Anastasia Goncharova aced her quarterfinal test Friday at the Class 2A Illinois High School Association girls state tennis tournament.
Now she’s ready for the finals exam.
The Evanston junior dominated two more opponents — and won 21 of her final 22 games — to advance to the state semifinals. She’s already assured of the best postseason finish in ETHS program history and will meet Palatine’s Asuka Kawai in the semis at 9 a.m. Saturday at Buffalo Grove High School.
Winner of that match will earn a berth in the finals against either top-seeded Michelle Bacalla of Niles North or Lahari Yelamanchili of Lyons Township.
All four players were seeded in the top 4 prior to the tournament, but it was Goncharova who was the most impressive winner in the quarterfinals. She blew away Hinsdale Central sophomore Olivia Oosterbaan 6-1, 6-0 after earlier defeating Glenbard West freshman Sienna Lopez 6-3, 6-0.
“It was an awesome performance,” praised Evanston coach Joyce Anderson following the one-sided quarterfinal triumph at the Buffalo Grove courts. “She did a great job of staying on top of that Hinsdale Central girl and not letting up. I haven’t seen Anastasia play that well against that level of player before. She was confident, she was steady and she was under control.”
Goncharova’s defense was so strong that Oosterbaan, who like most young players prefers to stay rooted to the baseline, only managed an unofficial two winners (point producing shots) in the match.
“The first match I played today was a pretty good warmup for me,” Goncharova said. “I just told myself to go for my shots, to not be afraid to hit any of them — and it worked. I hit some solid shots in that match.
“My serve was really good today and I’m a little surprised I was able to execute my first serve so well. My forehands were definitely good, too. I raised my game a level today, but I haven’t played my best yet. I feel like that might come tomorrow.”
The Evanston southpaw had suggested following her sectional championship — the first in school history — that she wouldn’t mind being a lower seed to build an underdog mentality for the three-day state finals.
On the flip side, she hasn’t allowed the top 4 seed to put any more pressure on her to perform, either.
“I was definitely not playing not to lose, I was playing to win today,” she said. “It’s really not about the number (seed), it’s how you come out and play and make the shots you need to make to put you in a winning position.”
Goncharova dropped a three and one-half hour, three-set marathon battle with Kawai back in a September dual meet and the pair figures to be evenly matched in pursuit of a trip to the championship finals Saturday.
“We had such a dramatic match last time and I’m expecting the same thing tomorrow,” said the ETHS junior. “She’s such a good player and she’s playing the best I’ve ever seen her play. It just depends on the day. I expect to play at a high level as long as I stay mentally strong.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.