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White scales back but keeps winning

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- From the outside, Erica White's absence from the women's open singles field at the Charleston Public Courts tennis tournament may be giving the field a break.

After all, the all-time leader in women's open singles titles has won the championship each of the last seven times she's entered, taking 2008 off to play in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association circuit.

But. as she's quick to tell you, her decision not to enter the field was much more about giving herself a break.

White didn't completely abandon the tournament, however, as she and partner Scott Zent picked up a mixed open doubles semifinal win on Friday night, defeating Emily Bowlin and Tim Sylvester 6-3, 6-2. The match was moved to the Indoor Tennis Center and started 45 minutes late due to thunderstorms.

Zent and White will face Katherine Gillis and Eddie Harris at 4:30 p.m. today as the duo seeks its second straight title.

To White's credit, it was quite a busy year for the former George Washington standout.

She picked up Big South Conference player of the year honors as a No. 1 singles player last year in her senior season and combined with Jenny Lunde to earn the school's first ITA ranking, coming in at No. 90 in April in No. 1 doubles.

White went 18-3 overall and 9-1 as a singles player while she and Lunde went 16-3 in doubles.

Now with a full-time nursing job and real-world responsibilities, White said her goal is to relax and have fun on the court.

"I played college tennis and I ended really well there," White said. "I got player of the year there my senior year and my doubles partner and I got nationally ranked, and after that I was like, 'I'm done.' I just want to enjoy tennis now. In singles, I'm so competitive, it's fun, but you've got to train for it and you've got to be ready for it and I'm not there anymore."

Maybe not mentally, but her game sure doesn't seem to be lacking as evidenced by her and Zent's performance on Friday.

Of course, combining perhaps the best women's singles player in tournament history with maybe the best men's doubles player in tournament history does create quite a fearsome tandem for everyone else to deal with.

As it turns out, the partnership was a natural fit as Zent has been White's personal coach since she was 14 years old.

"Him and I are really close, he's a great person, and he's the best doubles player in town arguably," White said. "I got lucky and found myself a good partner and I'm going to hold on as long as I can."

But who asked whom first?

"I'm going to say he approached me and I'll go with that," White said with a laugh.

The women's open singles field may not seem the same without her, but White said she has no plans of returning at any time in the immediate future.

For now, just being at the public courts at all is enough for her, and if she can pick up a handful of mixed open doubles championships along the way, so be it.

"[Mixed open doubles] means just as much," White said. "Just being out here playing means a lot because I didn't know I was going to do it after graduating. Just the fact that I'm out here makes me feel good because there's a part of me that genuinely loves tennis still. You spend your whole life doing something and you don't want to hate it, so I'm glad I'm here."

Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, ryan.pritt@wvgazette.com, or follow him at twitter.com/Rpritt.

 


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