©Colette Lewis 2013--
Fifteen-year-old Jessie Aney had difficulty deciding whether to play the 16s or the 18s division of the USTA Clay Courts this week. But with a ice hockey development camp coming up, she thought a possible early exit from the 18s would have a silver lining. With No. 1 seed Spencer Liang as Aney's third round opponent, those plans still seemed likely until Tuesday morning, when Aney defeated Liang 6-3, 6-2.
Liang struggled throughout the match, played on the Racquet Club of Memphis's stadium court, making more errors than usual and finding it difficult to get the ball by Aney even when an opening appeared. The points throughout the match were long and grueling, and although the temperatures hadn't reached the low 90s of the late afternoon, a lot of physical effort was required in every game.
Aney has a one-handed backhand that Liang tried to attack, but whether it was of the slice or topspin variety, Aney made few errors on that side. Aney came to the net often, knocking off her overheads with confidence and sliding on the clay like a Spanish veteran.
"I don't play on it too much," Aney said. "We have a couple of clay courts in Rochester (Minnesota), but they're not very good. I think hockey has helped a lot with that. Stopping and stuff, it's kind of similar. I really like playing on clay, it's really fun."
In the second set, Liang went up a break at 2-1, but Aney broke back immediately, shutting the door on any possible comeback from Liang. Five games later, on a forehand cross court winner, Aney had the victory in her first USTA Level 1 tournament in the 18s division.
"I'd never seen her play before, so I don't know what her level was," said Aney. "But I played really well, I executed really well on my shots. I didn't really have a plan, I was just trying to play my game, move her around, slide in when I could, play good defense."
Aney has played high school hockey for three years, although she is only a rising sophomore.
"Almost all the high schools in Minnesota have a girls team," said Aney. "This summer I'm doing some camps, called Select 15 camps, and they keep narrowing down the girls from my age until eventually they'll pick a national team for the girls 18s. So now I'm at the final 60 for my age."
Aney will play University of Michigan sophomore Amy Zhu, a 17 seed, in the round of 32 on Wednesday.
With Liang out, No. 2 seed Peggy Porter becomes the favorite, and she looked the part on Tuesday, needing barely an hour to defeat Alexandra Solovyev 6-1, 6-0. Porter has now won her first two matches with the loss of only two games.
No. 3 seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer advance with 6-3, 6-2 win over Smith Hinton, but No. 5 seed Michaela Gordon was beaten by Stephanie Smith 6-2, 6-4. Gordon, who turns 14 later this month, was having trouble with her serve throughout the match, and Smith was moving well inside the baseline to tee off on Gordon's second serves.
Serving for the match at 5-3, Smith had two match points, but missed a forehand long on the first and saw Gordon hit a forehand winner on the second, and eventually Smith was broken. Gordon couldn't keep that momentum however, and with Gordon serving at 4-5, a net cord winner by Smith gave her two more match points. This time she converted, with Gordon sending a backhand wide to give Smith the victory.
Other Top 16s seeds to fall were No. 9 seed Brittany Lindl, who lost to Sophie Chang 7-5, 6-0, and No. 12 seed Allison Miller, who was beaten by Katherine Fahey 6-1, 3-6, 6-0.
In all, there are 18 seeds remaining in the round of 32, with 10 of them No. 17 seeds. Only one of the eight sections in the draw has produced the four expected seeds.
For complete results, see the TennisLink site.