Ellis advances to semifinals in NYC, beats two top seeds

Alex Endress

After receiving an “at-large” invitation, sophomore Aeriel Ellis participated in the ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships this past weekend and was able to advance all the way to the semifinals. She competed in the 32-player singles draw, and the event took place at the site of the U.S. Open — the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y.

Ellis’s first opponent was Zoe DeBruycker of North Carolina. She had little trouble with DeBruycker, as Ellis was able to earn a straight-set victory, 6-2, 6-1. The victory matched Ellis with third-seeded Kristy Frilling of Notre Dame. Frilling had previously triumphed over Ellis last month in the opening round of the ITA All-American Championship in Los Angeles. Frilling was able to get a little taste of her own medicine in Friday’s match, as Ellis achieved a commanding victory, winning 7-5, 6-1 and advancing to the quarterfinals.

Later on Friday, Ellis went up against Kristie Ahn of Stanford. Ellis persevered to beat the formidable Ahn two sets to one after losing her first set. This placed her in the semifinals against second seeded Jana Juricova of California.

Ellis went up quick with their first set, winning with a score of 6-2. “Aeriel came into the match confident and ready,” said Texas assistant coach Darija Klaic. “Aeriel just kept making big shots like she had all week and really put pressure on her opponent. She played a very big first set, physically and mentally.” After falling behind 3-1 in the second set, Ellis persisted to even the score at 3-3. However, Juricova outlasted Ellis in the end, winning with a score of 7-5. Juricova was also able to take the third set, with a narrow victory of 6-4.

Ellis was hoping to become Texas’s first singles finalist at the ITA National Indoor Championship since Lucie Ludivoga in 1994, but instead will have to settle for an exceptional effort.

“It was a battle until the very end,” Klaic said. “She left it all out there. But she takes a lot of confidence from this tournament with the caliber of players she has beaten here in New York, with a win over the No. 3 seed and nearly a win over the No. 2 seed. Reaching the semifinals at a national championship event can only help her even more in the spring.”

As the 2010 Big 12 Conference Newcomer of the Year, Ellis has finished her fifth straight national championship event with the completion of the ITA National Indoors.