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Monday, December 10, 2018

Burel and Tseng Named 2018 ITF World Junior Champions; Cressy Wins Tallahassee Futures; Racquet Club of Memphis, Site of USTA Girls Clay Courts, to Close

The ITF Junior Circuit (note the new look website, part of the ITF World Tennis Tour) has concluded for the year, with the next tournaments scheduled to begin three weeks from now. Although no one could catch the current No. 1s, Clara Burel of France and Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan, the ITF waits until after the Orange Bowl to announce its ITF year-end world junior champions.  The 17-year-old Burel, who reached two junior slam finals, won the Youth Olympic Games silver medal and claimed the ITF Junior Masters title, finished just under 400 points ahead of Coco Gauff, who won the French Open and Orange Bowl titles. For more on Burel's run to No. 1, see the ITF website.

Tseng, who won the French and Wimbledon boys titles and reached the Australian Open final and the US Open semifinals, finished more than 1300 points ahead of Youth Olympic Games gold medalist Hugo Gaston of France. For more on Tseng's rise to the top of the junior game, see the ITF website.

The United States had two players in both the girls and boys year-end Top 10: Brandon Nakashima[5], Sebastian Korda[10], Coco Gauff[2] and Caty McNally[9].

The last USTA Pro Circuit event of the year was the $25,000 Futures in Tallahassee, with UCLA senior Maxime Cressy capping an impressive fall with his first Pro Circuit singles title. The unseeded 21-year-old from France, who defeated former Memphis standout Ryan Peniston of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6(4) in the final,  reached the final last week at the Waco $25K and the semifinals in the Columbus $25K the week before that. His ATP ranking will be inside the Top 500 when the points are added.  Unseeded Jordi Arconada(Texas A&M) and Michael Geerts of Belgium(Arizona State) won the doubles title, beating unseeded Felix Corwin(Minnesota) and Jacob Dunbar(Richmond) 6-3, 7-6(0) in the final. Geerts, who won the Waco Futures singles title two weeks ago over Cressy, now has eight Pro Circuit doubles titles, while Arconada now has four.

A couple of weeks ago the news came out that the Racquet Club of Memphis is closing, leaving the Girls 16s USTA National Clay Courts without a home.  Prior to 2018, the Racquet Club was the site of the Girls 18s USTA National Clay Courts, and I covered eight of those tournaments there, from 2008 to 2016. Although the heat in July was brutal, I enjoyed the tournament, and they worked hard to make the experience special for the girls and the college coaches who flocked there. Once the club lost the WTA (and ATP) event held there in February, the tournament could no longer offer a coveted WTA wild card to the Clay champion, and last year, the 18s moved to Charleston, where the winner now gets a wild card into the Volvo Open there. Aside from the loss to the USTA junior circuit, this is a major blow to tennis in general, as the club had a long and impressive history in both pre- and Open era professional tennis.  

I spoke to both the 16s tournament director and the USTA about the news while I was here in Florida, and as of now, a new site for the girls 16s is still up in the air, but I have been told it should be in place in the next month.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Gauff Comeback Ends with Another Orange Bowl Title; Finland's Virtanen Makes History with Victory over Khan

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Plantation, FL--

Just two years ago, Coco Gauff won the Junior Orange Bowl 12s championship, a title she had chased for five years before capturing. After her 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 victory over China's Qinwen Zheng in Sunday's ITF Grade A Orange Bowl championship match, in just her second attempt at one of the Junior Circuit's most prestigious tournaments, the 14-year-old French Open champion may already be saying goodbye to junior events.

Down 4-2 in the final set to the big-hitting Zheng, Gauff recalled the words of her father Corey.

"He told me at the beginning of the tournament, OK, this is probably your last junior tournament, so play how you want to be remembered, and that's what I was thinking," said Gauff, the No. 1 seed. "People mostly know me to always fight, and even when I was down that's how I want to be remembered, at least in junior tennis. We'll see what the next chapter has for me."

A rain shower just three games into the match resulted in a delay of more than two hours, and when Gauff and Zheng returned to the Har-Tru courts of the Veltri Tennis Center, Gauff took control of the match, winning the next four games and looking the sharper of the two.

Zheng, the Eddie Herr champion and second seed, was playing her 12th singles match in 14 days, and with both inner thighs taped, the toll of all that tennis was beginning to show. But the 16-year-old kept unleashing her powerful ground strokes and Gauff threw in a messy service game at 3-4 to get broken. Serving at 5-3, Zheng used a potent backhand to get out of a 15-30 hole, taking the second set on her first set point.

Gauff took a bathroom break, but after returning, she donated two double faults and was broken at love. Zheng held on to that break until serving at 4-3, but when Gauff hit a forehand winner on break point to level the set, she, and the crowd, were fully energized.

"The crowd has been here all week for me," said Gauff, who lives in nearby Delray Beach. "Clearly they were rooting for me, and there were faces who were here since Monday, not people I knew, but now I know. I was expecting when it rained, no one would come, but people came back. I think that kind of helped, because I remember saying this in my head, all these people are here rooting for you down 4-2, so you should start rooting for yourself. And I think that kind of helped turn the match around."

The 4-4 game was a classic, with Gauff saving three break points, with her serve responsible for getting her out of every jam.

"I was serving well the whole match," Gauff said. "If I didn't expect my serve to come through, I wouldn't have went for it, I just would have tried to get it in. I think on almost every break point I hit a good serve, and she missed it or something like that, and I'm just glad it went in."

After that five-deuce game, Zheng played her worst game of the set when serving to stay in the match. Her backhand sprayed around the court and she double faulted, and the match ended with another error.

While giving credit to Gauff, Zheng was disappointed with the way she played in the final four games of the match.

"She played really good at the end," said Zheng, who is known as Ana to her English-speaking friends. "I was 4-2 up and it's really difficult to lose like this, but she play more aggressive in the end and I was too defensive. That's the reason I lose. At 4-2 I should go, take the courage, take the match and not stay behind and wait."

Zheng will take time off and then prepare for the Australian Open Junior Championships next month, while Gauff will be concentrating on improving her WTA ranking, with a goal of getting into the slams this summer.

"Right now I'm just playing some ITFs (Pro Circuit), to get my ranking up and to see if I can get wild cards into certain tournaments," said Gauff, who is currently ranked 870. "I think next year, that's my goal, to be top 100 in WTA."

One of the reasons Gauff elected to play the last two ITF Junior Circuit Grade A tournaments of the year was the extra four WTA tournaments she can play if she finishes in the Top 5 in year-end junior rankings.

"A lot of people think I played this to finish No. 1," said Gauff, who will not catch France's Clara Burel for the top spot. "That wasn't my goal. My dad asked me mid-year, and I said, I don't really care, I just want to finish Top 5, so I can get those extra [WTA] tournaments."

Although Gauff elected not to focus on achieving the ITF Junior Circuit's No. 1 ranking, boys Orange Bowl champion Otto Virtanen is.  Just five minutes after 17-year-old from Finland defeated wild card Zane Khan of the United States 7-5, 6-4, he had already reset his goals.

"Yes, that's my goal now," Virtanen said. "Now, I decided now, yes. I really want to be number 1, so I'm looking forward to this season."

Virtanen, the No. 13 seed, had a slight edge in Grade A experience, with five tournaments at that level, compared to the 16-year-old Khan's three. But neither player looked comfortable to start the match, with four straight breaks to open it before Khan held serve to get his nose in front. At 5-all, Khan was able to save two break points with forehand winners, but on the third, his backhand sailed long.  Serving for the set, Virtanen went up 40-15, but again Khan held on, only to watch as Virtanen hit two consecutive aces to take the set.

"I had a lot of chances and I didn't play as good as I wanted to," said Khan, who is coached by his uncle Shariq Khan, and has also been training the past few months at Boca West with Antonio Fernandez and former ATP pro Sebastien Grosjean, who attended the final. "It was not easy playing him, because he had a really good serve and there wasn't much rhythm. He is really powerful with his shots and he had a good forehand and it wasn't easy to get into the points."

Virtanen admitted that, although he made less than half of his first serves, he was able to find one when he needed it.

"I served well the big points, yes, I served well," Virtanen said. "And I didn't rush in the really big points. In the last game he did two easy mistakes, he went too fast then, and I was lucky."

At 4-4 in the second set, Khan made three unforced errors, while Virtanen made sure he picked big targets in the rallies and Khan was broken at 15-40 when his backhand went wide. Serving for the title, Virtanen hit two massive forehand winners and a kick serve ace, and after an inexplicable drop shot attempt that missed on his first match point, he blasted his tenth ace to close it out.

Virtanen, who trains at the Good to Great Academy in Sweden, is the first player from Finland to win an Orange Bowl title, and he is hoping that accomplishment resonates in his home country.

"I'm going back home tomorrow, and I hope they have some special surprise," Virtanen said of his celebration plans. "I don't know [if it will be a big deal], I hope so, because for me, it's a big thing. I can't even realize, it's a really big trophy. Maybe today, later, I'll realize what I have done."

Virtanen is planning to play the Australian Open Junior Championships next month, as is Khan.
The doubles titles were also decided on Sunday afternoon, with No. 3 seeds Adrienn Nagy of Hungary and Sohyun Park of Korea taking the girls title, and No. 4 seeds Sergey Fomin of Uzbekistan and Gauthier Onclin of Belgium claiming the boys championship.

Nagy and Park, playing together for the first time, came from behind to defeat unseeded Kacie Harvey and Natasha Subhash of the United States 2-6, 7-5, 10-8.

"We actually said two weeks ago that we were going play together, since none of us had doubles partners," Nagy said. "We talked in Mexico that we would play together, so we are surprised to win, definitely."

Nagy attributed their slow start to the quality of their opponents play.

"The first set, they were playing really good and we didn't really feel it," Nagy said. "The wind and everything was different than yesterday. The second set, we started to play better and the super tiebreak was the best we played in this match. We put it together at the end."

"She is a very, very good partner," said Park, 16. "She has energy."

Nagy appreciates Park's ability to finish at the net, which she did on their third match point, poaching for the winning volley.

"She's really good with the volleys and I can always count on her," said the 17-year-old Nagy. "And she's really consistent from the baseline too. It's good to have someone you know is not going to miss it."
Fomin and Onclin also dropped the first set, unable to serve it out up 5-4 and losing a tiebreaker to unseeded Justin Schlageter of Germany and Gustaf Strom of Sweden 6-7(6) before rebounding for a 6-7(6), 6-1, 10-8 victory.

Like the girls champions, Fomin and Onclin, both 17, began their partnership very recently, at the Eddie Herr, where they won one match, but the pair did not lose a set all week until today.

"We played very well this week," Onclin said. "We just did what we had to do."

"We go to the volley," said Fomin. "And not stay at the baseline, so we do better this tournament. I think that is better, for me and my friend."

"It was an incredible week for us," Onclin said. "It's incredible."

Top Seeds Gauff and Zheng Reach Orange Bowl Final, Khan and Virtanen Vie for Boys Championship; Sieg, Llamas Ruiz Win 16s Titles; Zamarripa Takes $15K in Colombia

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Plantation FL--

Young Americans Coco Gauff and Zane Khan got revenge Saturday at the ITF Grade A Orange Bowl, dominating their opponents on another warm and sunny day in South Florida to reach Sunday's final.

The top-seeded Gauff defeated No. 3 seed Diane Parry of France, who had beaten her two weeks ago in the quarterfinals of the Yucatan Grade A, 6-0, 6-0 while Khan, a wild card, had a much longer wait for an opportunity against Mateus Alves of Brazil, who had beaten him last November in a Grade 2 in Peru.

The 16-year-old Khan came out firing against Alves and never let up against the big-hitting 17-year-old, well aware that Alves had won all four of his previous matches in three sets, including yesterday's quarterfinal over No. 8 seed Cannon Kingsley.

"I felt like if I didn't keep pushing him down and keep on him, he would come back, he would start feeling more confident on court," Khan said. "He is such a good player, such a good competitor and has such a good serve, it's not easy to break him. So, yeah, I tried to focus on my service games and get every ball back on the return games, make him play."

Khan, who had won three three-setters himself this week, was nursing a shoulder injury coming into the tournament, and considered withdrawing, but his coaches encouraged him to give it a try, and it has bothered him less as he continues to advance through the draw.

Although he earned a big win in the first round over No. 4 seed Deney Wassermann of the Netherlands, Khan didn't take that as any indication that six days later he would be playing the final.

"I felt every person after that was a really good player," said Khan, who is coached by his uncle Shariq Khan, and has also been training at Boca West with Antonio Fernandez and former ATP pro Sebastien Grosjean. "Just because I beat the 4 seed that didn't mean anything for the other guys. There were a lot of close matches, like yesterday, that could have gone the other guy's way."

Khan's opponent in the final will be No. 13 seed Otto Virtanen of Finland, who came back to beat unseeded Alejo Lingua Lavallen of Argentina 1-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Virtanen, who had beaten top seed Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria in the third round, went up 3-1 in the final set, but had to take a medical timeout due to shortness of breath.

"I had a hard time breathing," said the 17-year-old, who trains at the Good to Great Academy in Sweden. "Every point I felt like it is not going in. It was not a good feeling. I told I would take [a medical timeout] one game later, but then I played the one game and I just had an emergency, even if I was leading 3-1."

The trainer came out and spoke to Virtanen, but did not provide any treatment, and when he returned to play, he lost the next two games. But he began to feel better, mentally and physically.

"I reset everything, I have to play everything like from the beginning," Virtanen said. "I started with my best game at 3-all and finished with it."

Virtanen broke and held for a 5-3 lead, and the Argentinian left-hander saved a match point serving at 3-5. In the final game, Virtanen took a 30-0 lead, but two unforced errors on the forehand provided some tension. But Virtanen's excellent first serve saved him, with Lavallen unable to get either of them back in play.

Khan and Virtanen have never met, but Virtanen is excited by the prospect of a new opponent, while conceding that Khan is likely to have the crowd on his side.

"This is the first tournament I've seen him playing," Virtanen said. "I'm looking forward to meet new players."

Gauff's unexpectedly easy win over Parry was a combination of an improved strategy and improved play.

"In Mexico I lost to her like 6-3, 6-2, so going in, I knew what I had to do," said the 14-year-old, who won the French Open girls title this year. "I would say that week I was making a little bit more errors on shots that I shouldn't have. Today, I just wanted to be patient and see if I can out-rally her, and I think I did."

Gauff said that the temptation to go high to Parry's one-handed backhand was something she needed to avoid in the rematch.

"I think two weeks ago I focused too much on her backhand," said Gauff, who two years ago won the Junior Orange Bowl 12s title. "She does have a good one-handed backhand. People are like, it's a one-handed backhand, she's a girl, it's probably her weaker side. But really, she can rip it. Obviously, the high ball on the one-hander works, for any one-hander, but today I was not focusing on that, but play like I would any other match, moving her no matter if it is her forehand or backhand. I think that was a mistake last time, because she knew where I was hitting the ball every time, while this time, I kind of mixed it up a lot more."

Gauff's opponent in the final is Eddie Herr champion and No. 2 seed Qinwen Zheng of China, who beat unseeded Emma Navarro 6-0, 6-4. Zheng, who is looking to be the first Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl champion in the same year since Ana Konjuh of Croatia accomplished that in 2012, had kinesio tape on both of her inner thighs after her second consecutive week of top level competition.

"Of course I'm tired," said the 16-year-old right-hander, who won only one singles match in the two tournaments in Mexico leading up to the Eddie Herr. "And because I played too much, I have injury on my leg. But it is good, I continue to fight and I found a way to win."

Zheng started the match with Navarro as she had in their first round meeting at the Eddie Herr, which Zheng won 6-1, 6-0. But Navarro got her teeth back in the match in the second set, pulling even after being down 4-2. The 17-year-old Duke recruit was broken in the next game however, and Zheng was able to serve out the match.

"Last week was the first round and this week is the semifinals, so everything is different," Zheng said. "It's a new match, so I just keep my game plan and focus. I couldn't run too much, so I try to finish the point and to play more smart."

Zheng is looking forward to a chance to play Gauff after breaking out of her slump last month.

"I saw her play a little bit, but I never play against her," Zheng said. "I know she's an amazing player, so I will fight a lot tomorrow. If you tell me in Mexico that I be in finals here and win Eddie Herr, I say no, no way."
The 16s finals were tense and full of twists and turns, with No. 4 seed Madison Sieg defeating unseeded India Houghton 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 in an all-US contest, and No. 3 seed Pablo Llamas Ruiz of Spain beating top seed Dali Blanch of the United States 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.

Sieg, who lost in the Eddie Herr 16s final last Saturday, didn't look like she would better that showing this week after losing the first set quickly and going down a break at 3-2 in the second set. But the 15-year-old broke right back and kept the pressure on Houghton, who saved two set points at 4-5 in the second set, but couldn't save a third. In a long and entertaining point, both Sieg and Houghton ended up at the net, with Sieg winning the battle to earn a third set.

"She played a really good first set," said Sieg, who beat Eddie Herr champion and fellow Evert Academy student Elaine Chervinsky in the quarterfinals. "I knew I had to get it deeper, but I knew I was playing the right way, hitting the ball good, so I just kept the same way of hitting it."

Sieg again fell behind a break in the third set, but she again immediately got the break back, only to fall behind 4-3. Houghton again couldn't consolidate however, and when Sieg held for 6-5, the pressure mounted on the 16-year-old from Northern California.

When Houghton hit a forehand wide to go down 15-40, but she saved the first match point with a huge forehand, a dangerous shot that Sieg had seen often throughout the match, and saved the second when Sieg hit a backhand wide after a long, tense rally. Sieg stepped into a backhand to force an error to give her a third match point, and after another lengthy rally, it was Houghton who made the error, giving Sieg a coveted Orange Bowl title and a 11-1 singles record over the past 12 days.

"I've just always seen other players win the Orange Bowl, and it's never occurred to me that I could actually win it," said Sieg, who will take a month off before the Central and South American swing in January. "So I'm really happy that I'm able to do it."

Houghton, who had gotten to the final without losing a set, said she didn't feel nervous to start the match, but the possibility of winning did contribute to some jitters later on.

"In the middle of the second set, that's when I got a little nervous," said Houghton, who trains at Tompkins Tennis. "She's a great player, a great fighter and she was getting a lot of balls back. Maybe I got a little impatient, or went for too much on my shots, but she was a really good player."

Houghton has only one ITF Junior Circuit tournament on her resume, a title at the Grade 5 in Canada back in October, but she is looking forward to competing more at that level.

"I definitely would like to start playing more international tournaments," said Houghton, who doesn't consider herself a late bloomer. "I played my first ITF a month ago. These past few years, maybe I've started to train harder, train more and with higher intensity."

Next up for Houghton is the USTA Winter Nationals in Lake Nona Florida, in the 18s. Houghton was aware that last year's 16s runner-up, Fiona Crawley, went on to win the gold ball in the 18s at the Winter Nationals just a few weeks later.

The boys finalists proved just as evenly matched as the girls, with Llamas coming from down an early break down in the first set to breaking to win it, then having a match point in the second set with Blanch serving at 4-5, only to be broken in his next service game, with Blanch taking the second set with a big first serve on his third set point.

Blanch fell behind in the 4-1 in the third set, but his forehand came through for him with Llamas serving at 2-4, and Blanch got back on serve with a winner on his second break point. He couldn't pull even however, with two forehands wide costing him the game and giving Llamas a chance to serve for the match. Blanch earned a 15-40 lead, but Llamas countered with his best serving of the set, hitting four consecutive big first serves to close out the title.

The 15-year-old Blanch, who lives and trains in Argentina, said that the combination of Llamas' style and his quick pace of play wore him down.

"He is a smart player, and he has good hands," said Blanch, who will start his year at the ITF Grade 1 (now called J1) in Costa Rica. "He likes playing long points and he rushes you a lot. There's no rest between points, just another point, another point. He's used to it, but I'm not. I think that I could have played better. I didn't play my best tennis, got very frustrated. I wasn't making the shots I was making in the other matches. I think I could have beaten him, but it wasn't my day."

Llamas, who won the doubles title on Friday, agreed that testing his opponent with his pace of play, and his variety, works for him.

"I try to play quick," Llamas said via an interpreter. "I always try to vary the depth of the ball and make sure that my opponent is never comfortable. I play depending on my opponent."

Llamas acknowledged that countering Blanch's power is not an easy task.

"I've been training very hard for this, trying to get better and better for opponents like this," Llamas said. "I thank everyone, from my team to my teammates to my coaches, everybody in Spain, for their support, for giving me the strength to become an Orange Bowl champion."

The 18s doubles final are scheduled for Sunday, with the girls final between unseeded Kacie Harvey and Natasha Subhash and No. 3 seeds Adrienn Nagy of Hungary and Sohyun Park of Korea.  Harvey and Subhash, finalists at last week's Eddie Herr, defeated top seeds Gauff and Hurricane Tyra Black 6-3, 6-4, with Nagy and Park downing unseeded Savannah Broadus and Kylie Collins 6-0, 6-3.

The boys top seeds also exited in Saturday's semifinals, with No. 4 seeds Sergey Fomin and Gauthier Onclin of Belgium beating Andreev and Great Britain's Anton Matusevich 7-5, 7-6(5). Their opponents in the final will be Justin Schlageter of Germany and Gustaf Strom of Sweden, who beat Tom Leblanc Calverie of France and Mark Mandlik 6-4, 7-5.

For Sunday's order of play, see the tournament website.

Sixteen-year-old Allura Zamarripa swept the titles at the $15,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Bogota Colombia, beating top seed Andrea Villarreal of Mexico 6-3, 6-3 in today's singles final. Allura and twin sister Maribella won their first pro doubles title on Friday.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Eddie Herr Recap; Sieg, Houghton and Blanch Reach Orange Bowl 16s Finals; Gauff, Navarro and Khan Advance to Grade A Semifinals; Zamarripa Makes $15K Final

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Plantation, Florida

Before I get to today's action at the Orange Bowl, here's the link to my recap, for the Tennis Recruiting Network, of last week's Eddie Herr International Championships in Bradenton.  Only two of the eight singles champions were from the United States this year, but the doubles competition was dominated by Americans, with US players winning six of the eight titles.

Saturday's Orange Bowl finals in the 16s age division will feature three Americans, with unseeded India Houghton taking on No. 4 seed Madison Sieg in the all-American girls final, and No. 1 seed Dali Blanch facing No. 3 seed Pablo Llamas Ruiz of Spain for the boys title.

Houghton defeated unseeded wild card Jaleesa Leslie 6-2, 6-4, her fifth consecutive straight-sets win. The 16-year-old left-hander said that although she doesn't play much on clay in her Northern California home, she likes the surface.

"In fifth grade, I spent a few months in Spain, playing on the red clay there, and I really liked it," Houghton said. "I'm definitely getting more used to the clay with each match."

Houghton said that she had to take advantage of Leslie's second serve, because her first serve was such a weapon.

"Her serve was really strong and it got even stronger in the second set, I thought," Houghton said. "I had to focus, especially when she had a second serve. I had to use that opportunity."

Houghton, who reached the Easter Bowl 16s final this spring, thinks that experience will help her on Saturday.

"The Easter Bowl was my first final, so it was a new experience for me," Houghton said. "So hopefully I can use that in this match."

The 15-year-old Sieg, who defeated No. 8 seed Yelizaveta Karlova of Kazakhstan 7-6(2), 6-3, is appearing in her second consecutive final, having lost to Elaine Chervinsky at last week's Eddie Herr.

Houghton and Sieg met in the first round of the Winter Nationals last December, with Houghton winning 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

Blanch defeated No. 4 seed Kokora Isomura of Japan 7-6(3), 6-1, with the 15-year-old able to take control in the second set by adjusting his strategy.

"In the first set I got very frustrated," said Blanch, who trains in Argentina, as his older brother Ulises also did. "I was hitting the ball too flat, so in the second set I changed up. He played on the line, so I had to spin the ball more, push him back, in order to attack more and that worked in the second."

Blanch said being the number one seed feels like an advantage to him, and after a slow to start to the year, he is happy that he's reached that position.

"At the beginning of the year, I didn't know if I would play this tournament," said Blanch, who won two Grade 4s this fall. "My ranking wasn't that good and I had a tough start. But then I won some tournaments, and I'm very happy to be in the final."

Blanch will face No. 3 seed Pablo Llamas Ruiz of Spain, who prevented a second all-US final with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 2 seed Alexander Bernard.  Blanch and Llamas will be playing for the first time in Saturday's final.

In the 18s, top seed Coco Gauff defeated unseeded Helene Pellicano of Malta 6-3, 6-2 to set up a rematch with No. 3 seed Diane Parry of France. Parry, who beat wild card Charlotte Chavatipon 6-1, 6-3, defeated Gauff 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the Yucatan Grade A two weeks ago.

The other girls semifinal is also a rematch, an even more recent one, with No. 2 seed Qinwen Zheng of China facing unseeded Emma Navarro. Navarro and Zheng met in the first round of the Eddie Herr last week, with Zheng rolling 6-1, 6-0.

Neither had an easy time getting to that rematch, with Zheng coming back for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 6 seed Lea Ma, and Navarro earning a 7-6(1), 6-3 victory over 14-year-old wild card Robin Montgomery.

Montgomery served for the first set at 5-4, but couldn't close it out, and Navarro dominated in the subsequent tiebreaker, with unforced errors by Montgomery also a factor. Navarro was unable to serve out the match at 5-2, but she broke Montgomery for the win.

Only one seed remains in the boys 18s semifinals--No. 13 Otto Virtanen of Finland--after all four boys quarterfinals went to three sets. Virtanen earned his second consecutive Grade A win over No. 7 seed Anton Matusevich of Great Britain. After beating Matusevich from a set down in the first round of  the US Open junior championships, Virtanen duplicated that in today's quarterfinal, posting a  4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory. He will play unseeded Alejo Lingua Lavallen of Argentina, who beat No. 15 seed Liam Draxl of Canada 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Sixteen-year-old Zane Khan took out his third seed of the week, beating No. 6 seed Jonas Forejtek of the Czech Republic 7-6(1), 2-6, 7-5.  Khan, who has been nursing a shoulder injury that caused him to retire at the Eddie Herr, said it has felt better as the week has progressed, and with his focus and energy at a high level, he doesn't think about it when he's playing.

"Especially in the third set, I started hitting it even harder," said Khan, who won 107 points in the match, while Forejtek won 110.

Khan, who saved three set points in the opening set, had several  tough service games in the third, while Forejtek was holding more easily, but Khan always felt he was dictating the match.

"My energy was high and I felt like that helped me," said Khan, who has begun working with former ATP pro Sebastien Grosjean at Boca West in Boca Raton. "Every single time he would always be further back, just try to make balls. He was really nervous, it looked like, and I kept putting pressure on, even shots that were right to him, I took time away and he was really nervous and kept missing in the net. I felt like I was in control the whole match."

With Forejtek serving to force a third-set tiebreaker, Khan took advantage of a rare break point opportunity and with a good return at 30-40 pressuring Forejtek into a backhand error on the next shot.

Khan will face unseeded Mateus Alves of Brazil, who prevented an all-US semifinal with a 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(5) win over No. 8 seed Cannon Kingsley.

Kingsley led 4-2 in the third set, but Alves played a gem of a game to break with Kingsley serving at 4-3.  Kingsley saved a match point serving at 5-6 in the third with a big serve, and three more match points from 6-2 down in the tiebreaker, but his forehand return of a second serve at 6-5 went long to end a competitive and well-played match.

Alves has now won four consecutive three-setters, while Khan has won three three-set matches this week. Alves and Khan met last year at the Grade 2 in Peru, with Alves winning 6-3, 6-3.

The first 2018 Orange Bowl champions were crowned in 16s doubles Friday afternoon.  Llamas Ruiz and his partner Angel Guerrero Melgar, also of Spain, seeded No. 3, defeated unseeded Bohua Dong and Haoyuan Huang of China 6-1, 6-1 in the boys final.

"We come in here expecting to win, but you never know," said Guerrero, who noted they won a doubles tournament of the best 16 and under players in Spain. "We tried it, and we made it."

"Today we have a good match," said Llamas. "We are very happy for the tournament."  "Yeah, we played really good today," Guerrero added.
The girls doubles final was an all-US contest between unseeded teams, with Carson Tanguilig and Elise Wagle beating Ava Catanzarite and Allie Gretkowski 4-6, 7-6(5), 10-6.

Tanguilig and Wagle got off to a quick start, going up 4-1, but lost the next five games.  As frequent partners, the two 15-year-olds were able to rely on each other to get back on track, although they also lost a 4-1 lead in the second set, losing six of six deciding points before finally taking a big point, at 6-5 in the tiebreaker.

"6-5 in the tiebreaker is a big, big point, especially after we lost the first set," Tanguilig said. "But you just keep moving, being positive, staying loose," Wagle said.

Up 8-4 in the match tiebreaker, they did not let the lead get away, although Gretkowski, the Eddie Herr 16s doubles champion, and Catanzarite won two points, including one on Tanguilig's serve, to get it to 8-6. But Tanguilig came up with her best serve of the match to give them a 9-6 cushion, and they converted their first match point.

As for their strengths as a team, Wagle said she relies on Tanguilig's net skills and mental outlook.

"She has insane hands, you have no idea," said Wagle, who won the ITF Grade 4 in Corpus Christi with Tanguilig in October. "Her hands have saved our butts so many times. And she's positive for me, because I can be a little negative on the court."

Tanguilig said appreciates the strength of Wagle's overall game.

"Her backhand is ten times better than mine could ever be," Tanguilig said. "She can pump me up if I'm being negative and she has a good serve and good volleys, everything."

The 18s doubles semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, with three US teams in the girls draw.  Top seeds Hurricane Tyra Black and Coco Gauff will face unseeded Kacie Harvey and Natasha Subhash, and unseeded Savannah Broadus and Kylie Collins will play No. 3 seeds Adrienn Nagy of Hungary and Sohyun Park of Korea. Black and Gauff beat No. 5 seeds Sada Nahimana of Burundi and Selin Ovunc of Turkey 6-2, 6-2, while Harvey and Subhash beat unseeded Alexa Noel and Nikki Redelijk 6-3, 6-2.  Nagy and Park defeated No. 6 seeds Ana Geller of Argentina and Natsumi Kawaguchi of Japan 6-3, 6-3 and Broadus and Collins outlasted Navarro and Chloe Beck, also unseeded, 1-6, 6-3, 13-11.

The only American boy in the doubles semifinals in Mark Mandlik. Mandlik and his partner Tom Leblanc Claverie of France were the last team to get into the draw, with the alternates replacing Forejtek and Valentin Royer of France. In the quarterfinals, Mandlik and Leblanc Claverie beat Drew Baird and Toby Kodat 6-2, 6-4 and will play unseeded Justin Schlageter of Germany and Gustaf Strom of Sweden, who beat No. 5 seeds Govind Nanda and Tyler Zink 7-5, 4-6, 10-5.  Top seeds Matusevich and Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria defeated No. 6 seeds Draxl and Eliot Spizzirri 6-3, 7-6(5) to advance to a meeting with No. 4 seeds Sergey Fomin of Uzbekistan and Gauthier Onclin of Belgium, who beat No. 7 seeds Emilio Nava and Virtanen 6-1, 6-1.

Saturday's order of play is available at the tournament website.

In notable results by juniors outside of Florida, 16-year-old Allura Zamarripa has advanced to the final of the $15,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit event in Bogota Colombia. The unseeded Californian, who has not dropped a set this week, will play top seed Andrea Villarreal of Mexico in the final.  Allura and her twin sister Maribella won the doubles title, with the No. 2 seeds beating top seeds and twin sisters Maria Perez-Garcia and Paula Perez-Garcia of Colombia 7-5, 6-4 in the final. It is the first Pro Circuit title for the Zamarripas.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Virtanen Beats Top Seed Andreev; Five US Girls, Two US Boys Reach Grade A Orange Bowl Quarterfinals; Sieg Wins Replay of Eddie Herr 16s Final

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Plantation, FL--

Friday's boys quarterfinals at the ITF Grade A Orange Bowl will not feature any of the top five seeds after No. 1 Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria and No. 3 seed Gauthier Onclin of Belgium were ousted Thursday at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center.

Yucatan Grade A finalist Liam Draxl of Canada, the No. 15 seed, defeated Onclin 6-1, 6-2 and No. 13 seed Otto Virtanen overpowered Andreev 6-4, 6-4.

Virtanen has not had the best junior results since he defeated Australian Open boys champion Sebastian Korda in the first round at Wimbledon, but he did reach a Futures final in August and has an ATP ranking of 834.  The 17-year-old from Finland lost in the first round of the Grade 1 Eddie Herr last week, but he has not lost a set in his three wins this week, and was able to use his serve and his forehand to keep Andreev on defense most of the match.

"I had a tough start, I was down 3-0, but I felt good still," said Virtanen, who won the Wimbledon boys doubles title this year. "It was just a few mistakes from me at the beginning, but after that I played really good."

Serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set, Virtanen went down 0-30, and then 30-40, but his serve saved him. He hit an ace on break point, then crushed a forehand winner to get to match point, converting with a big first serve and a forehand winner to earn his first Grade A quarterfinal berth.

"I didn't think about going to 5-all or anything," Virtanen said. "But I was just, next point. I was just thinking now, a good serve, and I got four points just with serve."

Virtanen will play No. 7 seed Anton Matusevich of Great Britain next. They have played in the last two junior slams, with Matusevich winning in the third round at Wimbledon and Virtanen winning in the first round at the US Open.

Draxl will face unseeded Ajeo Lingua Lavallen of Argentina, who beat unseeded Andrew Paulson of the Czech Republic 6-1, 7-6(3).  They met early this year in the first round of the Grade A in Porto Alegre Brazil, with Lavallen winning in three sets.

Both of the Americans are in the bottom half of the draw, with No. 8 seed Cannon Kingsley cruising past No. 10 seed Harold Mayot of France 6-1, 6-2 and unseeded Zane Khan overcoming a crushing second set to beat No. 14 seed Sergey Fomin of Uzbekistan 7-5, 6-7(1), 6-3.

Khan led 5-1 in the second set, yet couldn't close it out, and with a lackluster tiebreaker, momentum wasn't on his side. But he collected himself in the third set, and finished strong, with the 16-year-old advancing to a Grade A quarterfinal for the first time.

Kingsley will play unseeded Mateus Alves of Brazil, who beat the last qualifier in the boys draw, Luciano Tacchi of Argentina 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1.  Khan's opponent is No. 6 seed Jonas Forejtek of the Czech Republic, who beat unseeded Filip Kolasinski 6-4, 6-0.
The five US girls in the quarterfinals include two wild cards, 14-year-old Robin Montgomery and 16-year-old Charlotte Chavatipon. Montgomery took out fellow wild card Ellie Coleman 6-1, 6-1 and will face unseeded Emma Navarro, who beat Peyton Stearns 6-2, 6-4.

Chavatipon defeated No. 5 seed Hurricane Tyra Black 7-6(4), 6-2, with her rebound from a tough start providing the energy she needed to earn the win.

"I was down 4-1 in the first set and coming back and getting it neck and neck--I haven't really done that a lot," said Chavatipon, who recently has begun training at the USTA's Player Development site in Carson, California. "This was one of like the first tournaments I was able to show up. In the beginning I was overhitting, taking too big of swings and not moving, so I just tried aiming at safer targets. I don't think she was able to outhit me from the ground, but she's a smart player, and that's the reason why she's top 50 in the world."

Chavatipon lost in the second round of qualifying at the Eddie Herr, but she had qualified for the Grade A in Yucatan, and before that, reached the final of a $15,000 ITF Women's Circuit tournament in Mexico City.

"It was actually a surprise to me, but my dad said, oh, you're in this Mexico $15K, and we're going to fly from Tijuana and you're going to play this," Chavatipon said. "I didn't even expect to play that when I marked my calendar. It really boosted me up. From the beginning of the year until then, I was kind of struggling. I changed coaches, I work with the USTA now, and that change in coaching actually helped."

Chavatipon will face No. 3 seed Diane Parry of France, who beat qualifier Hina Inoue 7-5, 6-1. Parry defeated Chavatipon 6-4, 7-5 in the round of 16 en route to the Yucatan title two weeks ago.

Top seed Coco Gauff struggled late in the second set of her match with unseeded Ana Geller, but posted a 6-2, 7-5 victory. Geller served for the second set at 5-4, but didn't get to a set point, and Gauff didn't give her another opportunity after that one slipped away.

Gauff will play unseeded Helene Pellicano of Malta, who beat No. 11 seed Sada Nahimana of Burundi 6-1, 2-6, 6-2.

No. 2 seed Qinwen Zheng of China defeated unseeded Caijsa Hennemann of Sweden 6-4, 6-0 and will play doubles partner and No. 6 seed Lea Ma, who had no trouble in her 6-1, 6-2 rout of Mara Guth of Germany.

The US girls are also having success in doubles, with five US teams reaching the quarterfinals after wins today. Alexa Noel and Nikki Redelijk will face Kacie Harvey and Natasha Subhash in one of the all-US quarterfinals, with both teams unseeded. The other all-US quarterfinal is also between two unseeded teams, with Savannah Broadus and Kylie Collins taking on Navarro and Chloe Beck.  Top seeds Black and Gauff will face No. 5 seeds Nahimana and Selin Ovunc of Turkey.

Two all-US boys teams advanced to the quarterfinals: No. 5 seeds Govind Nanda and Tyler Zink and unseeded Drew Baird and Toby Kodat. Baird and Kodat will face Mark Mandlik and his partner from France, Tom Leblanc Claverie. Emilio Nava, who is playing with Virtanen, and is seeded No. 7, will play No. 4 seeds Fomin and Onclin.

The semifinals are set for the 16s singles with three US girls and two US boys in the final four.
No. 4 seed Madison Sieg defeated No. 7 seed Elaine Chervinsky  6-3, 7-5 in a rematch of last Saturday's Eddie Herr final. Sieg had also lost to Chervinsky back in October, but this time they were playing on Sieg's favorite surface: clay.

"One thing that changed from other matches, I've always played her on hard," said the 15-year-old, who trains with Chervinsky at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton. "I like how clay's a little slower, so I get to have a little more time. And also I love moving, just sliding."

Trailing 5-2 in the second set, Sieg decided to stop worrying about losing multiple close games in that set.

"I was getting a little frustrated, so I thought, just one point at a time," Sieg said. "I wasn't thinking about coming back to 5-all, I was just thinking about each point."

Sieg will play No. 8 seed Yelizaveta Karlova of Kazakhstan, who beat unseeded Fatma Idrizovic of Serbia 6-4, 6-3.

The other girls 16s semifinal features two unseeded Americans: India Houghton and wild card Jaleesa Leslie. Leslie defeated Lara Schneider 6-2, 6-1 and Houghton took out unseeded wild card Carson Tanguilig 6-3, 6-1.

An all-US boys final is still a possibility, after top seed Dali Blanch and No. 2 seed Alexander Bernard won their quarterfinal matches Thursday. Blanch defeated No. 8 seed Lorenzo Claverie of Venezuela 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 and will face No. 4 seed Kokoro Isomura of Japan, 1 6-4, 6-2 winner over No. 9 seed Marko Stakusic of Canada. Bernard will play No. 3 seed Pablo Llamas Ruiz of Spain, who defeated No. 10 seed Derrick Chen of Great Britain 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.  Bernard downed No. 12 seed Aidan Mayo 6-4, 6-2.

The 16s doubles finals are scheduled for Friday, with three unseeded teams advancing to the finals.

The girls final is an all-US contest between unseeded teams, with Allie Gretkowski and Ava Catanzarite facing Tanguilig and Elise Wagle. Gretkowski and Catanzarite beat No. 8 seeds Leyden Games and Lauren Stein 6-1, 6-3, while Tanguilig and Games beat unseeded Ava Krug and Sophie Williams 6-1, 6-2.

No. 3 seeds Llamas Ruiz and partner Angel Guerrero Melgar defeated top seeds Blanch and Stakusic 6-2, 4-6, 10-3 and will face unseeded Bohua Dong and Haoyan Huang of China. Dong and Huang defeated No. 8 seeds Alan Kam and Diego Navarro of Mexico 3-6, 6-4, 10-6.

For Friday's order of play and a link to live scoring, go to the tournament website.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wild Card Coleman Advances over Fourth Seed Noel, Legendary Slam Champion Watches Navarro Oust No. 8 Seed in Second Round of ITF Grade A Orange Bowl

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Plantation, FL--

The heat and humidity of the first two days gave way to cool and breezy conditions today at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center, with half a dozen girls seeds and four boys seeds failing to survive their second round matches at the ITF Grade Orange Bowl.

No. 4 seed Alexa Noel was beaten by 15-year-old wild card Ellie Coleman, who advanced when Noel retired after calling the trainer down 4-6, 6-3, 4-1.  Coleman, who last year reached the Junior Orange Bowl 14s final, said her transition to the top level of junior competition has had its rocky moments.

"It's definitely different, and it's come with some bad tournaments, obviously," said Coleman, a Midland Michigan resident. "Transitioning to the junior ITFs is a big change, but you kind of have to adjust to playing week after week and having matches day after day."

Coleman knew that Noel's slicing and drop shots can lead to frustration, but after the opening set, she found ways to counteract them.

"I focused on my side of net, doing what I needed to do to win, step in a little more," said Coleman, who was expecting to play qualifying, but was given a wild card into the main draw at the last minute. "I felt like I handled that stuff pretty well. She sliced her backhand a lot, and it was a little tricky, because she changes it up quite a bit, but I kind of got the hang of it after the first set."

Coleman's willingness to come to the net and make a volley or two to win a point is particularly effective against someone with the defensive skills of Noel.

"It's definitely an advantage, because I finish a lot of points at the net, moving forward to attack," said Coleman, who will play another wild card, 14-year-old Robin Montgomery, in Thursday's third round. Montgomery defeated qualifier Abigail Forbes 6-4, 6-3.
Emma Navarro was also facing a seeded player with an unconventional game, and she too figured out how to solve the problem, beating No. 8 seed Kamilla Bartone of Latvia 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 while under the scrutiny of a special spectator, 18-time slam singles champion Martina Navratilova.

"She's coming to work with my dad a little bit in Charleston, at the Volvo Open," Navarro said of her father Ben, who recently purchased the WTA event in their hometown. "She came down to Charleston a few weeks ago and hit with me a little bit, watched me play. She is from here, so she's been watching my matches."

Although having a tennis legend at a match could be intimidating, Navarro sees it differently.

"It's super exciting to have her watching me," said the 17-year-old Duke recruit. "I couldn't ever have imagined that. It's inspiring and exciting."

Against Bartone, who hits dozens of drop shots and an equal number of forehand slices every match, Navarro needed some time to adjust.

"I think it took a whole set for me to not be annoyed with how she played, just accept it and figure out how to beat it," Navarro said. "It was actually tough today, with the wind and with her flat, low shots and drop shots. She's unlike anyone I've ever played, so it took me a set to figure it out, but once I did, I played well."

Navarro's strategy was to keep Bartone back and to anticipate the inevitable.

"I hit a lot of high heavies and gave myself time," Navarro said. "And on pretty much every shot I was ready for the drop shot. I just wanted to take that out of play, be ready for that, and I did. And being patient and playing good defense."

Navarro will face unseeded Peyton Stearns, who defeated No. 10 seed Adrienn Nagy of Hungary 6-2, 6-3.

There is a third all-US girls round of 16 match, with No. 5 seed Hurricane Tyra Black against wild card Charlotte Chavatipon. Black avenged her recent Pan American Closed loss to Kylie Collins 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-0, while Chavatipon defeated No. 9 seed Sohyun Park of Korea 6-3, 6-2.

Top seed Coco Gauff defeated qualifier Fiona Crawley 6-0, 7-5 and will face Ana Geller of Argentina in the third round Thursday. Hina Inoue is the last qualifier remaining in the girls draw, with the 15-year-old defeating No. 14 seed Gabby Price 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. She will face No. 3 seed Diane Parry of France next.

No. 6 seed Lea Ma defeated Charlotte Owensby 7-5, 6-1 and will face Mara Guth of Germany in the third round. Guth defeated No. 12 seed Loudmilla Bencheikh of France 7-5, 5-7, 6-2.

Only two US boys, both in the bottom half, remain after Tuesday's second round of play: No. 8 seed Cannon Kingsley and unseeded Zane Khan. Kingsley beat Matheus Pucinelli de Almeida of Brazil 6-2, 7-6(2) and Khan defeated Mathys Erhard of France 6-3, 6-2.  Kingsley will play No. 10 seed Harold Mayot of France, with Khan taking on No. 14 seed Sergey Fomin of Uzbekistan. Kingsley defeated Mayot 6-1, 6-1 this spring in the semifinals of the Santa Croce Italy Grade 1 on clay.

No. 11 seed Govind Nanda lost to Filip Kolasinski of Poland 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 and No. 12 seed Eliot Spizzirri fell to Lodewijk Westrate of the Netherlands 6-4, 7-6(4).

No. 2 seed Filip Jianu of Romania retired trailing 6-4, 3-1 in the his match with qualifier Luciano Tacchi of Argentina. No. 5 seed Valentin Royer of France went out to Alejo Lingua Lavallen of Argentina  6-2, 6-7(3), 6-3.

Top seed Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria defeated Lilian Marmousez of France 7-5, 6-1.

The first round of doubles was completed this afternoon, and the No. 2 girls seeds, Lea Ma and China's Qinwen Zheng, lost to Navarro and Chloe Beck 6-2, 6-2.

In the 16s, the quarterfinals are scheduled for Thursday, with a rematch of the Eddie Herr girls 16s final on tap. No. 7 seed Elaine Chervinsky and No. 4 seed Madison Sieg, will play for the third time in two months, with Sieg hoping to break Chervinsky's current winning streak against her.

That is one of three all-US quarterfinals, with wild card Carson Tanguilig playing India Houghton and wild card Jaleesa Leslie facing Lara Schneider. Leslie defeated No. 2 seed Jada Bui of Canada 6-4, 6-3.

In fourth quarterfinal, in the top half, Fatma Idrizovic of Serbia will play No. 8 seed Yelizaveta Karlova of Kazakhstan.

Only three Americans remain in the boys 16s singles, with No. 12 seed Aidan Mayo taking on No. 2 seed Alexander Bernard in one quarterfinal.  Top seed Dali Blanch will face No. 8 seed Lorenzo Claverie of Venezuela.

The 16s doubles semifinals are Thursday, with boys top seeds Blanch and Canada's Marko Stakusic facing No. 3 seeds Angel Guerrero Melgar and Pablo Llamas Ruiz of Spain. Unseeded Bohua Dong and Haoyuan Huang of China will play No. 8 seeds Alan Kam and Diego Navarro of Mexico.

The girls doubles semifinals will feature four American teams. Ava Catanzarite and Allie Gretkowski will play No. 8 seeds Lauren Stein and Leyden Games, while unseeded Tanguilig and Elise Wagle will face unseeded Ava Krug and Sophie Williams.

The draws, order of play and live scoring can be found at the tournament website.