Florida junior tennis players won two singles and three doubles championships last weekend as the annual USTA National Hard Court Championships were held across the country in age groups 18-12.
The U.S.’s top juniors competed in eight USTA National Hard Court Championships, with US Open main draw wild cards awarded to the boys’ and girls’ 18s singles and doubles champions, and the singles runners-up in the boys’ and girls’ 18s divisions receiving wild card entries into the US Open Qualifying Tournament.
The boys’ and girls’ 16s champions earned wild card entries into the US Open Junior Championships. Four Florida players also finished runner-up in national championship singles finals, and one in doubles.
Sixteen-year-old Sofia Kenin of Pembroke Pines, Fla., won the USTA Girls’ 18s National Championship, defeating Boca Raton 17-year-old Tornado Alicia Black 6-2, 5-7, 7-5 in the all-Florida final.
Kenin, ranked No. 9 in the world among players ages 18 and under, will be making her Grand Slam main draw debut at the 2015 US Open.
“I do always drop shots, but this time, I thought they’d be more effective because she hates them,” said Kenin of Black, who after the final complimented Kenin as a “crafty player,” speaking to the San Diego Union Tribune.
Black finished as the Girls’ 18s singles runner-up for the second straight year, and will also receive a wild card into the US Open women’s doubles main draw after winning the Girls’ 18s doubles title, with partner Ingrid Neel (Rochester, Minn.) defeating No. 2 seeds Jessie Aney (Rochester, Minn.) and Ena Shibahara (Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.) 6-3, 6-3.
Nikki Yanez of Sarasota was also a national champion, capturing the USTA Girls’ 12s National Championship title, held in Alpharetta, Ga. The No. 17 seed, in the final Yanez defeated unseeded Rachel Arbitman of Hewlett, N.Y., 7-5, 7-6.
“In the round of 16 I was down a set and a break, then came back to win 12 of the next 14 games for the win,” Yanez said of a tournament that was filled with comebacks as she upended the No. 5, 4 and 1 seeds. “In the semifinals I was down 3-1 in the third set and then won five games in a row to win the match. In the finals I was down 5-1 in the first set then won six games in a row to win the set. Being 11 years old, this was only my second nationals tournament, but I made a few adjustments from the clay nationals last month and it paid off.”
This year’s Wimbledon Juniors Singles champion, Reilly Opelka of Palm Coast, Fla., earned a US Open men’s doubles main draw wild card by winning the USTA Boys’ 18s National Championship doubles with singles world No. 1 Taylor Fritz (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.). As the No. 2 seeds they defeated No. 6 seeds Joshua Sheehy (Arlington, Texas) and Parker Wynn (North Richland Hills, Texas) 6-3, 6-4 in the final.
Stefan Kozlov of Pembroke Pines, Fla., earned a US Open men’s qualifying draw wild card by finishing runner-up in the USTA Boys’ 18s National Championship final, held in Kalamazoo, Mich., edged by top-seeded Frances Tiafoe in a grinding five-set final 6-2, 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 6-4.
“It felt good being in a fifth set,” said Kozlov of playing with his friend Tiafoe after cramping in both the fourth and fifth sets, speaking to zootennis.com. “As a kid growing up, you dream about being in a fifth set at a slam or at Kalamazoo. So it was a lot of fun, it gave me a lot of adrenaline as you saw.”
Other runners-up in singles finals were Boca Raton’s Alexandre Rotsaert falling in the USTA Boys’ 16s National Championships final in Kalamazoo, Mich., to Patrick Kypson (Greenville, N.C.) 6-3, 6-3.; Bradenton’s Whitney Osuigwe losing in the USTA Girls’ 16s National Championships final in San Diego, Calif., to Abigail Desiatnikov (Sandy Springs, Ga.) 6-1, 7-6(2); and Boca Raton’s Ronan Jachuck falling in the USTA Boys’ 14s National Championships final in San Antonio, Texas to Nathan Han (Tulsa, Okla.) 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.
William Howells (Boca Raton) lost in the USTA Boys’ 16s National Championships doubles final in Kalamazoo, Mich., with partner Danny Thomas (Pickerington, Ohio), falling to Bryce Pereira (San Gabriel, Calif.) and Ivan Thamma (San Diego) 2-6, 6-1, 6-1.
For a full listing of national winners go to www.usta.com/news.