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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Top Seeds Open with Wins as Junior Orange Bowl Begins; Australian Open Junior Championship Acceptances; Kalamazoo Champion Brooksby Signs with Baylor

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Coral Gables, FL--

Opening day at the Junior Orange Bowl saw the top three seeds in all four age divisions advancing to the Thursday's second round.  I split my day between the boys 12s on the clay at Salvadore Park and the girls 14s at the University of Miami, and checked in briefly with the girls 12s at the Biltmore Tennis Center to close out the evening.

Rudy Quan, the top seed in the boys 12s, was drawn against qualifier Ryusei Miyazato of Japan, and after a few tough opening games, Quan found his form to post a 6-2, 6-0 victory.

"I stayed aggressive and maybe started to come in a bit more," Quan said of his plan to shorten some of the rallies against the left-hander. "I just had to remain."

Quan said he understands that his record this year, which includes singles gold balls at the Winter Nationals, Easter Bowl, Clay Courts, and Hard Courts, makes him a target.

"Everyone wants to win, and they are going to raise their game," said Quan, who trains at Johnson Ranch in Roseville California and is coached by Mike Gennette. "I just don't really think about my record or anything, I just go out and play ball."

Quan is playing in his first Orange Bowl, and competed in his first Eddie Herr two weeks ago, his first taste of international competition.

"At first it was pretty overwhelming," Quan said. "But then I got used to it, and I know that I'm just here for a tennis tournament, so I don't want to make it bigger than it is."

Quan lost in the semifinals of the Eddie Herr, not to an international player, but to Maximus Dussault, who he had beaten in the quarterfinals of the Clay Courts this summer. No. 4 seed Dussault, who went on to win the Eddie Herr title, lost in the first round today to Juhun Choo of Korea, 6-4, 6-1.  Dussault fell behind an early break in the first set, got it back to 4-4 but was broken in the next game. Dussault's unforced errors were a major factor in the outcome, but Choo kept his own level high. Choo saved four break points serving for the set, but when he finally got to a set point he converted it, and there was no comeback for Dussault in the second set. The 11-year-old fell behind two breaks at 3-0 and Choo was able to close out the match by staying in points until Dussault made an error.

Dussault was the only top eight seed to lose in the first round in the four divisions.

Girls 14s top seed Yayi Yang of Taiwan had the toughest match of the four top seeds, defeating Emma Roeck of the US 6-2, 7-5.  Boys 14s top seed Victor Lilov beat lucky loser Shrish Choudhary of the United States 6-0, 6-1 and girls 12s No. 1 seed Clervie Ngounoue defeated Mary Boyce Deatherage 6-0, 6-0 in another all-US contest. The ITF arranges their junior draws so that players from the same country do not meet in the first round whenever possible, but the Junior Orange Bowl is not an ITF event, and many of the first round matches here are between players from the same country, which is unfortunate, especially if they have travelled here from South America, Asia or Europe.

For complete results from today's first round and times for Thursday's second round matches, see the TennisLink page.

Speaking of traveling, the Australian Open Junior Championship acceptances have been release, with six US girls and seven US boys receiving direct acceptance.  The girls are Hurricane Tyra Black, Lea Ma, Gabby Price, Emma Navarro, Kacie Harvey and Chloe Beck. The boys are Cannon Kingsley, Tristan Boyer, Emilio Nava, Eliot Spizzirri, Zane Khan, Tyler Zink and Toby Kodat.  The boys initial cutoff was 91, with the girls cutoff 75. One player, Moyuka Uchijima of Japan, received main draw acceptance based on a pro ranking. She is 396 WTA, just making the Top 400 cutoff to receive main draw entry.

Denmark's Clara Tauson, who did not play the four North American tournaments that closed out the 2018 ITF Junior Circuit, is the top entrant in the girls draw, with Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria the top entrant in the boys draw.

I expected the ITF's new Transition Tour (now known as the ITF WorldTennisTour), which reserves space in lower level pro events for its Top 100 juniors, to have a positive impact on the fields in the major junior events, but that doesn't appear to be the case in Australia. The girls cutoff is higher, but the boys is about the same, and as usual, many of the top juniors are not making the journey.  It's probably too early to tell, since the cutoffs for the 15Ks and 25Ks under the new system aren't yet known, how important the ITF junior ranking position is, but Australia is an ideal way to secure big points early in the year.

In college signing news, blue chip senior Jenson Brooksby, who won the 18s title in Kalamazoo this year, announced he had signed with Baylor. Brooksby, who had verbally committed to TCU back in May, recently reconsidered, and today announced on Instagram that he had signed with Baylor for 2019-20. For more, see Baylor's release.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Junior Orange Bowl Begins Wednesday with Lilov, Quan, Ngounoue and Tang No. 1 Seeds; US Dominates America's Cup in Lake Nona

The Junior Orange Bowl begins on Wednesday in four locations in the Miami area, and Americans are the No. 1 seeds in three of the divisions.  Les Petits As champion Victor Lilov, who won the boys 12s title in 2016, is the No. 1 seed in the boys 14s, and Rudy Quan, who has won every USTA 12s National Championship in 2018, is the No. 1 seed in the boys 12s.

Clervie Ngounoue, who reached the Eddie Herr 14s final two weeks ago, is playing the Junior Orange Bowl 12s again this year, after reaching the semifinals last year.  Yayi Tang of Taiwan is the No. 1 seed in the girls 14s.

The tournament has provided a preview, which can be found here. There is one mistake in the paragraph about Quan. He has lost a 12s match this year, to Eddie Herr champion Maximus Dussault, in the semifinals at the Eddie Herr.

Below are the top 8 seeds in each age division. The full list of seeds (16 seeds for the 12s, 32 seeds for the 14s) and the draws are available now at the TennisLink site.

Boys 12s:
1. Rudy Quan(USA)
2. Alexander Razeghi(USA)
3. Antonio Volijavec(CRO)
4. Maximus Dussault(USA)
5. Quang Duong(USA)
6. Leo Cohen Bacrie(FRA)
7. Kaylan Bigun(USA)
8. Andrew Rundle(USA)

Boys 14s:
1. Victor Lilov(USA)
2. Bruno Kuzuhara(USA)
3. Chak Iam Wong(HKG)
4. Juncheng Shang(USA)
5. Constantinos Koshis(CYP)
6. Mili Poljicak(CRO)
7. John Kim(USA)
9. Fnu Nidunjianzan(USA)

Girls 12s:
1. Clervie Ngounoue(USA)
2. Brooklyn Olson(USA)
3. Valerija Kargina(LAT)
4. Jovana Grujic(SRB)
5. Amber Yin(USA)
6. Sara Saito(JPN)
7. Ela Milic(SLO)
8. Yufei Ren(CHN)

Girls 14s:
1. Yayi Tang(TPE)
2. Eleana Yu(USA)
3. Katja Wiersholm(USA)
4. Melisa Ercan(TUR)
5. Vivian Ovrootsky(USA)
6. Marina Stakusic(CAN)
7. Daniella Benabraham(USA)
8. Rebecca Lynn(USA)

Standing: Armistead, Colak, Brantmeier, Kreuger; Kim, Kang, Wiersholm, Ngounoue

In the week plus between the Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl, some players compete in the Orange Bowl 16s, but four US boys and four US girls play in the recently introduced team competition at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, the America's Cup. 14-and-under teams from the USA, Canada, Cosat(South America) and Cotecc(Caribbean) play each other, and this year, the United States won all three of its matches, beating Canada 7-1, Cosat 7-2 and Cotecc 7-2.

The US team consisted of Clervie Ngounoue, Reese Brantmeier, Katja Wiersholm, Ashlyn Kreuger, Jackson Armistead, Ozan Colak, Kyle Kang and Aidan Kim. Complete results can be found here.

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.