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Stewart, Daniel Back-to-back Champions at USTA Florida Bobby Curtis Jr. Chps.

June 14, 2012 03:29 PM
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From left: Boys' 18 champion Dominic Cotrone of Bradenton, tournament organizer Bobby Curtis, and runner-up Grayson Goldin of Bradenton
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From left: Girls' 18 champion Katerina Stewart of Miami, tournament organizer Bobby Curtis, and runner-up Maci Epstein of Windermere
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From left: Boys' 16 champion Alfredo Perez of Coral Gables, tournament organizer Andy Gladstone, and runner-up Mirko Radosevic of Miami
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From left: Girls' 16 champion Bennett Dunn of Plantation, tournament organizer Andy Gladstone, and runner-up Julia O'Loughlin of Lighthouse Point
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From left: Boys' 14 champion Gabriel Pilones of Bradenton,  tournament organizer Andy Gladstone, and runner-up Kaden Funk of Windermere
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From left: Girls' 14 champion Jaeda Daniel of Wesley Chapel,  tournament organizer Andy Gladstone, and runner-up Adriana Reami of Miami
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From right: Boys' 12 champion Mason Beiler of Palm Harbor, tournament organizer Brian Morrissey, and runner-up Robert Hammond of Boca Raton
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From right: Girls' 12 champion Sophia Edwards of Sarasota,  tournament organizer Brian Morrissey, and runner-up Whitney Osuigwe of Bradenton
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From right: Boys' 10 champion Mark Dancuart of Boca Raton,  tournament organizer Brian Morrissey, and runner-up Nicholas Ayala of Coral Springs
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From right: Girls' 10 champion Kassandra Di Staulo of Weston,  tournament organizer Brian Morrissey, and runner-up Tallia Russell of Weeki Wachee
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From right: Boys 10s doubles winners Nicholas Ayala and John Sharkey, tournament organizer Brian Morrissey, and runners-up Andrew and Timothy Reilly
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From left: Girls' 10 doubles finalists Christi Valbrun and Lara Smejkal, tournament organizer Brian Morrissey, and champions Kimberly Cortese and Amy Behremovic
Two girls raised their stock in the world of junior tennis on Thursday at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach, where Miami’s Katerina Stewart and Wesley Chapel’s Jaeda Daniel won titles for the second consecutive year at the 64th USTA Florida Bobby Curtis Junior State Championships. Formerly known as the USTA Florida Junior State Closed, the tournament is the annual top junior singles event in Florida for age groups 18-10, and one of the top in the nation in terms of competitive junior tennis talent.
 
Stewart, the No. 3 seed in the Girls’ 18 draw and the Girls’ 16 champion from 2011, upset No. 2 seed Maci Epstein of Windermere 6-2, 6-3. It was a 90-degree-day battle of Florida junior veterans who had never faced each other in singles.
 
"I’d seen her around a lot, and actually played her in doubles, but never in singles," Stewart said of Epstein. "I just played it by whatever she did, I just reacted to it, I counter punched. The heat was a factor, but today it wasn’t as hot as yesterday." The previous day the combatants had both played their quarterfinals and semifinals in 92 degree temperatures with 90 percent humidity.
 
Also capturing a title for the second straight year was the diminutive Daniel, who in 2011 won the Girls’ 12s title. This year as the No. 8 seed in the Girls’ 14s, Daniel in the final toppled the hard-hitting No. 1 seed Adriana Reami of Miami 6-3, 6-3. Daniel has now reached the final in the Girls’ 10s, won the Girls’ 12s and won the Girls’ 14s titles.
 
"I was surprised, I wasn’t expecting anything from myself, I just wanted to do my best in every match, and hopefully come out on top," said Daniels, who is helped by the Down the Line and Beyond Foundation, which supports tennis, character and educational values for youth tennis players. "The match was definitely a lot tougher than it looked."
 
Unseeded 18 year old Dominic Cotrone of Bradenton, who just finished his freshman year on the Florida State University team, became the first college player to ever return to win the 18s division at the Florida junior state championships. In the Boys’ 18 final Cotrone defeated fellow Bradenton resident and frequent training partner Grayson Goldin, the No. 15 seed, 6-4, 6-2.
 
"We’ve actually trained together for four or five years," said Cotrone of Goldin. "He’s made a huge jump in his game, and I expected his ‘A’ game."
 
Cotrone added that the rarity of winning as an unseeded player is not so rare in the Boys’ 18s draw, where a number of unseeded threats lurk.
 
"It’s different with this tournament because everyone knows everyone, so the seeds don’t really mean a whole lot because we all know each other, we’re all friends -- you really just read the name, you don’t read the seed," Cotrone said. "There are a couple kids in here who have been injured and could have been just as favored to win it as I was."
 
Cotrone showed up at the 2012 Bobby Curtis Junior State Championships sporting a new look, or as tournament organizer and namesake Bobby Curtis commented, "The kid has dreadlocks now!"
 
"My hair is normally so curly that it just dreads as it is, so now I’m just letting it go," Cotrone said with a smile.
 
Coral Gables’ Alfredo Perez was the Boys’ 16 champion, as the No. 7 seed defeated No. 11 Mirko Radosevic of Miami 6-3, 6-2 in the final. Coached by Robert Gomez, the operations supervisor for the Kerdyk Biltmore and Salvadore Park tennis centers in Coral Gables, Perez came to the U.S. as a 9 year old from Cuba. In Cuba he played extensively, but only with the smaller racquets, shorter courts and low-compression balls now popularized by the USTA 10 and Under Tennis program.
 
"Alfredo came to us at Salvadore Park in the summer of 2007," Gomez said. "His father explained to me that it was the first time Alfredo had hit with a regular tennis ball. I noticed right away how well-rounded his skills were. Good two-handed drive, one-handed slice, one-handed backhand volley. In Cuba he played with low-compression balls, which they use until the age of 10."
 
Perez came into the final with the advantage of wins over Radosevic in all their previous meetings.
 
"He was nervous in the final, so I tried to take advantage of that the best I can," Perez said. "I was nervous at first, but then I relaxed a little bit. I haven’t done that well here in the past, last year I was the No. 1 seed in the 14s but lost in the quarters. This year has been a really good tournament."
 
In the marathon Boys’ 14 final, the last match to finish on the day, No. 2 seed Gabriel Pilones of Bradenton came from a set down to outlast No. 1 seed Kaden Funk of Windermere 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(1) in a contest that topped out at over three hours. Pilones had also beaten Funk in their previous meeting last December at the Orange Bowl.
 
"I expected it to be a really tough match, as usual," Pilones said. "In the two tiebreaks I just kept my cool and went for my shots, hoping they would go in, and I guess they went in."
 
Pilones had previously never advanced past the fourth round (2010 in the Boys’ 12s) at the tournament, last year losing first round in the Boys’ 14s. "I was very surprised by this tournament," Pilones laughed. "In the quarterfinals I was down 6-3, 3-1, and then from then on just everything clicked for me."
 
Palm Harbor’s Mason Beiler won the Boys’ 12 title, and Boca Raton’s Mark Dancuart was the champion in the Boys’ 10 division.
 
Bennett Dunn of Plantation was the only girls’ division winner to uphold her No. 1 seeding, in the Girls’ 16 final topping No. 2-seeded Julia O'Loughlin of Lighthouse Point 6-4, 6-2. Last year Dunn lost in the second round, but got to the finals of the consolation.
 
"I had to mix things up and get her on the run," said Dunn of her strategy against O’Loughlin. "She hits really flat and I had to take her time away when I could, and step up and hit angles, and get my kick serve in a lot more. If I hit the flat serve she liked it a lot more, it was in her strike zone and I had to get the ball out of her strike zone. I wasn’t surprised with my week, I’ve been playing well and working hard, I felt like it was about time," she said with a laugh.
 
In 2010 O’Loughlin also lost in the Girls' 14 final as the No. 2 seed, falling to top-seeded Maria Shishkina of Bradenton. The prior year in 2009 she was the national No. 1-ranked player in the Girls’ 12s.
 
No. 3-seeded Sophia Edwards of Sarasota won the Girls’ 12 championship, and Weston’s Kassandra Di Staulo was the Girls’ 10 champion.
 
Boys' and girls' doubles were also played in the 10s divisions, and the Coral Springs/Hollywood pair of Nicholas Ayala/John Sharkey captured the Boys' 10 doubles title, in the final defeating the Reilley brothers, Andrew and Timothy of St. Petersburg.

In the Girls' 10 doubles final, Kimberly Cortese of Seminole and Amy Behremovic of. St. Petersburg defeated Christi Valbrun of Delray Beach and Lara Smejkal of Boca Raton for the title.
 
"The 10s event was fantastic," said Cindy Harkins, tournament organizer and park supervisor for Seminole County Leisure Services. "Lots and lots of tennis with the compass draw for the singles, and then the doubles with the first match consolations. Very exciting to see the next generation of players!"
 
Finals:
 
Boys' 18 – Dominic Cotrone Bradenton, FL def. Grayson Goldin (15) Bradenton, FL 6-4, 6-2
Boy's 16 – Alfredo Perez (7) Coral Gables, FL def. Mirko Radosevic (11) Miami, FL 6-3, 6-2
Boys' 14 – Gabriel Pilones (2) Bradenton, FL def. Kaden Funk (1) Windermere, FL 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(1)
Boys’ 12 – Mason Beiler (3) Palm Harbor, FL def. Robert Hammond (7) Boca Raton, FL 6-3, 6-3
Boys’ 10 -- Mark Dancuart, Boca Raton, FL def. Nicholas Ayala, Coral Springs, FL 4-2, 4-0 (10 and Under Tennis scoring)
Boys' 10 doubles -- Nicholas Ayala, Coral Springs, FL/John Sharkey, Hollywood, FL def. Andrew and Timothy Reilley, St. Petersburg 4-0, 4-1 (10 and Under Tennis scoring)
 
Girls' 18 – Katerina Stewart (3) Miami, FL def. Maci Epstein (2) Windermere, FL 6-2, 6-3
Girls' 16 – Bennett Dunn (1) Plantation, FL def. Julia O'Loughlin (2) Lighthouse Point, FL 6-4, 6-2
Girls' 14 – Jaeda Daniel (8) Wesley Chapel def. Adriana Reami (1) Miami, FL 6-3, 6-3
Girls’ 12 – Sophia Edwards (3) Sarasota, FL def. Whitney Osuigwe Bradenton, FL 6-3, 6-3
Girls’ 10 -- Kassandra Di Staulo, Weston, FL def. Tallia Russell, Weeki Wachee, FL 4-0, 4-1 (10 and Under Tennis scoring)
Girls' 10 doubles -- Kimberly Cortese, Seminole, FL/Amy Behremovic, St. Petersburg, FL def. Christi Valbrun, Delray Beach, FL/Lara Smejkal, Boca Raton, FL 4-2, 4-2 (10 and Under Tennis scoring)
 
The 64th USTA Florida Bobby Curtis Junior State Championships, the event that has showcased three future world No. 1-ranked players from the state of Florida, was contested June 9-14, 2012. The event saw the 18-14 age divisions played at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach, and the 12-10 divisions played at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs.
 
Former world No. 1s Chris Evert, Andy Roddick and Jim Courier are among the players that have raised trophies or competed at the event that prior to 2012 was known as the USTA Florida Jr. State Closed Championship, renamed in 2012 to honor legendary Florida junior tennis organizer Bobby Curtis. The tournament is annually a launching pad for future college stars and pros – last year’s Girls’ 18s winner, Danielle Collins, will start her freshman year for the two-time defending NCAA champion University of Florida Gators, and last year’s Girls’ 18s runner-up Chalena Scholl, this month reached the quarterfinals at the French Open juniors in Paris.
 
The complete age 10 and 12 draws, results and seedings can be viewed here.
 
The complete age 14, 16, and 18 draws and seedings can be viewed here.
 
 
 

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