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LI's Alexa Graham loses in U.S. Open junior tournament

Alexa Graham hits a backhand return against Katarina

Alexa Graham hits a backhand return against Katarina Zavatska in their first-round Junior Girls singles match on Day 8 of the U.S. Open on Monday, Sept. 7, 2015 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

It was a tough day at the office Tuesday for Alexa Graham, that office being Court 6 at the National Tennis Center.

The 17-year-old from Garden City, a wild-card entry into the U.S. Open junior girls tournament, lost her second-round match to Vera Lapko of Belarus, 6-2, 6-1. Her strengths, identified by coach Anna Bielen-Zarska, are her serve and her forehand, but neither was effective Tuesday.

"She definitely had the type of game that she was going to jump on me early and that's something I've always struggled with," Graham said. "I've been working on it and have to work a lot harder on it. I didn't play my cleanest tennis. My serving wasn't great. But what are you going to do? Sometimes you are going to have those days."

Graham trains at the Robbie Wagner Tournament Training Center in Glen Cove, and Wagner was there for advice and support.

"She needs to shorten up her backswing on her forehand," Wagner said. "Hit more forehands, become more forehand dominant. Serve wider on the forehand into the deuce court. She didn't play her best today but she's been playing well, so I can't complain. She doesn't play juniors, she just plays pros. These 10Ks [pro events] you get some easy matches early. This was a tough match, [Monday] was a tough match. So a couple more of these events, high-level events, and she's going to be right there."

As Graham pursues being a pro, she has been playing in the minor leagues at ITF events. She won the Nassau girls singles title as a freshman, then decided to do online schooling so she has freedom to play and practice. Going into her senior year, college could be on the horizon, but being a pro is the goal.

"Ideally, I would love to go professional right out of high school," Graham said. "For girls, the window is so small to make it. That year at college could affect that. I'm doing well in professional tournaments right now."

Her parents, Ann and Bill, are right there to support that effort. on Tuesday, there was disappointment, but there is also a future. "Those days happen, it's part of the process," Bill said. "It's part of what she's going to have to live with. You could see out there she was trying to make some adjustments but credit the other girl. She played a great game. I'm just proud of my daughter."

Wagner exudes confidence. "Alexa has a team around her and everybody is working to make that one goal of being top 50 in the world as a pro," he said, "and we're going to get there."

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