Fourteen-year-old wild card Usue Maitane Arconada did not expect to be playing in the 2013 Citi Open qualifiers, let alone win her first professional level match.
“I actually found out [about the wild card] yesterday,” said Arconada, who rallied to defeat Argentina’s Maria Irigoyen, 7-5, 6-3, after falling behind 4-1 in the first set. “I was very excited and a little nervous in the beginning.”
Arconada lost in the third round of the USTA National Clay Court Championships in Virginia Beach in her most recent tournament just a few weeks ago. But against Irigoyen, it was easy to forget that Arconada, a member of College Park’s Junior Tennis Champions Center, was in unfamiliar territory. Her focus and intensity belies her young age and unimposing — she is 5 feet 2 inches — stature.
Arconada’s powerful groundstrokes and backhands down the line — her favorite shot — were too much for Irigoyen, a 26-year-old ranked No. 174.
“I was just being aggressive and stepping in the line,” said Arconada, who models her game after seven-time Grand Slam winner Justine Henin of Belgium. “I just believed in myself that I could do it.”
Arconada was born in Argentina but lived in Puerto Rico until 2008, when she moved to Florida to train with her Argentine coach, Luis Brest. She has since bounced around to Atlanta, where she first met her current coach, Frank Salazar, and followed him to the Tennis Center at College Park about a year and a half ago.
“College Park is a great place,” said Arconada, who now calls Washington her home and is representing the United States at tournaments. “I have my own personal training. I have four coaches. . . . They help me out a lot with everything.
“I really love it there.”
With Salazar and several of her fellow College Park players looking on, Arconada hit winner after winner to overwhelm Irigoyen, who was constantly on the defensive. After winning six of the final seven games in the first set, Arconada raced out to a 3-0 lead in the second set and finished the match with a forehand winner down the line.
“Today was a big thing for me to realize that I can [play] at this level, and I just have to believe in myself a little more,” she said.
Note: Virginia standout Mitchell Frank, who was playing in front of a sparse partisan crowd of Cavaliers fans after a lengthy rain delay, lost, 6-4, 6-2, to hard-hitting Malek Jaziri of Tunisia, ranked No. 174 in the world.
Those advancing to the final round of the qualifiers included Virginia alumni Jamere Jenkins, the 2013 ITA player of the year, and Somdev Devvarman. American Rhyne Williams, who played at Tennessee, also won. On the women’s side, Americans Victoria Duval and Jessica Pegula advanced.