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Girls clay court national championship returns to Huntsville

USTA brings its U16 event to Athletic Club Alabama for third time in a row

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — The United States Tennis Association brings its 16-and-under girls clay court national championships back to Huntsville. The event comes during one of the busiest times on the tennis calendar when a champion gets crowned at Wimbledon, the Athletic Club Alabama will commence its event.

ACA will host the event for the third time in four years, only missing the 2020 round because of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, 13 seed Aubrey Nisbet defeated third-overall Carrie Beckman 6-0, 6-4. Nisbet, a five-star senior from Wilmington, Delaware is a verbal commit to Wake Forest. Louisville, Ky. Beckman, who is set to attend Notre Dame in two years, is a five-star senior ranked 35th nationally, per Tennis Recruiting Network.

This year’s field features 224 players from 28 states who will compete in singles and doubles competition. ACA owner Eddie Jacques said this event has brought out tennis’ best of this age group.

“We've got a girl from Rhode Island, we've got actually a couple from Hawaii,” said Jacques. “And just going through the draw, a lot of California, a lot in New York, obviously a lot of Florida and then the players around the South but … every area is covered, which is great where you see and they're willing to travel and put the time and effort to come and play a high level national event like this.”

Hosting a national tournament like this elevates the area’s tennis profile and engages with local fans.

“Just to be able to have a national event where you're giving somebody an individual national championship here in our town is special,” said Jacques. “They win a gold ball, which is a gold tennis ball, which is something that tennis has done for years and years and years. And it's a great tradition and great history and it's really special to them.”

As for names to keep an eye on, Ansley Cox and Gabby Barrera are the only competitors from the Yellowhammer State. The sophomores are repping Vestavia and Montgomery while holding the #2 and #4 rankings in the state, respectively, according to Tennis Recruiting Network.

Cox, who won a 7A team state championship this year at Vestavia Hills High starts at 8 a.m. on Sunday, while Barrera, the 6A singles runner-up at Montgomery Academy, is set for 9:30.

With first serve on Sunday morning lining up exactly with the Wimbledon finals, Jacques said the energy is upped.

“We'll have both TVs on and you end up having a lot of parents and coaches actually in our event center over there and not as many people outside watching their attendance because of the finals, so it is actually a special way to start off,” said Jacques.

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