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Clay Court Championship Week
Liu Leads California Contingent in Girls' 16

A few miles from the ocean, Southern Californians dominated the USTA Girls 16 National Clay Court Championships, taking the top three places in singles and the runner-up honors in doubles.

The ATLANTIC Ocean, that is. Not the Pacific.

Girls 16 Singles Champion Claire Liu
© ZooTennis
During the tournament week, dozens of spectators gathered at Virginia Beach Tennis and Country Club to see who would earn the gold ball in singles as the best of the cross-country-trekking Los Angeles-area talent. The answer was Claire.

Claire Liu of Thousand Oaks overpowered Ryan Peus of Palos Verdes Estates 6-1, 6-2 July 19 for the championship of the 128-player field, running one of her frequent practice partners side-to-side. Liu's laser-like backhands near the lines and heavy, deep forehands made sure Peus had to lunge and slide way more than she'd have preferred.

The championship match's first game took 14 points, and the second game - when Liu registered her initial service break - took 12. Especially after that, she was usually more aggressive and more consistent, a potent combination.

Peus held serve to pull within 3-1 in the first set and won back-to-back games to cut her second-set deficit to 3-2, but Liu played two brilliant points to hold for 4-2 and re-establish control, ending both with winners near the net.

Frequently charging to the forecourt with Peus off balance, Liu completed numerous points with volleys and especially overheads during the 70-minute clash. She capped the match with a flourish, blasting an ad-court ace to Peus' backhand corner.

Liu, 14, was the fifth seed and Peus was No. 1, but don't call it an upset.

"We know each other's game so well," said Liu, the Junior Orange Bowl champion in 14s last year and in 12s in 2011. "She's my friend. I beat her a couple of weeks ago on hard courts."

For the week, Liu certainly played like what she is - the top-ranked rising ninth-grader on the Babolat College Recruiting Lists. She won 14 of the 15 sets she played and dropped just 26 games.

Her biggest challenge turned out to be her semifinal July 18 against eventual bronze-ball winner Kayla Day, the No. 2 seed. Day, 14, a powerful Santa Barbara left-hander who practices at the same Carson Training Center as the two finalists, saved a match point in the second set but yielded after a 10-minute break as Liu emerged with a 6-0, 6-7 (5-7), 6-1 triumph.

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Page updated on Wednesday, August 10, 2016
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