WESTLAKE—Soon she’ll tackle the seventh grade, but for now, Amara Brahmbhatt is filling her summer vacation stating her case as one of Northeast Ohio’s elite young tennis talents.
If it’s a day that ends in “Y,” and there’s time to practice, the 12-year-old Westlake resident can be found on a tennis court, perfecting an array of shots that can only be described as technical and precise.
Her love of the game may also be a part of her DNA. She comes from a tennis family; her father, Mit, played through his high school days at Lake Ridge Academy, while her older brother, Arjun, plays first singles for the St. Ignatius varsity team.
Recently, all of Amara’s effort led to winning the United States Tennis Association’s Midwest Level 1 Closed Championships. The six-day grind (June 23-28) in Okemos, Michigan, featured many of the top 12-14 year-old players from five different states. She was the third-seeded player in her bracket and Amara had to win seven matches and beat five seeded players—four of the top 10—along the way to claiming the championship,
“There were some close moments, but she pulled it out,” Mit Brahmbhatt said. “And she had some big wins…She puts in so much hard work, so just to see the results, and for her to see the results, is great.”
In the finals, she beat 10-seed Kavitha Gowda in two sets, 6-2, 7-5. It capped a whirlwind June in which she first had to qualify for the Midwest’s biggest youth tennis tournament in Shaker Heights by placing in the top four in the region. In total, only 128 players in each age bracket qualified for the tournanment in Michigan.
“I’m never really nervous, usually just really excited (to play),” Amara said. “(The tournament) was fun.”
She also competed in the event’s doubles tournament and, along with partner Stela Vlaisavljevic, advanced to the semifinals as the second-seed before losing to Sophie Baker and Sophia Kim, 6-2, 6-3. For the week, Amara posted a personal record of 11-1.
For a girl with a competitive streak and no nerves whatsoever despite stiff competition, she came away from the tournament feeling excited about her performance. According to her mother, Felicia, the Midwest Championships were an event she’d been preparing for since some of her earliest training days.
“She’s been playing since six years old, so she’s basically been training for this one day for six years,” Felicia said. “You get only so many chances at this one day, but sometimes you win it, and sometimes you don’t. It just depends on how much work you put in.
“You go in thinking ‘she’s going to do great, whatever happens happens’, and each round, for her, she was just playing out of her mind,” she said. “It was one tournament where everything clicked.”
Winning such a tournament raised Amara’s already-growing profile. Per the USTA Website, she is a five-star recruit among rising seventh graders nationally, and is ranked 66th in the country—the only Northeast Ohio tennis player listed in the top 100, and one of just two players ranked in the top 100 in the state, altogether.
She wants to emulate her favorite professional player, Serena Williams. Much like the winner of 23 Grand Slam titles, Amara relishes using maximum effort and different shots — her forehand down the line and cross-court backhand are her strongest right now — to win matches and survive tough tournament brackets.
“I like that (Williams) fights for every ball,” Amara said. “I really like her grunt, too…I enjoy the competitiveness of (tennis), and it’s really fun to just play.”
In a given week, Amara usually spends 10-15 hours working with her coach, Rich Mostardi, who has overseen her development since her first day with a racket as a six-year-old.
Mostardi, a former college and professional player who has coached athletes of all ages for just over three decades, operates out of The Wembley Club in Chagrin Falls, and is a longtime family friend of the Brahmbhatt’s. Mostardi could recall tossing a ball back and forth and helping teach a young Amara how to throw a football before she started with tennis.
Ever since, he’s helped her refine every aspect of her game. He knew her competitiveness and focus would lead to success on the court. There’s also a certain level of dedication involved, as the Wembley Club is around 50 minutes away from the Brahmbhatt residence in Westlake.
“Amara was always a good athlete, so I knew she was going to be good, but it was tough sometimes at first,” Mostardi said. “She never quits, never stops. Especially as a little kid, she always wanted to do more and more.”
He said that Amara has more of a love of competition than anything else and she is at her best when there’s something on the line.
“I knew she was going to do well (in the tournament),” he said. “Winning it? You never know. I’ve coached a lot of kids that could’ve, should’ve won it. That’s why it’s a big deal. It’s the biggest tournament in the Midwest.”
More tournaments await Amara in the coming weeks. After that, it’s back to the routine of fitting practice into the next challenge on her schedule—middle school.