Jim Kiick will be among the toasts of the town this weekend as the Miami Dolphins celebrate the 40th anniversary of their unbeaten season.
But on Thursday, the great running back was content to act as water boy for his 17-year-old daughter, Alexandra Kiick, as she fought a desperate losing battle against a powerful 14-year-old from Croatia, Ana Konjuh, in the third round of the Girls 18s singles at the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships.
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Kiick had already served for the first set before losing it in the tiebreak by the time her father appeared at courtside with four bottles of water — from all accounts not his first-choice beverage during his halcyon years in Miami.
“We’ve got about three days of celebrations, and it’s going to be lots of fun,” said Mr. Kiick. “Most of the team will be there. Guys are flying in from all over, Alaska, Hawaii.”
He would have been happier if Allie had been able to add to the celebrations with a win here on the clay courts of this sprawling tennis complex just off Broward Boulevard. but, despite some terrific defensive play, Konjuh packed too much fire power.
The Croat, who will turn 15 next month, already is eyeing the pro tour, and no wonder. She can crack huge winners off both flanks and takes an imposing physical presence with her on court. Her legs are as strong as Serena Williams’ at the same age, and she is already as tall.
Kiick, smaller but faster, played a tactically shrewd game to break Konjuh’s serve for 6-5 in the first set, mixing up her strokes with some moon balls and drop shots, but lost control of two testing rallies after leading 30-0. Two points was as close as she got, because she was hammered in the breaker, 7-2.
“I never gave up, never stopped believing I could win,” said Kiick, who denied that this had been earmarked as a make-or-break tournament while she decides whether to accept an offer from one of the college coaches, Duke among them, who have been circling her here.
“I have until March to make a decision, and right now I am concentrating on playing some pro events and the juniors at the Australian Open next month,” she said before disappearing to prepare for a doubles with her great friend Chalena Scholl.
Earlier, Scholl had joined eight other American winners in the Boys and Girls 18 & 16’s singles with a 6-2, 6-1 demolition of Canada’s Erin Routliffe. No. 1 seed Taylor Townsend had to work a little harder before beating Britain’s Katy Dunne, 6-4, 6-4.
In the Boys 16s, Sameer Kumar set up an all-American semifinal with Tommy Paul by beating Vitali Scherba of Ukraine, while in the 18s, Italy’s Gianluigi Quinzi offered further proof of why he has become the dominant junior player over the past two years by defeating the tall Swede Gustav Hansson, 7-6, 6-4.
Magnus Norman, the former French Open finalist, is coaching both Hansson and Elias Ymer, who may yet make a name for himself by becoming the first player of Ethiopian origin to make it onto the pro tour.
Ymer, who was brought up in Sweden, defeated the Russian Anton Desyatnik, 6-2, 6-3, to reach the quarterfinals, where he will play No. 2 seed Federico Silva.
“Elias is very talented,” said Norman, who is not given to hyperbole.