An unseeded player punched through to claim a first state title in the Boys’ 18s, and another gained revenge for a former runner-up finish at the conclusion of the 68th USTA Florida “Bobby Curtis” Junior State Singles Championships, held June 11-15, 2016 at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach (18-16s divisions) and at Sanlando Park in Altamonte Springs (14-12s divisions).
Unseeded Jason Legall of Palm Coast upended No. 8 seed Aleksandar Kovacevic of Boca Raton 6-4, 6-3 for the Boys’ 18s title, his first “Bobby Curtis” state singles championship win.
“I’ve been playing the ‘Bobby Curtis’ state singles for coming on 4-5 years, and this year I haven’t been playing a lot of USTA tournaments so I came in unseeded,” said Legall, who has been playing international juniors and pro Futures events, and for the last two years training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. “I obviously wasn’t expecting to come out in first place. Congrats to Alek for having such a good tournament too.”
Legall, who has physically developed over the last year, says he never won more than two rounds in past state singles appearances.
“This year, I just didn’t lose,” said the demonstrative 17-year-old, who at match point told onlookers he couldn’t believe he put himself in position to win, and after clinching match point let out a scream of satisfaction. “So it was pretty good. All the hard work is finally paying off. I’m going to take a nice two days off, then back to training.”
The Girls’ 18s final saw a goal achieved for No. 8 seed Amanda Meyer of Delray Beach, who says she has dreamed of this moment ever since finishing runner-up in the 14-under division in 2013. She ground out a 6-1, 7-6(3) win in 90 degree humid temperatures against No. 2 seed Alexandra Belaya of Melbourne at the Florida Tennis Center.
“It was very difficult,” said the diminutive Meyer of solving the big flat-hitting Belaya. “Only at the end of the match did I figure out how to play her. [Her flat ball] was a little low for me and toward the end of the second set my legs started to wear out.”
The 16-year-old says that now she’s raised the trophy she can put her runner-up effort three years ago behind her.
“That has stuck with me the rest of my [junior] career, so it’s nice to win this finally,” she said with a smile. “It’s fantastic.”
The Boys’ 16s final saw an upset as No. 12 seed Ronan Jachuck of Boca Raton won his first Florida state juniors singles title, defeating No. 6-seeded Grey Cacciatore of Gainesville 6-2, 6-1.
“Grey is a really good player who makes a lot of balls and he made me work,” said the 14-year-old Jachuck, a former hard court nationals runner-up. “Third game of the first set I got a break at love and he started to make more errors and I started to loosen up and relax.”
Jachuck said his toughest match of the tournament was a round of 16 win over Grey’s brother, No. 2 seed Harry Cacciatore, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 on a day where temperatures hovered around 100 degrees. It was only his second “Bobby Curtis” appearance, last year losing second round to the eventual tournament winner. The rising sophomore, who is home-schooled and trains in Delray Beach, says he plans to play clay and hard court nationals this summer in addition to some international ITF events.
“Being the state championships, this is definitely one of my biggest wins,” he said.
The top seeding held in the Girls’ 16s final as exuberant No. 1 seed Alana Wolfberg of Orlando defeated No. 3 seed Imani Graham of St. Johns 6-1, 6-1, utilizing a heavy lefty forehand.
“I think at least half the games went to deuce,” Wolfberg said regarding the scoreline. “[My game plan was] completely nothing predictable, to not hit two shots the same way. I’ve known Imani for years, I hit with her two weeks ago and we’ve played doubles together. I went in knowing how she was playing.”
This year’s “Bobby Curtis” was a process of getting over the hump for Wolfberg, who had previously finished in third place at the state singles for the last four years in a row.
“Literally I have gotten third in this tournament since the 10s!” said the high school rising sophomore, who also runs track. “So yesterday [in the semifinals] I was like ‘This is the round, four years in a row,’ then I had a close first set and then won.”
Her next stop is national clay courts in Virginia, and “then vacation.”
The top seeds came through in the Boys’ and Girls’ 12s divisions, and the Boys’ 14s division was won by No. 11 seed Martin Damm of Bradenton, son of 2006 US Open doubles winner Martin Damm.
Age Division Winners (seeds in parenthesis):
Boys’ 18: Jason Legall (Palm Coast, FL) d. (8) Aleksandar Kovacevic (Boca Raton, FL) 6-4, 6-3
Girls’ 18: (8) Amanda Meyer (Delray Beach, FL) d. (2) Alexandra Belaya (Melbourne, FL) 6-1, 7-6(3)
Boys’ 16: (12) Ronan Jachuck (Boca Raton, FL) d. (6) Grey Cacciatore (Gainesville, FL) 6-2, 6-1
Girls’ 16: (1) Alana Wolfberg (Orlando, FL) d. (3) Imani Graham (Saint Johns, FL) 6-1, 6-1
Boys’ 14: (11) Martin Damm (Bradenton, FL) d. (5) Alexander Bernard (Bonita Springs, FL) 2-6, 6-4, retired (illness)
Girls’ 14: (3) Gabriela Giraldo (Boca Raton, FL) d. (4) Jamilah Snells (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) 4-6, 7-5, 6-2
Boys’ 12: (1) Jack Anthrop (Orlando, FL) d. (7) Alexander Adamec (St Augustine, FL) 6-1, 6-0
Girls’ 12: (1) Ariel Johnson (Coconut Creek, FL) d. (7) Sophia Wang (St Petersburg, FL) 6-2, 6-3
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The USTA Florida “Bobby Curtis” Junior State Championships is the most competitive USTA Section junior championships in the U.S., spawning the most players of any USTA Section to go on to the professional circuit and rank No. 1 in the world. Former “Bobby Curtis” champs who have gone on to rank No. 1 in the world on the ATP and WTA rankings:
* Chris Evert (1971 Girls’ 18, 1970-69 Girls’ 16, 1968 Girls’ 14, and 1966 Girls’ 10 champion)
* Jennifer Capriati (1986 Girls’ 12 champion)
* Jim Courier (1986 Boys’ 18 champion)
* Andy Roddick (1996 Boys’ 14, 1994 Boys’ 12 champion)
Other notable winners over the years have been current WTA player Bethanie Mattek-Sands (1998 Girls’ 14 champion); three-time Grand Slam runner-up, two-time Olympic gold medalist and current U.S. Fed Cup Captain Mary Joe Fernandez (1983 Girls’ 14, 1982 Girls’ 12); former world No. 8-ranked Carling Bassett (1980 Girls’ 12); former world No. 7 and current USTA National Coach Kathy Rinaldi (1980 Girls’ 14, 1979 Girls’ 12); former world No. 7 and current USTA National Coach and U.S. David Cup Coach Jay Berger (1985-84 Boys’ 18, 1983 Boys’ 16); former world No. 3 and two-time Slam doubles winner Brian Gottfried (1970 Boys’ 18, 1966 Boys’ 14, 1963-64 Boys’ 12); former world No. 5 and two-time French Open semifinalist Eddie Dibbs (1969 Boys’ 18, 1967 Boys’ 16, 1965 Boys’ 14); and former ATP player and legendary tennis organizer Charlie Pasarell (1958 Boys’ 15, 1957 Boys’ 13).
In 2012 the tournament was renamed the USTA Florida “Bobby Curtis” Junior State Championships in honor of legendary Florida junior tennis organizer Bobby Curtis. Babolat and Tennis Warehouse are official tournament sponsors of the 2016 USTA Florida “Bobby Curtis” Junior State Singles Championships.
For more tournament info go to www.ustaflorida.com/bobbycurtis2016.
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