WITH little knowledge about her opponent, Allie Smith wasn’t sure what to expect going into Wednesday night’s Columbus city tennis tournament women’s open singles final.
Ayana Kobayashi gave the Columbus North graduate all she could handle into the second set. But Smith rallied to win five of the final six games to claim a 6-4, 6-3 win and her first city title.
“I knew coming in that she was a good player,” said Smith, who will be a junior at University of Indianapolis. “I had never played with her or seen her play, but I knew it would be a good match for both of us. I came in with an open mind.”
Kobayashi, 23, is one year removed from her tennis career at Northwood College in Midland, Michigan. She works at ITSUWA USA in Columbus and hasn’t played competitive tennis since graduating.
“I kind of missed the atmosphere of playing a match,” Kobayashi said. “So I was like maybe I should try to play a tournament even kind of out of shape.”
After Smith won a close first set, Kobayashi led 2-1 in the second set. Smith then won four consecutive games to take a 5-2 lead. Kobayashi cut the lead to 5-3, but then Smith finished off the match.
“I thought I played well,” Smith said. “I kept her deep in the court. That was good for me because if you kind of pushed her back, I was able to step in before she did on some points, so that helped a lot.”
“I wish I was more in shape,” Kobayashi said. “But I had fun, and she’s a really good player. I’m glad I got to play with her.”
Smith didn’t play singles in last year’s city tournament. She and her sister, Aubrey, were runners-up in last year’s women’s doubles event.
“It was a last-minute decision, but I’m glad I did because it’s good practice for me right before I go back to school,” Smith said.
Meanwhile, former North doubles partners Rachael Miller and Melissa Sanders captured their third consecutive doubles title with a 6-2, 6-1 win against Bev Chinn and Karen Day.
“Since we’ve played them so much, we kind of know what to expect, and they probably know what to expect from us,” said Sanders, who will be a junior at Franklin College. “We were more patient this year.”
“We came out with more strategy this time because we knew how they play,” said Miller, who has ended her collegiate tennis career after playing the past two years at Ohio Northern.
Sanders teamed with her brother, Anthony, to beat the father-daughter tandem of Jody and Paige Litrrell 6-2, 6-3 in the mixed doubles final. Anthony Sanders will be a senior at North, and Paige Littrell will be a junior at North.