By Nathan Engel
SOFIA, Bulgaria – On Thursday, members of the U.S. Tennis Team sat on the sidelines, fingers crossed and eyes locked on two siblings returning volley after volley on the red clay courts of the Dema Tennis Center.
Daniel and Emily Hangstefer, of Chattanooga, Tenn., were battling their third consecutive seeded mixed doubles team. This time, it was the No. 2 seed from France, Mikael Laurent and Sophie Bernard.
The French duo had dominated all their mixed doubles matches, winning in straight sets. Bernard and Laurent also had run the tables in their singles matches by comfortable margins en route to the semifinals.
What happened next surprised some people, but not Daniel and Emily.
“Daniel and Emily showed up ready to win today,” head coach Katie Mancebo said. “And, as a matter of fact, that’s how they played the entire match. They held serve every time and broke the French woman’s serve every time but one.”
The Hangstefers had a sound game plan: be aggressive and attack the weaker of the French pair. It was a bold strategy but paid off as the Hangstefers won in straight sets, 6-3, 6-2.
The Hangstefers play the winner of the other semifinal – Germany’s Heike Albrecht and Urs Ferdinand Breitenberger versus Great Britain’s Catherine Fletcher and Lewis Fletcher – in the final for gold Saturday. The time has not yet been determined.