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Michigan Girls Get Rematch : Tennis: Miller, Washington will renew their rivalry in the final of the USTA Girls’ 16 national championships.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There she was, cool as a summer’s breeze, enjoying the day like a tourist on the first day of vacation.

That’s how Anne Miller spent most of Friday, after easily casting away the last obstacle that stood between her and today’s final of the United States Tennis Assn. Girls’ 16 national championships at Morley Field.

Top-seeded Miller of Midland, Mich., took less than an hour to beat unseeded Julie Scott of Tyler, Tex., 6-3, 6-1 in Friday’s semifinals. That allowed her to change clothes, eat a leisurely lunch and hit some practice balls before scouting the other match.

That semifinal, between seventh-seeded Mashana Washington of Flint, Mich., and sixth-seeded Julie Steven of Wichita, Kan., lasted 2 hours, 40 minutes, with Washington winning, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, to earn her first berth in a national final.

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So Washington and Miller will meet again and renew what has become somewhat of an in-state rivalry.

“I guess you could call it a rivalry,” Miller said. “We’re both from Michigan and we’ve played each other in sectionals a lot of times.”

Miller has the edge in victories and won the last match between the two in three sets in the quarterfinals of the clay court nationals in Virginia. Miller won that tournament for her first national title.

“Last time I played her, she got a little tired in the third set,” Miller said.

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Fatigue might figure to hit Washington long before it does Miller, who has sailed through her draw--her closest match was a 6-3, 6-2 victory in the quarterfinals--ever so smoothly.

“I’ve had an easy draw,” insisted Miller, who said she is playing some of her best tennis here.

Washington hasn’t been so lucky. Since Tuesday, she has needed three sets to advance to the next day. Never mind. She can handle it.

“The most I’ve gone three sets before was three days,” she said. “I did that in Virginia. But I’m in top shape.”

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After a string of fifth-place finishes last year, Washington is ready and believes she is due to win a championship.

“Why? Because I have faith,” she said. “I’m working so hard. The fifth at clays helped me break into the top 10, so I’m establishing myself more.”

The match today marks her first appearance in the finals. For Washington, it is her a chance to demonstrate her family’s commitment to this game. Her older brother, MaliVai, stretched Ivan Lendl to five sets at Wimbledon this year, another brother is competing in a tournament in Kalamazoo, Mich. Her father, William--also her coach--and older sister, Masanja, split travel duties with the younger siblings.

“I’m just like my brothers,” Washington said. “They think they can win, and so do I.”

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Washington’s victory against second-seeded Sandy Sureephong on Thursday was sweet she said, because “80% of the people there were cheering for her. But I don’t care. As long as my family’s rooting for me, as long as they’re there for me, that’s all I need.”

What she will need to stop Miller from winning her second consecutive national title is a fast start.

“I can’t let her get ahead,” Washington said. “I have to get off to a great start.”

Friday against Steven, she had a good start but faltered in the second before coming back from 2-0 in the third.

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“I knew I had her, if I just kept making my shots.”

Miller, who made her shots all week, said having an easy week as she did is a double-edged sword.

‘It’s good, in a way, because you’re not tired,” she said. “But it helps to have a tough match to prepare you. It goes both ways.”


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