Anna Smith of Peters hoists the trophy after winning the Women's ITA National Collegiate Clay Court Championships Saturday at the Mt. Lebanon Tennis Center.
By Phil Axelrod Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
It hasn't taken Anna Smith long to blossom into one of the area's most promising young tennis players. It certainly didn't take much time for her to capture her first national open title.
Smith, 13, who will be an eighth-grader at Peters Township Middle School, became the youngest player to win a title at the ITA National Collegiate Clay Court Championship with a 6-0, 6-0 victory against Sarah Shashura in the final of the women's singles Saturday at the Mt. Lebanon Tennis Center.
Despite playing in temperatures that nearly reached triple digits, Smith barely broke a sweat because she needed just 41 minutes to dispatch Shashura, who will be a freshman at Duquesne University.
"I was warmed up and ready to play, then we had to wait a while until the other match ended," Smith said through a mouthful of braces. "I stretched and got ready again. Maybe she got cold."
Whatever the reason, Smith gained control early in a nearly flawless performance that featured her lethal crosscourt left-handed forehand, which produced numerous outright winners. Shashura was never able to find her rhythm and didn't have as much as an advantage in any game.
"I still had a tough match," Smith said diplomatically. "You can always come back and I wanted to stay ahead."
A frustrated Shashura didn't display the form that carried her to the final or catapulted her to three WPIAL Class AA singles titles in high school. She won the girls title as a freshman at California and the boys title as a sophomore. She was eligible to compete against the boys because California didn't field a varsity girls team. She transferred to Brownsville as a junior and won the girls title as a senior.
Smith tantalized Shashura with a soft serve and finished most points with a forehand that caught her opponent grasping for air. On the few occasions Shashura managed to get to the net, Smith passed her with whistling shots.
Smith was asked how it felt to be the youngest winner at this event. "It's a great tournament ... a college tournament," she said. "I was in it to win."
Smith has concentrated on tennis since she first picked up a racket at age 6. "I did ballet, but I didn't like it," said Smith, whose coach is Ron Mercer. "Earlier on, maybe it gave me better balance on the court."
So what does Smith see in her tennis future?
"I'd like to try to go pro," she said. "I'm not sure ... I'm so young."
In other Clay Court championship matches, Alex Sidney, a sophomore at Cornell University, won the boys singles title with a 6-1, 6-2 victory against Joseph Van Meter; and Spencer Caravaggio (Quaker Valley) and Taylor Perz (Pine-Richland) won the girls doubles title with an 8-3 victory against Chandler Consonery and Shashura.
In the PNC Futures of Pittsburgh final today, top seed Alex Bogdanovic of Great Britain will meet unseeded Matheson Klein of Australia at 1 p.m. at the Mt. Lebanon Tennis Center.
In the semifinals Saturday, Bogdanovic advanced with a 6-3, 6-2 victory against Chase Buchanan and Klein defeated No. 8 Yuri Bezeruk, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.