Katerina Stewart Streaks to 16s Title
by Keith Kropp, 15 August 2013
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Katerina Stewart walked on to Stadium Court at the Barnes Center on Saturday afternoon having won 12 of her last 13 matches at the USTA Girls 16s & 18s National Championships. With that excellent track record, the only thing the Miami resident had yet to do was earn a championship.
Presented with a second opportunity to win one of the most prestigious titles in junior tennis, Stewart rose to the occasion and captured the 16s singles championship with an impressive 6-4, 6-1 victory over top-seeded Ena Shibahara
of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.
Stewart, the No. 2 seed and runner-up to Kimberly Yee in last year's 16s final, dominated this year's tournament. She did not drop a set in her seven matches and also defeated two other Southern Californians - No. 7 seed Meredith Xepoleas of Huntington Beach, 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, and Ryan Peus of Palos Verdes Estates, 6-2, 6-2 in the previous round.
Shibahara, ranked No. 3 in the nation in Girls 16 singles, was trying to build on what has already been an impressive 2013 season for the 15-year-old Southern Californian. Earlier this year Shibahara won the 16s at the USTA International Championships at Carson and was a champion at the Southern California Junior Sectionals in the 18s.
Stewart, a 16-year-old ranked eighth nationally in the 16s, had a wise approach to handle Shibahara's power and all-court skills. Early in the match, the task simply amounted to finding a way to settle down.
"In the beginning it was hard to find a rhythm because we were both nervous," Stewart said following her victory. "I was just trying to keep as many balls in play and then find a weakness I could pick on."
In a close opening set, Stewart produced some of her best tennis late in that set. Trailing 3-4 she held serve to level things at 4-all - and then earned the key service break in the ninth game.
"Once I broke for 5-4, her belief went down," said Stewart, who held the following game to secure the first set. Stewart then rode that momentum the remainder of the match, breezing through a rather uneventful second set.