Carol Lee earned her fourth straight finals appearance in a world-ranking event after marching into the title game in the Oceania Closed Junior Championships 2018 in Fiji last Friday.
The CNMI junior player rallied past No. 7 seed Annerly Poulos of Australia in the semifinals to advance to the championship match against No. 3 Amber Marshalls, also from Australia. The No. 4 Lee bowed to Poulos in the opening set, 1-6, but avoided the upset axe of the Aussie after laboring through 6-4, 7-6 (4) victories in the last two to notch the finals berth at the lower half of the 32-player singles draw.
At the top half, Marshall stunned No. 1 seed Valentina Ivanov of New Zealand, 6-1, 6-4, to set up the title showdown against Lee. Marshall went on to secure the singles crown after sweeping Lee in last Saturday’s finale, 6-1, 6-4.
Despite the loss, Lee managed to record a feat, as she made her fourth consecutive finals stint in the ITF Juniors Circuit dating back to May this year when she played in the Northern Marianas Junior Champions. The 16-year-old won the Saipan-hosted competition, sweeping both the singles and doubles crowns.
A little over a month after her triumph in home soil, she competed in the South Pacific Open Junior Championships and also topped the singles event. Lee remained in Fiji for her second tournament in less than two weeks and earned both the singles and doubles titles in the Oceania Open Junior Championships.
The CNMI player then took a break from tournaments, but continued to train at the regional facility in Fiji before seeing action in the Oceania Closed. She started her bid in last week’s competition with three victories via straight sets before surviving Poulis in an extended game and eventually losing to Marshall in the finals.
Marshalls had twin wins in the Oceania Closed, as she also got the doubles championship after teaming up with Ivanov in beating the Australian duo of Megan Smith and Grace Schumacher in the hard fought finale, 6-3, 3-6, 10-5.
In the boys division, Rinky Hijikata duplicated Marshall’s achievement. The No. 1 seed Aussie first bagged the singles crown following a 6-2, 6-4 win over No. 6 Tristan Schoolkate. Then in the doubles finals, Hijikata paired with compatriot Ken Cavrak in downing Cihan Akay and Nikita Volonski, 6-4, 6-3.
Meanwhile, after completing her stint in the Oceania Closed, Lee headed to Australia yesterday to play in the Australian Winter International.
The tournament will run from Aug. 22 to 26 at the Sydney Olympic Park Tennis Centre Rod Laver in Sydney and Lee is expected to vie for the singles and doubles championships against several players she faced in the Oceania Closed.