Hinsdale, Burr Ridge teens compete at U.S. Open

Hinsdale’s Caroline Dolehide had quite the birthday celebration earlier this month as the tennis star defeated one of the world’s best players to reach the semifinals of the U.S Open junior tennis tournament.

Dolehide, who turned 16 on Sept. 5, needed a U.S. Tennis Association wild card designation just for a shot to play at the tournament in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. Wild cards are issued to players who don’t have a high enough ranking with the International Tennis Federation, but possess great potential — a potential Dolehide realized during the tournament.

“It was amazing, especially having a Grand Slam event in the U.S. where everybody is rooting for the Americans,” Dolehide said. “Every time I won a match it got more and more intense. It was a really fun experience.”

Dolehide needed to play two qualifying matches just to be included in the event, which she admitted tired her out by the time she reached the semifinals. Along the way she upset several ranked players, including 2013 finalist Tornado Black, before falling in the semifinals.

She responded to that intensity well, advancing with the help of her powerful serves and growing confidence with every shot that landed in.

“She’s evolved into a power game,” said her coach, Tom Lockhart, who has worked with Dolehide since she was 6. “Probably the No. 1 reason for her success in this tournament is that her serve got better and better. I’ve always known her potential was there, and to see that come together was the most fun.”

Turning 16 on the day of her biggest win was the most fun for Dolehide, who took down Black 6-3, 7-5. Dolehide said the crowd was chanting “Happy Birthday” and after she won, Dolehide smacked the ball into the crowd — only for her mother to be the one to catch it.

Dolehide and her coach both said the turning point came against 10th-ranked Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic. Dolehide squandered a lead in the first set but came back to win, which built her confidence.

“Usually with younger players, when [they give up a lead] they roll over and just lose the match,” Lockhart said. “But she came roaring back.”

The sophomore is the USTA’s No. 9-ranked Girls 18 player in the country. Her older sister Courtney Dolehide is a senior on UCLA’s women’s tennis team, while little sister Stephanie is Hinsdale Central’s top singles player as a freshman.

Caroline Dolehide planned to enroll in online schooling this year because of the traveling demands of her tennis schedule.

Another west suburban tennis star, Lyons sophomore Gianni Ross of Burr Ridge, also qualified for the U.S Open junior tournament. He and doubles partner John McNally, of Cincinnati, won their first round match before losing in the second round.

Like Caroline Dolehide, Ross opted to compete in USTA tournaments last year instead of playing for his high school.

“On the court, the experience is incredible. Even as juniors they treat you like professionals. You get a taste,” Ross said. “Being at the U.S. Open, I got to see some of the top 10 [professional] players in the world. I’ve seen them on TV, but here I could reach out and touch them. I want to be one of them. That’s the motivation. I’m always hoping to get back here.”

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