Youth tennis: Local players ranked among best in SoCal
By Michael Bower
It is a very rare occurrence when two of the top young tennis players in all of Southern California come from San Diego. It is even more rare when they come from neighboring communities and are friends.
But that’s the case with 10-year-old sensations Giulia Hayer and Amy Huang. Hayer, ranked No. 20 in Southern California, attends Maranatha Christian Schools in 4S Ranch. Huang, ranked No. 4 in Southern California, goes to Park Village Elementary School in Rancho Penasquitos.
The two have quickly moved up the ranks thanks to their outstanding play at the prestigious 110th Annual Southern California Junior Section Tennis Championships in June. Hayer, who entered arguably the toughest junior tournament in the United States unseeded, finished in third place. Huang, who entered as the No. 4 seed, finished in second place.
“I am so proud for them and for San Diego,” said Hayer and Huang’s tennis coach Anna Hedden, a former top player in the Soviet Union and a United States Professional Tennis Association Professional. “When you look around at all the places players are from and then have two players end up in the top four it is a real special occurrence.”
What makes Hayer’s story even more amazing is the little amount of experience she has had in the game of tennis. She picked up the sport three years ago, playing a few times a week. But it was only three months ago that Hayer started to train nearly every day with a professional coach.
“She didn’t really have any good competition experience,” Hedden said. “She would hit the ball, but not with a real purpose. So we started working with her and giving her a sense of purpose when she hits the ball. She is very passionate and very driven. She really wants it.”
Hayer’s run through the junior section tennis championship certainly opened some eyes. In order just to make the main draw (final 32 players) she needed to win a qualifying match. Winning that match alone was a great accomplishment, but then she went on and defeated the top-seeded girl in straight sets.
“I was very surprised because the top-seeded girls start really young and have a solid resume as far as tournament exposure and experience,” Hedden said. “They have a tremendous edge over a newcomer. But Giulia competed and won. And maybe even more impressive was that she backed up the win with another win.”
Hayer’s fight took her all the way to the semifinals, where she finally lost. But with very little professional training under her belt, it is clear Hayer has a chance for a real bright future in the sport of tennis.
“I am excited with her because I feel like we just scratched the surface with her in terms of her movement and stroke production,” Hedden said. “It is just awesome to see when somebody competes almost better than they practice in terms of desire. It is something you cannot teach. You either got it or you don’t.”
Huang is also full of passion and desire. She has around 14 months of experience training with Hedden, who has been teaching tennis in San Diego since 1998. She says Huang has an amazing work ethic.
“I train with her five days a week and all this time I haven’t had a single bad practice in a sense that she practices with a purpose,” Hedden said. “She practices like it matters and that is what is important. She has a tremendous respect for authority and that is what makes her very coachable on the court.”
And the goal for Huang, who has a serve around 96 mph already, was pretty apparent from the very first time her father contacted Hedden.
“Her father’s email starts with ‘my Olympic dreams’ and I had to smile when I first seen that,” Hedden said. “I thought: ‘OK. I have to see this girl.’”
And the verdict?
“She can do it,” Hedden said. “I will join her father’s dream for the Olympics.”
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