Clay surface a new experience for junior players at Frick Park event
Boys and girls played on a rare type of surface at the Frick Park Red Clay Junior Open tennis tournament in Regent Square last week, and had some tidying up to do afterward.
Nearly 80 children competed in the only junior tournament held on red clay in Western Pennsylvania, organizer Jose Mieres of the sponsoring Frick Park Clay Court Tennis Club said. After each match, players swept courts and cleaned playing lines for competitors who followed.
Though designed for intermediate players, the United States Tennis Association-sanctioned tournament was open to junior players of all skills levels.
Singles and doubles champions were crowned in three age groups.
In the closest of the singles finals, Teddi Isherwood of Butler Township, Butler County, captured the girls 12-and-under title in a match that consisted of three sets and two tiebreaks.
Isherwood, 12, said she enjoyed playing on clay.
“I like that the ball bounces slower,” she said.
Made of crushed natural stone, including brick for red, clay courts normally are among the slowest court surfaces, often producing the longer rallies, and are responsive to spin, according to the International Tennis Federation website. The mobile top dressing allows controlled sliding, which can make it more comfortable to play.
Brandon Wei, 14, of Fox Chapel said he had fun sliding in winning the boys 14-and-under doubles crown with Karsten Lagerquist.
Ethan Estatico, the boys 12-and-under singles champion, said he was able to see the ball better on a red court.
“It is bright, and leaves a mark (where a ball strikes),” said Estatico, 11, of Scott.
Because of the marks, Isherwood said it was easier to question calls.
Leah Fetting, who teamed with Kristen Friday to win the girls 14-and-under doubles championship, said an uneven surface made for inconsistencies.
“Balls would hit clumps of clay, and bounce really high or low,” said Fetting, 14, of Fox Chapel.
Carolyn Tsung, the girls 14-and-under champion, had mixed feelings about the red clay.
“It's OK, but it stains your shoes,” said Tsung, 12, of Franklin Park who was proud of her win in one of her first tournaments in the 14-and-under division.
Friday, 14, of Fox Chapel said she wore the same stained shoes from a year ago.
Alex Himler, the boys 16-and-under singles champion, said the courts reminded him of what professionals play on at the French Open.
Opened in 1930, the Frick courts were restored in 2007.
Barb McMullen, 71, of Penn Hills has officiated the junior open every year since it began in 2009.
“It's a wonderful teaching and learning tournament,” McMullen said.
Karen Kadilak is a freelance writer.