Nelle Youel's start wasn't great.
But after falling behind Syracuse's Maddie Kobelt 5-4 in the first set of her U.S. Open sectional qualifier championship match Tuesday in Mason, Ohio, Youel – a former Crystal Lake Central tennis player – got her game rolling.
Youel rebounded from a "shaky" start and posted a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Kobelt to advance to the U.S. Open National Playoffs in August in New Haven, Conn. The winner earns a berth in the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
For Youel – who plays collegiately at Northern Illinois – the idea of moving a step closer to a Grand Slam event was hard to fathom.
“It’s still surreal to me. I never would have thought about that prior to coming here," Youel said. "I knew it would be a tough tournament, and to be that much closer is just unbelievable.”
Youel was forced to grind out Tuesday's match before pulling away in the second set to move one step closer to a spot in the U.S. Open.
"Every point I just thought ‘this is the only point that matters, this is the only point you can do anything about’ so I just tried to take it point-by-point," Youel said. "[Kobelt's] serve was really on today, it got me a lot of times.
So I was focusing on blocking the return back, and starting the point from there, and that’s really all I could do. Thankfully it worked out today.”