Stanford grad Nicole Gibbs moved another step closer to playing in her third consecutive US Open main draw, capturing the USTA Player Development Women's $50,000 Classic with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 4-seeded Melanie Oudin on Sunday at the USTA Training Center West at StubHub Center in Carson.
The No. 2-seeded Gibbs, 21, is a two-time NCAA singles champion with the Cardinal and earned wild-card entry into the season's final Grand Slam the past two years by way of those collegiate titles.
With one event remaining in the US Open Wild Card Challenge, Gibbs now leads in the standings with 88 points. She is followed by Julia Boserup (63 points), Oudin (48), Louisa Chirico (44) and Sanaz Marand (30).
The finale of the three-event US Open Wild Card Challenge is the Lexington, Ky., $50,000 Challenger to be played this week.
It was a tight battle throughout in the final on Sunday with Gibbs holding a 4-2 lead in the second set, before the sole of her shoe came partially off. Admitting she started to "panic," Gibbs fell down 4-all, 40-love with Oudin serving. Gibbs then played a solid point, was aided by an untimely Oudin double fault and ultimately broke back to serve for the match.
"Tennis is like that sometime," said Gibbs, who won this event last year when it was held in Yakima, Wash. Without a spare pair of tennis shoes, Gibbs contemplated wearing running shoes, but opted for a tape job instead, which seemed to do the trick.
Oudin's first-round loss in US Open qualifying last year to Elena Baltacha ended a streak of five consecutive main-draw appearances at the US Open, which of course included her quarterfinal run there in 2009.
"It's one tournament," said Oudin, who did not play in Sacramento last week but will play Lexington, of the US Open. "I'm not worrying about this wild card. It's the last thing on my mind. If I play well I can qualify on my own. But if I do win this wild card that's just an added bonus."
Gibbs, a resident of nearby Marina Del Rey, said she loved playing so close to home. "Just the title of the tournament, 'Carson $50,000,' " she said. "It's so exciting to be at the place I train and have my community supporting me."