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Clay Court Championship Week
Noel Sweeps Through Draw to Claim Girls 14 Clays

As the USTA Girls 14 National Clay Court Championships kicked off at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, Fla., the future stars of the game showed off their talent with intense competition. And when the clay court dust had finally settled, new singles and doubles champions had been crowned.

Singles champion Alexa Noel
In singles, top seed Alexa Noel charged her way through the draw with ease, dropping only one set the entire week before eventually meeting Hailey Baptiste in the final. While Baptiste produced a solid performance in her first big final of the year, Noel held the upper hand for most of the match, closing out the 6-4, 6-3 victory to claim the gold ball and her first super national championship title.

"I definitely feel pretty good about the win," 12-year-old Noel said. "I've never gotten to the finals of a super national, so I'm really proud of what I did."

From the opening round, Noel asserted her dominance by conceding only two games in the first two rounds. But she soon faced her first major test in the third round against Vanessa Ong, who pushed the top seed to three sets before bowing out. It was a tough match for the eighth-grader from New Jersey, who admits the match against Ong helped raise her game for the remainder of the tournament.

"I fell behind in the third set of that match after a game penalty for returning to the court late," Noel recalls, "and I just told myself that I needed to get back to playing my game and use her weaknesses to get back in. Then I was able to come back and win it."

Noel used an attacking game to roll through the next few rounds, taking out Nina Gulbransen, Yashna Yellayi and Alana Wolfberg before reaching the championship match. The meeting between Noel and Baptiste was a rematch of their previous contest in the early rounds of this year's Easter Bowl, where Noel eventually finished as runner-up. Though Baptiste said she felt confident that she knew her opponent well, the match would end with the same result as their previous meeting.

"I remembered playing her earlier this year, and she has a game a lot like mine," Baptiste said. "I knew I had to play my 'A' game against her if I wanted to win. I did my best, but she just played better that day. I had a lot of tight matches the whole tournament, and I played some people that made me raise my game. It was a very competitive tournament, so I was very happy to have reached the finals."

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Page updated on Monday, March 09, 2020
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