Monday, March 10, 2014
FALMOUTH — Returning to the scene of one of her tennis highlights from last summer, 15-year-old Meghan Kelley figured she might as well play some singles in addition to attempting to defend her mixed doubles title.
Meghan Kelley has moved up in the tennis world since winning the Betty Blakeman Memorial as a 12-year-old in 2010, and has opted for the junior circuit instead of high school competition.
John Patriquin/Staff Photographer
"I went in with really no hopes," Kelley said of the recent U.S. Tennis Association New England sectional tournament in New Haven, Conn. "I just wanted to play some good matches."
Kelley's first opponent was the No. 1 singles player for Fairfield University. Her second was a hot-shot 13-year-old originally from Romania.
Both were straight-set victories.
"After my second match, I had played very well, so I was excited," Kelley said. "It brought my confidence up."
Majorie Carol Ondeck, who played for the University of Memphis before turning pro, was Kelley's next victim. After a semifinal victory against a soon-to-be Princeton freshman, Kelley met Dayna Lord of Bloomfield, Conn., a rising freshman at Brown, in last Sunday's final.
Kelley prevailed in a third-set tiebreaker, 5-7, 6-1, 7-6 (8-6). A few hours later, she teamed with partner Daniel Quiceno, a 33-year-old teaching pro from the club where she trains in Manchester, Mass., to win the mixed doubles title for the second year in a row.
They beat Ondeck and partner Benjamin Zuckerberg 6-4, 6-2, and once more will represent New England at the U.S. Open National Playoffs in August at the New Haven Open.
"She was the biggest winner here, and she did it with class," said tournament director Todd Nicholson of Kelley. "She really impressed us down here at Yale, both on and off the court."
Should Kelley and Quiceno emerge from the field of 13 sectional winners at the August tournament -- and last year they reached the quarterfinals -- they would gain entry into the main draw of the U.S. Open mixed doubles tournament.
Similarly, should Kelley prevail in the women's singles event against the other 12 sectional winners, she would earn a berth in the U.S. Open qualifying tournament, in which a field of 128 competes for 16 slots in the main draw.
She's not expecting either to happen, but is grateful for the opportunity to return to the New Haven Open, where as a player she will share facilities with the likes of four-time champion Caroline Wozniacki and avail herself of perks such as free ice cream.
On Wednesday morning, Kelley took a break from rallying with her younger sisters Kate and Meredith on the clay courts of the Portland Country Club to reflect back on a year that included three trips abroad, and to look forward to another busy summer. Nearby, Jennifer Kelley played doubles with three other local mothers.
A home-schooled student who recently finished her freshman year, Meghan has moved up in the tennis world since winning Maine's biggest summer tournament, the Betty Blakeman Memorial, as a 12-year-old in 2010. Instead of playing for Falmouth High, which recently wrapped up its sixth straight Class B state title, she opted for training, traveling and higher-level tournaments including those on the junior circuit of the International Tennis Federation.
In September, Kelley played tournaments in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. In November, she played in Bolivia and Peru. In February, she played in El Salvador and Guatemala.
A handful of other junior players and a coach joined her on the first two trips. The third trip was only Kelley and a coach. She won a doubles title in El Salvador and reached the singles final in Guatemala.
"You get to see different aspects of the game, see how different tournaments are run," Kelley said. "You get to meet new people and see new players who aren't as fortunate as we are here and yet they still manage to become very good at what they do."
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