Yulia Starodubtseva Advances To Rancho Santa Fe Open Semis

Yulia Starodubtseva (photo: August Michaele)

SANTA FE, October 14, 2023 (by Steve Pratt)

Feeling the immense pressure of playing her good friend and USC college teammate, Snow Han overcame a jittery start to outlast the one-time ITA No. 1 college tennis player Eryn Cayetano on Friday to advance to the semifinals at the TaliMar Rancho Santa Fe Open.

A qualifier who won her fifth straight match in five days, Han found herself down 2-5 in the first set, but said she overcame some early frustrations and mental errors to rally back and win seven straight games and roll to a 7-5, 6-2 win in the USTA Women’s Pro Circuit $60,000 tournament taking place at the Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club in an event presented by The Gillian Gillies and Prentiss Van Den Berg Team with Compass.

“I just felt a lot of pressure from the start,” said Han, a redshirt junior from Wuhan, China, who warmed up with Cayetano an hour before the match. “Luckily, I was able to find my rhythm and just started playing better as the match went on.”

On Saturday in the first semifinal at 11 a.m., Han will take on No. 4 Yulia Starodubtseva of Ukraine, who overcame a medical timeout in the second set for an injured wrist to rally past unseeded New Yorker Louisa Chirico, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

In the other semifinal on Saturday, No. 7 Anastasia Tikhonova from Russia, meets No. 8 Lulu Sun of Switzerland. The 22-year-old Tikhonova downed Sayaka Ishii of Japan, 6-2, 6-2.

It will be a rematch of sorts as Tikhonova said after the match that the last time she faced Sun was in 2019 at the Australian Open Juniors where Tikhonova prevailed in the quarterfinals before losing to one-time US Open singles finalist Leylah Fernandez in the semis. Sun eliminated Russian qualifier Maria Kozyreva, 7-6 (0), 6-2.

In the doubles semifinals that concluded play on Friday, Tatiana Prozorova and former USC standout Madison Sieg narrowly got past former fellow collegiate standouts and the tourney’s top-seeded team Jessie Aney (Univ. of North Carolina) and Kozyreva (St. Mary’s), 6-7 (5), 6-1, 11-9.