The United States womenâ€™s tennis team collected the gold medal and the bronze medal in singles on Friday at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.
No. 2 seed Irina Falconi, 21, of Atlanta, captured the gold medal after defeating Puerto Ricoâ€™s Monica Puig, 6-3, 6-2. The last American woman to win a tennis gold medal at the Pan American Games was Pam Shriver in 1991. No. 1 seed Christina McHale, 19, of Englewood Cliffs, N.J., won the bronze medal, defeating Argentinaâ€™s Florencia Molinero, 6-1, 6-1.
Falconi turned pro 18 months ago following a stellar two-year career at Georgia Tech, where was named the 2010 College Player of the Year. She had her best result as a professional at the 2011 US Open, reaching the third round after upsetting No. 14 Dominika Cibulkova in the second round in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Falconi competed in the three other Grand Slam tournaments this year, qualifying for the Australian Open and Wimbledon and winning a USTA playoff to earn a wild card into the French Open. She is ranked No. 77.
McHale became the youngest player in the WTA Top 50 after reaching the third round of the 2011 US Open, defeating No. 8 seed Marion Bartoli in the second round. Three weeks prior, McHale upset world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki at the Olympus US Open Series event in Cincinnati. McHale trains at the USTA Training Center-East at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., and was one the first players to train full-time at the USTA Player Development Headquarters in Boca Raton, Fla., as part of the residency program from 2007-2010. She is ranked a career-high No. 42.
The Pan American Games are held every four years in the year immediately prior to the Olympic Games, and tennis has been contested at the Games since the eventâ€™s inception in 1951. Among the Americans who have won a gold medal in singles at the Pan American Games are Althea Gibson (1959, singles), Arthur Ashe (1967, mixed doubles), Patrick McEnroe (1987, menâ€™s doubles), Pam Shriver (1991, singles, womenâ€™s doubles, and mixed doubles) and Paul Goldstein (1999, singles).