©Colette Lewis 2017--
Kayla Day has always been comfortable playing a lot of matches, and with the 17-year-old Californian going deep in tournament after tournament on the ITF Junior and Pro Circuit, her match count hit 73 last year, not including qualifying.
So by November, Day was in need of a break, mentally and physically, willing to concede her ITF junior No. 1 ranking while preparing for 2017's Australian Open and her first tournament as a professional. Day had hoped to play qualifying at the WTA in Hobart prior to the Australian Open, but she didn't get in, so when she took the court in Melbourne against Andrea Petkovic of Germany, she had little time to work out any rust.
"I was so ready to play, but it was tough for me," Day said. "The Australian Open was my first tournament back, but that's a big one to jump right into. It was my first match in so long and at such a big tournament."
Day's second match of 2017 was today in the first round of the $100,000 Dow Tennis Classic in Midland, and she assured herself of another one this week by beating her doubles partner Caroline Dolehide 6-3, 7-5.
"My host family asked me, do you ever play your doubles partner, that must be hard," Day said. "I actually hadn't played my doubles partner in three or four years. And then I see the draw, and of course. It's generally harder, because I train with her and I know her really well, but you have to put that all aside when you go on the court."
Day looked to be cruising along just fine at 6-3, 5-2, although game after game went to deuce regardless of who was serving. Serving at 4-2 Day saved a break point in the three-deuce game, with her serve getting her out of difficulty.
The next game was a marathon, with 11 deuces and Dolehide saving two match points before finally holding for 5-3.
With a chance to serve out the match in the next game, Day stumbled, with the length of the previous game part of the reason.
"I felt like because the game was so long, my serve routine kind of got out of rhythm," said the left-hander from Santa Barbara. "Before, the games were long but not too long, but that game was so long and I had two match points, so I think I lost my focus just a little bit. And she's such a good player, she broke me and then she played another good service game."
When Day went down 0-30 at 5-5, momentum appeared to be with Dolehide, who made very few errors despite her aggressive play throughout the later stages of the second set. But Day won the next four points to take a 6-5 lead and Dolehide contributed a couple of unforced errors to give Day a third match point at 30-40. Dolehide saved it with a forehand winner and then earned a game point, but Day saved that with a backhand winner. Dolehide then sliced a backhand into the net to give Day her fourth match point, and Day converted, with Dolehide's wide forehand ending the 65-minute set and one-hour-and-53-minute match.
"I'm really happy to win today be able to play another match," Day said. "It's really exciting to come here and play matches again."
After a possible rematch with top seed Madison Brengle, who Day defeated in the first round of the US Open, in Thursday's second round, Day will be traveling to Maui to train with the US Fed Cup team, helping new Captain Kathy Rinaldi's team prepare to take on Germany February 11 and 12. The team will consist of Alison Riske, CoCo Vandeweghe, Shelby Rogers and Bethanie Mattek-Sands.
The final round of qualifying was completed on Tuesday, with Katherine Sebov of Canada, Valeria Savinykh of Russia, Katarzyna Kawa of Poland and Allie Sanford moving into the main draw. Sebov came back to defeat Amanda Anisimova 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, Savinykh advanced when Chael Simmonds of South Africa retired after losing the first set 6-3 and Kawa defeated Nicole Frenkel 7-6(4), 6-3. Frenkel was chosen as the lucky loser to replace Jennifer Brady.
Sanford, who saved two match points against Michaela Gordon Monday, downed Julia Elbaba 6-4, 6-3, without any of the drama that accompanied her two 7-6 in the third victories in the previous two rounds.
"I felt a lot looser on my shots," said Sanford, who qualified and reached the quarterfinals of the Dow last year. "I was able to stay loose on my serve, just stay relaxed."
Sanford faced only one break point in the match, in her first service game.
"My serve helped me out a lot today," said the 18-year-old from Ohio, who had six aces. "That was important, because she has a very good serve and up until 4-all in the first, no one had gotten broken."
After an early break in the second set, Sanford held on to that slim advantage. Elbaba, a recent University of Virginia graduate, went up 40-15 serving at 3-5, but Sanford won the final four points of the match to secure the win.
Sanford, who has committed to North Carolina for this coming fall, will play Catalina Pella of Argentina in Wednesday's first round.
Draws, the order of play and a link to live streaming is available at the tournament website.