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USTA Florida Jr. Tennis Winners Crowned at 2013 State Singles Championships

June 13, 2013 08:19 PM
 G18-web
From left: Girls' 18s champion Bennett Dunn, Tournament Director Andy Gladstone, runner-up Savannah Durkin
 G16-web
From left: Girls' 16s champion Mia Horvit, Tournament Director Andy Gladstone, runner-up Jaclyn Switkes
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From left: Girls' 14s champion Emma DeCoste, Tournament Director Andy Gladstone, runner-up Amanda Meyer
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From left: Girls' 12s champion Hurricane Tyra Black, Tournament Director Brian Morrissey, runner-up Zoe Hitt
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From left: Boys' 18s champion Chase Perez-Blanco, Tournament Director Emeritus Bobby Curtis, runner-up Oliver Landert
 B16-web
 From left: Boys' 16s champion Alfredo Perez, Tournament Director Andy Gladstone, runner-up Chase Colton
 B14-web
From left: Boys' 14s champion Noah Makarome, Tournament Director Andy Gladstone, runner-up Davis Carvalho
 B12-web
From left: Boys' 12s champion Anuj Watane, Tournament Director Brian Morrissey, runner-up Matthew Fung
Florida state junior champions in the 18s, 16s, 14s and 12s boys' and girls' divisions were crowned on Thursday at the 65th USTA Florida 'Bobby Curtis' Junior State Championships, held June 8-13, 2013 at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach, Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs, and at the Ormond Beach Tennis Center.

There were both repeat and first-time winners joining the illustrious line of title winners at the Florida state junior championships, named for Florida junior tennis legend Bobby Curtis.

Historically the highest-quality USTA Section tournament in the country, the USTA Florida Section junior championships have launched the careers of past winners and future No. 1s Chris Evert, Jennifer Capriati, Jim Courier and Andy Roddick among other ATP and WTA tour players over the years.

Here are the results from the finals Thursday in each age division:

Girl's 18 Singles

Last year's Girls' 16s winner Bennett Dunn of Plantation stepped up her game exactly one year later, rebounding from injury on Thursday to win the Girls' 18s title at the USTA Florida 'Bobby Curtis' Junior State Championships, defeating No. 6 seed Savannah Durkin of Miramar 6-2, 7-5 in the final.

The No. 5-seeded Dunn was coming off a shoulder injury, and the comeback was not going well coming into the Florida state championships.

"Absolutely not...this year has really been rough," she said. "I hadn't been playing too well and I hurt my shoulder at the USTA Spring Nationals in March. This is like my third tournament back -- the first tournament back I played really poorly, I couldn't hit my serve at all. As I've played more I've just gotten back into the rhythm."

In the final against Durkin she faced a familiar foe as both train at the Harold Solomon Institute in Ft. Lauderdale.

"We train together, so I know her, she knows me, so it's not any secret how we play," Dunn said. "I was trying to hit my forehand to her backhand a lot and sneak in when I could, and use my serve to my advantage. It's one of my biggest strengths."

In the second set Dunn trailed 5-1 before running off six straight games.

"In the second set she started picking up on my strategy a little more, and started moving me more than I wanted to," Dunn said with a laugh. "I realized I had strayed from what I was doing in the first set to win, and I wanted to just make sure I was smart with the way I played."

Dunn says she will soon try her hand at some low-level pro events as she has already made a college commitment to the University of Alabama.

"I committed early because offers just kept coming, and I couldn't keep them waiting," she said. "I'd visited Michigan, Georgia Tech, Georgia, Tennessee and a couple others -- I had a lot of offers and felt like I needed to make a decision."

Girl's 16 Singles

Top-seeded Mia Horvit of Parkland won her first title in any age group at the USTA Florida 'Bobby Curtis' Junior State Championships, outlasting No. 3 seed Jaclyn Switkes of Ponte Vedra Beach 6-2, 6-7(4) 6-4.

Trailing 4-1 in the third set, the 15-year-old Horvit adjusted her court positioning to become more aggressive before winning the final five games.

"I told myself I've been in that position before and won before," said Horvit, whose big, flat groundstrokes were a contrast to Switke's high-topspin and variety.

Horvit's last appearance at the championships was two years ago when she lost in the first round of the 16s.

"Yes there's pressure coming in as the No. 1 seed, but you've got to love the pressure too," Horvit said.

Horvit, who trains at the Delray Beach Swim & Racquet Club, adds her name to the illustrious list of former girls' division winners including Chris Evert, Jennifer Capriati, Mary Joe Fernandez and current WTA star Bethanie Mattek-Sands.

"It feels great, and this is just my first time [winning], so I can't wait to play other tournaments and keep adding my name to the list," she says.

Girls' 14 Singles

Stuart's Emma DeCoste
was another first-time winner at the USTA Florida 'Bobby Curtis' Junior State Championships, in a marathon match in 90-degree heat as the No. 2 seed outlasting No. 5 Amanda Meyer of Hypoluxo 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.

"In the first set I was playing less aggressive and she was taking control of most of the points," said the 13-year-old lefty DeCoste of coming back from a set down. "In the second set I changed my game plan and became more aggressive and went to the net, and she would try to go for bigger shots and make mistakes."

The match featured long rallies with deep topspin by both petite players, who nonetheless crunched their groundstrokes to put each other on the run. DeCoste trains with her parents, teaching pros Scott and Karin, at the North River Shores Tennis Club in Stuart.

Girls' 12 Singles

Top-seeded Hurricane Tyra Black of Boca Raton defeated No. 7 seed Zoe Hitt of Miami 6-2, 6-1 for her first singles championship at the USTA Florida 'Bobby Curtis' Junior State Championships.

Black did not drop a set in her six-match run to the championship, losing only 11 total games.

Boys' 18 Singles

No. 6 seed Chase Perez-Blanco of Miami captured his first singles title at the USTA Florida 'Bobby Curtis' Junior State Championships on Thursday, defeating No. 9 seed Oliver Landert of Naples 6-4, 7-5.

Perez-Blanco took to the court in warrior style with face paint and a bandanna, but "it just got uncomfortable, and I thought 'I have to get this stuff off,'" he said, laughing.

The two players traded breaks in the first set until Perez-Blanco broke again at 4-4 and served out the set. In the second set the players again traded breaks with Perez-Blanco finding himself down 3-5 before running off four games in a row to clinch the championship.

"I knew he was going to come out aggressive, so I wanted to be aggressive -- and it's so hot out here so you don't want to be out here for three hours running side to side," Perez-Blanco said.

It was the first singles title in any age group at the Florida championships for Perez-Blanco, who has collected three Florida state doubles championship titles in varying age groups.

"It's definitely up there at the top of the list [of titles], it's the state title, it's the best kids in the state and to come out on top is a great feeling," said the 17-year-old who trains at the Royal Palm Tennis Club in Miami, and says he is hoping to make a college decision by the end of the summer.

Boys' 16 Singles

Coral Gables' Alfredo Perez
successfully defended his title from 2012 in the Boys' 16 division at the USTA Florida 'Bobby Curtis' Junior State Championships on Thursday, in the final as the No. 2 seed upsetting No. 1 Chase Colton of Davie 6-4, 6-4.

Perez trailed 4-1 in the first set before running off seven straight games to go up a break in the second.

"He was playing really good in the first set, and I was kind of sleepy, and then I started moving a lot better and making a lot of balls in the court," Perez said. "He started playing really well again in the second set, but I took my time and at the end of the set broke him at 5-4 and won."

The 16-year-old Perez joined Gordon Watson (2010-09), Larry Gottfried (1975-74), Ben McKown (1973-72), and Mac Claflin (1966-65) as back-to-back winners in the 16s division in the history of the event dating to 1952.

"The first two or three matches I was kind of nervous, [being the] defending champion, I didn't play my best tennis but won matches," said Perez, who now trains at the USTA Training Center-Headquarters in Boca Raton, but attributes his development to former coach Robert Gomez at the Biltmore Tennis Center in Coral Gables.

Boys' 14 Singles

Noah Makarome of Wesley Chapel
added the Boys' 14 title to his previous Boys' 10s and 12s championships on Thursday at the USTA Florida 'Bobby Curtis' Junior State Championships, in the final coming from a set down to defeat No. 8-seeded lefty Davis Carvalho of Coral Springs 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

"I though he played well in the first set, he really came out firing and was more aggressive than me," Makarome said. "In the second set I focused and made sure I moved my feet a little more and took some chances a lot more. I thought being more opportunistic gave me the edge in the second and third."

The 14-year-old Makarome, who trains with his father as his coach, drew on his experience earlier this year in representing the U.S. on the USTA 14-under travel team at the Aegon Teen Tennis tournament in Bolton, England, and the Les Petits As tournament in Tarbes, France.

"It was really good going to international tournaments and playing kids with international competition, it was really good for my game," Makarome said. He added that while he will play both local and national events for the remainder of the year, his goal is to win a coveted USTA national gold ball.

Boys' 12 Singles

Top seed Anuj Watane of Orlando defeated No. 2 Matthew Fung of Miami 7-5, 6-2 for his first title at the USTA Florida 'Bobby Curtis' Junior State Championships.

Fung also finished runner-up in the Boys' 10s division in 2011.

Watane en route to the championship was twice pushed to tiebreak sets but did not drop a set.

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The USTA Florida 'Bobby Curtis' Junior State Championships is not only a proving ground for some of the best juniors in the United States, but a popular recruiting destination for college coaches. The semifinals on Wednesday and the finals on Thursday saw more than 25 college men's and women's coaches descend on the Florida Tennis Center from universities such as Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Tennessee, Florida Gulf Coast University, Navy, Missouri, Stetson and Dartmouth.
 
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