Nicole Gibbs plays Hailey Baptiste on court 1 at the Newport Beach Tennis Club during the Oracle Challenger Series on Tuesday January 28, 2020 in Newport Beach, California. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Oracle Challenger Series)
Southern California resident Nicole Gibbs kicked off day 2 in style at the Oracle Challenger Series Newport Beach presented by RBC Wealth Management. The No.9 seed held her ground and fought off a tough test from young American Hailey Baptiste, 6-4, 6-4. Baptiste, who is just 18 years old, is already making a name for herself with a unique blend of powerful groundstrokes and adept hands.
“She has a lot of power and she’s crafty, which is something that not many players on tour have. So that’s definitely a dangerous first-round matchup,” said Gibbs. “I’m happy that I was able to keep bringing balls back and keep her moving so I could stay in control of more points than not.”
Not pleased with her showing in the Australian Open, a straight-sets loss to Great Britain’s Harriet Dart in the second round of qualifying, Gibbs is looking to ride her good form and gain momentum in Newport Beach.
“I competed well today. My last match in Australia wasn’t great, so I lost a little bit of confidence there. This helped re-earn my confidence and I hope to get better each and every match this week.”
Gibbs feels at home in the gorgeous Newport Beach weather, and so she should as a resident of nearby Santa Monica and with her husband and friends watching from the player box.
“It’s awesome playing near where I live. I also see so many familiar faces in the crowd from when I played World Team Tennis for the Newport Beach Breakers. It’s great to see all the fans come out to the tournament.”
Another American to win her first match of the tournament today was Houston semifinalist Irina Falconi, who took a tough contest against Mexico’s Renata Zarazua 7-5, 7-6(4).
“It was a topsy-turvy match,” said Falconi. “If you were watching, you wouldn’t have known who was winning or losing. Renata is such a great defender and I knew she was going to make a lot of balls. Both sets I was down on multiple occasions and it was a great testament of being able to stay patient and in the match no matter what.”
The American came back from falling behind multiple times, but was able to produce her best tennis to fight back.
“When my back was up against the wall, I was able to compete a little bit harder and stay in the rallies a little bit more. I definitely snuck away with that one.”
Other Americans to advance on Tuesday included No.13 seed Shelby Rogers (over Alexa Glatch), wild card Sophie Whittle (over No.15 seed Robin Anderson), CoCo Vandeweghe (over No.11 seed Allie Kiick), qualifier Quinn Gleason (over Marie Benoit) and Hanna Chang (over Hozumi).