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A Young Champion Headed Upward

August 12, 2015 04:49 PM
 
Abigail Desiatnikov shows off her second gold ball.

By Ron Cioffi/USTA Southern

It takes a lot of confidence for a 14-year-old to face off against a player who’s been in the top 400 in the world and then admit that the match slipped away.

But that’s the type of composure that Abigail Desiatnikov displays. That depth of mental toughness has earned her two USTA National Championships and the 2012 Girls’ 12s Orange Bowl trophy.

Abby, as she’s known, recently visited the USTA Southern office with her Girls’ 16s gold ball, which she proudly displayed. The Atlanta resident talked about her victory in San Diego where she was unseeded, because she’s been mostly playing in ITF and USTA Pro Circuit tournaments this year.

“The other girl in the final was a year younger than me. So that put pressure on me, that I was supposed to win,” she said. And win she did, defeating Whitney Osuigwe, of Bradenton, Florida, 6-1, 7-6(2).

Abby said the strongest part of her game is court positioning. “My advantage is I take everything early. As they’re recovering I’m already putting the ball on the court. I think that’s a big advantage. I’m taking their time away.”

Surprisingly, she found the opportunity to fine tune her game in a national championship as a way to prepare for the rigors of professional play. Commenting on her strategy in the Girls’ 16s, she said, “In this tournament I took a step back and was grinding a little more. … I was just working on my game.”

She had her biggest success on the USTA Pro Circuit this year when she advanced through qualifying and reached the round of 16 in Charlotte and Bethany Beach.

In Raleigh, she faced her biggest challenge. “I played Jacqueline Cako, who was in qualifying only because she entered late.” Cako , 23 has topped out at world No. 369 in 2010.

“I was up 5-2 in the third set, 40-15, and I choked and I lost. But it was still a great match and learning experience,” Abby recalled. “Against Jacqueline, you have to make each shot (with focus). She won’t give you a free pass.”

Her father, Eugene, is her full-time coach. Additionally, Brian de Villiers, who was the longtime coach of Melanie Oudin, is another metro Atlanta pro who is working on her game.

Abby moved down from Cleveland, Ohio, about the time she won the USTA National Girls’ 12s Championship played in Alpharetta, Georgia. “We moved because of the weather and so much more tennis around me,” she explained and spread her arms out as if embracing the hotbed of tennis in Atlanta.

Besides financial help from the Southern Tennis Patrons Foundation, she is also supported by the Atlanta-based National Tennis Foundation, headed by Volunteer Executive Director Remington Reynolds. The foundation awarded $157,000 this year to four organizations, according their website, nationaltennisfoundation.org.

 “We’re very thankful for all the support from the National Tennis Foundation and the (USTA) Southern Section,” Eugene said.

What’s next for this player with her vision on pro tennis? The victory in San Diego gives her a main draw wild card into the US Open Girls’. Plus, with one more USTA Pro Circuit or ITF main draw victory, she’ll earn her first WTA point.

“Just one more,” Abby added with a smile, her index finger - and attitude - pointing upward.

 

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