Tennis: Almeida defeats section’s No.1
LOOMIS — Add Madeline Almeida to the list of David-versus-Goliath improbable outcomes in the world of prep sports.
An obvious underdog against the section’s individual singles champion Wednesday, the Oak Ridge freshman shook off a semis loss less than 24 hours earlier to upstage Del Oro’s Abby Bacharach 0-6, 6-4, 7-5 in their battle at No. 1 singles.
Almeida’s feat came on Bacharach’s home court. The Golden Eagle senior, playing to a partisan crowd of classmates confident of victory, had size, weight, power and an experience-factor at work as she overwhelmed the Trojan 14 year-old in the opening set.
“The whole basketball teams came out so it helped I didn’t lose my cool,” said Almeida who sent them all sulking off to practice(s). “I knew she (Bacharach) was a really tough player but the pressure was on her as I had nothing to lose. I couldn’t think of (her) ranking … OK I got hung up on it in the first set … but in the second I told myself ‘I could do it.’”
Almeida found her rhythm. Her selective, arching baseline shots pushed Bacharach to the back wall — preventing any counterattack — and paid dividends as the Trojan mounted her comeback.
“She was frustrated. The moon balls were to my advantage. They’re more common where I play (14s) than the level (18s) she’s at,” Almeida said.
Almeida’s play appeared crisp and solid as play moved to the third set. She wore Bacharach down with stinging forehand and backhand shots, forced Bacharach to move laterally, handled serves and kept most returns between the lines — each impacting the outcome.
“Madeline just hung in there,” Oak Ridge coach Ralph Clark said. “Bacharach’s never had to think about losing so in a third set there’s no telling what will happen. No matter how good you are you can still be subjected to pressure building on your shoulders.
“Madeline stayed strong the whole match and came to battle while Bacharach came out to claim victory. All of a sudden she (Bacharach) has to expend more energy. She’s the section champ and not supposed to see balls keep coming back, coming back. That’s huge for a little freshman to find a way to beat the No. 1 girl,” Clark added.