By Eric Butler
ALBUQUERQUE — A combination of nervousness and altitude spelled a quick end to Clovis sophomore Patricia Gallegos’ trip to the state tennis tournament.
Gallegos fell to Sandia freshman Anna Surviladze 6-0, 6-2 in the opening round of Wednesday’s Class 5A state tournament at Albuquerque Academy.
Surviladze, the younger sister of 2001 individual champ Nina Surviladze, was content to volley back-and-forth with her Wildcats’ foe — until the opportunity for a winner arrived. When it did, Surviladze rarely missed.
Gallegos rebounded nicely at the start of the second set after some adjustments and words of encouragement from Clovis coach Billie Merritt.
“I guess I wasn’t used to the altitude, my racquet was pretty light and the deep balls I hit were all going long,” Gallegos said.
Merritt urged her player to become more aggressive toward the end of the first set and Gallegos did put away several rallies to change the tenor of the match.
“When she was down 5-0 in the first set, we told her to just go for the big points,” Merritt said. “Go for those passing shots, just play your game. I know she’s capable of it, because she does it against me in practice.”
After Surviladze went up 3-2 in the second set by breaking serve, Gallegos let a golden opportunity to return the favor slip away.
Gallegos went up 40-0 in an effort to even up the set, but Surviladze ended up surviving six break points to win — and push her advantage to 4-2.
“She probably would have tensed up and I may have got her in the third (set),” Gallegos said. “I felt that she was already tensing up a little bit. You never know — the third set is usually my best.”
Gallegos, who had some success toward the end of the match with high, deep volleys to Surviladze, afterward reflected upon that and her opponent.
“I guess I wasn’t concentrating enough on hitting those kinds of shots, although I should have. But I was just nervous, I guess,” Gallegos said.
“She (Surviladze) was pretty good, but not as good as her sister.”
Gallegos was the third-place finisher out of District 4-5A while Surviladze finished second in 2-5A.
With the top two singles players in 4-5A — Hobbs’ Sara Baker and Carlsbad’s Tiffany Graham — graduating this year, odds are good that Gallegos could make a return trip to the individual competition.
“One thing I’ll have to do in the summer is try to get up here and play more — so I’m more used to it next year,” Gallegos said.