of matches and that the pain continued to increase. In January 2017, Southerland, 16 of Little Rock, was diagnosed with a fractured L5 vertebra and was subsequently required to wear a back brace through the winter, spring, and summer.
"I couldn't do any physical exercise," Southerland said. "I could walk. They let me walk, but I couldn't do anything else."
The brace was removed in time for her to spend her sophomore year as a home-schooled student in New Braunfels, Texas. That allowed her to attend the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch as she was able to return to competition in the fall. Southerland said she first played at a tournament in Mobile, Ala., and that she was pleased to make it through all four days of play.
"I did really well," Southerland said. "I made it to the last day. I made it all the way through."
Against Ferrari, Southerland fought back from significant disadvantages in both sets. In the first, she trailed 4-2 before a successful serve and break tied the set. In the second, Ferrari took a 4-1 lead, but Southerland rebounded to pull within 4-3 and 5-4.
"I was definitely concerned at 4-3 in the second set," Ferrari said. "She was starting to come back even though I'd been way up, but she brought it back. You can't take your foot off the pedal, or she's going to come back. In the last game, at 5-4, I expected her to stop more. I mean, it's almost done. The match is almost over, but she just kept going. I thought she would get tired, but she never did."
It was the first time the two had played, but Southerland said other players had told her of Ferrari's talent and that it stood out.
"I knew she was a solid player," Southerland said. "I knew she would be very tough. She's very consistent. She gets everything back. Her game makes you stay patient, calm, and cool-headed."
Sports on 06/13/2018
Print Headline: Southerland makes Alabaman work for victory