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Skylar McDonald, a student at Fayetteville High School and A-AA TSSAA state champion, continued the momentum she gained from the title with a third place finish in the Southern Closed held in Macon, Ga.
The Southern Championships are comprised of the best 14 and under tennis players from Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and Kentucky. Each state receives a certain number of spots that automatically qualify, and the rest of the draw is comprised based upon players’ ranking.
To qualify for the Southern championships, McDonald had to get endorsed by Tennessee at the Tennessee Qualifying tournament held June 1-6 in Murfreesboro Tennessee at Old Fort Park, the same location where she had won the state title.
“Skylar has worked hard this summer to improve her serve and conditioning,” said Coach Jonathan Brown. “She has an exceptional commitment to improve her game and play with the best.
“She was tested early in the Southern but finished with the win,” Coach Brown added. “The good thing about that tournament is as long as you’re winning, you only have to play one match a day.
“With her results, she qualified for the National Clay Courts held in Florida and the National Hard Courts held in Georgia but decided there would have been a conflict with school starting and decided not to compete.”
At the Tennessee Qualifying tournament, McDonald entered the competition with 51 other players. She was seeded number 2. McDonald received a bye to start the tournament in the round of 64. First up, she met Kylie Lee from Lookout Mountain. McDonald cruised to a 6-0, 6-0 win. In the round of 16, McDonald took on Peyton Sessions, the 16 seed from Lakeland, and came away with another impressive win, 6-1, 6-0.
In the quarterfinals, she played Julia Adams from Knoxville who was the 6 seed, and McDonald won 6-2, 6-2.
The semifinal is where the tournament began. McDonald met Claire Sullivan from Memphis whom she has played numerous times over the years in always-tight matches. This match was no different. McDonald came away with a 7-5, 7-6, win that took over three hours to complete with temperature in excess of 95 degrees and heat indices well over 110.
The finals started about an hour after the semi, and McDonald could not overcome the number 1 seed, Ally Bojczuk from Nashville, who came away with a tight, 6-4, 6-3, win.
McDonald also teamed with Claire Sullivan to claim runner-up in the doubles, losing the finals, 9-7, to the top seeds. After two runner-up finishes at the Qualifier, McDonald was off to the Southern Closed.
The Southern Closed was held in Macon, Ga. One hundred and sixty of the best players in the South qualified for the tournament.
The top 32 seeds were given a double bye into the round of 64. McDonald entered the tournament as the number 5 seed.
In the first round of 64, McDonald was tested early by Amber Lackey from Norcross, Ga. McDonald hung on for a 6-4, 6-3, win.
McDonald came back in the round of 32 with an easy 6-0, 6-1 win over Arienne Haynes from Cary, N.C.
In the round of 16, McDonald ran into a familiar foe in doubles partner and the 17 seed, Claire Sullivan. Different courts bring different conditions, and McDonald cruised to a 6-1, 6-3, win.
In the quarterfinals, McDonald met Mallory Gilmer from Woodstock, Ga., who was the number 3 seed. The left-handed Gilmer has given McDonald trouble in the past but not in this tournament with Skylar coming away with a 6-3, 6-2, win to advance to the semifinals.
In the semis, waiting was the number 2 seed Alexis Bortles from Alpharetta, Ga. McDonald has been unable to develop a solid game plan against Bortles and was soundly defeated, 6-1, 6-0.
With the defeat, McDonald played in the 3-4 place match against the 9 seed, Katherine Muzik from Mableton, Ga. McDonald has been very successful against Muzik in the past, and this tournament was no different, with Skylar cruising to third place with a 6-1, 6-1, win.
McDonald also advanced to the round of 16 in doubles, losing a tight 8-6 match with doubles partner Claire Sullivan.
With her third place finish, McDonald moved to a career-high number 8 in the South, according to the USTA rankings. The Southern Closed will probably be her last 14 and under tournament before moving up to play in the 16 and under. McDonald’s serve, which she has been concentrating on in training all summer, was clicking in every match, except her semifinal loss.
McDonald currently has a 52-20 record with 6 of those losses coming from Bortles.