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Challenger champion handled nerves, heat

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Wynne Prakusya had been in this position before.

The last time it had been match point in a tie breaker in a very long match, she had let her nerves get the best of her.

"I've been here so many times, but I always lost," she said. "I told myself, 'Don't think this is match point.' I just have to go for each point, one by one."

Her strategy worked Sunday, and she beat Jessica Steck and the 100-degree heat in winning the longest match in the history of the USTA Bank One $75,000 Challenger Tournament at the Canyon Racquet Club. She was awarded $12,000 for the win. She was the only seeded player (4) to even advance to the semifinals.

Steck lost the match after never dropping a set the rest of the tournament and finishing Allison Bradshaw off in the semifinals in just 49 minutes.

Prakusya lost the first set to the hard-hitting Steck 6-4. She had to take a medical timeout before the second set, because she said her legs were shaking so badly she could barely stand up. But never, even when Steck kept coming back, sometimes to take the lead or a critical game, did the native of Indonesia think about giving up.

"I lost those other matches because I thought about past mistakes," she said. "She is a great hitter. She was everywhere. She jumped here and then jumped there. And I was tired. It's so dry here, and the high altitude. I didn't feel I could breath sometimes."

But Prakusya's consistent play is what Steck said won the game for her. Deeply disappointed in the loss, Steck said she blew the final few points of the tie breaker trying to win points quickly because of her injured ankle.

"I knew I needed to make them short points because of my ankle," she said. "As it turned out, I made

them far too short, because I just gave it to her."

Steck won the two points after a five-minute timeout where trainers heavily wrapped her foot. But then Prakusya won the next four points to end the nearly 3-hour match. The final score: 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 (12-10).

Prakusya said it took her the first set to find her confidence.

"I said to myself, 'Why are you so nervous? If you think this is a final match, you will lose,' " Prakusya said. "You feel like you want to win, but your body gets tight."

Things just got worse for Steck after the jump that injured her ankle — a point which she won — during the tiebreaker. She lost the match, but then officials decided afterward to fine her $250 for throwing her racquet after she lost.

Steck had been given a warning from the chair umpire during the second set, after she told him he was the worst umpire she'd ever seen. She disagreed with two balls he called in and she thought were out of bounds.

Steck received treatment on her foot and for a wrist injury for an hour, but in the end was unable to compete with Samantha Reeves for the doubles title. Lisa McShea and Irina Selyutina were awarded the championship and a $4,400 check.

The match was one of the most exciting in recent history, according to organizers and club officials. The attendance at this year's tournament has been better than last years, despite many of the top players withdrawing to play in a tournament in California worth $500,000.

Club Director Paul Wright said the tournament offers Utah tennis fans the chance to see rising stars.

"The players are getting experience (on the challenger level)," he said. "And we get to see some great tennis . . . You're going to see Jessica Steck on national TV someday. It's incredible."

E-MAIL: adonaldson@desnews.com