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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Seeds Roll into Fourth Round at Girls 18s Clay Courts

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Memphis, TN--

It was unlikely that the third round of the USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts could match the drama of Monday's action, which saw both the finalists from 2010 lose their opening matches, and so it proved Tuesday. The pendulum definitely swung in the other direction, with only one Top 16 seed bowing out, and the rest rolling in straight sets on another very warm day at the Racquet Club of Memphis.

No. 4 seed Catherine Harrison, the local product who has a permanent 8:00 a.m. start time on Stadium Court 4 just as long as she keeps winning, needed less than an hour to power her way past Aurora Garrison 6-1, 6-1. Harrison dropped the opening game, then went on to win ten games in a row before Garrison held her serve for the first and only time in the match.

Danielle Collins, the No. 3 seed, struggled at times against Monica Lin, but Collins' service returns--especially aggressive on Lin's second serve--resulted in a slew of double faults from Lin. There were several very long games in the match, all on Lin's serve, but Collins won enough of those to earn a 6-3, 6-2 win.

Top seed Gabby Andrews, who contributed to Monday's day of drama by dropping the first set against Julia Casselbury, had a much smoother second match, beating Mary Meyers 6-2, 6-1. On the adjacent court, her friend and frequent doubles partner (although not in this tournament) Taylor Townsend, the No. 5 seed, beat Madison Rhyner 6-2, 6-1 in just over an hour.

With some welcome cloud cover providing a bit of relief from the temperatures in the upper 90s, there was still much to be said for getting off the court and into the shade or air conditioning, and two of Monday's heroes did just that.

Denise Starr, responsible for the upset of No. 2 seed and 2010 finalist Whitney Kay yesterday, continued her excellent tournament, beating Mariam Zein 6-2, 6-0, as did Katrine Steffensen, who beat 2010 champion and No. 11 seed Caroline Price on Monday. Steffensen defeated Alyssa Smith, duplicating Starr's scoreline.

Another unseeded player having an impressive tournament is Julia Elbaba, who fashioned the one upset of the day at the Racquet Club of Memphis site, beating No. 13 seed Ellie Yates 7-5, 6-1.

Elbaba trailed 4-2 in the opening set, but hit on a strategy that helped her win 10 of the next 11 games.

"I just thought it would make the match easier to close out the points at the net," said the 17-year-old New Yorker, who moved forward at nearly every opportunity. "Before the match, it's not like I knew I was going to come into the net--it wasn't a 100% strategy for me--but I tried it a couple of times, and I saw it worked, so why not stick with something that's working."

In addition to discovering a strategy that would allow her to use her volleying skills, Elbaba was also pleased with the emotional stability she showed during the match.

"I was very positive, I was proud of myself," said Elbaba, who recently returned to the US after playing two ITF junior tournaments in Morocco on clay. "I didn't get down on myself, I stayed level-headed. I'm trying to work on staying focused and not wasting my energy on negativity. That helped me a lot today."

There were no doubles played today, but the round of 32 in singles and the round of 16 in doubles is scheduled for Wednesday.

For the draws, see the TennisLink site.