HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — It was championship Sunday over at Athletic Club Alabama and winners would be crowned in the doubles and singles brackets for the USTA girls 16U clay court national championships.
In the duos final, Alanis Hamilton and Kayla Chung, the top players from Arkansas and Pennsylvania each, staved off top-seeded pair Saray Yli-Piipari and Kayla Shefke in 3 sets after needing a tiebreaker to claim the first set. Hamilton and Chung were the tournament’s #4 doubles seed. Final score: 7(7)-6(5), 4-6, 6-4.
Hamilton and Chung had as busy a week as any, playing in a combined seven singles matches in the main bracket, five combined in the consolation bracket and then six doubles matches together en route to duos gold. Hamilton will hold bragging rights between the two, though, as she was the one who eliminated Chung in the solos Sweet 16 round.
The pair have grown into a friendship after playing together for six months on the doubles circuit, Chung said after their match.
“I think we've gotten really used to how we play and we can kind of read each other's minds on the court,” she said. “It's gotten easier to play over the past few months.”
The telepathy works when you have a set strategy, too, as was the case with their team, said Chung.
“I think our goal was to come in as much as possible, like we serve a volley every serve, and I think that game style helps a lot,” she said. “Not many people play like that, so coming out winning this shows that it can actually work.”
In singles, Natasha Rajaram took a 5-1 lead in the 2nd set … and Katie Spencer made her work for match point. Rajaram missed on a few return volleys, allowing Spencer to get 2 points late in the set, but Rajaram would clinch on a let into the net by Spencer.
Rajaram said she executed a simple gameplan.
“I was kind of just focusing on placing the ball, I think my biggest goal was to just go point by point and not focus on the game score or the set score. And just to remember that each point doesn't like fall over the next one.”
Athletic Club Alabama owner Eddie Jacques got compliments from players' families after the event. He said it was earned by all parties.
“Just being able to communicate to the families, communicate to the players, communicate to the coaches, and let them know what's going on each and every day. And so and then when we don't get any rain that day, can run smoothly. With the number of courts that we use, again, with the tennis center helping us out so much. It really was able to stay on track, and end up being a super event.”
The clay court nationals will be in Huntsville for the next 3 summers. Preparation for next year’s event will begin in January of 20-23.