by Marcia Frost, 4 August 2011
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What do Tracy Austin, Lindsay Davenport and Jennifer Capriati have in common with Christina McHale and Melanie Oudin? Each one has been a highly-ranked American tennis player, but they share something else in common - they have all picked up trophies at the USTA Girls' Nationals.
In 2010, a move was made to combine the Girls' 16s and Girls' 18 Nationals to create one event that would garner the attention of the Boys' Nationals at Kalamazoo. The Berkeley location where the 18s was held at wasn't big enough to hold it all, so the Barnes Tennis Center
won the bid with the USTA to bring the 18s in with the 16s at their site. It's still a young tournament compared to Kalamazoo
, which has gone long past the half century mark. Each year will represent growing pains and some new excitement for the players. In 2011, for example, there will be an inaugural Final Eight Beachside Dinner for the quarterfinalists in singles and doubles of both age divisions.
Wildcards have been awarded in both age divisions to some deserving players who didn't quite have enough USTA points to get in on their own. (This could be due to injury, or because the players were honing their skills on the professional or ITF circuits rather than nationally.) The girls chosen for that special exemption are:
Girls' 16 - Yuki Asami, Lexi Borr, Emma Davis, Caroline Henderson, Adrienne Jensen, Alyssa Smith, and Carolyn Xie.
Girls 18 - Robin Anderson, Hayley Carter, Gabrielle De Simone, Julia Elbaba, Liz Jeukeng, Nicole Melichar, Sabrina Santamaria, Denise Starr, Ellen Tsay, Monica Turewicz, Chanelle Van Nguyen, and Sachia Vickery.
While most of the Girls' 16s wildcards went to players who have excelled in the 14s and are moving their way up, Alyssa Smith has earned a seeding of 15 and Lexi Borr is seeded in the 17-32 group. The top seeds in the 16s are (in order) Kimberly Yee, Katrine Steffensen, Peggy Porter, Spencer Liang, and Shannon Hudson. Yee was the Easter Bowl finalist in the 16s and more recently picked up a title on the ITA Summer Circuit. Steffensen came in second at tuhe ITF Junior event in Plantation, Florida, and she was the winner of a Girls' 18 National Open in the winter. Peggy Porter picked up the Girls' 16s USTA Clay Court Gold Ball last month. Spencer Liang was the Girls' 16s finalist in San Diego last year, while Shannon Hudson came in third at last year's USTA Girls' 14s Nationals and won the St. Louis Gateway Championships.