Heras toughs it out in Fiji


Isabel Heras, seen here making a baseline return against Ami Tsukagoshi during their game in the 7th Annual Tan Holdings Tennis Classic at the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan tennis courts, is training in Fiji after receiving a summer scholarship from the International Tennis Federation and Oceania Tennis Federation. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

CNMI junior tennis player Isabel Heras is living through the Pacific Oceania Touring Team’s rigorous training sessions in Fiji.

Heras, one of the three CNMI players who were awarded the ITF/OTF Pacific Training Centre–Summer Scholarship (Tania Tan and Carol Lee were the two others), admitted to facing difficulties in the early goings of their training at the Lautoka facility, but has survived the odds for more than two months.

“The training here is challenging. I remember in the first week here, my body was so sore from the six hours of training every day. Now, I am more used to the hectic tennis schedule and waking up early for the 6am morning fitness,” said Heras in an interview with Saipan Tribune last Sunday.

Besides the regular training sessions, part of the program is Heras and company’s participation in ITF Juniors ranking tournaments in Fiji and New Caledonia. In May and June, Heras joined one competition in New Caledonia and two in Fiji and though she recorded only two wins (both in doubles) in the three events, some of her losses were tough ones.

“The level of play in these tournaments was very high. I have very close matches with some of my opponents winning by just two points,” the 15-year-old player said.

In the Open Junior BNP PARIBAS de Nouvelle-Caledonie in New Caledonia, Heras went through three sets in her opening singles match before bowing to Japan’s Hiromi Sekiguchi, 1-6, 6-3, 0-6. In the doubles event in the South Pacific Open Junior Championships, she and the U.S. Bryn Johnson forced a super-tiebreaker third set against New Zealand’s Ivy McLean and Holly Stewart before losing, 7-5, 2-6, 8-10. The CNMI bet also partnered with Johnson in the Oceania Open Junior Championships and they fought hard in the first set before yielding to Japan’s Misaki Kobayashi and Singapore’s Maxine Ng, 5-7, 2-6. In the same Oceania contest, Heras gave Australia’s Luciana Kunkel quite a scare before dropping a three-set match, 6-3, 1-6, 3-6.

“The tournaments I played in the past two months gave me a great experience because I learned so many useful strategies that I can apply to my style of play in my next games,” Heras said.

The Commonwealth junior netter is also elated to make it to the ITF Juniors world ranking. He shared the No. 2,200 spot in the world with Tan after they made it to the quarterfinals of the Grade 5 tournament in Noumea in May and got five ranking points.

“I am so happy to finally have an ITF ranking. This is a big accomplishment for me because I have been playing tennis since I was young and I’ve been working really hard to get to where I am today,” said Heras, who began her bid for the ITF Juniors ranking points this year when she joined the Saipan-hosted IT&E Northern Marianas Junior Championships.

“Overall, I am really happy that I received this summer scholarship in Fiji. It has helped my tennis game rise to a new level, and I can’t wait to see what tennis has to offer me in the future,” she added.

Heras will stay in Fiji until next month as she will be playing in one more ITF Juniors tournament and in the 2016 Pacific Oceania Junior Championships as part of the North Pacific Team. Fourteen other CNMI players will join Heras, Tan, and Lee on the elite squad.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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