The whispers started two days ago. Spectators wanted to know who he was, where he was from and, most importantly, how fast was that serve.
St. Petersburg senior Alamgir Wali has taken the Class 4A state finals by surprise, beating the No. 1 seed from the tournament's top team to land in today's No. 1 singles final.
Wali beat Alex Ortega of Miami Sunset 6-1, 6-4.
"People didn't really expect me to win this one. That's what got me really shaky," Wali said.
The match was suspended Wednesday because of rain with Wali ahead 4-0 in the first set.
Although he said he wasn't as strong Thursday, his serve was never broken, and that was enough.
Today, Wali meets another surprise, Olympia's Michael Venus, in the final. Venus beat the No. 2 seed, Spanish River's Barrett Wolf, 6-1, 6-3.
The Green Devils didn't fare well in the team competition, earning only three points, two from Wali. Miami Sunset leads with 11. But St. Petersburg coach Alan Turnquist wasn't discouraged.
"They came and represented themselves well," Turnquist said. "None of them rolled over.
"It also opened their eyes to how hard they have to work to reach the level of these kids."
Thursday's matches were delayed about six hours because of rain, and after Wednesday's suspension officials changed the format to speed up play.
Instead of playing the best of three sets, matches would consist of two sets and a 10-point tiebreaker if necessary.
Wharton doubles pair Frankie Castillo and Konstantin Larzarov and Gaither's Brianna Williams could have used that extra time to get back in their matches and win.
Castillo and Larzarov didn't need the tiebreaker to win their first match 6-3, 6-3 over Miami Killian's Bradley Mixon and Gustavo Sanbenetti. But they would in the individual doubles semifinal against Olympic Heights' David Pernstein and Jonathan Dumas, losing 6-3, 3-6, (10-3).
"It just didn't work out for my boys today," Wharton coach Marcie Scholl said.
In her individual singles semifinal, Williams had trouble holding serve against Miami Palmetto's powerful Jessica Barron, losing the first set 6-4. She came back in the second by smacking more winners and won 6-2 to split the match, but she fell behind quickly in the 10-point tiebreaker. She tried to work out of a 9-3 hole and got to within 9-7 before losing 10-7.
Williams and doubles partner sophomore Annica Johansson lost to Barron and Pia Dozo-Moreno 6-1, 6-4.