Fourteen-year-old Sachia Vickery and 13-year-old Victoria Duval, from Miramar and Delray Beach, respectively, spent this past weekend in the Czech Republic, giving that nation's tennis fans a show they won't soon forget. The ITF World Junior Tennis Championships is a match-up of national teams, based on single matches, but the margin between the South Florida duo and the Czech Republic's best girls was so close that it took a doubles-match tiebreaker to settle it.
According to the ITF website, the girls all played at Court 1 at the tennis complex in Prostejov, where the Czech crowd multiplied as the matches grew in intensity. Duval lost a tiebreak in the first set of her singles match to Aneta Dvorakova, before winning the second, then dropping the third, 6-4.
Vickery, who now trains at an academy in France, won her first set against Petra Rohanova, lost a tiebreaker in the second set before rallying the in the third.
That made the tournament a split decision, and in a wrinkle that might be worth trying in the next Olympics, the rules required Duval had to re-take the court, joining Vickery as a teammate in the doubles match against the two Czech girls to decide the victorious nation.
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That match, however, was a bit anti-climactic. Vickery and Duval dominated the first set, 6-2, then had a slight lapse of concentration in the second, which they lost in a tiebreaker. They cruised 6-1 in the final set to take the tournament.
I had the good fortune of meeting Vickery and Duval, as well as their mothers, while writing this feature story two years ago. Their skills are spectacular, but truly their most amazing quality is how committed they are to their training, how poised and fiercely competitive they are in matches.
This past June, Vickery was the youngest player in the main draw of Wimbledon's junior tournament. And though she lost to the top-ranked junior in the world, you can bet she'll have the chance to avenge that defeat in the years to come. Duval is hitting that growth spurt her mother was predicting when I talked to her two years ago, and with that a finesse game will develop some lethal power.
By the time Venus and Serena Williams of Palm Beach Gardens head to retirement, South Florida will be welcoming a couple of new international tennis stars to the women's game.