Coming into the ITA Midwest Regionals, sophomore Chiara Lommer was not expected to outshine her teammates on a senior-laden Michigan women’s tennis team.
But the sure-handed Lommer set herself apart, dropping only one set in five matches en route to the Midwest Regional title and an automatic bid to the ITA National Fall Championships this November.
Lommer was granted a first-round bye, as were the four other Wolverine singles competitors in the tournament. But by the end of the third-round match against Ohio State’s Olivia Sneed, she was the sole survivor of the group of five.
With her teammates cheering in the stands above, the 115th-ranked Lommer dominated Illinois’s Mia Rabinowitz in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2.
Yet the score did not paint a clear picture of the grueling points won by each player during the match.
A fortunate double-break including long rallies of up to 15-plus shots characterized the battle between Lommer and Rabinowitz. In game three of the second set, Lommer found a crucial break that snowballed into two and a needed momentum boost in the match. Resilient through tough deuces and break points, Lommer’s durability would not truly be tested as much throughout the remainder of the tournament.
Following the quarterfinal matchup, a quick turnaround led to Lommer meeting Illinois’s Emilee Duong in the semifinals. Lommer routed her second Illini challenger in a row in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2. Duong had played in a total of eight matches throughout the course of the tournament and was struggling, particularly on serves, and presented Lommer with few obstacles.
Michigan coach Ronni Bernstein said Sunday afternoon prior to the title match that Lommer always represents the Wolverines well and fights for every point, and that she notably stepped up to the challenge of becoming the sole Michigan competitor to make it past the third round.
“Chiara is a confident kid, and even before the tournament, she’s trying to win the whole tournament,” Bernstein said. “She's gonna take one match at a time and try to win the thing.”
In the championship match on Tuesday, Lommer battled against Ohio State's Shiori Fukuda. Riding the momentum of her earlier matches, she jumped out to a 2-0 lead after a break on the first serve eventually leading to a 6-0 romp. In the ensuing final set of the match, Fukuda jumped out to an early 3-1 lead with strong serves.
But Lommer was able to break back on Fukuda’s serve and then serve for the match, winning in straight sets 6-0, 6-4. Her prize was the singles title and an unexpected championships berth in California next month.