Big-hitting Hayley Carter of Hilton Head Island’s Smith-Stearns Academy has done it again.
She survived a marathon Sunday to win her second straight girls 18 title in the Dunlop Junior Tennis Championships. A wild card into the qualifying tournament for this spring’s Family Circle Cup accompanied Carter’s 4-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-4) win over top-seeded Stanford-bound Taylor Davidson of Statesville, N.C.
“I was just hitting the ball well,” said Carter, a 5-11½ Columbia native who has signed with the University of North Carolina.
Carter is hoping for better luck in this year’s Family Circle qualifying tournament than a year ago when she ran into red-hot Melinda Czink of Hungary and failed to make the main draw. Czink not only advanced to the main draw in 2012, but is now ranked 105th in the world.
But defeating the talented Davidson was a big accomplishment for Carter. “She’s a great player. She beat me in straight sets in September,” Carter said about Davidson, who finished 2012 as the 22th-ranked girls 18 player in the nation.
Playing on the clay at Family Circle Tennis Center was an advantage for Carter. “I train on clay year-around at Sea Pines,” she said.
At any rate, this final day was a little easier for Carter than a year ago when she had to play four matches on the last day. She only had to play three matches Sunday.
Carter started slowly, losing four of the first five games before rallying to 4-4. “I mixed up my game, using some slice and that got her (Davidson) out of her rhythm,” said Carter, who also relied on her big serve and heavy topspin to pull her through on a long Sunday.
Carter had to go to a pair of tiebreakers, including a third-set match tiebreaker, before overcoming Josie Kuhlman of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., 7-6, 3-6, 1-0, in a semifinal that featured the last two champions of this tournament. Carter had defeated No. 4 Sydney Campbell of Franklin, Tenn., 6-0, 6-3, in a quarterfinal played earlier Sunday.
Carter holds the record for the most career girls titles at Belton’s prestigious Palmetto Junior Championships, breaking Charleston native Janice Durden’s record when she notched her 14th title in 2012 at Belton. Carter can break Charleston native Ryan Young’s overall record of 15 Belton titles by winning singles and doubles titles in May at Belton.
Kuhlman, a fifth seed this time who was a 15-year-old unknown when she won Family Circle’s then Smash Junior Cup in 2011, defeated No. 2 Kaitlyn McCarthy of Cary, N.C., 7-6, 6-1, in Sunday’s quarterfinals to set up the showdown with defending champion Carter.
Davidson advanced to the final with a 6-1, 6-2 romp past No. 5 Andie Daniell of Douglasville, Ga., in Sunday’s other semifinal.
Reach James Beck at email@example.com. See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.