South Florida’s youngest and oldest tennis talents traveled the world the past few weeks to represent the United States in international tournaments. They made their hometowns proud.
In San Luis Potosi, Mexico, last week, 16-year-old national champion Katerina Stewart of Miami led the U.S. Junior Fed Cup team to a bronze medal.
She finished with a 4-1 record, including a medal-clinching 6-4, 6-1 win over Anna Bondar of Hungary. Russia won the gold and Australia took silver.
With Stewart’s background, it’s no wonder she is rising through the junior ranks. Her mother, Marina Andreoni-Stewart, played in Argentina and is the coach at Cypress Bay High in Weston. Her father, Caesar, is the tennis director at Coral Gables Country Club and runs the Next Level Tennis Academy.
Fifteen-year-old Stefan Kozlov of Pembroke Pines, whose father, Andrei, also runs a tennis academy, had a memorable performance for the U.S. Junior Davis Cup team.
Kozlov is the youngest player ranked in the junior top 15 and last year, at 14, finished 4-1 in Jr. Davis Cup matches in Barcelona.
In the final match of the round-robin competition, he rallied for a 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-3 win over Akira Santillan of Australia. The match took nearly three hours, and Kozlov called a trainer in the third set to work on his sore arm and knee.
According to the International Tennis Federation website, he worried about cramping, so he loaded up on bananas and energy bars and drinks, and wound up vomiting over a fence before finding the strength to win the match.
The U.S. boys finished sixth. Spain won the gold medal, and South Korea earned silver.
Two weeks ago in Austria and Czech Republic, several South Florida senior players aged 60 and older played in the ITF Super Seniors World Team Championships. The tournament featured 153 teams from 27 countries in divisions from 60-Over to 80-Over.
Donna Fales of Coral Gables was part of the U.S. team that finished runner-up to Great Britain in the Althea Gibson Cup for players 70-and-over. Carol Clay of Fort Lauderdale played in the 65-over division and finished runner-up to France.
Mary Ginnard of Fort Lauderdale helped lead the United States to the Alice Marble Cup for 60-over with a win over Austria.
And Allan Carter of Boca Raton played on the U.S. 70-Over team that beat Austria for the Jack Crawford Cup.
Argentine fans will no longer get to root for David Nalbandian at the Sony Open in Key Biscayne. The Argentine favorite and former world No. 3 announced his retirement on Tuesday at age 31. He said his injured right shoulder was unable to heal properly.
“Today is a difficult day announcing my retirement from the activity that gave me everything,” Nalbandian said. “The shoulder is not allowing me to train with the demands that the circuit requires.”
Nalbandian said his greatest memories were from Davis Cup matches. Argentina reached the final with him on the team in 2006, 2008 and 2011, but he never won the title.
“The images that make me tear up are the Davis Cup,” he said.
“The affection of the people, the atmosphere that exists there doesn’t exist anywhere else. Perhaps that is also a thorn, but that’s the way it is.”
Nalbandian finished runner-up at Wimbledon in 2002 and reached the semifinals at three other majors.
Serena No. 1
It’s official. Serena Williams will finish the year at No. 1, no matter what happens from here on out. It is the third time in her career she will top the world at year-end. She also did it in 2002 and 2009.
Williams, who at 32 is the oldest woman to hold the top ranking, has won nine titles this season, including the French Open and U.S. Open. Her season record is 67-4.
She is the seventh player to finish at least three years at No.1. The others were Steffi Graf (eight times), Martina Navratilova (seven), Chris Evert (five), Lindsay Davenport (four), Justine Henin and Martina Hingis (three).