The dream matchup in Central Section high school girls tennis ended in nightmare for the top seed Saturday afternoon.
Janie Ellis of Clovis West beat Tatiana Ruiz of Clovis North 6-7 (5-7), 6-1, 6-0 after severe cramps hobbled Ruiz beginning early in the second set on the Buchanan High courts.
Ellis, who came in as the No. 2 seed, won her third straight section title.
“It’s the best way to end my senior year and high school tennis,” said Ellis, who plans to walk on at Fresno State.
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Ruiz and Ellis, both seniors and former junior high teammates turned high school rivals, split two regular-season meetings this year.
Their matchup was a clash in styles. Ruiz used her speed, quickness and finesse to extend rallies and find opportunities, while Ellis used her powerful groundstrokes and serve to go for winners.
Ellis used a forehand winner to secure the first service break and a 4-3 lead in the first set, but Ruiz broke right back the next game and eventually forced the tiebreaker to pull out the first set.
“She played awesome in the first set,” Ellis said. “She just made more balls than me, so I was just going to do my best to keep everything in for the second set and not get too down on myself, just try to keep the momentum on my side instead of letting everything else affect it.”
Ellis came out blasting winners from the baseline to win the first game of the second set. Ruiz was forced to take an injury timeout during the changeover because she started cramping up.
“This has only happened once before, but not as bad as this,” Ruiz said. “I started cramping on my calves and then my thighs. It usually goes away, but it did not this time. I never felt this much pain playing a tennis match. I could barely walk. I was limping out there. It just sucks. It really, really sucks.”
Ruiz was noticeably limping between points when the match resumed and after falling behind, 4-1, she was forced to concede the second set, so she could get to the 10-minute break between the second and third sets.
When the third set began, Ruiz deployed the only strategy she had left, using an array of dropshots and lobs to try to stay in the match. But Ellis seized the opportunity to move in for the finish.
“It’s unfortunate,” Ellis said, “but like I said, I just focus in on myself, my game and not letting anything else affect it and play the best to my ability.”
Ruiz, who is being recruited by Azusa Pacific and Cal State Los Angeles, turned in a valiant effort to last the distance.
“I tried to hit shots where I was … not trying to move,” said Ruiz, who will try to lead the Broncos to the section Division I team title against Buchanan on Tuesday. “I knew if I were to press down on that muscle, it was just going to cramp right up again. So I tried to improvise with hitting dropshots, hitting lobs up as high as I can, walk back to the middle of the court, so I could get back in the point.”
In the semifinals, Ruiz beat her Clovis North teammate, fifth-seeded Mercedes Garcia, 6-2, 7-6 and Ellis defeated third-seeded Claire Yang of Redwood 6-3, 6-2.
Erica Paradise and Greta Krueger of Stockdale played singles during the team portion of the season before teaming up to beat Jordan Pickett and Ashley Cardot of Clovis North 2-6, 6-0, 6-1 in the semifinals and Kelly Crouch and Tori Mueller of Clovis 6-1, 6-4, in the finals to win the section doubles title.
“We’ve known each other for a long time,” Krueger said. “It was really nice to play with each other and we really wanted to win the title together, so it was just a really fun experience.”