Orlando, Fla. -- Matched up against older, more experienced players on the first day of the USTA Collegiate Invitational presented by Adidas, the USTA junior girls proved that age is indeed only a number.
All eight USTA juniors won their singles matches against collegians on the first day of Group Play at the Tualatin Hills Tennis Center in Portland, Ore., inching each a step closer to capturing the USTA wild card entry into a USTA Pro Circuit event the first-year tournament awards its champion.
The USTA junior facing the largest age deficit, 12-year old Claire Liu (Thousand Oaks, Calif.), defeated Grace Ysidora of Washington, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(4), as one of four juniors battling to a three-set victory. Caroline Doyle (16, San Francisco) defeated Michigan’s Sarah Lee, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Jessica Ho (15, Wexford, Pa.) beat Washington’s Julija Lukac, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, and Dasha Ivanova (16, Beaverton, Ore.) took down Brooke Bolender of Michigan, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.
In straight set wins, Gabrielle Andrews (15, Pomona, Calif.) defeated Washington’s Elianne Douglas-Miron, 7-6(1), 6-2. Brooke Austin (16, Indianapolis) beat UCLA’s Skylar Morton, 7-5, 6-2. Jennifer Brady (17, Boca Raton, Fla.) took down Portland’s Anastasia Polyakova, 6-1, 6-0, while Kimberly Yee (16, Las Vegas) defeated Michigan’s Amy Zhu, 6-4, 6-3.
"It’s a good feeling. We have this 12-year old girl on our team, Claire Liu, and she’s a beast. I mean, I’m pretty sure it’s good experience for her," said Andrews, the 2012 US Open and Australian Open Junior Doubles champion who helped the U.S. capture the 2012 Junior Fed Cup title. "I’ve done this a couple times, so I know what to expect, and I know these girls fight hard. It’s good experience for all of us."
The sentiment was similar three thousand miles away, where five USTA junior boys were victorious in singles draws of the USTA Collegiate Clay Court Invitational at Disney, hosted by Florida State at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando.
Ronnie Schneider (18, Bloomington, Ind.) beat Southern California’s Max DeVroome, 6-4, 6-4, in the first round of the Gold Draw before falling to top-seeded Chris Mengel of Duke in the second round, 7-5, 6-4.
In the Garnet Draw, Gage Brymer (17, Irvine, Calif.) defeated Michael Rinaldi of Florida State, 6-4, 6-1, and George Goldhoff (17, Irvine, Calif.) beat Florida’s Luke Johnson, 6-4, 6-1.
"I think as many matches I can get against college guys and get that experience at that level is great," said Brymer, who is committed to UCLA. "All these players are good players from great schools, so I’m looking forward to UCLA next year."
"It just gives you a better perspective on what you might be facing in the future," said Goldhoff, who is committed to Texas. "The guys are bigger, stronger. They’re not going to break as easy, so you really can’t have mental lapses like sometimes you can against juniors and come back, so I think it’s awesome that we’re able to come to these events."
In the first round of the Spear Draw, Chase Perez-Blanco (16, Miami) defeated Central Florida’s Matthew Gladstone, 6-2, 6-1, and Ryan Smith (17, Weston, Fla.) beat Duke’s Dan McCall, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.
"The practice is definitely really good," Perez-Blanco said. "The level of competition between a junior and a college player is a big difference, and it shows you how hard you have to work."
In other Gold Draw singles matches, California’s Gregory Bayane beat Martin Redlicki (17, Hawthorn Woods, Ill.), 6-2, 6-3, Duke’s Michael Redlicki, Martin’s brother, defeated Roy Lederman (17, Miami), 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, and Duke’s Fred Saba took down Deiton Baughman (16, Carson, Calif.), 6-3, 4-6, 6-1.