Share this article

print logo

Charlie Garfinkel’s Racket Sports: Yellayi sisters a hard-working pair

Sirinivas Yellayi and his wife, Deepa Soni, are extremely proud parents of their two daughters, and rightly so.

Eighteen-year-old daughter Disha won the Muny Women’s Open Tennis Singles Championship last July to clinch the ranking as WNY’s No. 1 women’s tennis player for 2015. Thirteen-year-old daughter Yashna is ranked No. 3 in singles in the Eastern Section of the USTA Tennis Association’s 14 & Under Division. She is also training at the prestigious Rick Macci Tennis Academy in Boca Raton, Fla.

When Disha entered the Muny Singles Women’s Championships she really didn’t know what to expect. Why? She had barely two months of preparation for the tournament. Even though she had won the ECIC singles and Section VI tennis championships as a 13-year-old Transit Middle School eighth-grader without losing a set, had gone to the prestigious Dennis Van Der Meer Tennis Academy in Hilton Head, S.C., for six months, and played first singles as a freshman at Nichols School, having an outstanding season, she decided to go out for cross country her sophomore year instead of playing on the tennis team to improve her overall conditioning.

But she still played tennis at least three times a week to keep her game in shape. The combination of doing both cross country and tennis wreaked havoc with her body, and she developed a severe case of shin splints that kept her off the tennis courts. After making several attempts to play tennis again, it was evident that she couldn’t play and did not return to the courts for almost two years.

“When I entered the Muny Championships, I didn’t have any visions of grandeur,” Disha said. “I just wanted to enjoy the game and see how well I would do. I had no idea that I would be competing in the finals for the No. 1 spot in the women’s rankings in WNY.”

The first set was extremely hard fought against Bella LaMartina in the finals in which Disha eked out a 7-6 win.

“I knew that I had to play better in the second set as I could have easily lost the first set,” she said.

Fortunately, she did play better by keeping the ball in play longer and being more aggressive. Her strategy paid off and she won the second set, 6-2.

Presently, Disha is playing fifth singles for a very strong Hofstra women’s team. Also, she is enrolled in a pre-med program and is assured an spot in medical school if she attains a 3.5 average throughout college.

Her sister Yashna is also playing extremely well and recently finished third in a National Level 2 14-and-under tournament in Tampa, Fla.

“The reason that Yashna is at Rick Macci’s Academy is she didn’t have enough match play in Buffalo,” her father said. “In addition, most of the top tournaments were in New York City, which resulted in a lot of traveling.”

Yashna’s father is living in Boca Raton for the time being and observes Yashna’s practices. Yashna’s everyday training is extremely strenuous. Monday to Friday she has an early breakfast, then has match play from 8-10 a.m., a fitness program from 10-11, lunch, school until 3 p.m. more match play from 3-5 p.m. and fitness from 5-6, then dinner. On most weekends she plays a tournament in or near Boca Raton.

Yashna stresses that she is learning how to deal with pressure and how to play on outside courts. She is hitting the ball with more power, topspin, and height on her ground strokes. Her volleys (shots that are hit in the air before the ball bounces) are also much improved. Perhaps, the most noticeable change in her game is she is now hitting her forehand with more of an Eastern grip than the Western grip that is more prevalent today. However, Macci is recognized as one of the finest tennis coaches in the United States and he has had great success with his students using a modified Western grip on their forehand.

Both girls give a lot of credit for their success in tennis to their help and instruction in WNY.

“My dad is too humble about talking about his helping us with our tennis. He was a phenomenal table tennis player when he lived in India and entered and won many tournaments,” Disha said. “He is also a very good tennis player.

Squash doubles next week

The National Squash Doubles Championships will be held on the weekend of March 3-6. This year will be the 10th time Buffalo has hosted the event and the first time since 1997. The Tennis & Squash Club, Buffalo Club, Saturn Club and Computer Task Group are the hosting clubs.