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IMG Academy alum, Victoria Duval Captures Girls' 18s Nationals

Victoria Duval defeated Allie Kiick to win the USTA's US Open main draw women's singles wild card.
Victoria Duval defeated Allie Kiick to win the USTA's US Open main draw women's singles wild card.

The Big Apple beckons for young Victoria Duval as the 16-year-old former Nick Bollettieri student from Bradenton, Fla., defeated Allie Kiick to win the USTA’s US Open main draw women’s singles wild card on Sunday at the 18s Nationals played on a gorgeous day at the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego.

Duval overcame a first-set setback and kept getting better as the match progressed to rally and defeat the 17-year-old Kiick, the daughter of former Miami Dolphins star running back Jim Kiick, 3-6, 6-1, 6-0.

So who does Duval want to face in the first round at the Open? Serena? Maria? Would she prefer Ashe Stadium? Or a quieter and less assuming outer court?

“We were talking about it before the match and if I play Serena I think I’m going to ask for her autograph after the match,” said Duval, hopefully half-joking. “It didn’t even go through my mind at all. But finally at 4-0 I finally started thinking, ‘Oh, my God’ finish this one and you’re going to the Open. But I knew I just needed to stay focused.”

Kiick opened the match strong taking advantage of a slow serving start by Duval. But she began to tire as the match went on and you could sense the strain of a full week of singles and doubles began to takes its toll.

Kiick, who won the doubles gold ball with partner Samantha Crawford on Saturday, will receive a wild card into Open qualifying, which begins a week from Tuesday.

Duval overcame a lengthy delay in the third set up 3-0 when one of Kiick’s shoelaces broke. “I guess it helped,” said Duval, who tried to stay loose during the four-minute break. “Because I won the next point and the next three games.”

Duval, who has been hampered by injuries and hasn’t played much over the past year, said she tries to manage pressure whether winning or losing. “It’s just something that clicks in my head when I start losing,” she said. “I just tell myself there’s no pressure on me now, but I have to remember that when I’m winning too,”

So the next we’ll see of Duval may be on center stage at the US Open, depending on who she draws and what court assignment. She has been training recently at the USTA National Training Center in Boca Raton, Fla., and two years ago spent a year in Norcross, Ga., at the Racquet Club of the South with Melanie Oudin’s former coach Brian De Villers.

She’s keeping college a possibility. “I want to go pro but college is still a really strong option, adding she’s favoring the University of North Carolina, where her father attended school.

Duval’s father is a gynecologist currently living in Bradenton, Fla., but still travels back and forth to Haiti, where he was seriously injured in the massive earthquake that struck there two years ago. Read the amazing story of his rescue here: http://www.ajc.com/news/gwinnett/tennis-friends-make-a-281709.html

In the Girls’ 16s Nationals Kimberly Yee of Las Vegas was the big winner, taking the singles and doubles titles. With the win, Yee earns a USTA gold ball and a berth into the US juniors main draw. A day before winning the singles title, Yee and partner Mariana Gould won the doubles.

Yee beat Katerina Stewart of Miami, Fla., 6-2,6-2, for the singles title.

“This is seriously so amazing for me,” Yee told tournament press aide Marcia Frost after the match on Saturday. “I love this tournament. I decided when I came here (this year) I was going to go for it and play the best I can. I had played Katerina at Easter Bowl and she beat me, so I came out here on my toes ready for a battle. She played great, she’s a really great player, but I got lucky this time.”

Stewart felt Yee’s win was well earned, “I thought I played well. I think I tried to do too much overall. I tried to be too perfect and she deserved to win this time. I know she tries hard and she doesn’t give up.”

Yee, who has been traveling for school and tennis for the past two months, was looking forward to getting home for a break before she heads to New York to take advantage of the wild card she will receive into the U.S. Open Junior Championships.

Frost reported that Michaela Gordon of Los Altos Hills, Calif., had only decided played this tournament because her family didn’t want to go all the way to Georgia for the 14s Nationals. The 13-year-old was impressive in her bronze ball third-place victory beating 16-year-old Cassandra Vazquez of Houston, Texas.

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