Meridian, MS—MMI's Karen Yan, unseeded and unheralded, toppled the 34-player field en route to the 2017 ITA/Oracle Southern JUCO Regional Singles Championship on Saturday morning. Yan mowed down five opponents before reaching the championship match with the No. 2-seeded player from Copiah-Lincoln Community College, Gyselle Daza. Daza, however, wasn't in the "mowing" spirit. Instead, Daza sprinted out to a 6-0, 2-0 lead. It looked like the end loomed near for Yan. The end wasn't near at all.
Yan began the singles tournament by methodically demolishing all players in her path. On Wednesday afternoon, Yan zeroed in on Mississippi Gulf Coach Community College's Megan Bankston, 6-0, 6-0. On Thursday morning, she took out the No. 4 seed, Hinds Community College's Stefy Varon, 6-0, 6-3, and in the afternoon, she double-bageled Meridian Community College's Julia McCarty, 6-0, 6-0. On Friday morning, she unloaded on the No. 7 seed, Copiah-Lincoln's Carmen Manicea, 6-2, 6-0, and in the afternoon, playing some of her best tennis of the tournament, she defeated the No. 1-seeded player from Mississippi Gulf Coast, Bianca Anamaria Buie, 6-2, 6-2.
Copiah-Lincoln's Gyselle Daza was an entirely different opponent from the ones Yan had met in her previous matches. Daza played aggressively off her serve and forehand side from the start of the match—and, like a match, she was on fire, reeling off the first eight games of the match. Yan won her first game of the match in game nine. At that point, the second set took a slow turn in Yan's direction. Yan eventually took the second set, 6-3.
Just when the match seemed to have turned in Yan's favor, Daza came through with some inspired tennis to take a quick third-set lead of 3-1. Could Yan once again rise to the occasion and tame impending defeat? Yes!
Punishing the Daza forehand, Yan plunged ahead to a 5-3 lead. Daza, needing to hold in the ninth game to have a chance for the win, miraculously staved off five match points to hold serve. At 5-4, Yan served for the match. And on the sixth match point, it was over. Game, set, and match to Yan, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4.