The third trip to Hilton Head Island was a charm for Yana Koroleva.
In her third appearance in the event, the rising Clemson junior from Moscow knocked off local favorite Hayley Carter in straight sets, 7-5, 6-4, on Sunday to win the Head/First Federal Women's $10,000 USTA Pro Circuit Tournament at the Van Der Meer Tennis Center.
"I love it here," Koroleva told the crowd after the match. "And now winning this tournament will stay in my memory forever."
Koroleva, the 776th-ranked player in the world and the ITA's 16th-ranked college singles player, spoiled the title shot of Carter, a Smith Stearns Tennis Academy graduate ranked 838th who will be a freshman at North Carolina in the fall.
"She's an excellent player," Carter said. "She puts the pressure on you all of the time. It's tough to stay with her."
This was the second meeting between the two, the first coming in the qualifying round of a $25,000 event two years ago in Raleigh. But the outcome was the same.
"It was a good match, and she's a good opponent," Koroleva said. "Today she played a lot better than last time."
The match didnt't start so well for Koroleva, a semifinalist last year. Carter broke her serve in the first game and she trailed 40-30 in the second before the rain came.
The players were forced to wait for more than an hour and a half before they could take the court again. When they did, Carter double-faulted twice to leave an opening for Koroleva.
But she couldn't take advantage of it. Carter took an early 2-0 lead and after a slugfest of a first set, marked by long rallies, several incredible winners from both competitors and a handful of really big serves by Carter, the future Tar Heel was serving for the first set.
And that's where the match turned.
Carter simply couldn't put Koroleva away. Koroleva broke Carter to tie the set at 5, held serve to take the lead and then broke Carter a second time to win the set.
"We were both playing well, and it was going to be tough to get a break," Koroleva said. "But I did and was able to close out the first set."
In the second set, Koroleva was up two breaks at 5-2, but Carter held serve and then broke the Russian to make things interesting at 5-4. But Koroleva did what she needed to do, holding serve for the win.
"I was playing better in the second set, focusing better, at least until 5-2," Koroleva said. "I do that a lot, lose focus. I'm working on it. She played well and she served really big today. I thought it was important to close it out. I really didn't want to go to the third set."
That second set will be the last competition for Koroleva for a while. After some time in Florida for training, Koroleva will fly home to Moscow for the first time since last summer to visit with family. She'll return in time for the fall semester at Clemson.
Carter had nothing but praise for her future ACC rival.
"She deserves all the credit," Carter said. "She forced me into a lot of bad situations and forced me to make errors."
That being said, Carter thinks the margin isn't a big one.
"I think we're pretty close, just a few points here and there," said Carter, who could very well meet Koroleva on the court again in the future when the Tar Heels face the Tigers. "Hopefully, in the future, those will go my way."
ITF Women's Circuit -- Head/First Federal Women's $10,000
A USTA Pro Circuit event; At Van Der Meer Tennis Center, Hilton Head Island
Singles -- Final
Yana Koroleva (RUS) def. Hayley Carter (USA) 7-5, 6-4