Tournament prize is Paris in springtime

Herald-Tribune - Mic Huber - April 25, 2016

Sarasota’s Yanez earns all-expense paid trip to play international event

Though there has hardly been enough time for what she has won to completely sink in, Nikki Yanez is already putting together a list of places she wants to see and things she wants to do.

The Eiffel Tower, the museums, the restaurants — all the things that make the City of Light so enchanting to people of all ages has her attention.

Twelve-year old Nikki knows she will love Paris in the springtime and she can hardly wait to start making memories that will last a lifetime.

The Sarasota resident will be on her way to Paris in a few weeks on an all-expense paid trip. She is heading there to play against some of the best young international tennis players at the same time that the best pro players in the world are competing nearby in the French Open.

“This will be an amazing experience for me and a memory I can tell everyone when I am older,” Yanez said.

She has been making memories on the tennis court almost daily for the past couple of years, yet few have been better than this past weekend when she won the 2016 Longines Future Tennis Aces tournament in Delray Beach to lock down the trip to Paris.

The win earned Yanez the trip that will put her in Paris for a week to compete in the Longines 16-player international event to be held May 26-29. It is a trip that begins May 23 and includes travel, accommodations and food paid for her and one of her parents.

“Playing in Paris during the French Open and representing the United States is the best opportunity I have ever gotten,” Yanez says. “I am very excited for this trip. I will be ready and I hope to make everyone proud of me.”

She certainly made her father, Paul Yanez, proud this past weekend by the way she handled herself with so much on the line.

“The thing that concerned me was finding out several days prior to the tournament that Nikki would have to play three matches in one day,” said Paul Yanez, who serves as Nikki’s coach. “She does not spend too much time on a tennis court on a daily basis so I was not 100 percent confident that she could play a high level of tennis for an entire day against the best girls in the U.S.”

Turns out dad didn’t need to worry. Nikki, who uses gymnastics training to prepare for tennis, got better as the matches went along.

After losing the first set of the first match she played, Yanez won the next eight sets the rest of the way.

“It was definitely her best performance ever,” Paul Yanez said. “I could not be any prouder.”

She saved her best for last, avenging a loss a week earlier in the final of the 12-under Nationals (Easter Bowl) in Indian Wells, California to Katrina Scott. This time Yanez prevailed, winning 6-3, 6-2.

Now she gets the chance to play on red clay, a surface where her idol, Rafael Nadal has made so many memories of his own.

“Because of the surface the points will be longer, so I will prepare to play matches that might take two or three hours to finish,” she said. “In the next five weeks I’ll be working really hard on my conditioning.”

Yanez is the third 12-under player from the area on the past four years to earn a trip to Paris as part of the Longines event. Bradenton’s Adam Neff earned a trip in 2013 and Bradenton’s Sophie Edwards, then a Sarasota County resident, won in 2014.

Invitations were extended to the top players in her age category. The 16 who received bids were divided into two divisions with four players each to take part in a round-robin format. The top players in each division moved into the championship match with the trip to Paris on the line.

“I felt like I had a good chance to win,” Yanez said about the event. “I had been training so hard for the tournament. I really felt like I was ready for it.”

Now she is ready for Paris.