CONCORD — A remade, restyled Katrina Scott celebrated her 18th birthday two months ago, her reworked game stronger and bolder, and on Thursday the 6-foot Californian advanced to the Thoreau Tennis Open quarterfinals with a solid win here over an older, higher-ranked Karolina Muchova.
Muchova, 25, was forced to retire at 0-4 in the second set because of a wrist injury. But at that point Scott, a 6-3 winner in the first set, had taken command of the stage. She clinched the opener by winning three straight games, then rattled off four more before a disappointed, frustrated Muchova was forced to call it a day.
Scott is aiming for a spot in the upcoming US Open, like the majority of the 60-plus women who began play here at the start of the week. Ranked No. 241 upon her arrival, she is among the tournament’s youngest competitors, her game overhauled and improved during a months-long stay at the Kass Tennis Academy in Columbus during the 2020 COVID shutdown.
“I went there and they told me, ‘These are the things that we want to change if you’re going to get to where you want to go,’” recalled Scott, much of her makeover focusing on a more aggressive, offensive game. “I kind of just went all in and we reconstructed a bunch of different parts of my game — which was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.”
Scott, though, has a history of athletic lane changes. She started in ballet, age two, at the urging of her Iranian-born mother Lena, a ballet dancer in her childhood before emigrating to the US at age 17.
“Ballet didn’t work out for her,” recalled a smiling Lena, who sat courtside for her daughter’s win over Muchova. “She didn’t like it at all, right from the beginning.”
“Oh, my God, I hated it so much,” added Katrina. “Too slow, just no adrenalin for me … I need that adrenalin part that tennis gives me. I begged her forever to take me out of ballet.”
Next came figure skating, in part because Lena felt it was the next best thing to ballet. Katrina indeed liked the blades far more than ballet, and stuck with it into her early teens, usually skating at a rink in Van Nuys, northwest of Los Angeles.
She might have kept up the figures, said Scott, had it not been for the day, absent a ride home after practice, she hitched a ride with a friend who was headed to a nearby tennis lesson. She promptly picked up a racket and hasn’t let go since.
“I don’t remember if I was good at it, or if I just really liked it,” recalled Scott, age 7 when she played that first time. “But I just started doing tennis more and more, realized I enjoyed it, and I was pretty good at it … then it came time I eventually had to pick between the two and I went with tennis.”
The work in Columbus, noted Scott, improved her serve and her forehand, along with her overall game focus and mental approach to the game. The industry’s COVID shutdown meant there was no tournament play, leaving her some six-plus months under the watch of her primary coaches, David Kass and Balazs Novak.
“We didn’t reconstruct my serve, but we changed a few things,” said Scott. “I hit thousands and thousands and thousands of serves … and thousands and thousands and thousands of forehands. I mean, it was insane, eight hours a day, working on each stroke and piece of my game.”
A confluence of factors, mainly withdrawals due to COVID, brought Scott a wildcard slot in the 2020 US Open, where she won a round. Now she’s hoping for a return, what would be a fifth visit to Flushing Meadows, where she first played as a junior.
Scott will face another American, Chicago-born Taylor Townsend, in Friday’s quarterfinal matchup. Townsend advanced on Wednesday with her 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 win over Belgium’s Ysaline Bonaventure. It will be the first time the two Yanks have opposed one another … Harmony Tan, who pulled off the surprise first-round upset of Serena Williams at Wimbledon at the end of June, was eliminated in her Round of 16 match in a three-setter that lasted 2:40, the day’s longest match. Tan, after a 6-4 win in the opening set, dropped a 6-0 bagel in the second and was ousted by Katie Volynets in a third-set tiebreaker. It was Tan’s first match after contracting COVID immediately after playing four rounds at Wimbledon. Volynets, another Californian, is ranked No. 119 and now will play Croatian-born Bernada Pera in Thursday’s first match … Muchova, No. 168, was born in Olomouc, Czech Republic. David Krejci, who earlier this week agreed to a one-year contract to play again this season with the Bruins, played last season with the Olomouc Roosters. Reminder, folks, even during an August tennis tournament in the land of Henry David Thoreau, it’s always, and forever about hockey.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.