CARLSBAD – Escondido resident Zoe Scandalis, 17, advanced into her first ever WTA draw tournament after besting Klaudia Jans-Ignacik of Poland in three sets at the Mercury Insurance Open qualifying matches July 31.
Scandalis, who is ranked No. 950 by the WTA, earned a wild card invitation into the qualifying matches after winning an opportunity tournament in Laguna Niguel. She said prior to the Open tournament that she was more confident in her game and was ready to show the players what she could do – and she did so in both of her matches over the weekend, beating Kai-Chen Chang on Saturday and Jans-Ignacik on Sunday, 5-7, 7-6 (4), 6-4.
In a match that went to three sets and lasted nearly three hours, both players endured several baseline rallies, which seemed to bring on fatigue for them throughout the match.
“I was tired at some of the ends of those points,” Scandalis said.
Scandalis may have shown some signs of fatigue, but showed no sign of quitting. Amid chants from the crowd of: “Let’s go Zo!” she was able to muster a second wind.
She said the support she received from fans was amazing. “I can hear them, they’re like pushing me forward, I’m getting tired in the match and I can feel their energy and their hearts just wanting me to push forward and just push, push, push. That helps so much,” she added. “I got my mom screaming, and I got my dad…and my best friends all here. Oh, my gosh, it’s amazing.”
During the match, Scandalis requested time with her coach several times, admitting afterwards that she wasn’t hitting the ball very well. “I kept hitting short and short and short…and he kept telling me to hit it out of her strike zone and deep,” she said. “It was funny because almost every time he came out, for some reason, I couldn’t do what he told me to do, and then it took me like three games to actually do it, and then he’d come out again, and then we’d kind of start over.
“He had great things to say, I just like couldn’t absorb them, or something,” she said.
“I wasn’t actually hitting the ball that well at all; I just fought my heart out. I wasn’t serving well, I couldn’t find my serve, by the end they just told me to spin it in. Everything was off, but I was just like, ‘no, I’m just going to fight, fight, fight, fight.’”
Scandalis showed great poise and attitude on the court even after leading 4 games to 1 in the second match and allowing Jans-Ignacik to rally back and force a tie-break. She attributes her strong attitude to her dad Will, she said.
“My dad has always told me to look at the best athletes in the world like Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and they’re like stoic, so positive, it’s like perfect, it’s kind of crazy.”
Scandalis will face her first professional opponent of the tournament in 19-year-old fellow American Christina McHale on the stadium court Monday night.
She said she loves every minute of her experiences, adding that she was so nervous and excited on Saturday and then was so much more excited on Sunday when she would hear the sound of the ball when she hit a big serve or forehand.
“I didn’t even expect to – I was just going out here to see what I could do. This is crazy; I have no words.”
For tickets and full schedules, visit mercuryinsuranceopen.com.