As he walked back onto Court 4 at the Champions Club for a third-set tiebreaker on Sunday afternoon, Trice Pickens fueled his confidence by muttering positive comments to himself.
Playing fifth-seeded Josh Mukherjee for a spot in this morning's boys singles final in the 12-and-under USTA National Open tennis tournament, Pickens won the first five points of the tiebreaker and went to take the match 4-6, 6-2, 1-0 (10-2).
Pickens hit a couple of big forehand winners to help him take a 5-0 lead in the tiebreaker. Mukherjee then won the next two points before Pickens then reeled off another five in a row to win the match.
"I kept reminding myself that if I win, I get to the finals," said Pickens, from Cary, N.C. "I tell myself I've got to keep my hopes up."
Pickens will face No. 2 seed Chase Wood, of Knoxville, in the final. Pickens is ranked No. 24 in the country and Wood is No. 25.
"I've never played him in a tournament, but I've played him in a couple of regional training camps before," Pickens said. "I don't really remember how those went - I don't think they went too well - but that was a while ago."
While Pickens was charging through his third-set tiebreaker, Wood was on the adjacent court grinding his way to a 6-3, 6-2 win over unseeded Steven Huynh. Despite losing just five games, Wood had to work for the win because each point and each game was a mini marathon.
Both boys semifinals were grueling duels, but that wasn't the case for the girls.
Third-seeded Abigail Desiatnikov dispatched top-seeded Meredith Roberts 6-3, 6-1, while No. 2 seed Alexandra Sanford, a semifinalist last year, defeated unseeded Isabelle Boulais 6-2, 6-2.
Like the boys finalists, the girls, both from Ohio, are ranked one spot apart - Sanford is No. 30 and Desiatnikov No. 31.
After losing to Wood in the second round Saturday, Hixson's Luke Plaisted won a round in the consolation bracket Sunday morning before falling to Louis Siegler 6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals.