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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Steamy Conditions Don't Faze Unseeded Players, as Six Reach Round of 16 at USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Memphis, TN--

Heat and humidity are a given in Memphis in July, and there were no surprises on that front in Wednesday's round of 32 at the USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts at the Racquet Club of Memphis. The temperature reached 95 as few clouds gave any relief from the sun, and players went to their towels often, their clothing soaked with sweat.

After losing 14 seeds in the second and third rounds, eight more seeds lost on Wednesday, and there are now more unseeded players (six) than Top 16 seeds (five) remaining with a chance for the Clay Court gold ball and the US Open junior championships wild card that goes with it.

No. 2 seed Peggy Porter has avoided the upset bug circulating in East Memphis this week, and she dodged a dangerous opponent Wednesday, defeating unseeded Francesca Dilorenzo 6-3, 6-1.  Porter trailed 3-1 in the opening set, still unsure of her opponent's tendencies and strengths, as they hadn't met before.

"I was still adjusting to her pace," said Porter, 17. "And the lefty weird spin a little bit. Once I got used to it, I started rolling a little bit. She got a little frustrated and I worked with it."

But even with Dilorenzo's lack of success in the second set, she didn't allow Porter to win many easy points.

"She worked really hard and didn't give me any easy points, or if she did, the next point she picked right back up," said Porter. "She never let me take off and have momentum and she didn't give me any loose errors. She got that extra ball back every time."

Porter is familiar with extreme heat, living and training in Dallas, but she hasn't been there much recently, since she's been playing Pro Circuit events the last two months.

"Usually I'm really used to the heat," said Porter, who won the 16s Clays and Hard Courts back-to-back in 2011. "I've been traveling a lot though. It's a little hotter in Texas, but it's more humid here. It's still rough."

Porter will play Jessica Ho in the round of 16 Thursday, after Ho, a No. 17 seed, defeated No. 8 seed Brooke Broda 6-1, 6-2.

Ho, who lost in the first round here in Memphis last year to eventual champion Danielle Collins, has been getting in plenty of practice on clay since she's begun training at the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Naples, Florida.

"I've been there three months now," said Ho, who also mentioned that helped her prepare for the heat and humidity in Memphis. "They only have one hard court."

Ho hadn't played Broda before, but was familiar with her and her game.

"I thought it was a pretty good match. It was hot out there," said Ho, who had a bag of ice she applied to her neck during changeovers. "I played pretty well. I worked on the things I've been training to do, so I felt pretty comfortable out there."

While the projected semifinal between Porter and No. 3 seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer is still intact after Ouellet-Pizer's 6-4, 6-2 win over Nikki Kallenberg, a No. 17 seed, the top half of the draw has been riddled with upsets.  No. 6 seed Alexandra Letzt, who beat Caroline Lampl, a No. 17 seed, 6-4, 6-3 Wednesday, is the only top 16 seed left in the top half.

Four unseeded players and three No. 17 seeds advanced to the final 16 in the top half.  Unseeded Sarah Baron beat No. 17 seed Lindsey Hodge 7-5, 7-5, unseeded 14-year-old Caroline Dolehide defeated unseeded Maia Magill 6-1, 6-0, unseeded Terri Fleming outlasted unseeded Felicity Maltby 6-3, 0-6, 6-3 and unseeded Brienne Minor cruised past No. 10 seed Olivia Sneed 6-3, 6-0.  For a stretch at the end of the first set and the beginning of the second, Minor couldn't miss, hitting aces, lobs, drop volleys, backhands on the line and dipping forehand angles that Sneed could only observe with exasperation. Minor and Fleming will meet Thursday, assuring an unseeded quarterfinalist.

Baron will play Amy Zhu, a No. 17 seed, who had one of the most dramatic wins of the day, defeating Jessie Aney 6-4, 7-6(5). Zhu, a sophomore at the University of Michigan, was up 6-4, 4-1, cruising past the 15-year-old from Minnesota, when she became ill, vomiting in the trash receptacle and needing a trainer at the changeover. She lost four games in a row, with Aney taking a 5-4 lead, but Zhu held for 5-5 and then broke Aney to serve for the match.  She wasn't able to serve it out, saving two break points but not a third, sending the match into a tiebreaker.  Although Zhu continued to hit big shots on occasion, she was still struggling with the heat, and there was a real sense that Aney would take the third set if she could get there.

Zhu took the first three points of the tiebreaker, with Aney taking the next three.  At 5-5, Zhu came up with a backhand winner to give herself a match point, on Aney's serve.  Zhu took control of the point, but couldn't quite finish it, with Aney somehow getting back several shots including a good overhead. But finally, on a second overhead, Zhu put it out of Aney's reach, ending the building tension. After the handshake and a brief rest on her courtside chair, Zhu left with the trainer, heading to the club's air conditioning to try to ready herself for her doubles match two hours later.

Two unseeded players reached the round of 16 in the bottom half of the draw, with Katharine Fahey defeating Alexis Nelson, a No. 17 seed, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 and Stephanie Smith beating Laura Patterson, a No. 17 seed, 6-4, 6-2.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

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