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Future of U.S. Tennis On Display at Florida Jr. State Closed

Posted on August 1, 2008

By Tori Townsend and Richard Vach

Chris Evert, Jim Courier and Andy Roddick are a few of the former No. 1-ranked men and women whose road to greatness went through the USTA Florida Jr. State Closed Singles Championships. The 60th running of the annual tournament for state junior players crowned another six champions at the Florida Tennis Center in Daytona Beach.

The seeding held true in the Boys' 18 final, where top-seeded Brennan Boyajian of Weston outlasted No. 9 seed and double-handed player Billy Federhofer of Miami 6-3, 2-6, 6-1. 

Boyajian took control of the match early with precise shotmaking and a minimal number of errors, but his error count mounted in the second set as Federhofer evened the contest. Boyajian then ran away with the third set in front of a crowd comprised of other players, parents, coaches and scouts.

"It feels good, just knowing that I've been playing Florida tennis since I was six years old," Boyajian said. "To play in my last junior Florida tournament and finish on top, it's good."

Federhofer's recent successes coming into the event included two national tournament quarterfinal finishes and a victory at a national event in Delray Beach.

"He forces you to make every shot or else you pay for it," Federhofer said of Boyajian. "I wish it could have worked out better, but it was fun."

Boyajian will attend UNC Chapel Hill with fellow Floridians Zach Hunter and Luke Mojica. "It was a good week," he said. "I will miss seeing all the kids because I have seen the same ones growing up for eight years."

No. 13 seed Christopher Jackman upset No. 3 Blas Moros 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 for third place.

Two past Florida Jr. State Closed champions battled in the Girls' 18 final. Fifteen-year-old and No. 9 seed Chichi Scholl of Pompano Beach upset No. 5-seeded 14-year-old Danielle Collins of St. Petersburg 1-6, 6-0, 6-3.

"Credit definitely goes to her because she played really good and it was a tough match," said Scholl, who ran off three straight games at 3-3 in the third for the victory. Scholl, who plays at a public park in Pompano Beach, said losing the first set 6-1 was a test of nerve.

"I learned a lot about myself," she said. "I know that even if I am down, I can come back if I believe in myself."

In the third-place playoff, No. 3 seed Jacqueline Kasler defeated No. 15 Chloe Smith 6-1, 6-4.

This year's Boys' 16 final was a repeat of last year's Boys' 14 final, with Jeremy Efferding of Lake Worth again topping Michael Rinaldi of Palm City 6-4, 6-7, 6-1. Rinaldi entered the event on a confidence high after claiming the title at the 2008 Easter Bowl in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

"I felt very nervous in the beginning," Efferding said. "I went into the match trying to play like I've been the whole tournament -- to out-power and move my opponent off the court."

Rinaldi broke Efferding to go up 6-5 in the second set, but failed to serve it out, but to his credit came out on top in a tight tiebreaker. After a ten minute break the players took the court and Efferding picked up on his theme of powering the smaller Rinaldi off the court, running away with the decider 6-1. 

"I picked up my level in the third and just played my best," said Efferding, who is coached by Jay Berger at the USTA Training Center in Boca Raton. "Coach told me he had done the same thing, so it's nice to follow in his footsteps and win back-to-back."

The devout Efferding says his goals include playing at Kalamazoo and the USTA National Clay Courts.
"I thank God for this victory and I couldn't do it without Him," he said.

In the Boys' 16 third-place playoff, top-seeded Spencer Newman of Miami beat No. 4 seed Zachary Katz of Boca Raton 6-2, 6-2. 

The Girls' 16 final was a rematch of last year's Girls' 14 playoff between top-seeded Rebecca Bodine of Tarpon Springs and unseeded Julia Jones of Largo. Bodine won a three-setter in their meeting last year, and this year improved on that win with a 6-4, 6-2 victory.

"The win makes me very happy," Bodine said. "It's good since I am coming off an injury and it makes me feel more confident about playing."

Bodine pulled the T-Band in her upper leg two months ago and had just resumed hitting with Girls' 18 finalist Danielle Collins at Seminole Lake Tennis Center a week before the tournament. Attempting to hide her weakness from Jones, Bodine played aggressive and stayed in control throughout the match.

"I was definitely playing my game and wasn't switching off of it like I tend to do sometimes," said Bodine, whose summer is busy with tournaments, including the Florida Bush Open, USTA National Open in Tallahassee and USTA National Clay Courts. 

No. 8 seed Laura Gutsche of Sarasota won the Girls' 16 third-place playoff, outlasting No. 10 seed Korey Love of Port Orange 6-3, 4-6, 7-6.

Boys' 14 champion Morgan Mays entered the Florida Jr. State Closed already on a roll. The No. 7 seed won the 14s singles and doubles at the Muterspaw Championships in Las Vegas; won the doubles and was a singles finalist at the USTA National Open in Frisco, Tex.; and won the singles at the Peach State Junior Tennis Classic, Norcross, Ga. Mays rolled into the Florida Tennis Center to collect yet another title, easing past No. 3 seed Kenny "Mighty Mouse" Sabacinski 6-3, 6-1.

"The last month has been really good," said Mays, who plans on soon moving up into the 16s division. "I have been working hard for awhile now and it has finally paid off. Today was the hottest day and we were both tired; it was a test of will."

Mays, who trains at Longboat Key Club, knew the key to the match would be taking charge during points and staying away from passive play.

"I tried to play the way I played the whole tournament," he said. "I wanted to dictate the points and stay on the offensive because Kenny is a great grinder."

Next on Mays' schedule were the 14s USTA National Clay and Hard Court Championships.

No. 8 seed Blaine Willenborg won the third-place playoff when he received a walkover against No. 4 Roy Lederman.

The Girls' 14 final match-up was between No. 4-seeded Courtney Colton of Davie and No. 8 seed Alexandra Kiick of Plantation, training colleagues at the Nick Saviano High Performance Tennis Academy in Sunrise. The match threatened to be a fitness test between the Florida heat and both players coming off three-set semifinal wins. In the end Colton broke down the game of Kiick, taking a tight first set 6-4 before running away with the second 6-1.

"She is a great competitor, a great athlete and it was fun to play her," Colton said. "I just really competed my best out there. This was one of my best [matches] where I kept in the moment and fought for every point. I hope to keep doing what I am doing, work on my game and hope it continues to get better in my tournaments."

Colton won one of her bigger titles of the year earlier in doubles at the Tennis Plaza Cup in January. In the third-place playoff, No. 2 seed Kelsey Laurente upset top-seeded Denise Starr 7-5, 6-4. 

Sanlando Park in Seminole County hosted the 10 and 12 age divisions. Top-seeded Alexandria Stiteler of Bradenton defeated No. 9 seed Anastasia Nefedova of Palm Harbor 6-0, 6-0 to claim the Girls' 12 championship title. In the Boys' 12 final, No. 3 seed Elio Livi of Miramar upset top-seeded Paul Tyagi of Miami Shores 6-3, 4-6, 6-3.

Unseeded Katerina Stewart of Miami surprised all to become the Girls' 10 Jr. State Closed champion, defeating No. 7 seed Star Makarome of Wesley Chapel 6-3, 3-6, 1-0(5) in the final. In the Boys' 10 championship match, No. 8 seed Noah Makarome of Wesley Chapel followed upsets over the No. 2 and 3 seeds with a 7-6(5), 6-4 win over top-seeded Charlie Sullivan of Delray Beach.

Third-place results: Boys' 12: (2) David Crisovan d. (8) Dan Stefan 6-4, 6-2; Girls' 12: (3) Julia O'Loughlin d. Sofia Kenin 6-3, 6-0; Boys' 10: (4) Davey Roberts d. (2) Ariel Hollender 6-7(4), 6-0, 10-2; Girls' 10: (6) Shelby Groeneveld d. (5) Katherine Wiley 6-1, 6-3.

All 16 and 18 division finalists received a $1,250 travel reimbursement to be used at the next National Clay Courts or National Hard Courts Championship, while all 12 and 14 semifinalists received $625 for the first time in State Closed history (NCAA approved).

Sportsmanship Award Winners:
Boys' 12 -- Chase Perez-Blanco (Miami)
Girls' 12 -- Josie Kuhlamn (Ponte Vedra Beach)
Boys' 10 -- Brendan Abernathy (Ft. Lauderdale)
Girls' 10 -- Juliette Dalmau (Coral Gables)

This article appears in the August 2008 issue of Play Tennis Florida magazine,

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