DELRAY BEACH, July 13, 2022 (USTA Press Release by Steve Dorsey)
When asked to define the difference between competing on clay or hard courts, the one phrase used most prominently by players here this week at the USTA Boys National Clay Court Championships is that playing on clay “is more of a grind” compared to the usually faster hard-court surfaces.
That phrase perfectly fits in more ways than one for Easton Horricks and Anirudh Dhanwada, both of whom have had to battle their way through the consolation brackets of their respective age groups the past couple of days.
Let’s start with Horricks, a rising high school junior from Spring, Texas, who won his first-round match here on Sunday, but lost on Monday, sending him to the consolation bracket where he was on the brink of being eliminated all together from the singles competition Tuesday morning before staging a comeback to win a dramatic three-setter 3-6, 7-6(3), 10-4. He was trailing 5-2 and down 40-15 in the second set but held off three match points that helped propel him to winning the set and eventually the match to stay alive in the tournament, a feat that earned him the Baptist Health Orthopedic Care Boys 18 Player of the Day.
“I just tried to take it one point at a time because I knew I couldn’t focus too much on how much I was down because then I’d just end up losing,” Horricks said of his mindset during the momentum-changing second set.
Horricks had little time to absorb his accomplishment, however. He had to return to the court Tuesday afternoon for another singles match. He also was scheduled to play a doubles match later Tuesday pending weather-related delays that caused some havoc with play throughout the sweltering afternoon in Palm Beach County.
Horricks said he has not been bothered too much by the heat and humidity that has engulfed South Florida this week.
“I’m used to playing in this heat. It’s hotter (in Texas) than here and more humid actually, so I escaped the heat,” he said, chuckling, adding that he actually didn’t mind facing the possibility of having to play three matches in one day.
“It’s almost like impossible,” Horricks said of that challenge. “I’ll sleep amazing tonight.”
Dhanwada, from Tenafly, N.J., has faced an equally daunting challenge in his quest to extend his stay here in the Palm Beaches.
The rising high school sophomore lost a grueling three-hour-plus match 6-3, 6-4 Sunday in the first round of the 16-and-under bracket, but returned Monday to win his next match in the consolation bracket 6-1, 6-0. He
added another victory Tuesday morning with a straight-sets win 6-4, 6-4, had a 90-minute rest period before returning to play another singles match Tuesday afternoon that would then be delayed because of lightning in the area at the Boca Lago Tennis Center.
“My mindset was to win the back (consolation) draw, approach it like a brand new tournament,” said Dhanwada, whose effort earned him the South Florida BMW Centers Boys 16 Player of the Day recognition. “I had a tough draw (in the first round). I had a lot of chances but just didn’t close it out (Sunday). We had deuces in almost every single game. Even though I lost, I was thinking it’s not bad because it was a long match. I took it as a positive.”
Dhanwada said he’s had some success playing in clay court tournaments even though his aggressive style of play is more suited to a hardcourt surface.
“Clay is a real test of how physical you are, especially here in Florida because every match is a real grind, but I love the sliding and movement required on clay,” said Dhanwada, adding that he actually won the first clay court tournament he entered when he was younger. “I always thought I liked hardcourts better. Personally I play better on hardcourts, but I like clay.”
Dhanwada said he was hoping he might get a short lightning delay for his second singles match Tuesday afternoon to get a little more rest – like Horricks, he also was facing the possibility of playing a doubles match later – but conceded that “you got to watch what you wish for” after the delay lasted much longer than he anticipated, requiring him to adjust his mindset once again.
But that’s a task he’s seemed to navigate fairly well the past couple days.