For about the first 30 minutes Sunday, No. 2 seed Lauren Embree appeared resigned to the same fate she experienced in 2007 as a 16-year-old when she lost in the finals of the Fort Worth Women’s Pro Classic at TCU.This time, however, the 22-year-old former Florida star showed the fitness and determination that helped her become one of the top collegiate players in the country, as she relentlessly ran No. 5 seed Miyu Kato of Japan out of the match under a blazing Texas sun.After losing the first seven points of the match and 13 of the first 14 on the way to losing the first four games, Embree ended up with a 3-6, 6-1, 3-1 victory over 18-year-old Kato, who retired because of a heat-related illness.“I did get off to a slow start,” Embree said. “I think I only won one point in the first three or four games, but I knew I just had to get into the match. I had to keep my focus, keep balls in the court and try to win one point at a time.”Embree won her semifinal match Saturday when Lauren Herring of Greenville, N.C., had to retire because of the heat. Herring was treated for a heat exhaustion by Fort Worth Fire Department personnel. Tournament officials moved the start of Sunday’s final up two hours to 9 a.m. The temperature on the court, however, was over 100 degrees as Embree consistently worked Kato side to side, throwing in several drop shots that took the legs and the will to continue out of Kato.It was Embree’s second Pro Circuit title and first since winning in Wichita, Kan., in 2008 while playing as an amateur. “It’s been a while,” Embree said. “It means a lot. It’s real exciting to win any tournament, but it’s a huge confidence boost for me. I’ve had a better summer toward the end of summer, so hopefully I can build on it.”Embree, who was named the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Player of the Year last month after posting a 117-16 record in four years at Florida, is ranked 616 and was playing in only her fifth pro event since completing her college eligibility.
Rusty Hall, 817-390-7816 Twitter: @RustyHall10s