IOWA CITY — Yana Gaskell walked around the court briskly, rested quickly and played quickly, as if she didn't have a second to lose.

She had to be patient for one thing, however. The state championship trophy.

Gaskell needed just 30 minutes to blank Fairfield High School teammate and two-time defending state champion Anatta Charoenkul in straight sets and cap a near-bulletproof performance Thursday at the Class 1A state singles and doubles tournament at the Hawkeye Tennis and Recreation Complex. Gaskell lost two games in four matches over two days to win a title she was determined to have.

"Anatta has always been one of those players who was better than me when we were younger, but she's also someone who has really pushed me. You can be up 5-0 and the next thing you know, you're down 5-0 against her," said Gaskell, who finished the season 23-0 and handed Charoenkul her only two losses (23-2). "It was really good to prove myself against her."

Last year, Gaskell led Charoenkul 4-1 in the second set before losing five straight games and a chance at the championship. This time, she didn't give Charoenkul a sniff at victory. Only twice did a game get to 40-30 as the top-seeded Gaskell overpowered second-seeded Charoenkul with forehands and backhands, all set up by a conservative serve.

"It was strategic," Gaskell said of her serves. "I didn't like my first or second serves, so I just wanted to find consistency. I kind of let the rest of my game compensate for that."

Charoenkul, who finished her career with two state titles and two runner-up finishes, heaped nothing but praise on her teammate two years younger.

"Yana's game has improved so much. She was determined to win and she's such an amazing player," Charoenkul said. "I'm disappointed today, but really happy with my career because tennis has taught me so much, especially being here. I've learned a lot from this sport."

Either way, Fairfield coach Heidi Grunwald couldn't lose for the second year in a row.

"It's awesome for this to happen to them," she said. "Yana really stepped it up today; it was almost like she was out to get Anatta. They practice against each other a lot, but they also do a lot of hard work on their own."

Gaskell said the briskness of the match was part of the plan. She believed it was to her advantage to keep the match moving.

"I didn't want to give Anatta a chance to think," she said. "We're really close and we both are a part of a tennis family. I just told myself I wasn't going to lose today.

"I played some of my tennis today than I had in a while."

Gaskell lost her only two games of the tournament at the outset of her semifinal against Grinnell's Macy Harris. Harris won long points to take a 2-0 lead in the first set. Then, Gaskell simply went on a tear. She won deuce games in each set to complete the 6-2, 6-0 win. Taking a 3-2 lead in the first set started a run of 12 consecutive wins to finish the tournament.

"I was tight early on. The first game (against Harris) I overhit, and the second game I went backward and hit it too softly," Gaskell said. "That's when I just settled down and played tennis."

Charoenkul had a tougher time in her semifinal against third-seeded Sophie Walker of Red Oak. She won the first set 6-3, but fell behind 4-2 in the second before tying the set on a lunging backhand shot. She finished with four straight wins, the last game on the third deuce point, to advance to the championship.

Charoenkul was aiming to become the eighth player to win three state singles titles.

"It was frustrating today at times, but I just have to accept it," she said. "You have to give a lot of credit to Yana. She had great placement shots and a lot of hard spin shots. I tried to play my own game, but she was the better player today."

Chad Drury can be reached at cdrury@ottumwacourier.com, and on Twitter @ChadDrury

0
0
0
0
0