Girls tennis: Central’s Tiffany Chen finishes fourth in state
BY NEIL SHALIN For Sun-Times Media October 20, 2012 11:36PM
Updated: October 20, 2012 11:43PM
Naperville Central freshman Tiffany Chen picked the perfect time to take her game to a whole new level.
At this week’s state tennis tournament, Chen’s name was on the lips of most observers as she fought from a 17-32 seed to knock off the No. 1 seed, a No. 5-8 and a 9-16 to finish fourth in her first shot at state competition.
The state singles champion was Keisha Clousing, who had defeated Chen in both the Naperville North Sectional and the DuPage Valley Conference finals the previous two weeks.
Lake Forest’s Maddie Lipp and Christina Zordani won the doubles title and Lake Forest won the state championship with 39 points. Naperville Central finished seventh in the team standings.
“A 17-32 seed finishing fourth just doesn’t happen,” said Naperville Central coach Don Bonet. “Tiffany was magnificent in this tournament, playing with the same mental toughness she’s displayed all year.”
“I played the way I wanted to play,” said Chen. “I kept the ball deep, moved it from side to side and with angles. Everything was clicking this weekend.”
After winning a fourth-round match Friday (6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-4) in a marathon over the No. 1 seed Caroline Ryba of Glenbrook South, on Saturday Chen defeated Elizabeth Zordani of Lake Forest 7-5, 2-6, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.
It was in that match that Bonet saw the determination and toughness that has become the hallmark of Chen’s game.
“In the second set, she just didn’t play up to her ability and lost 6-2,” Bonet said. “She was mad about it, but didn’t let it get her down on herself. She went back on the court and had an awesome third set, winning 6-1. She’s done that several times this year. That attitude is her greatest strength.”
“When I lose a set like that I try to think about what I did wrong,” said Chen. “Then I listen to the advice of my coaches and get my energy up and try to forget about the second set.”
Chen went on to the semifinals and was defeated by Hinsdale Central’s Alex Solovyev 1-6, 6-2, 6-2 and then she lost the third-place match to Alex Chatt of Lyons 6-1, 6-0.
Her only losses this season were to the top three players in the state — Clousing, Solovyev and Chatt.
Chen’s idol is former Redhawk and four-time state champion Elizabeth Lumpkin.
“She’s amazing,” said Chen. “And nobody will ever break her record.”
As happy as she was with her own achievement, Chen was equally proud of Redhawks’ doubles Cass Goldner and Cindy Liu, who were unseeded, but went on to win two matches in the championship bracket and two in the backdraw to score six points and help the Redhawks to the seventh-place state finish.
“I’m really happy with the way Cass and Cindy played,” said Chen. “And I’m really grateful to Coaches Bonet and (Dan) Brown who led us and helped us all season.