Carmel Valley’s Ahn wins USTA Billie Jean King Girls’ 16s National Championship
Her plans now include her first visit to New York with a wild-card berth in the U.S Junior Open
First, San Diego’s Alyssa Ahn received congratulations from some hometown peers in sideline seats after wining the USTA Billie Jean King Girls’ 16s National Championship.
Then came greetings from the tourney namesake herself in a conversation apart from the microphone during the awards ceremony at the Barnes Center on Sunday, April 14.
“She said to keep working hard,’’ related the ninth-seeded Ann, “Then she asked what my goals are. I said to go to college. ... It was pretty nerve-racking, knowing how legendary she is. But it was exciting.’’
Ann claimed the singles title in her second tourney appearance with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over unseeded Christasha McNeil, of Lindenhurst, N.Y., in a duel of 15-year-olds.
It’s too early for the Torrey Pines High sophomore to commit to a college. But, as part of her tourney prize, her plans now include her first visit to New York with a wild-card berth in the U.S Junior Open.
In the subsequent 18s final, fourth-seeded Eleana Yu, of Mason, Ohio, topped No. 17 Valerie Glozman, of Bellevue, Wash., 6-3, 7-5 on her fifth match point. With that title comes a wild-card berth in the U.S Open main draw and a resulting payday upward of $75,000.
Ahn, who first attended the tourney as a 10-year-old spectator, also felt right at home since she’s in her third year of training at the Barnes Center.
“I’m more comfortable on these courts than my opponents,’’ said Ahn, who displayed a business-like approach on the court, even wearing a T-shirt with her equipment sponsor’s name. “To have a lot of people cheering for me from San Diego helps a lot, too.’’
Ahn took the first three games and started a pattern of holding service throughout the match. Overall, she had 10 service winners and an ace with her first serve typically approaching 90 miles per hour.
“My serve was definitely a key factor in this match,’’ said Ahn, who turns 16 on Dec. 27. “My serves hadn’t been the best in the tournament, so it helped that they were good this time.’’
In the second set, Ahn jumped to a 4-1 lead, while adding some strong approach shots to her usual baseline reliance.
“Alyssa’s definitely consistent,’’ said McNeil, a Jamaican native, who moved to New York at age 7. “She handles pressure very well.’’
To reach the final, Ahn topped San Diegan Claire Zhang in semifinals 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 on Friday. A year ago, Ahn reached the round of 64 in the 256-player field.
Ahn said she’s undecided about returning to high school tennis after winning the San Diego Section singles crown last fall.
McNeil, in her third tourney appearance, ousted Fallbrook’s Emily Deming 6-3, 6-4 in the round of 32.
In the 18s final, the 17-year-old Yu led the second set 5-4 but couldn’t convert four match points on her service in a 16-point game. But she took the next two games for the title, concluding with her sixth service winner.
“I definitely knew that the match was closer then,’’ said Yu, 17. “I even started prepping mentally for a third set. I just made sure that I kept fighting.’’
Next she will interrupt her senior year of high school for the U.S. Open.
“It’s a dream come true,’’ said Yu, who expressed hopes of playing the retiring Serena Williams in the tourney opener. “I’m so excited.’’
Glozman, 15, came off a 6-4, 6-1 semifinal victory over San Diego’s Katherine Hui. In that match, she overcame a 4-0 deficit in the first set.
In the final, Glozman started a comeback bid by building a 4-2 lead in the second set.
Thien is a freelance writer.
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