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Icy Hot USTA Southern Level 2 wraps up Monday evening

Jake Sweeney of Duluth, Ga. competes on Saturday. Players compete in southern region tennis tournament.
Jake Sweeney of Duluth, Ga. competes on Saturday. Players compete in southern region tennis tournament.
Robin Bateman

Numerous rain delays sent kids on and off the court throughout the day on Monday, forcing players to compete into the early evening.

No. 1 seed, Alva Caine defeated Ohm Sharma, 6-4; 7-5 in the Boys 12’s. Caine, from Birmingham, Ala. said, “I feel confident and excited.” This makes the first time Caine has snagged a championship title at this level of competition.

Caine admitted to being a little worried. “(Sharma) came back and almost won the second set.” At 5 games all, Caine turned to his mental game and tried to stay focused. “I was attacking and he came back because he was pushing me back. I kept trying to be aggressive and I pulled it.”

In the Girls 12’s, No. 2 seed Jenna Thompson took out top-seed, Anna Mitchell in two sets, 7-5; 6-2. The 12 year old from Charlotte North Carolina said, “It feels great,’ she holding her trophy and carrying her tennis bag over her shoulder.

Thompson, who began playing tennis at age 6, relies on the help of her mother to critique her match play. “They,(both Thompson’s parents) played college tennis,” she explained in a post-match interview. “My mom understands what I’m going through on court

Of her championship match win, Thompson said, “I kept fighting. I played it one point at a time. I kept the ball deep and I hit it to her backhand because she could attack with her forehand and hit winners.”

Simon Wilson, lost a 5/6 playoff match to Trey Maust 7-6; 6-4 but won the Sportsmanship Award. It was a surprise to him, announced during an off-court interview. “You know this is an important award,” Donna Bailey, tournament director said as she delivered the news. Wilson shook his head yes. “I played pretty solid but during a few key moments, I got kinda lose. He played more solid in the big moments more than I did.”

“I have to play my game and make sure I execute,” said Maust about his first set play. “I went after my shots fearless. I was a little worried when he broke my serve but I knew I hand to keep playing my game.”

Boys 14’s Champion, Tyler Stice, No. 2 seed from Atlanta hedged out Bryce Keim in a three-setter, 0-6; 6-2; 6-4. “I kept my head in the game and kept fighting,” Stice said, on how he came back after dropping the only set of the entire weekend. “In the first set I didn’t feel like I played my best. But I knew that if I stayed mentally tough, I’d come back.” Stice trains at Olde Town Athletic Club where the players several hours a day and are required to do yoga.

No. 2 player, Nicole Stephens toppled top-seed, Emma Navarro to collect her championship title hardware. Stephens won, 6-4; 6-4. The 13 yr. old was slightly upset prior to the match because tournament officials couldn’t find her after she had already checked in for her match. “You can never let stuff like that bother you,” she said. “You have to regroup and focus on the match because it was in the past.”

Stephens has known her opponent for years. “She’s a great player. She plays every ball. She always makes you play. I have a lot of respect for her but I do know how to beat her. I had to move her around a lot, shut down her heavy ball and take the ball on the rise because she very consistent.”

Stephens also added, “She(Navarro) isn’t an emotional player, she never gives up and is a great player.”