Garden City's Graham wins Nassau singles title

Garden City freshman Alexa Graham returns a volley Garden City freshman Alexa Graham returns a volley during the Nassau County varsity girls' tennis singles final at Eisenhower Park. She defeated Syosset's Vivian Chang 7-6 (1), 6-2 to win the county championship. (Oct. 21, 2012) Photo Credit: James Escher

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The future is now for Garden City's Alexa Graham.

Graham, a freshman, proved to be Nassau's best singles player Sunday as she knocked off top-seeded Syosset senior Vivan Cheng in the final of the Nassau girls tennis singles championship, 7-6 (1), 6-2, at Eisenhower Park.

"It feels really good, especially because I'm a freshman," the second-seeded Graham said. "I was expecting to do well in the tournament, but not to win it."

Graham came from behind twice in the first set and took control late to close it out in the tiebreak. She trailed 3-0 and 5-3, but was able to get back on serve both times by producing a variety of well-placed lobs and overpowering forehands.

"At first, I was playing into her game but I started mixing up the shots and the height [of the ball]," Graham said. "I just stayed positive and kept fighting. When I got back to 3-3, I started to think I could do it."

In the second set, Graham survived three deuce games on her serve and came out on top by playing excellent defense along the baseline.

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Graham beat third-seeded Nicholle Torres from Great Neck South in the semifinals, 6-2, 6-1.

"I'm super happy," Graham said. "It's like Christmas."

Hewlett seniors Gabby Leon and Veronika Paikin won their second straight Nassau doubles championship, coming back from a set down in both their semifinal and final matches to clinch the title.

The top-seeded Hewlett duo beat second-seed Morgan Herrmann and Brittany Burke of Garden City in the championship match, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5, after edging the fourth-seeded Syosset pair of Rithika Reddy and Katie Cirella, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 6-1, in the semis.

"It feels amazing, obviously, and even better this year," Leon said. "We never stopped believing in ourselves and worked hard."

All four finalists in the singles and doubles finals earned automatic bids to the state championships by getting through the semifinals. Torres earned her third trip to states and second as a singles player by beating fourth-seeded Nicole Koskoulis from Manhasset, 6-4, 7-5, in the singles consolation match. Port Washington's Lauren Livingston and Emma Brezel will make their second straight trip to states, as they beat Reddy and Cirella in the doubles consolation match, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

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