West Ranch girls tennis freshman Annette Robertson took her talents to the international stage at the Copa Pura Vida ITF Junior tennis tournament in San Jose, Costa Rica, which was held on Dec. 2-7.
She competed in both the girls singles draw, and the girls doubles draw with Canadian teammate Reece Carter. The young hopeful made it all the way to the quarterfinal round in the singles draw. As for doubles, Robertson and her partner came out on top with a tournament win.
“It gave me so much confidence,” Robertson said. “Out of all those girls, I had the opportunity to go out there and play this tournament. I used to think that I was below them all the time. Now, I feel a little bit more equal to them.”
The Copa Pura Vida tournament was Robertson’s first experience competing at the international level. She has been playing tennis for years and just got her first experience at a new level of competition, making it to the last round of qualifying for the CIF-Southern Section tournament this season. However, she was not prepared for what she would experience in international competition.
“At first, it was very overwhelming,” she said. “The atmosphere was very different compared to high school matches. High school matches you know each other, so it’s almost like a fun mood. Once you get out there, it’s a completely different atmosphere.”
With a big change in scenery, Robertson had to find a way to keep herself calm and get her head in the game. After all, she did have the whole week of tennis ahead of her, and a partner that she couldn’t slow down.
“I just focused on playing how I wanted to play,” said Robertson. “That’s all I really thought about the whole trip. That got me more comfortable.”
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The tournament kicked off on a Monday. Robertson was able to ease into the tournament with a swift first-round singles win (6-2, 7-5) over Costa Rica’s Daniela Chavez. She continued to move past her opponents easily until the singles quarterfinals.
Robertson began the match with a 6-3 victory in the first set. Her Czech opponent Rachel Hermanova took over in the next two sets (6-1, 6-2). Robertson walked off the court defeated but had to stay focused for the doubles semifinal round.
Less than two hours later, Robertson stared down Court No. 5, the scene of her defeat earlier that day.
“At first, I was a little scared,” said Robertson. “I was nervous, but my partner was there with me. I couldn’t hold her back. Since she’s there for me too, that helped me get more motivation and got me more confident.”
Robertson adjusted her focus and forgot about her previous match. The girls doubles semifinal round was a battle between Carter-Robertson and another Canada-United States duo, Shirley Liang (Canada) and Caroline Wernli (United States).
Carter-Robertson took the first set in a 6-4 battle, but Liang-Wernli were able to respond quickly with a 3-6 win in the second set, forcing the match into an overtime set. Carter-Robertson won handily 10-4 and were set to appear in the final round of the girls doubles draw.
After getting a good night’s rest, the North American duo returned to the court for the girl’s doubles final. They were pitted against Nicole Alfaro from Costa Rica and Anika Lemus Maldonado from Guatemala.
Carter-Robertson fell behind in a quick 2-6 first set loss.
“I didn’t know what to feel,” said Robertson. “Despair, giving up or just keep trying and try to get this set back.”
Carter-Robertson responded with a swift 6-3 win of their own in the second set. The girls forced the overtime set and ramped up the pressure on both sides. In a race to be the first to 10 points, both sides were fighting to go home with a trophy in hand.
“It was the final set, which is the tiebreaker, which is more pressure,” said Robertson.
“I easily get hot-tempered, but this time my partner was, so I couldn’t afford to lose myself either,” she said. “I tried to keep my cool as much as I could and tried to pull through with her. It was kind of a hard job to do.”
Mental fortitude played a big role in the final set of the tournament. Carter-Robertson were able to gain the advantage they needed to secure a 10-4 win and stand tall on the first-place podium.
“Being able to control those emotions got us through the tiebreaker easier,” Robertson said. “I love tennis, so I try not to think too much about winning or losing.”
Robertson is now looking forward to continuing her ITF journey. Her next tournament starts Jan. 15 in Saitama, Japan.
“Hopefully next time I can win singles and doubles,” Robertson said.
Her mother, Shinobu, a native to Japan, is happy to see her have the opportunity to see the world.
“This is the life I really wanted her to have when young,” she said. “I’m glad she is able to do it. I want her to have the experience before she is grown.”