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Martinelli wins 2015 National Clay Court Championship

Martinelli powers her way to second national title of 2015
July 22, 2015 05:09 PM
Martinelli last played on clay courts at age 13
Martinelli also wins Sportsmanship Award

Denver native “gets the hang of” clay courts

By Kathryn Barrett, contributor to USTA Colorado
Photos by Ross Barrett


(Virginia Beach, VA)- July 20, 2015 - It wasn’t the east coast summer heat and humidity, playing at sea level or the 192 other competitors that worried Samantha Martinelli the most about playing in the USTA National Girls 16’s Clay Court Championships. It was the clay!

The Denver, Colorado native hadn’t played on clay courts since she was 13 years old. “I played horribly,” she confessed. 

The No. 2 seed in the tournament arrived at The Virginia Beach Tennis and Country Club in Virginia Beach, Virginia, three days early to start practicing to get used to the clay. “I needed to get the hang of it.”

Still, Martinelli, who trains with coach Tim Blenkiron at No Quit Tennis Academy in Las Vegas, Nevada, said she tried to ignore the clay surface, “because I ‘m so unsure of myself on clay,” she said.

Martinelli (2) defeated 13-year-old Natasha Subhash (1) of Fairfax, Virginia, the top ranked player nationally in her age group, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. 

Ironically, the same pair played in the finals of the prestigious ITF and USTA Asics Easter Bowl, where Martinelli swept the singles and doubles titles. But that singles victory against Subhash came in two sets and it was on Martinelli’s preferred surface — a hard court. 

As Martinelli predicted, the clay courts at VBTCC were a challenge. The final turned into her third straight three-set match. In the heat and humidity and down a set, Martinelli had to regroup. 

After splitting sets, Sam always prefers to spend the ten-minute break by herself to contemplate her final set. This time with the championship on the line, Martinelli sat on the court cabana and had a little silent talk with herself. “I told myself, ‘Just enjoy this experience, enjoy this tournament and the moment,’ and that’s what got me through,” she said.

In her final 16-and-under tournament, Martinelli also took home the sportsmanship award. “This rarely happens”, said tournament director Laurie Hackbirth. “In fact in almost 30 years (of holding this tournament) I don’t think the sportsmanship award has ever gone to the winner but it does this year.”

Martinelli thanked her parents for helping her and believing in her and thanked Blenkiron, her coach, “because he’s helped me so much in reshaping the way I think about tennis.”

Martinelli attends Odyssey Charter School in Las Vegas. Like many rising high school juniors, she is looking ahead to what she’s going to do after graduation. “I definitely want to play college tennis,” she stated. “At a really big tennis university,” she emphasized. 

She sounds as determined about her plans to compete on a “big” college team as she was to get the hang of the clay!



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