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Championship Week
Duval Takes Nationals & U.S. Open Wildcard
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When it comes to San Diego, you can always count on the weather. Though it was a bit more hot and humid than expected, not a drop of rain fell on the George E. Barnes Tennis Center. What did fall were the seeds. It was survival of the fittest, and in the end, Victoria Duval was the last player standing among a host of Floridians.

Girls' 18s Champion Victoria Duval
© Marcia Frost
The Girls' 18 Nationals has a long history of showcasing future stars. Winners have included Lindsay Davenport, Lisa Raymond, Jennifer Capriati and Tracy Austin in the past, but the last few years have also seen some breakout stars. The 2011 finalist, Nicole Gibbs, swept the NCAA Championships singles and doubles just months after the Nationals and Christina McHale, the 2009 winner, is teetering on the top 25 in the world and just represented the United States in the Olympics.

The tournament has been dubbed "SoCalamazoo" by its directors, but the USTA Girls' 18 Nationals has a personality all its own. It all started with an opening ceremony that was complete with a band from the nearby United States Naval base and the Color Guard from the Marine Corps Recruit Depot. Speakers included Kerry Blum, Manager of Youth Tennis San Diego; USTA Director at Large Delaine Mast; Tournament Referee Darrin Potkey; Brett Dickinson, owner of the tournament's presenting sponsor, Rancho Valencia Resort and Spa; and co-Tournament Directors Ellen Ehlers and Liz Blum. The one who resonated most with the players, though, was Debbie Graham Shaffer, a former touring pro who had won the NCAAs at Stanford and the USTA Girls' 16 Nationals. She told the girls about the importance of sportsmanship, as well as how they should strive to play college tennis as she freely admitted, "College was the best time in my life."

The upsets began at the beginning with the 17-32 alphabetically seeded players dropping in the second round. By the third round, the higher players began to leave the Barnes Tennis Center. First it was San Diego's own Christina Makarova, the No. 9 seed, who lost to unseeded Lynn Chi of Weston, FL. It was another local player, Lindsey Kostas that took out No. 14 Danielle Collins of St. Petersburg, Fla., who also left in the third round along with four more 17-32 players.

The round of 16 saw some tough matches for a few of the seeds and the loss of No. 5 Sachia Vickery (Miramar, Fla.), but the big match of that round would be the one that changed the entire tournament. Victoria Duval of Bradenton (17-32) would survive nearly four hours on the court to get past No. 4 Mayo Hibi of Irvine, Calif., 7-6(5),4-6,6-4. Duval would continue to remove the remaining top seeds in her way to the final - No. 10 Kyle McPhillips of Willoughby, Ohio, followed by No. 8 Jamie Loeb of Ossining, N.Y.

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