Franklin County doubles team in sync and on a roll

By Brian Rickerd Published:

LEXINGTON — Franklin County tennis coach Melinda Lewis says the Lady Flyers’ doubles duo of seniors Lili Williams and Mary Grace Amato are so close, they might as well be twins.

“They’re almost twins at this point in the way they read each other,” said Lewis Thursday, after Williams and Amato reached rarified heights in FCHS girls tennis with a pair of wins in the KHSAA State Tournament. “They know each other’s thoughts.”

“We know each other REALLY well,” Amato said. “We’re best friends.”

Williams and Amato used their chemistry in lethal fashion through their two wins Thursday — 6-4, 6-0 over University Heights seniors Gretchen Powell and Sally Smith in the morning, and 6-2, 6-3 over Corbin’s Makayla Beecham and Ellie Jane Carloftis in late afternoon.

Those victories moved the unseeded Williams and Amato into the tournament’s round of 16 today at 11:45 a.m., vs. No. 5 seeded Maci Ferguson and Kierstin Hensley of Russell.

The winner there moves into the quarterfinals at 3:30 p.m., with all the action at the UK courts. The semifinals and finals are both set for Saturday at UK.

This past week in the Region 8 Tournament at Franklin County, Williams and Amato became the Lady Flyers’ first regional doubles champions since the ’60s.

“It’s really satisfying ... fulfilling,” Williams said, of what she and Amato have accomplished.
“Last year I wouldn’t have thought we could do this, reach the Sweet Sixteen,” Amato added.

This is just the first season for Williams and Amato to play doubles together at Franklin County. Amato grew up loving gymnastics, and did not play varsity tennis full time until last year.

But the two girls have played doubles on the USTA level for years, and they say that’s where their bond took root.

“We’ve played tennis together since our childhood,” Williams said.

“I usually know how she is going to hit it before she hits it. If I’m at the net, and I know it’s Mary Grace’s favorite shot, I won’t hit it.”

Williams and Amato played well in both wins Thursday, though they said the afternoon match was a step up from the morning, due in large part because of a step up in competition.

“That was much harder competition, and we took care of it both sets,” Amato said of Corbin’s Beecham and Carloftis. “We were both hitting harder shots, and we were placing it better.”

“I was so impressed with their play today,” Lewis said. “With their smartness, and the way they placed the ball so well. We’d go to a changeover, and I’d say to them: ‘I have nothing to tell you.’ I was so impressed with their attitude. They played great.”

The bond between Williams and Amato is evident off the court as well, in both their tone towards each other and in the way they finish each other’s sentences ... much as they finish tennis shots.

A reporter-source exchange with Williams and Amato isn’t so much an interview as a moderated discussion.

Both plan to attend college and play tennis in college, and it should come as no surprise at all that their college choice is the same: Transylvania.

Williams selected Transy first, and then waited with considerable anxiety to see if Amato would join her.

Asked if she lobbied Amato to go to Transy, Williams said: “Yes, definitely. And I was annoying, I’m sure.”

“She was kind of freaking out ... she didn’t know what I was going to do,” Amato said.


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