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Championship Week
Family Effort Propels Yanez to USTA Girls 12 Title

Sarasota, Fla., resident Nikki Yanez may have claimed her first gold ball and USTA National Championship this past week at the USTA Girl's 12 Nationals in Alpharetta, Ga., but she was quick to point out that this event, and everything she does is a "family effort."

Singles champion Nikki Yanez
© Doug Wrege, TennisRecruiting.net
"My brother, mother and father and really my whole family," offered up the rising sixth grader. "They are the reason."

Coached by her father, Paul, and using her older brother as a hitting partner throughout the week, Yanez said it helped "groove" her strokes and build her confidence.

"I was confident and played my game [throughout the week]. I wanted to, and worked hard to improve my result from the [USTA National Clay Court Championship]."

She did just that in winning the title 7-5, 7-6 at the Windward Lake Club over No. 5 seed Rachel Arbitman of Hewlett, N.Y. Arbitman was coming into the singles final on quite a roll. She hadn't dropped a set in singles play the entire week, and on Friday, she and partner Kenadee Semenik of Las Vegas took the doubles crown.

"I was surprised," said Arbitman. "Especially in my quarterfinal match (where she defeated No. 2 seed Semenik 6-1 6-1), I always expect a hard match, but always think I have a chance to win."

Yanez's strategy was to change up the pace and throw in lobs when necessary to frustrate Arbitman, an aggressive baseliner.

"Those high lobs - I should've come forward instead of staying all the way back," reflected the New York native after the match. "On my serve, I could hit with more power and moved forward. On my backhand, when I'm pulled out wide, I [need] to hit with more power."

With daytime temperatures averaging in the low to mid 90s all week in the Atlanta area, Yanez said that training year round in the heat of Florida made a difference.

"[The weather] was fine. I'm used to it being in Florida."

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Page updated on Monday, November 06, 2023
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