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Champions are Crowned: USTA Boys’ 18 & 16 National Clay Court Championships [Day 8]

Champions are Crowned: USTA Boys’ 18 & 16 National Clay Court Championships [Day 8]

If the Avengers are in the market for another superhero, then perhaps they should give Jack Satterfield a call.

For his third consecutive match, Satterfield, the seventh seed, avenged previous losses to his opponents, including the big final on a scorching Sunday morning, with a 7-6 (7), 6-0 victory over 10th-seeded Ronit Karki to win the USTA Boys’ 16s National Clay Court Championships at the Delray Beach Center.

Satterfield, a Tampa transplant from the Bay Area, didn’t drop a set in any of his seven matches, and for the third consecutive match won critical tiebreakers to break the spirit of his tiring opponents.

His sensational run earned him a prestigious Gold Ball to go with a bronze in doubles at the Winter Nationals 16s and a recent doubles title at the Level 3 Florida closed Bobby Curtis Championships at the USTA National Campus in Orlando.

It also earned him another Boys’ 16s Player of the Day presented by your South Florida BMW Centers.

Above: Jack Satterfield is winner of the gold ball at the USTA Boys’ 16s National Clay Court Championships

“This proved that all my hard work has paid off,’’ said the 5-foot-11, 150-pound Satterfield. “My first-set wins definitely were basically the whole match as all my opponents kind of fell off in the second. It was so hot and so important especially today’s first set. In this brutal heat I didn’t want to go that long.”

Satterfield, who has trained at the Eric Dobsha Tennis Academy in Tampa for the past three years under the tutelage of Sukhwa Young, knocked off Noah Johnston (17) of Anderson, SC, 7-6 (5), 4-0 (retired) in the quarterfinals. Johnston had beaten Satterfield at the Winter Nationals.

In the semifinals on Saturday, Satterfield edged boyhood rival and top seed Cooper Han, 7-5, 7-6 (0), who also tired in the latter stages of the decisive tiebreaker. Han, a former doubles partner, owned a still-developing Satterfield in the younger age divisions when both lived in Northern California.

Finally, on Sunday, Satterfield was serving for the first set at 6-5 and remembered serving for the match at 5-4 in third set of his first-round loss (third-set tiebreaker) to Karki at last December’s prestigious International Orange Bowl Championships in Plantation. Karki also defeated Satterfield in first-round matches in the 14s’ National Clay Courts and National Hard Courts, but they became good friends while playing several hours of pool during rain delays.

“This feels good because the first two times we played in the 14s he destroyed me,’’ Satterfield said. “I was serving up 5-4 and I choked a little bit in the Orange Bowl. Today I served for the first set at 6-5 but he played a great return game and broke me. I was down 4-5 in the tiebreaker, but a couple of big serves put me up 6-5 and finally on set point he missed a wide forehand on the run.

“In the second set I could see his level dropped and he was taking his time breathing hard. He kept fighting even at 5-0 but on match point I hit a backhand return of serve and he shanked it long.”

The 5-foot-8, Karki, 15, who is from East Brunswick, N.J., but trains regularly in Orlando at the Gooding Todero Academy, takes home a Silver Ball, but he was clearly forlorn after the match, attributing his listless finish to a breakfast of eggs that left him nauseous. He took a medical timeout early in the second set, but knew once he lost the tiebreaker, it would be difficult to muster enough energy to overcome the all-court play of Satterfield in three sets.

“Yes, I beat him at the Orange Bowl but would’ve rather won here,’’ Karki said. “Even when I warmed up, I felt tired and couldn’t drink much water because I was worried I’d throw up. But I stayed in it, tried very hard and knew at 5-6 in the first set was a big moment. I finally broke him, but he hit a big forehand on set point in the tiebreaker and once I lost the first set, I knew there would be no room for error in the second set.” 

Satterfield was able to move Karki around by keeping his lethal forehand deep while mixing it up with low sliced backhands to his friend’s forehand.

Coach Young, who was the No. 1-ranked American junior in his teens and a former winner of the National Clay Court 16s, said that Satterfield’s tennis IQ is off the charts and now his game and confidence are catching up to it.

“Last night he was getting mentally prepared for battle by visualizing why he lost to [Karki] 7-6 in the third at the Orange Bowl, how to get there emotionally and mentally to win today’s battle,’’ Young said.

“He’s getting used to understanding his game, finding himself out there and doing a lot better job of controlling his energy. … And when the key moments are to manipulate the rhythm and momentum of a match, and how to use his body. Honestly, he has a shot [at pro career]. This is just the beginning.”

So similar to unseeded Marketa Vondrousova, who won Wimbledon on Saturday and celebrated her first wedding anniversary today, Satterfield gave himself a memorable early 16th birthday present (Tuesday).

Instead of his tournament ritual Chicken Parmesan dinner, Satterfield will celebrate with his favorite cheat food, a Big Mac and chocolate dessert with his three sisters and parents, Anabelle and David, who tried to dump a bucket of ice water on him after his victory.

“I was able to dodge it,’’ laughed Satterfield. “I couldn’t let them get over me like that.” 

Ryan Cozad, the 16th seed from Alpharetta, Ga., lost in the round of 16 to eventual semifinalist Nicholas Mekhael, but then reached the finals of consolation, earned the inaugural USTA Sportsmanship Award in honor of the late Jeff Rothstein, one of South Florida’s most well-respected referees and USTA volunteer for over 20 years.

Above: Standing with Florida Tennis Publisher Matt Pressman, Ryan Cozad (left) wins the USTA Sportsmanship Award at the National Clay Court Championships

Rothstein formerly served as head referee for the USTA Boy’s 16s and 18s National Clay Court Championships, as well as multiple USTA national events held within the series.

Cozad received the sportsmanship plaque, Delray Beach Open signed poster and travel stipend presented by tournament referee George Baxter and Rothstein’s daughter Lauren for his sportsmanship, respect toward the umpires, staff and opponents all week.

In the Boys’ 18s final, eighth-seeded Zhengquing Ji of La Jolla, Calif., downed ninth-seeded Cyrus Mahjoob of Rockville, Md., 6-4, 6-1 Sunday to win the USTA Boys’ 18s National Clay Court Championships at Delray Beach Tennis Center for his first Gold Ball as well as Boys’ 18s Player of the Day presented by Baptist Health.

Above: Zhengquing Ji is winner of the gold ball at the USTA Boys’ 18s National Clay Court Championships

The sturdy, 6-4 Ji, whose friends call him Jim, amazed himself as he hasn’t played or practiced on clay since January mostly because in San Diego (La Jolla) where he lives and trains at Barnes Tennis Center with coach Steve Adamson, there are very few clay courts.

“I’ve been to the semifinals of Level 1 tournaments four times, including a Bronze Ball finisher at Winter Nationals 14s, and a semifinal finish [fourth place] at the Level 1 Orange Bowl 16s in 2021,’’ Ji said. “I’ve lost to Mahjoob three times, twice in the Easter Bowl 12s and once at the Easter Bowl 16s third-place match.

“So, I knew this would be a battle because he’s super physical, a grinder who puts everything in the court with a lot of energy. I really asserted myself and played an offensive game style by putting a lot of pressure on him throughout the whole match. He likes long rallies, so I tried to shorten the points and force him to hit winners. It paid off.”

Ji was born in Shanghai, but his family moved to San Diego when he was 7 because his sister Maggie attended UC San Diego and also to pursue his childhood dream to play professional tennis.

“San Diego was so beautiful, and I fell in love with Roger Federer. My sister loved Novak Djokovic but when we took our first lesson in China, she quit because she didn’t want to get a suntan,’’ laughed Ji.

Ji was coming off grueling three-set quarterfinal and semifinal victories over top-seeded Cassius Chinlund (7-6 in the third) of Los Angeles and Ian Mayew (33) of Cary, N.C., respectively, but his superior conditioning held up during his title run.

“To put it simply it has been hell these last couple of matches,’’ Ji said. “I came out with the victory, but I was a couple of points from packing my bags and going home. I learned my lesson when I won my first ATP point at a $15,000 Futures event in Naples to hydrate. I bought out every Pedialyte drink on the site, drank it non-stop at night and went into the cyro [cold] chamber after my matches.”

Ji achieved the critical break at 5-4 of the first set by pinning Mahjoob to his weaker backhand side with his topspin, inside-out forehands and backhand slice which finally elicited an error on his second set point. In the second set, Ji utilized his high-bounding kick serve and quick-strike forehand to seal the deal.

After two years attending private Bishop High in San Diego, Ji finished up high school online and will attend Yale where he will play Division I tennis.

“I believe the coaches there will help take me to the next level,’’ Ji said.

First things first. Ji will celebrate his career-best title with a steak and Lava cake dessert with two scoops of vanilla ice cream tonight somewhere on nearby Atlantic Avenue.

Photos of the Day


By Harvey Fialkov. Source/Photos: Sportsmanship Photo: Florida Tennis. For complete draws, including match times, locations and results, click here.

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