©Colette Lewis 2008--
While the rest of the country shivered through the holiday weekend, those in Miami dodged rain drops, with Monday's showers moving in during the mid-afternoon.
Seven of the eight age division champions were decided before the occasional bouts of drizzle blossomed into full-fledged, court-soaking rain, but the boys' 18 final between Sekou Bangoura, Jr. and Billy Federhofer, tied at a set apiece and 1-1 in the third, has been pushed back until Tuesday morning.
The 12s and 16s joined the boys 18s at the Biltmore Tennis Center for the final day, and Miami's Monica Puig was the first champion to emerge, with a 6-4, 6-0 victory over top seed Rebecca Bodine of Tarpon Springs, Fla. in the girls 16s. Puig, the second seed, was down immediately after being broken in the opening game, but she fought back to 3-3, only to lose her next service game. In the next game however, she broke Bodine again, and for her it was a pivotal moment in the match.
"The key point for me was at 4-all," said Puig, 14. "After I broke her at 4-3, I had the momentum, and I just had to hold serve and play solid."
She did, and when Bodine was serving to stay in the set, it was Puig who came up with the winners on the 30-30 point, blasting a second serve return winner to earn a set point and then putting a forehand so deep that it handcuffed Bodine.
"I tagged a lot of second serve returns," said Puig, who had met Bodine only once before in the 10s and had lost badly then. "I was pretty nervous in the beginning, because I knew she was going to give me a tough time."
Although Bodine continued to play hard and hit deep in the second set, Puig's confident play on her own serve but pressure on Bodine's, and the result was three breaks, including the final one for the championship.
In the boys' 16s final on the adjacent court, friends and doubles partners Jeremy Efferding and Ridley Seguso went to three sets before Efferding, like Seguso, unseeded, took the match 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.
The boys traded breaks early in the first set, with Efferding getting the set-deciding break at 3-4, when Seguso was given a code violation for racquet abuse on game point. Efferding served out the first set and took a 1-0 lead in the second, but Seguso got it right back and added two more to even the match. With both players willing to finish at the net and to stay back, points were long and entertaining and the obvious respect they had for each other made even the frustrations of errors less painful.
"He was playing great," said Efferding of Lake Worth, Fla. "He was hitting winners left and right, so sometimes you just have to say 'too good.' It encouraged me to go for the shots, hit the winners, so we had a high-quality good match."
Efferding, 14, admitted to some weariness after four matches the previous two days, including a match tiebreaker win over top seed Daniel McCall Sunday evening.
"It's really tough. I like to have one match a day, I like those tournaments." Efferding said. "Lots of hard core stretching, eating, relaxing. You just have to push yourself."
The boys 12s title went to top seed Stefan Kozlov of Pembroke Pines, Fla., a 6-4, 7-6 (4) winner over No. 4 seed Juan Padilla of Key Biscayne, Fla. The match featured a lot of service breaks, but very few moon balls, as both players went for winners, not safety. At 4-4 in the first set, Kozlov held and broke Padilla at love to take the opening set, but Padilla kept his composure throughout the second set, including saving threematch points serving at 5-6.
In the tiebreaker, Kozlov, a very demonstrative nine-year-old who sobs one minute and breaks into a fist-pumping 'c'mon' the next, took a 6-2 lead, lost the next two and then hit a backhand winner on his sixth match point. It was anybody's guess what the right-hander was doing when he hit three left-handed shots with the match in the balance and a tried a left-handed quick serve.
A natural left-hander took the girls 12s title, as No. 3 Alexandria Stiteler of Bradenton, Fla. downed No. 2 seed Sierra Stone 6-4, 6-3. The boys 14 winner was top seed Gordon Watson, of Naples, Fla., a 6-2, 6-1 winner over No. 4 seed Trey Strobel of Bradenton, Fla. at the Riviera Country Club's clay court facility. The girls 14 champion is N. Miami Beach's Alexandra Morozova, the No. 6 seed, who defeated No. 4 seed Denise Starr of Miami 7-6(6), 6-4 on the Salvadore Park clay. Unseeded Mallory Burdette of Jackson, Ga., outlasted No. 4 seed Maria Belaya of Melbourne, Fla. 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, to claim the girls 18s championship, also at Salvadore Park.
For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.
Monday, January 21, 2008