Halbauer aims for second straight title in Dunlop Junior Tennis Championship

Ellie Halbauer won the Dunlop Junior Tennis Championship last year at Family Circle Tennis Center. (AP Photo/File)

Ellie Halbauer has her eyes set on joining the short list of players who have won the Family Circle Cup’s junior girls title two times when the Dunlop Junior Tennis Championship begins Friday at Family Circle Tennis Center.

“I feel good about my chances to win again,” said the 17-year-old Halbauer on Thursday while en route to her “real home” from her current “tennis home” in the Atlanta area.

Halbauer, who grew up practicing and playing tennis at the world-class Daniel Island facility, is aiming for her second straight Dunlop title. She is the top seed this time. Seeded fifth a year ago, Halbauer rallied from a set down to upend second seed Kaitlyn McCarthy of Cary, N.C., in last year’s final. McCarthy is the fourth seed this time.

“Kaitlyn is always tough,” said Halbauer, who practiced with McCarthy at a recent tournament.

But current Clemson player and No. 2 seed Liz Jeukeng of Kansas City might have something to say about who makes Sunday’s final of this 14th annual clay-court event as well as 16-year-old third seed Anna Kalinskaya of Aventura, Fla.

The girls 18 champion once again will earn a berth in the qualifying tournament for the Family Circle Cup to be held April 6-12.

Halbauer is switching her training base to Alpharetta, Ga., where her dad (Chip Halbauer) has recently acquired the 22-court Windward Tennis Academy. Halbauer has been training heavily with her coach, former WTA Tour player Edina Gallovits, on the facility’s two clay courts. The Halbauer family is in the process of moving to the Atlanta area from Boca Raton, Fla.

Halbauer’s tennis highlights include a title at a $10,000 tournament at Hilton Head Island, and an appearance in the quarterfinals of a $50,000 event in Macon, Ga. She is currently ranked No. 603 in women’s tennis.

More than 500 entrants from 13 states are entered in the Dunlop Junior, which is a Southern Level 3 event. Boys and girls will compete in divisions 8-and-under through 18-and-under.

The tournament’s two-time winners include Floridian Nina Pantic (2006-07) and South Carolina product Hayley Carter (2012-13).

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.