A little more than a week ago, Sarah Dvorak was just learning her way around a clay tennis court.
“The first day, I couldn’t slide,” the Kurtistown teenager said. “I was tripping. It was not going well the first day when we started practicing.”
On Saturday, Dvorak, who will play for Texas Tech in the fall, won the USTA National Collegiate Clay Court Championships West Penn Amateur in Pittsburgh.
Her coach, Evan Schermer of Royal Kona Tennis Club, is from the Steel City, so he took her there a week early to practice on clay courts, which are not available in Hawaii.
“You have to play a different game on it,” Dvorak said. “It bounces different than on a hard court like in Hawaii. Getting used to it was a challenge, but it was a lot of fun.”
Dvorak won four matches in the tournament, which is the nation’s oldest amateur event, and beat Hailey Barrett, West Virginia University’s No. 1 player, 6-2, 6-4 in the final. Dvorak and Barrett could meet again during the Big 12 tennis season.
“It was a really good match,” Dvorak said. “At the beginning I was nervous because we had ball kids and line judges. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I better play really well.’ ”
The Waiakea graduate, who did not play for her high school team her final two years, joins a long line of top names to win the collegiate tournament.
“A lot of really great players have won it,” she said. “I’m just honored to have my name engraved on the trophy with them. Alison Riske is top 40 in world right now. She won this about five years ago. It’s a really prestigious tournament. I feel so lucky to have played in it and won.”
The title might be Dvorak’s biggest one so far, but she hopes to top it in the near future. She’ll be playing in the USTA National Clay Court Championships in Memphis this weekend and at the USTA hard court national championships later this month in hopes of earning a spot in the U.S. Open in August.
“That would be like a dream come true,” Dvorak said. “That’s what any girl in that tournament wants, that’s what we’re all battling for that one wild card to get into the U.S. Open.”
Dvorak also had an impressive doubles run in Pittsburgh, partnering with Sara Tsukamoto, who will be a freshman at Kealakehe, to reach the final. The 18-year-old Dvorak and the 14-year-old Tsukamoto lost 8-6 to Audrey Ann Blakely and Callie Frey.
“I think we played really well,” Dvorak said. “Those two girls that we lost to have been playing together and are going to play together at the University of Pittsburgh. I think they have a little more experience together.”
Another Kealakehe student, Big Island Interscholastic Federation champion Michelle Uyeda, lost her opening match but won two consolation matches before losing in the consolation final.