Former Champion Andrews Tops No. 2 Seed Daniell, Lord Ousts Nelson in Girls 18s Clay Courts Third Round
©Colette Lewis 2014--
Monday night's storms introduced cooler and less humid weather for Tuesday's third round of the USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts, and the change in the weather also produced a change in the fortunes of the top seeds, with No. 2 seed Andie Daniell and No. 3 seed Alexis Nelson exiting in straight sets.
Melissa Lord, a No. 17 seed, defeated Nelson 6-4, 6-2 adapting her game from the hard courts she usually plays on in New England.
"It's a slower game, so I have to use more spin," said the rising senior from Connecticut. "Since it's a slower game, basically you stay more consistent, spin the ball up when you want and hit more angles. They'll be more effective, drop shots will be more effective."
Lord led early, but Nelson, who was not having her best day, managed to get the break she surrendered in the opening game of the match to even the first set at 4. She was immediately broken on a double fault however, and Lord served out the set.
Taking a 4-0 lead in the second set, Lord was cruising along but was broken to give one of the breaks back, with Nelson serving at 2-4. Nelson, who will turn 16 next month, was broken at love in the next game, stalling any thoughts of a comeback, and Lord was home free.
"That game was very important," said Lord, who hasn't committed to a college yet. "She's a great player, and really tough mentally, so of course there was a chance she could come back. So that game was very vital to the whole match basically."
Lord was playing on Court 4, which features ballrunners and a microphone for the chair umpire. But just as with the dozens of college coaches watching the match, which she admitted was "a little intimidating," Lord was able to keep her mind within the lines.
"I've never had ball boys or anything, so that was a little different," said Lord, who is coached by Phil Gordon. "Being on that center court was a little nerve racking, but if you just focus on the court, you don't even notice your surroundings."
Lord will play Gabriella Pollner, a No. 17 seed, in the round of 16. Pollner defeated No. 16 seed Jaclyn Switkes 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-0.
Following Lord onto Court 4 was Gabby Andrews, who won the title back in 2011 as a 14-year-old. Comfortable on Court 4 and with an assist from her grandmother Shirley, who lives in Memphis, Andrews defeated Daniell 6-2, 6-4.
Californian Andrews, playing in Memphis for the fifth consecutive year, considers the city her second home, and having family and friends at every match gets her through some tough moments. After four straight breaks in the second set, Andrews held to take a 5-4 lead, and in the final game, Daniell saved four match points before Andrews finally converted the fifth.
"She played a couple of great points," Andrews said, referring to Daniell's three big forehands that either were clean winners or forced errors on three match points. "I tried to stay calm but I was kind of pushing near the end. I couldn't really feel my flat shots like I usually do. So I just tried to keep the ball in play. I felt comfortable once we were in the rally. She'd find my weak points and I'd find her weak points. But I think I dictated...actually no, did I dictate most of the points? Because I felt like I was pushing most of the match.
Although Andrews said her grandmother doesn't grasp all the intricacies of game, she does provide emotional support.
"She reminded me of some bible stories, she has this one story, it's a long one, about her grass. It's a confusing story, I couldn't even explain it," Andrews said. "And she was telling me encouraging stuff, like I've got this, you can do it, I believe in you, stuff like that. It helps."
Andrews also said having USTA National Coach Kathy Rinaldi at the tournament brought back some good memories for her.
"I saw Kathy here and I remembered all the trips, all that I experienced," said Andrews, who was on the 2010 ITF World Junior Tennis 14-and-under champion team and the 2012 ITF Junior Fed Cup 16-and-under champion team. "I think that experience helped me out today."
Andrews will play unseeded Maddie Pothoff in the round of 16 on Wednesday after Pothoff defeated Cassie Mercer, a No. 17 seed, 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 in a match played at the Memphis Country Club.
Top seed Francesca Di Lorenzo was cruising through her match with Mia Horvit leading 6-1, 3-1 when Horvit raised her game, forcing Di Lorenzo to earn the points she won.
Di Lorenzo served for the match twice, at 5-4 and 6-5, failing to get to match point either time, but she did avoid dropping her first set of the tournament, posting a 6-1, 7-6(4) win.
"The first set wasn't her best, but the second set she came out like she normally does, which made it a lot tougher," said Di Lorenzo, who turns 17 next week. "She was fighting, and that's what she always does, so I was expecting that."
Di Lorenzo, who lost in the 2012 Girls 16s Clay Court finals to Horvit, said she has improved her offense since then.
"I build a point better and I'm able to go from defense to offense much more quickly," said the Ohio resident. "I was usually behind the baseline, but I try to step in now, be a little bit more aggressive. In the 16s Clay Courts, I was on defense the whole match, so now I'm working my way into being more comfortable stepping into the ball, coming to net, hitting some volleys, closing out points more."
As a left-hander, Di Lorenzo is expected to look fondly on clay, and she does.
"I like it. I think it suits my game very well, my high topspin balls can get people off the court," Di Lorenzo said. "I like sliding, I like moving, and it slows the ball down for me, so it suits my game well."
In Wednesday's round of 16, Di Lorenzo will play hometown favorite Kenya Jones, a No. 17 seed, in the 8 a.m. match on Court 4. The 16-year-old Jones defeated No. 14 seed Olivia Sneed 6-4, 6-1 to advance.
No. 4 seed Jessie Aney avoided the upset bug buzzing around the Racquet Club Tuesday, defeating unseeded Kristen Thoms 6-2, 6-2. No. 5 seed Katerina Stewart, playing at Memphis Country Club, had her first real test of the tournament, defeating No. 17 seed Emma Davis 7-6(5), 7-5.
For complete results, see the TennisLink site.