Junior Tennis

Alternate Vanessa Streng an unlikely champion at Hilton Head USTA Bullfrog Southern Section Designate tennis event

mmccombs@islandpacket.comApril 30, 2013 

Vanessa Streng really didn't have much motivation to sign up for the Hilton Head Bullfrog USTA Southern Section Designated tennis tournament held this past weekend on Hilton Head Island.

Streng turned 13 last month, and though she had won at the Girls 12s division, she didn't yet have the ranking to get in the Bullfrog in the Girls 14s.

"My dad said, 'Let's just sign her up for fun,' " Streng said. " 'Maybe we can make a vacation out of it.' "

Rene Streng made the right call.

Despite initially being the sixth alternate, Vanessa Streng defeated top-seeded Somer Henry with relative ease, 6-3, 6-1, to complete an unlikely run through the draw and win the Girls 14s division Monday at Van Der Meer Shipyard Racquet Club.

While it's not uncommon for an alternate to make the field, tournament officials concurred it's practically unheard of for one to win a tournament of this size.

"We told her, 'There's no pressure because everybody in the tournament it ranked higher than you,' " said Rene Streng, who didn't find out until last Tuesday that Vanessa was in.

She didn't have an easy road, either.

After her initial match in the round of 64, Vanessa Streng defeated the ninth-, fifth-, second-, fourth-, and top-seeded players in her draw. Her only scare came in a three-set victory over fifth-seeded Peyton Pesavento in the round of 16.

Streng said she had faced Henry before, falling in a third-set tiebreaker more than 2 1/2 years ago.

"I remember because I double-faulted on match point," Streng said.

There was no third set, no tiebreaker and not much drama on Monday. Vanessa Streng was in control for most off the match. If she made a mistake, she overcame it quickly and kept her composure throughout.

"I think I was just trying to be in charge, to dictate to her," Vanessa Streng said. "I found if I hit a lot of short balls, she was making me move. So I did it to her instead."

In the Boys 14s final, second-seeded Jared Pratt of Daniel Island knocked off top-seeded Jack Sorel, 6-2, 6-0.

"I played really well all around," Pratt said. "My serve was really good and my forehand was really good."

Both players seemed evenly matched early and held serve until Pratt broke first to go up 4-2 in the first set. Once he broke serve, Pratt took control of the match, and Sorel became visibly frustrated.

While Sorel hit the ball well, every close ball went in Pratt's favor and he seemed to be able to put the ball as far as possible in the corners and right on the lines at will.

"This is insane," Sorel screamed as the first set slipped away.

He couldn't muster a win after he was broken, going to deuce just once.

Pratt said he enjoys frustrating opponents.

"It motivates you," Pratt said. "Because I know they're frustrated and I know I can frustrate them even more."

In the Boys 12s, top-seeded Maxwell Giddens beat fourth-seeded Jerry Wang 6-2, 6-2 at Van Der Meer Tennis Center.

"I just played my game and did the very best I could," Giddens said.

In the Girls 12s, fourth-seeded Abigail Forbes outlasted ninth-seeded Elise Mills 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.

"I wasn't playing baseline tennis," said Forbes, who was celebrating her first tournament win. "I was moving up and keeping my opponent deep in the court. It's something that I've learned over the years that I need to do."

Tournament director Jim Stubbs was happy with the way the tournament played out.

"It was an excellent tournament with the superb cooperation between Hilton Head Beach and Tennis, Palmetto Dunes, the Island Rec Center who facilitated the use of Chapin Park," Stubbs said. "All we've heard so far this year are compliments. No complaints."

But changes could be coming in 2014. The USTA is implementing a new system making it harder to earn national points for rankings.

"That's probably why half of our players play it," USTA sectional referee Scottie Rabb said. "(The Bullfrog) is one of the most prestigious tournaments in our section."

Rabb said it's unclear exactly how the changes will affect the Bullfrog, as well as the Dennis Van Der Meer sectional played later in the year.

"(The players) are not going to spend the money and travel and come if they're not going to earn the points, too," Rabb said. "It's tough because I want to promote South Carolina and Hilton Head. It's a destination, not just a tournament."

Hilton Head Bullfrog USTA Southern Section Designated

Boys 14 Singles

Final

(2) Jared Pratt def. (1) Jack Sorel 6-2, 6-0

3rd place

(9) Benjamin Wayand def. (4) John David Shealy 2-6, 6-0, 6-1

Semifinals

(2) Jared Pratt def. (4) John David Shealy 6-1, 6-1

(1) Jack Sorel def. (9) Benjamin Wayand 7-6(4), 6-2

Girls 14 Singles

Championship

Vanessa Streng def. (1) Somer Henry 6-3, 6-1

3rd place

(3) Sophia Patel def. (4) Lindsay Song 6-1, 6-2

Semifinals

Vanessa Streng def. (4) Lindsay Song 6-1, 6-1

(1) Somer Henry def. (3) Sophia Patel 7-6(5), 6-1

Boys 12 Singles

Championship

(1) Maxwell Giddens def. (4) Jerry Wang 6-2, 6-2

3rd place

(2) Georgi Mavrodiev def. (3) Brandon McKinney 6-4, 3-4 Ret. (inj.)

Semifinals

(4) Jerry Wang def. (2) Georgi Mavrodiev 6-1, 6-1

(1) Maxwell Giddens def. (3) Brandon McKinney 6-2, 6-2

Girls 12 Singles

Championship

(4) Abigail Forbes def. (9) Elise Mills 3-6, 6-1, 6-3

3rd place

(5) Chloe Beck def. (2) Gianna Pielet 6-0, 6-0

Semifinals

(4) Abigail Forbes def. (2) Gianna Pielet 6-3, 6-1

(9) Elise Mills def. (5) Chloe Beck 6-3, 6-3

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