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November Junior Spotlight – Alexandria Stiteler

December 1, 2008 08:10 PM

Birthplace: Boston, Massachusetts
Residence: Bradenton
Schooling: Home-schooled
Plays: Left-handed
Best shot: Forehand down-the-line
Favorite Player: Rafael Nadal
Favorite TV show: Hannah Montana

USTA Florida junior tennis player, Alexandria Stiteler, first picked up a racquet at age three.  After taking a year and a half off because her mother was sick, Alexandria re-entered the sport and has been on the rise ever since.  In early 2007, she was No. 1 in the 10s and No. 4 in the 12s in USTA New England.   The family picked up and moved to Bradenton in July 2007 for her tennis so she could attend Celsius Tennis Academy and follow her dream to become No. 1 in the world someday.

After focusing on a transformation of her game in late 2007 with her new coach, Cary Cohenour, Alexandria had a break-out year in 2008.  She won titles at the Florida Winter Sectional/NJT Qualifier (singles and doubles), Gator Bowl (G12), Tennis Plaza Cup (G12), USTA Florida State Closed Singles Championship (G12), Miami Dade Junior August Designated (G14), several 14s and 16s Super Series tournaments, and the Nike Junior Tour (NJT) National Masters Tournament. 

Tentatively ranked No.2 in Florida (G12s), her quick rise to the top has surprised herself, her mother and even her coach.  Her talent, combined with her mental toughness and absolute love of the game are attributes of those you find in the best players around the world.   Coming off of a quarterfinal finish at the NJT International Master Tournament in Port St. Lucie, Alexandria looks ahead next to the Eddie Herr Junior International tennis Championships, Nov. 28 – Dec. 7 and the Junior Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships, Dec. 17-23.

With a remarkable commitment to the sport of tennis and standout year in 2008, USTA Florida is recognizing her as the November Junior Spotlight of the Month!  Alexandria, her mother Lisa, and Coach Cohenour took time out of their busy schedules to answer some questions for USTAflorida.com.

*AS – Alexandria Stiteler
*LS – Lisa Stiteler
*CC – Coach Cary Cohenour

USTAFlorida.com: This year has been quite a year for you.  How do you feel about it?
AS: I think it has gone good and I am very happy.  I played a 16 designated, too, this year and made it to the semis and was happy about that.  I am starting to play the older divisions now in the 16s.

LS: She has had a breakout year in 2008 and we were not expecting it to happen so quickly.  When her coach and I first met in the summer, he had expected it to be a full year before we saw improvement in her game because he made changes on every stroke – technique and grips.  Then all of sudden in January, there was the first break though and from then on it was just a win-win situation!

USTAFlorida.com: What has caused the great results this year?
AS: I play more hours on the court every day.  Right now, I train 5 hours a day and then 7 hours a day in the summer.  I have started to work on strategy and changing up my game when it is not going very good and to not just to keep hitting the same balls if it is not working.  There are also great hitters at the academy and I have a coach who really likes me and spends a lot of time working with me.

USTAFlorida.com: What do you think, Coach?
CC: First thing is she has been at the academy for 1 1/2 years and she is playing more than she ever did.  She works incredibly hard and is always the first one there and the last one to leave which says a lot about her character.  We took her out of tournaments when we first started to focus on teaching her proper stroke production and getting more topspin on both sides.  As far as the ranking that has followed, that has been kind of a surprise.  She went up a lot quicker than I had anticipated from the beginning.  She has really worked hard to get to this point, but there is still a long way to go!

USTAFloridda.com: Are you ever worried about burnout with Alexandria?  She is only 12 years old.
LS: Alexandria started at a young age and just wanted to play, play, play, play!  She just naturally loves the sport and has a natural talent for it.  It is never an issue of her not wanting to be on the court.  It is actually an issue of “You can’t be on the court today”.  You have to force her to stay off.  She will play a local super series tournament and finish on Monday, and then two hours later want to get back on the court.

CC: I’ve never seen her burnout.  If that time comes and I see that, I will certainly scale back the amount of time she spends on the court because in 9 out of 10 kids, there is only a certain amount of tennis they can handle mentally and you have to be careful with that.

USTAFlorida.com: Coach, if you had to describe her, what are some key characteristics that stand out in your mind about Alexandria?
CC: She is tenacious, she is a fighter and she wants to win every point.  Those are the things that when it gets to be tight in a match where a person really comes through with a win and Alexandria really excels when it gets tight.  Some of these things you can help a kid with, but that competitive edge is something that really separates those top players from the middle level players.

USTAFlorida.com: Lisa, have you seen Alexandria’s confidence go up this year?
LS: She is very confident even before she gets to the match.  She has the mental state and you cannot teach someone the mental game.  She has the will to win!

USTAFlorida.com: Alexandria, why do you love tennis?
AS: Because I am a very competitive person and it is a very competitive sport. 

USTAFlorida.com:  Lisa, how do you keep a good relationship with your daughter?
LS: My involvement with Alex is not during a match.  My involvement is during practice, my involvement is during pre-match.  When she goes on court for a match, I sit back and stay still.  I don’t make any facial expressions, whether she hits the ball in the net or makes a great shot.  I think the match is her match to play and not mine.  I think that when she comes off the court, win or lose, we sit down, we talk about it, we need to be humble and not prideful when she wins and we need to just keep moving forward whether it is a win or a loss.

USTAFlorida.com:  Alexandria, do you have any pre-match rituals?
AS: I usually warm up on the court for 20 minutes and practice all my strokes and my serve. Then 10 minutes before I go on court I do a dynamic warm-up like side steps and lunges and all kinds of stretching.

USTAFlorida.com: What are your goals for next year?
AS: I am going to try and win the Nike 14s and get back to the International tournament which will be in the Dominican Republic [Alexandria has never been to another country].  And next year when I turn 13, I am going to try and play some ITF tournaments in September.

USTAFlorida.com: Anything else you want to add?
CC: It has been really enjoyable working with her because as a coach, you always want to work with a kid who wants to work and that is the best part of coaching.  When you walk on the court, you want to work with someone that has some goals in mind.

LS: We are blessed that we have a lot of people that are trying to help us make her dream come true!

 

 

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