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Monday, January 19, 2009

Unseeded Fratangelo and Laurente Claim Plaza Cup 18s Titles; Top Seed Kiick Sweeps Girls 14s

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Coral Gables, FL--

The three Tennis Plaza Cup finals contested on the Har-Tru courts of Salvadore Park Monday all played out differently, with unseeded Bjorn Fratangelo and Kelsey Laurente capturing the 18s titles, while top seed Alexandra Kiick claimed the winner's trophy in the girls 14s.

Fratangelo survived the pressure of needing to win a second tiebreaker to stay alive against hard-hitting third seed Andrew Butz, then coasted to a 6-7 (1), 7-6(3), 6-3 victory.

After having a set point serving at 5-4 in the opening set, Fratangelo saw that chance dissolve when Butz's unexpected defensive slice backhand stayed low, and produced an error. Fratangelo eventually lost his break with a double fault, and after Butz held, faced three set points serving at 5-6. But Fratangelo saved those and appeared to have the momentum going into the tiebreaker. As quickly as the momentum swung his way however, it swung back to Butz, with Fratangelo losing control of his backhand early and often in the tiebreaker.

By breaking Butz early in the second set, Fratangelo looked to be in control, but he made it difficult on himself when he again couldn't close out the set with a lead.

"I was up 5-2 (in the second set) and I let him slip back into it," said the 15-year-old Fratangelo, originally from Pittsburgh, but now training in Naples. "I had to make him hit a lot of balls, keep him moving. I didn't want him to get in a rhythm, because he would just slap winners all over the place."

Butz is certainly capable of that, as his quarterfinal and semifinal opponents Spencer Newman and Jeremy Efferding would attest, but he wasn't able to find the service box on his first try often enough to dominate Fratangelo. In the second set tiebreaker, it was Butz who lost his backhand, and when he lost that and his serve in the first game of the third set, all the air seemed to go out of him. Fratangelo took a 4-0 lead, and Butz was able to win a couple games on the strength of his serving, but he looked disinterested and resigned to losing early in the set.

For the unseeded Fratangelo, the tournament victory was all that he had hoped.

"I expected to do well even though I was unseeded," he admitted. "That (seeding) doesn't really mean anything. I just wanted to come here and play well for the three days, and I felt I played well throughout the tournament."

Laurente's 6-4, 6-4 win over Mary Clayton was woven with threads of deju vu. In each set, Laurente, a 14-year-old from Miramar, broke Clayton at 3-4 and served for the set and the match, and both times she was broken. But she then immediately broke Clayton, a result that wasn't all that surprising to her.

"I was thinking about winning instead of actually the point," said Laurente of her lapses on serve. "I feel like my returns are kind of better than my serve, even though my serve has improved a lot."

Clayton was hitting the ball with pace, but she wasn't able to work her way inside the court to finish a point with Laurente's pinpoint placement and creativity. And although she trains primarily on hard court, Laurente felt comfortable constructing points on the green clay.

"Last time I played Mary she actually beat me, pretty easily, but that was on hard courts," Laurente said of a loss in a Florida Super Series event last September. "It's a completely different type of game play. Hard courts are my home court, but clay is pretty fun."

Laurente is going to continue to play 18s sectionally, although for "super nationals or a really big tournament I'll play 16s," she said. "But I'm going to turn 15 in August, so there's no point in staying in 14s and trying to get to No. 1, because I'm not going to make it."

The only player to take home two main draw winner's trophies Sunday was girls 14s top seed Alexandra Kiick, who came back from an early deficit to defeat doubles partner Blair Martin 7-5, 6-1, then teamed with her friend to take that championship too.

Kiick, the daughter of former Miami Dolphins running back Jim Kiick, trailed 3-0 in the opening set.

"I didn't really warm up, and I was kind of nervous in the beginning" said Kiick, who lives in Plantation. "Because I'm the number one seed, I felt I should win. Once I won the first set I started playing my game, whacking the ball and placing it, and I did better in the second set."

Kiick and Martin took a brief lunch break, then the No. 1 seeded doubles team came back to take an 8-3 win over No. 2 seeds Lauren Burich and Evgenia Rostarchuk.

And although Kiick was pleased that she could help her friend earn a championship in the doubles, she acknowledged needing a different mindset in the singles.

"We're friends off the court, but enemies on the court," Kiick said. "But we'll always be friends, no matter what."

The girls 18s doubles title went to the second seeded team of Brittany Dubins and Bianca Sanon, who downed the No. 3 seeded team of Clayton and Julie Sabacinski 8-2.

Top seed Jackie Kasler took third place in the girls 18s, defeating Dubins 6-2, 6-3, and unseeded Kaysara Mandry took the consolation title with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 2 seed Maria Belaya.

The No. 4 seeded team of Spencer Newman and Raleigh Smith took the boys 18s doubles championship with an 8-4 win over the unseeded team of Michael Hui and Christopher Jackman.

Newman participated in four matches on Monday, winning them all, as he won three rounds of consolation, including a 7-5, 6-4 victory in the final over Jesse Feder.

Third place in boys 18s went to Michael Alford, who defeated Jeremy Efferding 6-1, 6-3.

In championships contested at other sites, No. 2 seed Jordan Daigle downed No. 1 seed Thai Kwiatkowski 6-0, 7-5 in the boys 14s at Riviera Country Club. Kwiatkowski took home a champion's trophy however, as he partnered with Strong Kirchheimer to defeat Baker Newman and Daniel O'Connor in the doubles final, 8-3.

At the Biltmore Tennis Center, unseeded Alexios Halebian beat No. 2 seed Hunter Callahan 6-1, 6-3 to win the boys 16s, and unseeded ReeRee Li took the girls 16s title with a 6-1, 6-4 decision over No. 1 seed Jacqueline Crawford.

The finals of the boys and girls 12s, which were also held at Biltmore Tennis Center after two days of competition at Tropical Park, No. 4 seed Diana Kussainova beat Elysse Graci 6-2, 6-1 for the girls title, and No. 4 seed Chase Colton defeated unseeded Alexander Knight 6-3, 6-1 in the boys championship match.

For complete results, visit the TennisLink site.

The website of the tournament's sponsor, Tennis Plaza, a Racquet World company, can be accessed here.