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Austin, Collins Among Title Winners at 2009 USTA Florida Jr. State Closed

June 12, 2009 07:00 AM
Championships were decided in the boys and girls 18-14 divisions on Thursday at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach during the finale of the 61st edition of the USTA Florida Jr. State Closed tennis tournament, the longest continuously-running junior tournament in Florida.


No. 4 seed Gonzales Austin of Miami has played the USTA Florida Jr. State Closed every year since he was 10, but had never gotten past the quarterfinals. On Thursday at the Florida Tennis Center the left-hander utilized a big forehand and flat serve to upset No. 1 seed Connor Smith of Tampa 6-3, 7-6(5) for the Boys 18 title in Daytona Beach.

"I was playing really well in practice, so I expected to do well, but I didn't think I would win it," Austin said. "I knew if I could make a high percentage of my first serves and dictate with my forehand that it would go my way. I started a little nervous but when I got my timing I started teeing off on the forehand."

The 16-year-old says he will drop back into his own age division for the junior nationals later this year at Kalamazoo, Mich.

The top-seeded Smith came from 1-5 down in the tiebreak to level things at 5-5, but Austin regrouped to take the next two points and the match.

Smith took time off before the tournament due to a knee injury, but nonetheless recorded his best result in any age division at the Jr. State Closed.

"He kept me off balance, he played well," Smith said. "I wasn't expecting him to be so consistent with the big serve and forehand, he did that really well."


Top-seeded Danielle Collins of St. Petersburg fought off four match points in the second set to defeat No. 11 seed Olivia Janowicz of Palm Bay 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 for the Girls 18 crown at the USTA Florida Jr. State Closed tournament.

Collins mixed up her play with a combination of moon balls and driving winners to claim her second Jr. State Closed title after years back winning the Girls 12 division, and last year finishing runner-up in the 18s.

"I don't think I was playing my best, and basically what I had to do was hang in there," Collins said. "I had to find a way out of the mess I was in, because I was down 5-4, 40-15 in the second set, and I had lost the first."

It was the second career runner-up effort for Janowicz at the USTA Florida Jr. State Closed after the 14s division four years ago against Lauren Embree, who played the main draw at this year's French Open. Janowicz says her No. 11 seeding reflected the fact she doesn't play many Florida tournaments.

"The keys to the match were the four match points I had," said Janowicz with a sad laugh. "She played pretty well, I just wasn't stepping in like I should, I'm usually very, very aggressive. During the match points I got a little tight...in the third set she played really good."


No. 3 seed Gordon Watson of Naples won his third USTA Florida Jr. State Closed title on Thursday at the Florida Tennis Center, defeating frequent opponent and sometimes doubles partner Morgan Mays of Longboat Keys, the No. 7 seed, 6-4, 6-3 for the Boys 16 title.

"I think I was more consistent, he missed a couple of balls that he usually doesn't miss," Watson said. "I hit a couple of lines when it was important, and I played the tough points very well -- except for the last game where I got a little nervous and thought the match was already over and I was thinking, 'Okay, what am I going to do after this...' It was pretty stupid."

Watson added to his previous Boys 10 and Boys 12 titles at the Jr. State Closed.

"Now I won the 16s, so next year I'm going to play the 18s and see if I can win a couple rounds there," he said. "We'll see how it goes."

Mays won the Boys 14 title last year, and has now reached the final in his first year in the 16s.

"I've played Gordon a lot, we've played doubles together, and I think today he just won more key points than I did," Mays said. "We're pretty evenly matched so it's fun."


A match defined by a long first two sets was then decided by the heat in the third when No. 3-seeded Deborah Suarez of Southwest Ranches swept to a 6-2, 3-6, 6-0 win over No. 9 Lindsay Graff of Ft. Lauderdale in the final of the Girls 16s at the USTA Florida Jr. State Closed.

Suarez had never been past the quarterfinals in any division at the Jr. State Closed.

"The difference was in the third set, who could hang in there longer, who was fighting the most," said Suarez on the match coming down to fitness levels in the oppressive 90 degree heat and high humidity. "These last three matches have been three sets, and I've been training very hard."

It was the second consecutive three-setter for Graff, who in the semifinals upset No. 4 seed Courtney Colton of Davie 6-3, 0-6, 6-1.


Top-seeded Jake Albo of Plantation outlasted No. 4 Joshua Goodman of Weston 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 for the Boys 14 title at the USTA Florida Jr. State Closed.

"The final was such a tough match, I had to fight so much more than any of my other matches," Albo said. "I was lucky to get out of it, toughest match definitely."

Albo lost early in both years when he played the Boys 12s division, but attributed a year of homeschooling to his game making a leap forward. He currently trains out of the Bill Clark Academy in Cooper City.

Goodman, a former No. 1 seed in the 12s division, won the second set but had trouble keeping his composure in the third when Albo ran away with it.

"He just played better I think, executed his shots," Goodman said. "I think I got a little tired in the end. We've played a lot of matches, he won the last one pretty easily, so this one was an improvement for me. It's an improvement to go three sets and have a chance of winning."


No. 3 seed Josie Kuhlman of Ponte Vedra Beach showed her fitness level in upsetting the top-seeded Alexandra Kiick of Plantation 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 for the Girls 14s title at the USTA Florida Jr. State Closed on the claycourts of the Florida Tennis Center.

The petite Kuhlman was unafraid to occasionally venture to the net and challenge Kiick to pass her, effectively mixing up slice and driving groundstrokes.

"The first set I was just keeping the balls deep and playing my game, but the second set my balls started getting a little short," Kuhlman said. "She was controlling the points, but in the third I kept my depth again and just controlled the points."

Kuhlman said a big difference in her game has been getting fit, and working with coach and former world No. 3 Brian Gottfried.

"It did get a little hot out there and I think she was feeling it more than I was," Kuhlman said.

Angel Deng of Safety Harbor was awarded the 3rd/4th playoff title when her opponent withdrew from the match.


Top-seeded Michael Plutt of Weston won the Boys 12 title on Thursday, easing past No. 5-seeded Adam Ambrozy of South Pasadena 6-1, 6-1.

Plutt dropped only one set en route to the title, while Ambrozy's week included upsetting the No. 2 and 3 seeds.

No. 3-seeded Chase Colton of Davie won the 3rd/4th place playoff, beating No. 16 seed William Shisler of Naples 6-2, 6-0.


Top-seeded Anastasia Nefedova of Palm Harbor rolled to the Girls 12 championship 6-2, 6-0 on Thursday, defeating Pembroke Pines' No. 2 seed Sofia Kenin.

Nefedova did not drop a set throughout the six days.

No. 4 seed Elysse Graci of Ocean Ridge was awarded 3rd place when 3rd/4th place opponent Jaclyn Switkes of Ponte Vedra Beach, the No. 9 seed, was unable to play the match.


No. 2 seed Alexander Del Corral of Doral, Fla., upset top-seeded Noah Makarome of Wesley Chapel 6-0, 6-2 on Wednesday to claim the Boys 10 title at the USTA Florida Jr. State Closed.

Del Corral lost only six games in five matches over the four days. The Saviano High Performance Tennis rising 5th Grader had won two Super Series events this year entering the Jr. State Closed.

No. 3 seed Mason Beiler of Palm Harbor won the 3rd/4th place playoff, defeating No. 4 seed Zachary Ebenfeld of Pembroke Pines 6-3, 7-5. No. 7 seed Vasil Kirkov of Tampa won the consolation draw final over No. 8 Jordan Skalet of Miami Beach 6-0, 6-2.


Top-seeded Kariann Pierre-Louis of Miami defeated No. 7 seed Jaeda Daniel of Wesley Chapel 6-3, 6-3 on Wednesday to win the Girls 10 title at the USTA Jr. State Closed.

Pierre-Lewis had won only one tournament, the Nunez Tennis Winter Super Series, entering the Jr. State Closed in 2009.

No. 2 seed Maria Ross of Lakewood Ranch won the 3rd/4th place playoff, defeating No. 3 seed Jennifer Monnar of Coral Gables 7-5, 6-2.





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