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CV's Ataian refuses to lose

Tennis: Falcons junior wins singles crown with upset of No. 1 seed.

November 02, 2011|By Gabriel Rizk, gabriel.rizk@latimes.com
(Tim Berger/Staff…)

PASADENA — The were no shortage of factors stacked against Karen Ataian in her bid to capture the Pacific League girls' tennis singles crown on Wednesday. If the junior from Crescenta Valley had paused to dwell on any of the numerous reasons for her to lose to No. 1 seed Francis Dean of Arcadia in the championship match of the league tournament at Pasadena High, she might have ended up doing just that.

But instead of thinking about the physical toll of her marathon tiebreaker win in the semifinal, or the fact that she would have to go the distance again to beat Dean after losing the first set badly, or even of how unstoppable her undefeated opponent had been all season, Ataian stayed composed and took it one point at a time.

"I didn't think about winning, I just played my game," said Ataian, the No. 3 seed, who won the league doubles title with partner Sarah Ali last season.

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Ataian's laser focus and refusal to buckle paid off in a career day, as she rallied to win the second set and force another tiebreaker, where she assumed control to upset Dean, 1-6, 6-4, 10-6, and claim her first league singles title in dramatic fashion.

"I'm thrilled," Falcons Coach Sarah Wiggins said. "I think Francis maybe got a little comfortable after winning that first set and Karen kept at her, found a few things that were working, steadied herself and took care of it. I'm really proud of her. She really played a smart, steady game."

Ataian's day started with a 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 11-9 win over Falcons teammate Emily Borkowski, who was seeded No. 2. Meanwhile Dean breezed through her semifinal match with Burroughs' Kathy Henry, 6-1, 6-0.

"It was really tough playing her friend, mentally, they had to work through a lot of things in that one," Wiggins said of Ataian, who automatically qualified for the CIF Individual Tournament by reaching the finals Wednesday.

Dean, the two-time reigning singles champion, who hadn't lost a match this season while playing in the No. 1 slot for the league-champion Apaches, looked well on her way to another easy win after dominating the opening set of the finals.

"I just started hitting my shots," Ataian said of her approach to mounting a comeback. "I said, 'Why not? It's the finals, I'm already into [CIF] sectionals.'"

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