Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Yarlagadda Ousts No. 2 Seed Martinelli; Six Unseeded Players Reach Round of 16 as Rain Again Disrupts USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Championships

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Memphis, TN--

Dangerous heat and humidity were expected this week in Memphis, and that forecast has been on target, but the rain that has interrupted play the past three afternoons at the USTA Girls 18s Clay Courts has been something of a surprise.  Arriving at around 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, the heavy thunderstorm came after just seven of the 16 main draw matches were completed, with the rest in progress, or not yet started.

The heavy rain that drenched the Racquet Club of Memphis left only three courts playable after the more than three-hour delay, so matches were moved to those courts from their original locations, with those closest to finishing going on first.  Eventually four more courts dried enough to allow play, but the last match did not go on until after 7 p.m.

The day started with sunny skies, the usual stifling humidity, and an upset.  No. 2 seed Samantha Martinelli, last year's 16s Clay Courts champion, saw her winning streak on the surface end with No. 17 Anika Yarlagadda recording a 7-5, 6-0 victory.

Martinelli had finished playing after 7 p.m. on Tuesday night, earning a 6-4, 6-7(4), 7-5 win over Sophia Patel that took over three hours, not including an interruption due to lightning. Just over 12 hours later she was back on court, and the energy-sapping conditions conspired to keep her from finding her game.

Neither player could hold serve in the first seven games of the match, but when Yarlagadda finally did hold, in the eighth game, she earned an opportunity to serve out the set at 5-4.  That didn't happen, but she got another chance at 6-5 and made no mistake, holding at love to claim the first set.

Martinelli was broken to open the second set, and unlike the first set, Yarlagadda was able to hold easily in her first two service games. Martinelli looked a step slow, with many of her shots finding the net, while Yarlagadda was able to dictate play, and she closed out the match without allowing Martinelli a game point in the second set.

"I felt I was able to hit a lot more winners than I might have if I would have played her yesterday when she was more fresh," said the 14-year-old from Michigan. "But overall, I think I did play very well today, and I don't think she played her absolute best."

Yarlagadda, who won the Division I Michigan High School singles title as a freshman at West Bloomfield last month, doesn't play much on clay, but she thinks it suits her game style.

"I did play Intersectionals, and that's on clay," Yarlagadda said of the 16s sectional team competition last week in Louisiana. "So I got a week of practice and that really helped me.  I like it. I don't really finish points a lot, I'm more like a grinder, so I like the clay. The balls are slower, I can get to more and when I do have a chance to finish it, I will. On clay, the big hitters can't really hit that hard, so I like it."

Although she likes the surface, Yarlagadda is not fond of the weather in Memphis.

"It's been rough," she said. "It was so hot, even at 8 a.m. I was exhausted. But if this is where the tournament's going to be, you've got to get used to the heat."

Yarlagadda will face unseeded Chiara Lommer, who beat Maryann Rompf 6-4, 6-0 in the last main draw match to finish Wednesday night.

Top seed Janice Shin and No. 3 seed Meibel Chi were able to get their matches in before the rain, primarily by keeping them short.  Chi defeated No. 17 seed Catherine Cable 6-2, 7-5 and Shin beat No. 17 seed Anastasiya Joyner 6-2, 6-1. No. 4 seed Ann Li cruised past unseeded Thea Rice 6-3, 6-0 and will play No. 17 seed Anna Brylin, who beat No. 9 seed Anna Rogers 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Shin will play Lexi Milunivich, a No. 9 seed, in Thursday's round of 16, while Chi will face Amanda Meyer, also a No. 9 seed.

In addition to Lommer, five other unseeded players advanced to the fifth round. Twelve-year-old Cori Gauff continued her run, beating unseeded Kate Paulus 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, with the rain delay coming right after Gauff won the second set with a late break.  Gauff will play Isabella Lorenzini, a No. 9 seed, next.

Two unseeded players square off when Nina Sorkin plays Nicole Conard, and unseeded Chelsea Kung, a 6-7(7), 6-4, 6-3 winner over No. 9 seed Tatum Rice, will face No. 5 seed Emma Kurtz.

Abigail Forbes, the sixth unseeded player in the round of 16, plays No. 9 seed Elysia Bolton, who defeated Andrea Amortegui 6-0, 6-1.  Bolton has lost only eight games in her three wins. Forbes ended the run of Jessica Anzo 6-0, 3-6, 6-1.

The round of 16 doubles matches originally scheduled for this evening were postponed.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

At the Girls 14s in Plantation, the top two seeds--Mae Fmar Canete
and Fiona Crawley--failed to make the quarterfinals, with No. 6 seed Charlotte Owensby the highest seed remaining.  The top two seeds in the Boys 14s in Fort Lauderdale--Spencer Whitaker
and Spencer Brachman--were eliminated in today's round of 16.