Ellie Halbauer is a quick learner. She knows how to smile when things don't go her way.
So, what did the 16-year-old former Charleston resident learn in her 6-2, 6-2 blasting by highly touted junior Victoria Duval on Saturday in the first round of the Family Circle Cup's qualifying tournament?
"I learned how to sign autographs," Halbauer responded with a smile as she reached out to sign another autograph.
Halbauer was the center of attention at Family Circle Tennis Center. With heavy overnight rains pushing the start of play back three hours, and Halbauer scheduled to play the third match on the Althea Gibson Club Court, her fans were in wait mode most of the day.
"It didn't bother me, waiting around all day," she said.
A good group of fans stayed around until after 6 p.m. to watch Halbauer play, but earlier in the day the Club Court was packed.
Halbauer was overmatched in this one. Duval, an 18-year-old who upended Samantha Stosur in last year's U.S. Open, came out firing.
"She never missed. She went for everything," Halbauer said. "She jumped on top of short balls. The Dunlop balls went very fast."
Of course, Halbauer did more than learn how to sign autographs. "Keeping my balls deeper would be the only way I could beat her if I play her again. I had to hit a great shot just to win a point," she admitted.
Halbauer will spend a few days watching the tournament, then return to her home base in Boca Raton, Fla., for more training ... for that next step in what she hopes will be a pro career.
Family Circle notes
It was a good day for most Americans on the Club Court. Highly touted Taylor Townsend and Grace Min won three-set matches before the Halbauer-Duval encounter. All three winners are just one more win from making the main draw, as is fellow Madison Brengle.
If you're 12-and-under, it's a great day to love tennis. You've got a free pass to some great tennis. The second day of the Family Circle Cup qualifying tournament usually provides some of the most competitive tennis anywhere. It's do-or-die, with the eight winners on Sunday advancing to the main draw of the $710,000 WTA Tour event.
Austin Heinz is back in high gear for Palmetto Christian Academy after spending much of the last year at Nick Bollettieri's Academy in Florida. The high school senior was hanging out with his mother, Family Circle membership manager Nancy Heinz, in the members' court-side tent on the Althea Gibson Club Court Saturday. Austin's big job these days is sorting out the numerous college tennis scholarship offers he has received. He said he's being recruited by colleges as far away as UCLA.
If having his coaching resume include the likes of Halbauer and Shelby Rogers isn't enough, Family Circle pro Bryan Minton thinks it would be awesome if another of his proteges happens to hit it big on the men's pro circuit one of these days. Minton is quite happy about the Isle of Palms' Scotty Cameron winning the boys 16 title at the Icy Hot USTA Southern Level 2 Championships last weekend. Cameron was the state's most improved junior boys player for 2013. He has trained with Minton since 2012 at Family Circle.
Reach James Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See his columns on pro tennis at ubitennis.com/english.
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