Danielle Willson knows that it's not always easy playing tennis against a good friend.
Her fellow Newport Beach resident, Mackenzie Worsnop, made it even tougher on Willson during their match Friday. Willson stormed out to a 5-2 lead in the first set, but Worsnop rallied back, saving five set points in the process.
Willson would have to earn the girls' 16 singles title at the 25th annual The Tennis Club Junior Tournament, better known as the "War by the Shore." She did so, raising her play.
Willson, the No. 4 seed who will be a freshman at Corona del Mar High, was rewarded with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over No. 6-seeded Worsnop at The Tennis Club.. She was the lone Newport-Mesa competitor to win a singles title.
Later on in the afternoon, another champion from Newport Beach did emerge at the War by the Shore. It was Lauren Friedman, who won the girls' 12 doubles title with her partner Devyn Marinos of Los Angeles. That match also wasn't easy, but Friedman and Marinos outlasted Avery Hopkey of Laguna Niguel and Kaytlin Taylor of Huntington Beach, 6-3, 2-6 and 15-13 in a 10-point tiebreaker.
Willson was happy with her victory over Worsnop, who is also considering coming to CdM after spending last year both at Mater Dei High and home-schooled. The first set was a real struggle, taking nearly an hour.
"She kept getting the ball back," Willson said. "I should have closed it out earlier, when it was 5-2. Then she kept coming back, 5-3, 5-4. It kind of put pressure on me, and I do not very well with pressure, but I just couldn't find a way to close it out. I just told myself that I had to try my hardest, get to every ball, move your feet."
Worsnop rallied to tie the set score at 5-5. After Willson held serve, Worsnop would need to do the same to force a tiebreaker. She saved two set points to get the game to deuce with a pair of winners, then saved another set point. But, on ad-out, her forehand clipped the net cord and bounced back on her side of the net.
The second set was easier for Willson, who took a 5-1 lead. Worsnop broke Willson as she served for the match, but Willson broke back, winning the match when Worsnop double-faulted. This was part of a troubling theme for Worsnop, who had defeated Willson easily when they played in a tournament in May.
"I kind of let my nerves take over my game, and that was that," Worsnop said. "I shouldn't have succumbed to my nerves; I should have just played like I normally do. I double-faulted like 12 times, and I should have just played my game."
Both girls will continue to hone their games at the Dent Tennis Academy at Los Caballeros in Fountain Valley. Willson said she has been going there for about three years, since the academy started at The Tennis Club before moving.
"Phil and Taylor [Dent] have been telling me to just focus hard on my moving," Willson said. "I just need to be committed to every single point, and make sure that I'm focusing hard."
Willson and Worsnop also played doubles at the War by the Shore, losing in the semifinals to top-seeded twins Zoe and Mary Kaffen of San Juan Capistrano. However, both Willson and Worsnop upset a Kaffen sister in singles on the way to the title match.
Willson is staying busy, as she has a girls' 16s quarterfinal match at the 15th annual Chapman University Junior Open Tournament on Saturday morning. She'll also look for another title next week at the Costa Mesa Summer Junior Classic, where she is the No. 5 seed in girls' 16 singles and is also playing doubles with Katherine Nguyen of Fountain Valley. And, Willson also looking forward to the upcoming high school season.
"I think it's going to be really fun," Willson said. "Hopefully Mackenzie goes there, because then we'll have a really good team. I'm really excited to play high school tennis."
Friedman, an 11-year-old who will be a sixth-grader at Newport Elementary, was also very excited to win her doubles title. It was the first time that she had played doubles in a tournament with Marinos.
They earned their win over Hopkey and Taylor. After splitting sets, the teams played a marathon tiebreaker that featured 10 ties. But Friedman and Marinos won the title as their opponent's shot went wide, and they ran to each other for a big hug.
"We were very nervous," Friedman said. "It was very hard to stay focused ... [but] it feels very, very, very awesome. We're going to enjoy this win."
Friedman, who is playing singles and doubles next week at Costa Mesa, has been playing tennis since was 4, and in tournaments since she was 7. She and her younger brother Logan, who also plays tennis, are the children of former CdM girls' standout Danielle Friedman (Scott). Danielle was a CIF singles finalist at CdM in 1987, going on to play at the University of Arizona and as a touring professional.
"I very appreciate my mom," Lauren Friedman said. "She's really nice. She helps me a lot, especially when I'm in tough times, because she's gone through all these things before. She makes it much easier, because she's had the experiences."