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LI's Theadora Rabman wins first-round U.S. Open girls junior match

Thea Rabman of Port Washington returns a volley

Thea Rabman of Port Washington returns a volley from Cold Spring Harbor's Merri Kelly Hannity (not in picture) during the Nassau girls tennis singles final at Eisenhower Park in East Meadow on Oct. 20, 2019. Credit: James Escher

Theadora Rabman, "Thee" to family and friends, ground out a win in the first round of the Open’s junior girls singles tournament on Monday.

The 16-year-old from Port Washington, with plenty of support from Port Washington High’s girls and boys tennis teams in the stands, was down two breaks and 1-5 in the first set when she broke Laura Hietaranta of Finland three straight times and held her serve to pull out the set.

And she kept right on going, playing steady defense, getting depth and angles on her groundstrokes and even getting a few aces off serves in the low 80s. She had a clear advantage at the end, winning 7-5, 6-2.

"I was going in with a little confidence," said Rabman, who had to win two qualifying matches to enter the field. "I knew I had to play my game and stuck with that. I’m glad I got those qualifying matches in, gave me a little more experience and I wasn’t as nervous coming here, so that really helped."

Shane Helfner, her coach at Port Washington from seventh through ninth grades, was thrilled at what he saw.

"She has change of pace, not overpowering, but knows how to construct a point," said Helfner, sitting in the stands with his teams who originally were supposed to practice on Monday. "She doesn’t have a big serve but she changes pace by slicing, drop shotting, playing on the others girl’s weakness. She’s tough to play against because she grinds out points and you never know what shot is going to come next."

Rabman, who will be a junior at Port Washington , has chosen to play the junior circuit over high school tennis this year and last, with 2020 interrupted massively by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a ninth grader she finished second in the 2019 Nassau County singles and the 2019 New York State singles. In April this year she won the girls 16s of the nationally prominent Easter Bowl without dropping a set.

"Every year I see her there’s another level, then another level," Helfner said. "I just think she just never stops. To see her at this level is incredible."

Being a part of the Open at the National Tennis Center did have her a bit edgy.

"I was so nervous at first, but you know what, you’ve been on these courts before," said Rabman. "USTA tournaments are held here, so just stay focused, one point at a time, and I got through it."

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