Despite experiencing international junior tennis in such places as Ecuador, Costa Rica, and
Colombia to start the year, Maxi Duncan never misses the opportunity to play Southern California’s biggest events.
The 16-year-old lefty from Irvine is one of the nation’s top juniors and will try to win her second
consecutive USTA Southern California Junior Sectional title once the event takes place June 18-23 at Los Caballeros Sports Village in Fountain Valley.
Under the watchful eye of her father and former professional basketball player Gerald Duncan, Maxi recently advanced to the final of The Ojai Tennis Tournament in Women’s Doubles, and won the Sectionals singles and doubles titles last year in the 16s.
Duncan will be one of the favorites at Sectionals playing up in the 18s along with her doubles partner Maya Pitts, who is coming off a big tournament win at the recent USTA National Women’s Open in San Diego.
“It was really nice winning Sectionals last year,” said Duncan. “I was coming in as the No. 1 seed so I felt some pressure. But I stayed cool and was able to get through it.
“I knew I could have played up (in the 18s), but we decided it would be a good chance to win it so
I’m glad we did it.”
The “we” Maxi is referring to is her father Gerald, an Orange Country real estate broker and
consultant who keeps a watchful eye on Maxi’s tennis, from her practices to her workouts to her
tournament travel schedule.
In January, that meant venturing to South American for the competitive Grade 1 ITF events.
“It was really good opportunity for me, but a lot hotter down there,” said Maxi, who is coached by
Sean Abdali at The Tennis Club at Newport Beach Country Club and also trains at the USTA
Training Center in Carson. “I got to play a lot of different girls and just had a great time.”
Duncan’s next big
After Sectionals, Duncan will play the USTA National Clay Courts, and then head south for the
USTA National Hardcourts at Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego.
Duncan’s serve is her weapon because of her lefty serve. “I’m mostly working right now on hitting on the run from my backhand side,” she said, adding. “And getting the ball as deep as I can so I can go on the offensive as quickly as I can.”
Education is important to Duncan, who is a junior-to-be at CalPac Online Charter School. “My first
priority is school, then tennis,” she said. “I’m planning on going to college for at least a year. So that I can go back at any time if I decide to turn pro.”
Duncan said she stays busy outside of tennis by reading fantasy and science fiction books, riding
her bike and going to movies with her dad, although she can’t tell you her favorite movie. “We’ve
seen like a hundred movies already this year,” she said.
Steve Pratt’s SoCal Tennis features publish every Thursday at www.southerncaliforniatennis.org.