Wild-card qualifier Lewis, 14, earns first pro win at Hilton Head USTA event

mmccombs@islandpacket.comMay 29, 2013 

David Lewis was a proud father on Tuesday. But for the better part of the afternoon, he couldn't bear to watch.

His daughter, 14-year-old Jade, won her first match in a professional tennis tournament, downing Isabella Robbiani 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 in the first round of the Head Women's $10,000 USTA Pro Circuit Tournament at Van Der Meer Tennis Center on Hilton Head Island.

"I don't do well watching my girls," said David Lewis, a former ATP Tour player who played for New Zealand in the Davis Cup. Lewis, who coaches at the Van Der Meer Tennis Academy, actually spent much of the match on the other side of the tennis center, watching a doubles match on another court.

"This was a big win for a young girl," David Lewis said. "Hopefully it will be the first of many in the coming years."

Jade Lewis qualified for the event through the wild-card tournament last week. Ironically, she beat her older sister Carolina on Friday to cement her spot.

Not having a lot of tournament experience to draw from for her first appearance in a pro event, Jade Lewis had to stay on top of her mental game.

"I definitely had to go on the court thinking I would win," she said. "I needed to do that."

After winning the first set, Lewis struggled in the second set against the aggressive Paraguayan, and a debut match that had looked promising soon hung in the balance.

"I played well in the first and third sets," Lewis said, "but in the second set, I was a little bit tired out."

"You have to expect that," David Lewis said. "It's hard to imagine all of the things that are running through a young girl's mind in her first match like this."

For much of the match, she was willing to let Robbiani do a lot of the work, keeping her pace down and engaging in long rallies.

But after dropping the second set, Lewis came out firing in the final set, quickly going up 3-0 before Robbiani seemed to gain her footing.

"I knew I was going to have to play aggressive to win," she said. "I figured I'd rather be up 3-0 than down 0-3.

Lewis said she didn't play a lot of tournament tennis at home in New Zealand before coming to the United States because there wasn't a lot of competition where she was. But her father said that was according to plan.

"We just worked a lot on laying the foundation and not on competing as much," David Lewis said. "More on schooling and practicing."

David Lewis, who said Jade also had an uncle who was a finalist at Wimbledon, said that because of her family ties, there would have been high expectations. So Jade's tournament play was limited to trips to Europe or the United States.

"I really didn't want her to play in too many tournaments (at home) simply because it would have been a lot of added pressure," David Lewis said. "And no young girl needs that."

The move to Van Der Meer and attempting to qualify for lower-level tournaments like this one, according to David Lewis, are stepping stones for Jade.

She took one more step on Tuesday.

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