Local Juniors Shine at L1 USTA National Championships
Several local youth players recently represented the USTA St. Louis District at the prestigious USTA Level 1 National Championships, widely considered one of the top junior tournaments of the year. The L1s took place over the August 4-16 time frame.
Troy Bray — director of tennis at Creve Coeur Racquet Club — attended the girls’ 16s and 18s event at Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego. Bray traveled from St. Louis with his wife to watch a few of his players compete and made a vacation out of the trip.
“Getting an opportunity to watch a Level 1 tournament like that is significant,” Bray said. “You can give them lessons and watch them at practice all day. But having the opportunity to watch them compete at the highest level — from a coaching standpoint, I learned more in two to three days than I would in a month just watching them practice. It’s invaluable.”
One of Bray’s players, Amber Yin, reached the Round of 16 in both singles and doubles play at 16 & Under. Abby Gaines won a total of three matches while Sahana Madala won two. Gaines and Madala actually matched up in the consolation bracket, with Gaines winning a tight 6-4, 6-7, 16-14 three-setter. Katie Ferguson won her opening match at 18 & Under.
“I tell the kids: ‘I don’t want you to ever lose a match because your attitude and effort weren’t there. If somebody lines up and beats you because they had to play good ball, well, that’s OK,’” Bray said. “For the most part all the kids were able to do that. You’ve got to throw in the fact there are going to be some nerves because it’s their first experience at tournaments like that. Good feedback and all the kids were appreciative of my wife and I attending the event.”
While Bray’s players had a strong showing in San Diego, the other USTA St. Louis player at girls’ 16s was No. 17-seeded Ariel Madatali. She advanced to the Round of 64 before dropping a match to the No. 33 seed. In the 18s, Emily Kantrovitz won her first-round match and Caitlin Flower lost a tough three-setter in the consolation round.
At the boys’ 18s, which took place at Kalamazoo College in Michigan, Gus Tettamble won an impressive three matches in the consolation draw — all in three sets. For the boys’ 16s, which also took place in Kalamazoo, Preston Achter won his opening-round match as well as one consolation match. Edward Yue dropped his first-round matchup in three sets.
“There is a lot riding on these tournaments,” Bray said. “They are first-class events. Some of the matches are chaired. A lot of times — especially in Kalamazoo — the community is so involved. They come out and support it. The girls and boys come back and say, ‘OK, coach, now we understand what you mean.’ The electricity, just the energy — whether you’re playing in the main draw or back draw — is just a little extra special.”
The girls’ 14s tournament occurred at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. USTA St. Louis was well-represented with six players from the area competing. Angela Chen advanced to the Round of 32. No. 12-seeded Emerey Gross made it to the Round of 64. Kayla Chan, Skye Madatali, Izabella Tumanyan and Mia Yin also earned their way to the tournament.
For the boys’ 14s at the Mobile Tennis Center in Alabama, John Varley reeled off four straight victories in the bronze consolation round. Rocco Regnier advanced to the Round of 64. Jai Patel and Shaan Patel also competed in Alabama.
The girls’ 12s tourney took place in Alpharetta, Georgia at the Windward Lake Club. Jagathi Patibandla of Lake St. Louis won her first-round match as well as a consolation match.
Finally, for the boys’ 12s at Alabama’s Mobile Tennis Center, Fenton’s No. 2-seeded Navneet Raghuram won his opening three matches. He proceeded to capture three more victories in the silver draw to win that stage. Raghuram also made the Round of 16 in doubles action. Aristen Malone qualified for the semifinals of the southeast draw stage.
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