Werdiger (11) wins Gold Ball in tennis

Samantha Matays  , Staff writer

Julia Werdiger (11) won the Girls 16s National Indoor Tennis Championships at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minnesota over Thanksgiving break. Going into the tournament, Werdiger was seeded at number nine.

Werdiger was thrilled to win the tournament, she said. “Winning the tournament was an indescribable feeling because I could finally see all of my hard work pay off.” A golden ball is awarded to anyone who wins first place in one of the four largest national tournaments, a dream of Werdiger’s since she was a child; her victory in Minnesota allowed her to accomplish that goal.

A week before the championship, Werdiger practiced every day in order to prepare. That said, she generally practices on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Sundays, Werdiger said. Werdiger practices at the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis and Learning, which is located in the Bronx.

Because of school demands, Werdiger’s practice time is limited, and tends to be less than the majority of her competitors, as most of them are home-schooled and have upwards of four to five hours to play, she said. “I have to focus a lot during the times I do get to play and make the most out of every practice.”

The competition began by selecting the top 64 ranked girls from those who applied to the tournament and are 16 or younger across the country, she said. If a player loses in one of their first three rounds, they go into a period of consolation. Consolation consists of two separate draws: the consolation one draw, which groups together the players who lost in either the first or second round, and the consolation two draw, which groups together the players who lost in the third round, Werdiger said. In these pools, players compete in additional matches in order to establish what place they will achieve in the tournament.

The competition was exhilarating to play in, Werdiger said. “Being able to go so far, which I had never done before, was such an amazing experience.”

While playing in her semi-finals match, Werdiger reached a critical point in the match where she was down six to four in the tie break, she said. A tie break is a result of each player winning six games in the set, tying the score. Despite being down two set points, she came back and won the set, Werdiger said.

Even though the tournament was an intense environment, Werdiger and others had the opportunity to utilize the impressive facilities at the university. “At the University of Minnesota there is an amazing viewing area so every court is on display.” Additionally, the championships felt very official due to the matches being officiated and the serve speeds of the balls being displayed on the scoreboard, Werdiger said.

“Over winter break, I have the Winter National Championships, which is in Orlando, Florida,” she said. Throughout the weeks of December fourth and eleventh, Werdiger’s practice schedule will remain the same, but it will shift when she travels to Florida as she will have more time to practice. “I am going to be training in Florida so I will get to play outdoors a little bit, play a little longer, and adapt to the conditions there,” Werdiger said. She also looks forward to playing in the Easter Bowl, which will take place during March in Palm Springs.