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Hot 100 List - May '17

Despite April showers, junior tennis players around the country still find time to impress on the court. We checked in with some of last month's top performers in the May edition of the Hot 100.

The Hot 100 lists are published each month, and the May Hot 100 lists feature the one hundred boys and girls who most improved their rankings during the month of April. You can find out more about the Hot 100 - and how the lists are calculated - by reading here.

The latest lists, published today, are available here:

We talked to a few of these top performers...




Sahm Irvine (Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.)

Four-star junior Sahm Irvine has been devoting time to develop his mental game. "I believe that I have been more focused, disciplined, and relaxed both on and off the tennis court," he said.

Four-star junior Sahm Irvine
Irvine credits this shift in attitude, rather than any specific technical changes, for his recent growth as a player.

"Even though I felt indifferent as far as my working habits, such as my practices, fitness sessions and eating habits are concerned, I was much more prepared mentally for my matches," he said. "I focused on playing my best tennis and not on winning. My mental mindset was what contributed to my better play recently."

Irvine put his mental strength to good use last month at the historic Ojai Valley Junior Tournament. As the number four seed in the 16s, Irvine defeated the number one and two seeds to capture the title.

Five-star freshman Ali Amiri was the number one seed, and the two competed in a tough semifinal match.

"Ali was very fast and got every ball back, and we had very long rallies," Irvine said. "I dictated the points well and chose my opportunities to attack. We were both playing great tennis, but I turned out to be the better player that day."

Irvine took the match, 6-4; 1-6; 6-1. He then went on to defeat five-star sophomore Fernando Fonseca in the finals to clinch the championship.

In addition to tennis, Irvine dedicates much of his time to academics. "I take rigorous classes and strive to do the best I can in order to get the best grades," he said. He plans to major in a math or science-related major in college. "Like tennis, academics plays a meaningful part in my life."


Vivek Ramesh (Cary, N.C.)

Three-star sophomore Vivek Ramesh believes that what sets him apart from other players is his forehand. As his biggest strength, he constantly looks for ways to hit his forehand during practices and matches.

Three-star sophomore Vivek Ramesh
"My game is to stay steady with my backhand and look to hit as many forehands as possible to try and take control of the point and win," he said. "I am working on keeping my racquet closed on my forehand to be able to brush the ball heavy all the time."

Ramesh works with Jake Lester of the Cary Tennis Park. According to his mother, Maha Ramesh, Coach Lester deserves much of the credit for her son's improvements.

"My son's results are definitely credited to his hard work and his coach helping him develop his game and take it to the next level," she said. "Also credits goes to all Cary Tennis Park coaches for helping us a lot to develop him as a good player."

Highlights of Vivek Ramesh's last month of tennis include reaching the playoffs of the North Hills Club Spring Open and the consolation semifinals of the Icy Hot USTA Southern Tournament in Montgomery, Ala. He earned a 10-3 record for the month and jumped nearly 40 spots up in the Class Rankings.

Ramesh believes his best match of the month came at the North Hills Club Spring Open. He played in the 18s in preparation for the Icy Hot USTA tournament the following week. Ramesh met the number one seed, junior Matthew Thompson, in the round of 16.

"I played really well in this match and made sure I didn't allow Matt to step into the court to win the points," Ramesh said. "I kept him at the baseline and was very patient for my opportunities and went for the right shots." Ramesh took the match in a match tiebreak - 2-6; 6-2; 1-0.

Ramesh also plays tennis for Green Hope High School, the number one high school team in N.C. His success in both high school and USTA tennis has him thinking about his future in the sport. He hopes to play for a D-I college where he can compete in the top six.

"I am looking for a place where I can get a good education, build my tennis game, meet new friends and develop new relationships with people, coaches and other tennis players," he said.


Daria Shalina (Henderson, Nev.)

Two-star junior Daria Shalina was born in Moscow, Russia. She first picked up a tennis racquet at age six and immediately fell in love.

Two-star junior Daria Shalina
"When I started taking tennis more seriously, I realized that I would have to be patient and work hard to be one of the best, and I am certainly still working for it," she said.

At the age of nine, Shalina and her family moved to the U.S. The move was difficult for Shalina, who spoke little English at the time. Her academic skills came in handy, however, when she was placed straight into the fourth grade in the U.S., skipping third grade.

"It was very hard leaving my tennis friends and school friends behind and taking a big step into the future," she said.

In an unfamiliar country, Shalina found comfort in tennis, and she has not stopped since. She now trains with coach Kevin Bradley. Currently, they are working on Shalina's mental game.

"Of course the nerves are always present, but I am certainly working on overcoming that fear and staying calm for the next ball," she said.

Shalina enjoyed several wins last month. She won the consolation draw of the USTA Intermountain Spring Masters in Las Vegas, Nev. Later on in April, she reached the consolation semifinals of the Darling TC Level 3 Nationals, also in Las Vegas.

With these good results, Shalina has been considering a future with tennis. She is looking at colleges in the Southwest region, hoping to earn a tennis scholarship.

"A major I have been considering is dentistry, but I am also looking into going pro," she said.


Amy Kaplan (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

Three-star sophomore Amy Kaplan cites her improved mental game as the reason for her recent success.

Three-star sophomore Amy Kaplan
"I've tried to be more relaxed during points and have worked on playing smarter tennis," she said. "Keeping my mind in positive places in between points has really boosted my confidence. I think this has helped my tennis in a lot of ways."

Kaplan describes her game as aggressive, with her forehand as her biggest strength. "I like to win points from the baseline, but I also like to come up to net and push my opponent back with a volley winner," she said. "I think my forehand is my best shot because I can take control of a point with it and go from defense to offense very quickly. My forehand has definitely helped me in many tough situations."

One of these tough situations came last month at the Eastern Super Six Sportime Schenectady. She met four-star freshman Dakota Fordham in the consolation semifinals of this tournament. "We've played each other several times in the 14's divisions and trained together for about five years," Kaplan said. "She was always a little better than me and always beat me in very tight matches, all in three sets."

This time was different, however, for Kaplan. "I told myself to just fight for every point and to not overthink during the rallies, I knew that if I wanted to beat her I would have to work very hard and play my game," she said, and that's exactly what she did. She took the match in a match tiebreak - 6-3; 0-6; 10-6.

Kaplan went on to cinch the backdraw of this tournament. She also reached the semifinals of the Sportsplex Hudson Valley April Championships last month. Her strong performance catapulted her up over 40 spots in the Class Rankings.

The Brooklyn, N.Y., native says that her competitiveness sets her apart from her peers. "During tournaments, I like to be very serious and do things myself and in my own ways," she said. "Many people come to tournaments just to play, but I'm there to compete and to win. I find my seriousness to be something that I don't really share with other players."

Although Kaplan describes herself as serious, her parents, Tatiana and Vladimir Kaplan, know she has a lighthearted side too.

"Amy is very serious and very focused. She always has a determined look on her face and always wants to be better than the rest," they said. "Although she's serious, she can laugh at herself from time to time. This is what makes Amy's personality on and off the court."


Have a look over the Hot 100 lists - and take a look at some of the other players who have stepped up their game.

The next edition of the Hot 100 will be available on June 19, 2017.


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Colette Lewis has covered topflight junior events as a freelance journalist for over a decade. Read her weekly column, follow her on Twitter, and and find more of her daily commentary at ZooTennis.

Page updated on Sunday, May 14, 2017
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