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Clay Court Championship Week
Martinelli Takes 16s Title in Virginia Beach

VIRGINIA BEACH - Samantha Martinelli usually enjoys clay-court tennis about as much as swimmers and surfers enjoy seeing a shark's fin in the coastal Virginia water.

Singles champion Samantha Martinelli
But with smart preparation, the Denver Blue Chip recruit navigated her way through a draw of 192 to capture the title at the USTA Girls' 16 National Clay Court Championships.

Also, the second-seeded Martinelli received the sportsmanship award at Virginia Beach Tennis and Country Club, which has hosted this event since 1987.

Just before the awards presentation, "she asked me who had won it, and I told her I couldn't tell her yet," tournament director Laurie Hackbirth said. "It was a difficult decision because there were so many good sports on and off the court."

Martinelli, an Odyssey Charter Academy student who is ranked 14th in the Class of 2017 by Tennis Recruiting Network, made her last 16s tournament one to cherish. She won a trio of three-set matches to complete her 7-0 week, culminating with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory over top-seeded Natasha Subhash, a 13-year-old from Fairfax, Va., on July 18.

Players and the 100 or so spectators were perspiring profusely in temperatures in the mid-to-high 80s on championship Saturday, which featured primarily power baseline tennis and occasional touch. The ball rarely went more than 4 or 5 feet over the net in often-breathtaking rallies, and swinging volleys were prominent in both players' arsenals.

Martinelli said she not only grew up in Colorado, but she has been in Las Vegas to develop her skills under coach Tim Blenkiron for the last couple of years.

"It's the humidity," she said of coming to Virginia. "I moved to Vegas to train - the driest dry there is."

Martinelli said her last soft-court tournament resulted in a second-round loss at the USTA 14 National Clays. But coming to Hampton Roads on a Wednesday, four days before her first match, gave her time to acclimate to the steamy weather and slippery courts.

"I tried to ignore the fact that it was clay, because I'm so unsure on it," she said. "I play on hard courts all the time. I haven't played on clay courts since I was 13."

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Page updated on Sunday, October 06, 2019
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