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Clay Court Championship Week
Li Captures Girls 18s Clay Title in Steamy Memphis
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Memphis in July is no place for the faint of heart. Temperatures in the high 90s and a heat index often in the 110s, compounded by five rain or lightning delays, presented one physical and mental challenge after another as the USTA Girls 18s Clay Court Championships wore on. For Ann Li, no obstacle proved insurmountable, as she earned her first singles gold ball with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory over Amanda Meyer.

Singles champion Ann Li
© Zoo Tennis
Li, the No. 4 seed, had cruised through her opening five matches, losing just 10 games en route to the semifinals. That conserved energy proved significant in the semifinals against unseeded Chiara Lommer, with Li needing to fight back from being down a set and a break to record a 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 victory.

Meyer, a No. 9 seed, had her marathon match in the round of 16, taking down No. 3 seed Meible Chi 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-4 in just under four hours. Meyer played only one set in the quarterfinals, when unseeded Nina Sorkin retired with an injury, and in the semifinals, she posted a straight-sets win over fellow No. 9 seed Isabella Lorenzini, who had taken out top seed Janice Shin the previous round.

Sunday's final was delayed 90 minutes due to a soaking rain earlier in the morning, which only added to the oppressive humidity when the sun reappeared early in the afternoon.

Both Meyer, a Delray Beach, Florida resident who turned 17 during the tournament, and Li, a 16-year-old from Devon, Pennsylvania, struggled with nerves in the opening set, with neither having any previous experience in a USTA Level 1 singles final.

Li struck first by capitalizing on a rare break point late in the set. With Meyer serving at 4-all 40-15, Li got the game to deuce, then came up with a nasty slice that stayed short and low, drawing an error from Meyer. On break point, her first since the first game of the match, Li hung on in a rally, with Meyer eventually sending a forehand long.

Serving for the set, Li went up 40-15, but missed a backhand on her first set point. On the second, she got a chance to move forward, and she put away a swinging forehand volley to claim the set.

"I think in the first set, we were both not playing as well," said Li. "But I think I was kind of more solid than her. But in the second set, I was playing her game style more. I was hitting into her strike zone a lot, so it was easy for her to dictate off the points."

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