03 Sep 2017

College freshman Vale wins at US Open

News Article

By Sandra Harwitt

Photo: Susan MullaneDuarte Vale (POR)

Duarte Vale can officially be referred to as a “Florida Gator” having started his freshman year at the University of Florida in Gainesville two weeks ago.

The 18-year-old teen from Portugal has been residing in Florida for the past couple of years, having left home to train at the IMG Academy in Tampa.

As it would turn out, 15th-seeded Vale’s first round opponent in the US Open junior boys’ competition was none other than Nicolas Mejia of Colombia, his roommate the past two years at the academy. In the battle between good friends it was the 15th-seeded Vale who won the day, winning 64 64 in 77 minutes.

“We know each other very well and practiced together for two years,” Vale said. “We were roommates and we played a bunch of times in practice. It was a different kind of match because we are close friends as well.

“It went well for me, I was relaxed.”

Vale’s new to college, but already knows it was a smart decision to pursue education, which offers alternatives although he’s planning on eventually pursuing a professional tennis career.

While his parents support his tennis dreams, they’re both attorneys and are happy he’s chosen school for now.

“The coach (Bryan Shelton) is giving me a lot of confidence and teaching me important things like transitioning to the net that I did very well today,” Vale said.

“It’s always great to have plans for a plan B. It’s so tough and you never know, and college is a great way. I still want to turn pro, but this way when I’m done I’ll either have a degree or a school I can come back to for my degree.”

Vale had been talking to other schools but decided Florida was the best choice, especially since it’s on the east coast, which makes him feel closer in terms of a plane ride and time difference to his family back home.

Vale was scheduled for the first match of the day, but rain delayed the 11:00 am start for a few hours. Handling the wait is part of the process at tennis tournaments.

“It was tough,” Vale said. “You wake up thinking it’s going to be a good day, perfect, sunny conditions. Then you wake up and it’s all different and it changes everything. I did hear the weather report, but in your head you don’t go to sleep thinking that tomorrow I’m not playing at 11. You have to go to sleep thinking I’ll be playing at 11.”

In another boys’ match, it was left to little-known 17-year-old Frenchman Jaimee Floyd Angele to post the first upset in the junior event on Sunday. He did so when he ousted 16th seed Juan Pablo Grassi Mazzuchi of Argentina 46 62 62 to win his first junior match at a major.

This US Open is only Angele’s second Grand Slam junior tournament - he fell in the first round to Roland Garros top seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia in June.

“I feel really happy,” Angele said. “First of all, it’s really hard to play here. I enjoy it, but the courts are really fast. But I’m happy to be back on court because I was injured for two months with my back because I’m too tall.”

A first look at Angele and it’s hard not to wonder why the 6’10” (2.08) teen isn’t looking to star on a basketball court. But tennis is the family business.

“My father is a tennis coach in Paris so he taught me how to play,” Angele said. “My mom is the manager at the club. I started playing when I was three-years-old.”

Angele might be from France but he favors hard courts to clay. He says he is working to become more the type of player to move into the net.

Ninth seed Michael Vrbensky of Czech Republic also went down on Sunday, losing to Naoki Tajima of Japan 57 64 62.

In girls’ action, seventh-seeded American Taylor Johnson was bested by Maria Lourdes Carle of Argentina 63 75.