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Smejkal Goes the Distance To Capture 14s Singles Gold Ball

PLANTATION, Fla. – No one ever said that Lara Smejkal does things the easy way.

In each of her final three matches in the USTA Girls 14s National Clay Court Championships, Smejkal overpowered her opponent in the first set only to lose the second before eking out hard-fought victories to earn the Boca Raton native her first gold ball in singles.

Stephanie Yakoff (Left) and Lara Smejkal
© Andrew Smejkal

“I wanted to make things interesting,’’ said Smejkal, 14, who knocked off top-seeded Stephanie Yakoff of Fort Lee, New Jersey, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the final and then snared a bronze medal in the doubles with partner Nathalie Block.

Smejkal, the 15th seed, carved her way through a 256-player draw, while dropping just seven games in her first four matches, including a 6-0, 6-2 pasting of second-seeded Valeria Ray in the Round of 16.

The road got bumpier when she came up against No. 17 seed Kate Kim, a lanky backboard coached by Pierre Arnold, who upset No. 10 Sage Loudon in the Round of 16 by frustrating her with her Djokovic-like defense.

Smejkal, a natural athlete who possesses a powerful serve and warp-speed groundstrokes but also a mature net game, blasted Kim 6-0 in the first set of their quarterfinal.

But as she is prone to do, Smejkal didn’t go in for the kill and had to pull out a 6-0, 4-6, 6-4 victory. Ditto for the semifinals against third-seeded Alexis Blokhina, who was coming off a physical 6-4, 4-6, 6-0 quarterfinal victory over Block, a fellow Plantation resident, who had leg cramp issues.

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Page updated on Monday, March 11, 2024
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