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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Klugman Makes British Tennis History with Orange Bowl Title; Panarin Heads to College with Boys Championship

©Colette Lewis 2023--
Plantation FL--

Fourteen-year-old Hannah Klugman and 18-year-old Daniel Panarin came into the ITF J500 Orange Bowl finals Sunday with differing perspectives.

Klugman was trying to capture the Orange Bowl title that had eluded her in the 14s division the past two years, while Panarin was motivated to end his junior career on a high note. Both reached their goals on a breezy morning at the Veltri Tennis Center, earning the coveted crystal bowl of oranges that has gone to its champions for 77 years.

Klugman, the No. 5 seed, defeated No. 6 seed Tyra Grant of the United States 6-3, 6-3, to become the first girl from Great Britain to capture the Orange Bowl title.

"I was walking by the poster of all the great players who won this, and it's great to be among them," said Klugman, who will join grand slam champions Sofia Kenin, Bianca Andreescu and Coco Gauff on next year's banner. "It's just a step in the journey, there's a lot more to go, but it's nice to take these wins along the way."

Klugman wasn't aware she would make history with the title, not realizing that none of the names on the banner were from Great Britain.

"Is there no one?" she replied when asked if she had noted the absence of a British winner. "Oh my god, first one, I didn't know that."

Klugman had won four consecutive three-set matches to reach the final, and saved a match point in her 7-6(2), 0-6, 7-6(2) quarterfinal win over top seed Laura Samsonova, but she looked in control from the beginning against Grant.

Despite wind speeds of 15-20 mphs, Klugman won the first eight points of the final, serving well despite the necessity of extra ball tosses. Grant found her footing in the third game, getting the break back, but Klugman broke in the next game and stayed in the lead. With Klugman serving for the set, Grant had a small opening at 30-all, but Klugman won the next two points, putting away a short ball at the net on her first set point.

"It was very windy, tough to get into points, to feel your game," Klugman said. "A lot of starting and stopping, a lot of short points."

Grant was not happy with her performance, particularly on serve.

"In this match, serve was a big factor, and she definitely served unreal," said the 15-year-old from Orlando, who trains at the USTA National Campus. "I didn't serve really well today. It was really windy and I didn't play with the wind, if you know what I mean, didn't use it to my advantage. I had some chances to get back in the match and I didn't use all of them."

After falling behind 3-0 in the first set, Grant got both of the breaks back, with Klugman double faulting at 2-3 ad-out to put Grant back in the second set, which gave some hope to the mostly pro-Grant crowd. Grant provided more optimism when she went up 40-15 in her service game, but Klugman hit a lovely slice passing short to earn an advantage and she retook the lead when Grant make an unforced error on the backhand.

"At a set and 3-love up, it went back to 3-all, but I was mentally very strong today to stay at and get that game," Klugman said. "I think that was a key game to get to 4-3, and the next two games I was on top of her. But the match was definitely tighter than what the score was."

Klugman reflected on winning the 18s title just a year removed from falling, as the top seed, in the 14s final in Coral Gables last year.

"Last year I was very disappointed, making the final of 14s," said Klugman, who is one month older than Gauff, who was also 14 when she won the Orange Bowl title in 2018. "I was really gutted not to get the win there. But obviously to get the win in 18s now, at just 14, it's great."

Klugman's coach Ben Haran credits Klugman for taking that disappointment a year ago in stride while continuing to develop her game.

"It's simple stuff," said Haran who has been working with Klugman for nearly four years at Reeds School Tennis Academy in Surrey, while also training at the LTA's National Tennis Centre. "She's worked on her game, taken on board the areas she needs to improve, she's gotten stronger, physically better. And I think mentally, the last six months, she's showed a lot of improvement, resilience, a lot of fighting qualities."

Klugman reached the quarterfinals of $60,000 and $100,000 tournaments on the ITF women's World Tennis Tour in October, which is another improvement Haran has seen in the past year.

"She adapts very well to the levels," Haran said. "She plays a level and goes up a level and she adapts her game very well to that level."

Klugman has not yet signed a professional contract with any of the management agencies eager to represent her, with the Klugman family in no hurry to take that step.

"She's done things like this quickly, but at the end of the day, she's still young," Haran said. "Most important is that she keeps her feet on the ground, keeps working hard, keeps doing what she's been doing the last three years. Nothing needs to change."

Klugman will be making her first trip to Australia next month, to compete in the J300 in Traralgon and the Australian Open Junior Championships, with Grant also planning to compete in those two events.

Panarin's junior slam days are behind him, but he could not ask for a better ending to his junior career: a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Luca Preda in the first final between unseeded players in this century.

After his 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 semifinal win over No. 9 seed Kaylan Bigun, Panarin said his goal was to enjoy his last junior tournament, with no ranking points pressure, and the beginning of his college career next month at Vanderbilt.

"Honestly I feel so happy, I didn't expect this," said Panarin, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. "I was just trying to enjoy this game, enjoy this final."

Panarin had beaten Preda in two tiebreakers in the semifinals at the J300 last month in Mexico, but the Orange Bowl final was not nearly as close, with Panarin attributing that to conditions in Mexico and his commitment to a different style of play today.

"Last time we played in Guadalajara, it was altitude, 1500 meters, so the game is completely different," Panarin said. "The serve is working much more there than here. Here there are longer points, so I was just trying to make it more physical for him. I had this tactic and was trying to keep this tactic through the whole match."

Preda had his chance in the first set, with Panarin serving at 4-all 40-0. The lanky 17-year-old brought the score to deuce, then earned a break point, but Panarin's serve came up big, with a good first serve saving that and propelling him to the hold.  

Panarin then seized his opportunity with Preda serving at 30-40, winning a long and intense rally before Preda's defensive volley landed wide.

The second set was less competitive, with Panarin maintaining his level and Preda unable to match it.

"He played really well, I didn't really get to play that well like I did these last two weeks," said Preda, who was 146 in the ITF junior rankings just a month ago. "He served well, played balls really deep, he didn't really miss, so congratulations to him."

Preda, who will head to Australia next month for his first junior slam, is satisfied with how his first trip to North America played out.

"It's been great," said Preda. "I've played really good matches, really tough matches, and for my future, it will really help me a lot."

Panarin agreed that his level was high throughout the match.

"I think I played good, sometimes there were some very, very tough moments but I think I handled them very well, mentally and physically. I was just trying to stay solid on all the shots, I don't think any were much better than the others, but it's good that all the shots were working. It's just a great finish to my junior career before going off to college."

Vanderbilt assistant coach TJ Pura was in Plantation throughout the week, supporting Panarin as he made what most would characterize as an unexpected run.

"It does suprise not me," Pura said. "Danil is a mental giant and he really plays the game in such a smart way. It's been beautiful to see him grow and develop over the last six months, and for it to culminate in his winning the Orange Bowl, no one could be more deserving. We're really excited for Danil to be a Commodore."

Panarin will be the first Orange Bowl champion to attend college since John McEnroe who won the title in 1976. McEnroe played one year at Stanford in 1977-78, winning the NCAA title in 1978.

Saturday, December 9, 2023

Friedman and Mosejczuk Capture Orange Bowl 16s Titles; Grant and Klugman, Panarin and Preda Reach 18s Finals; Americans Sweep 18s Doubles Championships

©Colette Lewis 2023--
Plantation Florida--

Sixteen-year-old New Yorkers Leena Friedman and Dominick Mosejczuk, both No. 2 seeds, captured the 16s Orange Bowl singles titles on a breezy Saturday at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center.

Friedman got off to a slow start in more ways than one in her 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 3 seed Thea Frodin, with the beginning of the match delayed when Frodin had to change her attire due to a impermissible logo. Frodin came out swinging in the opening set, while Friedman struggled to find the form that had propelled her to the final.

"I think it was the combination of the conditions and nerves," Friedman said. "And Thea was playing really well. I was pretty late on some of the balls, and after I lost the first set, I went to the bathroom, splashed some water on my face and said, 'I made it to the final, I just need to go out there and have fun and play loose.'"

That pep talk resulted in a 4-0 lead to open the second set, but Frodin got one of the breaks back for 4-1, saved two set points at 2-5, and two more with Friedman serving at 5-3. But after digging out of that hole, Frodin played a shaky game, missing an overhead and make two unforced errors, giving Friedman the second set.

"In the first set I was so good, almost too good, and then I kind of gave it away at the end," said Frodin, a 14-year-old from Woodland Hills California, who trains with the USTA in Lake Nona and in Carson. "I give away a lot of points, probably because it's Christmas, and I've got to stop being so nice to people," Frodin joked as she struggled to control her tears. "I think she played really well, she's a really good player."

Once Friedman got on track the third set went quickly, with Friedman winning the last five games of the match to avenge her three-set loss this spring at the ITF J300 in San Diego.

Friedman said she didn't know how Frodin felt about the clay, but she was extremely comfortable on it.

"I do really love this surface," said Friedman, who is coached by Richard Bowie. "It was pretty windy, so I think playing on clay rather than hard with the wind is nicer for sure."

Friedman had played both ITF tournaments in Mexico, taking out the No. 6 seed in the second round of the J500 in Merida two weeks ago, so she was confident coming into the Orange Bowl. But now she is ready to enjoy being an Orange Bowl champion.

"We ended up being gone for four weeks, because I got into main draw in Merida, and it was a good opportunity and an amazing experience," Friedman said. "So now we're taking it slow. I'm going to keep training, spend time with my family over this break. We're still deciding, Winters, Australia."

As for a celebration, Friedman will end her tournament abstention from sweets on her trip home.

"I don't really do desserts at tournaments, so we usually splurge, eating chocolates on the plane," said Friedman, who is the sixth consecutive US girl to take the 16s title.

Mosejczuk's 7-6(5), 6-3 win over No. 8 seed Ronit Karki featured a 73-minute first set, with Mosejczuk trailing 3-0 in the tiebreaker, then winning the next six points before dropping the next two. When he finally closed out the set with a forehand volley winner, Mosejczuk felt himself relax and he was able to keep Karki on the defensive in the second set.

"I guess I got a little more loose and played my tennis in the second set," said Mosejczuk, who has been training in Spain this year at the BTT Academy in Barcelona. "When you go to a breaker, every point matters, especially going down 3-0, that was a big deficit. In the second set, there was still a lot of pressure of course, but I could take a deep breath I guess, reset."

Karki, who has a long history of matches with Mosejczuk dating back to the 12s in the Eastern section, said he's seen a big improvement in Mosejczuk's game.

"He's definitely more disciplined in his shot selection," said Karki, a 16-year-old from New Jersey, who now trains at the Gooding-Todero Academy in Orlando. "His serve's definitely gotten a lot better and he's definitely a lot fitter."

Karki said he struggled with his best shots in the windy conditions.

"Normally I love my backhand, but today, with the wind, I was finding it very tricky," Karki said. "And I was serving very well before, even yesterday I was serving well, but today, either the wind or the nerves or a combination of both, it was not as good as I would like it to be."

Mosejczuk's points to his time in Spain as a major factor in the  improvements in his game.

"Training in Spain, you really have to make the right shots," Mosejczuk said. "On clay courts, it's ten times longer rallies, ten times longer matches and you've got to make smart choices. I thought I learned a lot in the past year, and I'm just ready to get better and better at clay court tennis."

Mosejczuk has tangible evidence of that improvement after a first round exit at the Orange Bowl in 2022.

"Last year I lost in the first round, which was a bit tough," said Mosejczuk, who saved a match point in his third round win over Ryan Cozad. "It's a big difference, so I'm very happy, it's amazing. I just can't wait to get home to my family."

Karki is planning to play the USTA Winter Nationals 18s in Lake Nona at the end of the month, while Mosejczuk is taking the rest of the year off before starting play on the ITF Junior Circuit.

Both of the girls ITF J500 finalists had to come from a set down in their semifinal matches, with No. 6 seed Tyra Grant defeating Akasha Urhobo 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the all-US semifinal and No. 5 seed Hanna Klugman of Great Britain coming from a set and 3-1 down to beat No. 4 seed Iva Jovic of the United States 1-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Klugman, who has now won four consecutive three-set matches, saving a match point in her quarterfinal win over top seed Laura Samsonova of the Czech Republic, admitted that she had to adjust to the conditions in the opening set.

"It was very windy today and I was finding it very hard to control the ball in the first set," said Klugman, a 14-year-old from Wimbledon. "I was a bit unsure how much spin to put on the ball, but in the last two sets I really went for it, was aggressive, and that what I think got me the win today. I was stepping up much better."

Klugman pointed to the seventh game of the third set as the crucial one, after Jovic had fought back from a break down for 3-3. 

"At 3-all we had a really tight game, she had game points, I had game points, and that was a big turning point, getting that game," said Klugman, who reached the Junior Orange Bowl 14s final last year and will be playing in her first J500 final 12 months later."Then I played two really great games, was really aggressive."

Grant and Urhobo both had difficult holding serve, with Grant getting a final break to earn a spot in her first J500 final.

"What was weird is that we both have really good serves, but it was way easier to break than to hold," said the 15-year-old Grant, who trains with the USTA in Lake Nona. "I just tried to stay consistent, make her play as many balls as I could, because once I dropped the ball short, she would hit a drop shot or a good shot."

Grant and Urhobo played in the final of the Delray Beach ITF J100 this spring, with Grant retiring with an illness, so Grant was well aware of the challenge she faced today.

"She has such a unique game style and since you don't usually find players like that around, it's a struggle to play her," Grant said. "I was just trying to be consistent, hit a lot of balls with spin, make the rallies last as long as I could. Short points are not what I wanted."

Grant, who began the year ranked outside the ITF Junior Circuit Top 300, credits her experiences at the junior slams and some technical tweaks with giving her a boost this year.

"I think I just matured a lot as a player," said Grant, who won the Roland Garros doubles title with Clervie Ngounoue. "I got a lot of experience, played three of the four slams this year. I also changed my forehand grip, which is definitely helping a lot and I've worked on my movement so much. I've matured in little aspects and if you just put them together, it makes you a better player overall."

Grant and Klugman played once, back in February of 2020 in the final of the Auray Tennis Europe Category 1 tournament, which Klugman won 6-4, 6-3.

"She's a great player, I played her when we were like 10, 11, and we've changed a lot," Klugman said. "She's a really aggressive player and it's going to be a good match tomorrow I hope. One more match."

For the first time this century, two unseeded players will compete for the boys Junior Orange Bowl title on Sunday, with Luca Preda of Romania defeating No. 7 seed Sebastian Eriksson of Sweden 7-5, 7-5 and Danil Panarin of Russia eliminating No. 9 seed Kaylan Bigun 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

Eriksson was up 4-2 in the first set but Preda, who has not lost a set all week, got that break back and then another with Eriksson serving at 5-6.

Preda served for the match at 5-3, but Eriksson, who is not normally emotional on court, was still seething from a call in the previous game. Although the argument about the chair umpire identifying the wrong mark on a first serve went as far as the assistant referee, it didn't change the call,  leading to an incensed Eriksson hitting a Mach 1 forehand winner after Preda returned the second serve. That gave Eriksson the game, and he then broke Preda at love to get back on serve.

"He got more loose, felt he didn't have anything to lose, so he began to play well," Preda said. "Mentally I'm glad I stayed with it, because I was leading 5-2 and he came back to 5-5. But I was really strong in those moments and that got me the win."

Eriksson saved a match point at 4-5, but Preda got a love hold for 6-5, and Eriksson couldn't overcome the double fault at 15-30, sending a backhand long to give Preda the win.

Preda, ranked 146 a month ago, has gone 14-3 in the past four weeks in his first trip to North America, and is not in the least tired.

"I feel very good, very good," said the 17-year-old, who trains in Romania. "I could play two more weeks if I had to."

While he had success on the red clay in Mexico, getting three wins at the J300 in Zapopan and two at the J500 in Merida, he's really found his form on the Har-Tru, reaching the semifinals of the Eddie Herr and now the finals of the Orange Bowl.

"I really like it," said Preda. "At first I was like, it looks weird, but now I feel very good here. Bradenton last week was the first time I've played on it, and I like the courts; they feel very good."

Preda is taking all his recent success in stride. 

"I'm not surprised at all," Preda said. "Of course I believe in myself. Maybe other people are, but I knew I could do this, that I could play this well. I believe in myself and it's been great."

One of Preda's few losses on this trip came at the hands of his opponent in tomorrow's final, with Panarin taking a 7-6(8), 7-6(8) decision in the semifinals of the J300 in Zapopan.

Panarin had never played Bigun before, but knew his game and was impressed with his level, particularly in the second set.

"Today was a really tough match, Kaylan played unreal," said Panarin, who begins his college tennis career at Vanderbilt next month. "Honestly, I've never seen him play this good. I feel like I was not playing bad, but in second set he pressing me a little bit more than the first set, put a lot of pressure on me."

In the third set Panarin broke early and kept his lead, but with Bigun saving a match point serving a 3-5, he gave himself a chance in the next game, or rather Panarin did, hitting a bad drop shot to make the score 15-40. But Paranin saved both break points with a backhand winner and a Bigun forehand that went just long, then cracked an ace to earn a second match point. He converted it, with Bigun's backhand going wide. 

"I was just thinking about my tactics, trying to make my first serve," said the 18-year-old, who trains at IMG Academy in Bradenton. "He was playing so good until the end, so it was tough to win this match."

Panarin did not play this clay court swing with any ranking goals in mind, but rather to enjoy his last month on the junior circuit.

"I think maximum what I could get would be maximum Top 30 by the end of the year," Panarin said. "It's still pretty good for me, and I'm happy to have such a good tournament at the end of my junior career."

As with the singles final, the boys doubles final featured no seeds, with Matthew Forbes and Andrew Delgado of the United States saving a match point in their 3-6, 6-3, 11-9 win over Atakan Karahan of Turkey and Hoyoung Roh of Korea.

Forbes and Delgado had saved three match points in their 6-7(8), 7-6(9), 10-3 second round victory over top seeds Iliyan Radulov of Bulgaria and Rei Sakamoto of Japan, but the ending of the final was even more dramatic.

Nursing a one point minibreak lead through the first two change of ends, Delgado made a backhand error for 7-7, just the second point of the 14 played that went to the returning team. Roh held both of his serves for 9-8, and Forbes hit a good first serve to save the match point. On the next point, the tennis gods smiled on the Americans, with Forbes missing his first serve, but getting a net cord ace on his second, with the ball hitting the tape and barely dribbling over.  

"Those two serves at 8-9 and 9-all I was just going to hit them as hard as I physically could," said the 17-year-old Forbes, who has signed with North Carolina for next fall. "But I did not expect the let cord to happen, but it helped a lot. At 10-9, [Karahan] hit a good serve, I barely got to it and he just missed."

The Orange Bowl title makes up for some indifferent results recently for the pair, who went 1-2 in the J300s in Zapopan and Bradenton before this week.

"The funny thing is, leading up until this tournament we were on a losing streak," said the 18-year-old Delgado, who is committed to Wake Forest for 2024. "We were not doing so good. A couple of months back we had a good win, and we decided we'd play the rest of the year together, and I'm glad we didn't bail on each other, that's for sure."

Forbes said he changed his approach for this tournament.

"I was playing like a bit scared," said Forbes, who reached the Orange Bowl 16s singles final last year. "Not going for it as much. I just needed to go for it more and this is what happens."

Grant and Jovic had divergent results in their singles semifinals today, but they replicated their success in doubles, with the 2022 champions taking their second straight title with a 6-4, 6-2 win over top seeds and Wimbledon junior champions Laura Samsonova and Alena Kovackova of the Czech Republic.

Grant and Jovic, who are the first repeat champions in girls doubles since records were kept in 1993, had to work their way into top form, but they hit their stride in the semifinals and dominated in Saturday's final.

"Yesterday and today we were really locked in from the beginning and it went our way pretty easily I'd say," Grant said. "

"We didn't miss too much today, thankfully," Jovic said. "Our game style, just our aggression, was great, and it was super clean."

Grant agreed that forcing the issue was a key to their win.

"Obviously both of them are great singles players and they're really consistent," Grant said.  "But we were pressuring them, and they made some mistakes, and we were playing our game."

With Jovic out of action due to injury from March to September, Grant played with other partners including her Roland Garros title with Clervie Ngounoue, but both were happy to get back together for the end of 2023.

"We had a little pause in our doubles action, because of my injuries, but it's nice to know we still have it," Jovic said.

With rain a possibility Sunday afternoon, both finals will be played at 10 a.m., rather than back-to-back, which is the norm when weather is not an issue.

Draws are here; live scoring is here.

Friday, December 8, 2023

Eddie Herr ITF Recap; Drama Dominates at Orange Bowl with No. 1 Seeds Falling; All-American 16s Finals Set for Saturday; 16s Doubles Champions Crowned

©Colette Lewis 2023--
Plantation FL--

The Eddie Herr International J300 always provides great storylines coming into the Orange Bowl, which has served as the season's finale on the ITF Junior Circuit calendar. This year's champions, Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez of Mexico and Wakana Sonobe of Japan, had special runs last week for several reasons, which are highlighted in my recap, posted today, at the Tennis Recruiting Network. My review of the Eddie Herr 12s, 14s and 16s divisions final, published yesterday, is available here

Drama--umpire hindrance, a third-set tiebreaker, an unfortunate third set injury--made several appearances today at the Veltri Tennis Center, in the ITF J500 Orange Bowl quarterfinals and the 16s semifinals.

The three American girls who advanced to the semifinals all managed to do so in straight sets, with No. 4 seed Iva Jovic defeating qualifier Jeline Vandromme of Belgium 6-3, 6-1 and No. 6 seed Tyra Grant ending the Orange Bowl winning streak of 2022 16s champion Alexis Nguyen 6-1, 6-1.

As well as both Jovic and Grant played, they were outshone by wild card Akasha Urhobo, who defeated No. 2 seed Kaitlin Quevedo 6-4, 7-6(1).

Urhobo had played for over three hours in both her previous matches, but against a player as solidly consistent as Quevedo, the 16-year-old from Fort Lauderdale knew she had to revise her approach.

"I had a big pep talk with my dad yesterday about going in and getting it done, sticking to my game plan right from the jump," said Urhobo, who trailed 3-0 and saved two set points serving at 4-5 and 5-6 in the second set. "As everyone could see, my last three matches were very tight, so I wanted to break the curse."

Quevedo, who reached the final of the last tournament she played, the J500 in Merida two weeks ago, was not able to engage Urhobo in long baseline rallies, with Urhobo mixing in serve and volley points, and employing her drop shot with great success.

In the final four games, Urhobo had four clean drop shot winners, two of them in the tiebreaker, the first to take a 5-1 lead and the second on match point.

"Yes, it was part of my plan," said Urhobo, who also displayed her defensive skills when necessary. "I like to bring the drop shots to every match."

Urhobo will play Grant, whom she beat 6-2 4-1 ret. in the final of a J100 on clay this past April in Delray Beach.

"It's been a while, so I'll have to see how her game's changed, how my game's changed, see what I can bring to tomorrow's match," Urhobo said. "I'm going to have to do my best and stay on top tomorrow."

The other girls semifinal will be a first meeting between Jovic and 14-year-old Hannah Klugman of Great Britain. Klugman saved a match point in her 7-6(2), 0-6, 7-6(2) win over top seed Laura Samsonova of the Czech Republic, a stark contrast to the last time they played, in the 2023 US Open quarterfinals, with Klugman retiring with an ab injury trailing 6-0, 3-0.

The first set was on Samsonova's racquet, with the 15-year-old serving at 5-4, 40-0. But Klugman, seeded No. 5, fought back to take the set, rising her level in the tiebreaker, only to see Samsonova blitz through the second set. 

Samsonova again had the upper hand in the third set, breaking Klugman to take a 5-3 lead, but she was unable to serve it out, with Klugman breaking at 30-40 to get back on serve.

Down a match point serving at 4-5, Klugman went big, hitting a huge first serve and a forehand winner, as both girls continued to play aggressively on offense and effectively on defense to keep the points long regardless of who was serving. Klugman admitted that being down 5-3 in the third set wasn't as daunting after what she had done in the first set.

"That was definitely the biggest key to the match actually," said Klugman, who reached the quarterfinals of a ITF women's $100K in October. "I was 5-4, 40-love down and came back and won it, so in the third, I was like, you can do this again. Trust yourself, put it all out there, this is the last tournament of the year and I really wanted to finish on a high, and I definitely have, but let's go for more."

Klugman dominated the tiebreaker, with Samsonova making a crucial unforced forehand error to give Klugman two minibreak lead. Samsonova got one back with a forehand winner of her own to make it 5-2, but got no closer as Klugman won the final two points with Samsonova serving to end the two-hour and 56 minute battle.

Samsonova had company in her loss, as boys top seed Iliyan Radulov of Bulgaria fell to No. 7 seed Sebastian Eriksson of Sweden 6-4, 6-2.

Eriksson had lost to Radulov 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the Eddie Herr last week and also back in January, but he was the more consistent competitor today.

"I think I played better than last week for sure, less mistakes, more consistent," said the 18-year-old right-hander. "Maybe he played worse, but I won today and that's what matters."

With their two previous meetings, Eriksson knew what to expect and that a better level was necessary if he was to advance.

"He's very solid, so you need to be focused on every point, he doesn't give anything for free," said Eriksson, who won the J500 in Offenbach this spring as a qualifier. "But I think I did that good today."

Eriksson will face unseeded Luca Preda of Romania, who defeated No. 5 seed Alex Frusina 7-5, 6-3. Preda also reach the semifinals of the Eddie Herr last week.

The bottom half of the boys draw will also feature an unseeded player, with Danil Panarin of Russia facing No. 9 seed Kaylan Bigun. 

Panarin, who will be joining the Vanderbilt team next month, breezed past Hoyoung Roh of Korea 6-2, 6-0, just one day after Roh had stunned No. 2 seed Juan Carlos Prado Angelo of Bolivia.

This week Bigun has played three matches of over three hours, including today's 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4 win over No. 3 seed Nicolai Budkov Kjaer of Norway.

Having saved five match points in his first round match Tuesday, Bigun wasn't about to get rattled when, on match point, the chair umpire called a let on a serve that landed in the box. 

This happens on occasion, with lets played in juniors, but not in pro tennis, where many of the chair umpires spend the majority of their time, but it's certainly magnified on such a significant point.

Bigun made his first serve and hit a forehand winner, on the replayed point, so no harm was done, but the umpire hindrance certainly added to the tension.

"I told myself, we're out here for three hours and we're tired, so the ref's probably tired as well," said the recent UCLA signee. "If the match wouldn't have gone my way starting from that call, I definitely would have been pretty upset, but I just told myself no problem."

Bigun is convinced that his recent training blocks helped him close out today's match.

"I feel like I can go out there three hours, four hours still feel fresh after," said the 17-year-old left-hander. "Tennis is only becoming more physical so I spent a lot of time in gym and on the court. He was getting tired, so I tried to keep my energy up, keep my legs moving, and today it worked out."

As for his first round escape, Bigun doesn't spend too much time thinking about how he got out of that dilemma.

"Sometimes I scratch my head, I don't know how that happened," said Bigun, who lost first round three-setters in both the Merida J500 and last week's Eddie Herr. "But, ultimately, I'm here now, so I can't do too much thinking about it."

Panarin and Bigun have not played, although they know each other well and have practiced together.

In the 16s, only one of the semifinals were played, with No. 2 seed Leena Friedman defeating No. 6 seed Polina Sleptsova of Kazakhstan 6-2, 6-1. No. 3 seed Thea Frodin advanced to the final via walkover, with Aoife Kuo unable to play due to injury.

Friedman and Frodin played earlier this year in the first round of J300 in San Diego with Frodin taking a 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-4 decision.

That match was on hard courts, and although Friedman said she likes all surfaces, she is particularly fond of clay.

"I love clay, but in New York, you have to get used to playing on all different kinds of surfaces, because there aren't that many courts available, especially indoors and in the winter," the 16-year-old said. 

Not only is Friedman excited to be in the final, she is relishing the opportunity to face Frodin again.

"It was really close, a three or four hour match, but it did not go my way," said Friedman, who hasn't lost a set this week. "So I'm happy tomorrow to get another chance."

The boys 16s final will also feature two Americans, with No. 2 seed Dominick Mosejczuk facing No. 8 seed Ronit Karki.

Mosejczuk defeated unseeded Gavin Goode 6-1, 6-3, with Goode suffering a bad fall early in the match that led to a quick first set. 

"I feel each day throughout the tournament, I'm getting my groove," said the 16-year-old from New York, who saved a match point in his third round win over Ryan Cozad. "He took a little tumble in the first set, which I think affected his play, but in the second set he looked like he was moving a little better. But I think I stuck with him a little longer, he made some mistakes and broke him and took control of it."

Mosejczuk has been training at the BTT Academy in Spain since the beginning of the year. 

"What other place to go than to Spain to learn to grind on the dirt," said Mosejczuk, who also trains at the Cary Leeds Center in the Bronx. "I've been playing hard court for most of my life, so it's definitely a difficult transition, a new game style of course, but I feel I'm making smart decisions, better decisions, staying in rallies longer. I've developed a lot, not only as a player, but as a person."

Karki found himself in a difficult situation in the third set of his 2-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory over unseeded Jack Satterfield, the recent Eddie Herr 16s champion. Satterfield aggravated a back injury reaching for a forehand up 3-1 in the third and was forced to serve sidearm and underhand from then on, in obvious pain.

Down 4-1, Karki won the next four games, and was serving up 30-0 at 5-4, but Satterfield won the next four points to get even.

"I tried to just focus on what I'm doing on my side of the court and not let it affect me," said the 16-year-old, who trains at the Gooding-Todero Academy in Orlando. "But it was very hard to adjust and I got very tight the first few games I had to play when he got hurt."

Karki said he wasn't surprised that Satterfield continued to play through the injury. 

"I knew he was a fighter, and it's so deep in the tournament, he was going to want to give it his all in the third," Karki said. "So I expected him to leave it all out there."

Satterfield went down 0-40 in his next service game, won four straight points, but could not convert his game point and Karki broke to serve for the match the second time. This time he finished it, but he was subdued about the circumstances of reaching the Orange Bowl final.

"It feels good and I'm definitely proud of myself for getting this far, but it's hard," Karki said. "Considering that Jack was playing very well and if he didn't get hurt he would have had a very good shot at winning today. It's a little underwhelming, but it's a new match tomorrow and I've got this far, so I've got to be very hyped."

Karki and Mosejczuk have played frequently, because, although both are training elsewhere now, they grew up playing in the Eastern section.

"We're from the same section, so I think we've played each other seven times," Karki said. "But I haven't played him in a while, so I'm definitely looking forward to it. I think like the first four times I lost to him, when we were younger, and then I caught up to his level a little bit and we started having some really good battles, kept going back and forth."

The 16s doubles championships were played Friday afternoon, with a veteran team and a newly formed one claiming the titles.

No. 5 seeds Ryan Cozad and Yannik Alvarez, this year's Easter Bowl 14s champions, defeated No. 6 seeds Simon Caldwell and Zachary Cohen 6-3, 6-3, to capture the title without dropping a set.

"That's two gold balls and two silver, I think," said Alvarez, who lives in Atlanta, and represents Puerto Rico on the ITF Junior Circuit. "We've played together too many times to count," said Cozad, who trains at the GA Academy in Atlanta, with Alvarez's father Gilberto.

"We've played really well all week," said Cozad, 15. "We're just able to be more aggressive than the other teams for most of the tournament, actually, and it paid off for us. We were serving well and hitting our targets, so were able to hold serve most of the time."

"I'm usually better at the net, more aggressive, and he's amazing at the baseline," said Alvarez, also 15. "So if he gives me a deep ball, I just poach right there. He sets me up really well."

Cozad and Alvarez both characterized their Orange Bowl run as "amazing," and Cozad has a special celebration in mind.

"Now I can have my Chik-fil-A milkshake, cookies and cream."

The girls 16s doubles champions had never played together before but No. 3 seeds Aleksandra Kyselova of Ukraine and Zhang-Qian Wei of China found their way through three match tiebreakers to reach the final, where they defeated unseeded Anna Bennett and Emerey Gross of the United States 6-3, 6-4.

"She messaged the first day of qualies," said the 16-year-old Kyselova, who was the top seed in qualifying. "I said I don't know if we'll get in, but yeah, and I ended up getting in as a lucky loser. From the first match, I felt our games worked well together."

Although they had two 11-9 match tiebreaker wins, Kyselova said the never faced a match point. 

"We were in control in most of those matches, and the same thing today," said Kyselova, who trains with Gabriel Trifu. "It was really good today."

Wei gave Kyselova credit for keeping her on track in tight moments. 

"Sometimes when I'm not focused, she's focused, and she will help me," said the 15-year-old Wei, who lives and trains in China. "I really like our energy, because sometimes I can get pumped up and it's too much, so that's where we had a good balance. She was always calm."

As for a celebration, both girls are not planning anything in particular. 

"It's the last tournament of the year, and that's celebration enough for me, maybe eat some oranges," said Kyselova. "I will go back to China, have a rest, and keep on training," Wei said.

The 18s doubles finals are set for Saturday, with two unseeded teams meeting in the boys final.

Eddie Herr finalists Atakan Karahan of Turkey and Roh will face Andrew Delgado and Matthew Forbes of the United States. Karahan and Roh defeated Bernardo Munk Mesa of Spain and Panarin 6-0, 6-4, while Delgado and Forbes beat No. 3 seeds Budkov Kjaer and Lasse Poertner of Germany 5-7, 6-3, 10-4.

2022 Orange Bowl champions Grant and Jovic will defend their title, with the No. 3 seeds facing top seeds Alena Kovackova and Samsonova in the final.

Grant and Jovic defeated No. 2 seeds Quevedo and Klugman 6-4, 6-3, while Samsonova and Kovackova, the Wimbledon girls doubles champions, defeated unseeded Kaitlyn Rolls and Norway's Emily Sartz-Lunda 6-3, 6-3.

Draws and the order of play for Saturday are here.  Live scoring is here

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Eddie Herr 12s, 14s, 16s Recap; Roh Ousts No. 2 Seed Prado Angelo to Reach Orange Bowl J500 Quarterfinals; US Girl Guaranteed to Reach Final; 16s Semifinals, Doubles Finals Friday

©Colette Lewis--
Plantation FL--

Before the Orange Bowl moves into the weekend's last few matches, check out what happened last week in the 12s, 14s, and 16s divisions at the Eddie Herr in my Tennis Recruiting Network recap posted today. Michael Antonius and Kristina Penickova of the United States made history with their second Eddie Herr titles, and Americans Caroline Shao and Jack Secord also claimed titles at the IMG Academy. My review of the Eddie Herr ITF J300 will be posted Friday.

The debate on red clay versus green clay, the latter the surface of the Orange Bowl the past 13 years at the Veltri Tennis Center, isn't likely to end, but Hoyoung Roh of Korea showed Thursday that the surface a match is played on isn't always relevant. The 17-year-old from Korea played first strike tennis against No. 2 seed Juan Carlos Prado Angelo of Bolivia, the 2023 Roland Garros boys finalist, never backing down in his 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3 victory in the third round of the Orange Bowl J500.

Roh was certainly the underdog coming into the match, with his ITF junior ranking at 87, while Prado's is 10. Prado won his second $15,000 ITF men's World Tennis Tour tournament on Sunday on red clay in Bolivia, and is up to 609 in the ATP live rankings, but the 18-year-old was on his heels from the beginning and needed to take a tense tiebreaker to send the match to a third set.

Roh wasn't fazed when he didn't finish Prado off in two sets, holding and breaking to take a 2-0 lead in the third. Leading the entire third set, Roh just kept firing, resisting the tendency to protect his lead by playing more conservatively.

"I tried to be really aggressive from the baseline, tried to dictate on every ball," said Roh, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. "I thought it was going to be a really hard match, of course, didn't expect I'd win today's match, but my forehand was really working a lot. Fortunately I got a great result today, and I'm so happy about it."

Roh knew that keeping a positive frame was necessary, so when it came time to serve out the match at 5-3, he didn't mope even when two double faults--one at 30-0 and the second on his first match point at 40-15--betrayed his nervousness.

"I was kind of tight at 5-3, because it's the biggest win in my career," said Roh, who has reached one other J500 quarterfinal, in Offenbach Germany in April. "I'm kind of excited in the moment, so I think next time I need to calm down a little bit more in that moment."

If the second double fault bothered him, it didn't carry over to the next point, when he hit a huge first serve and a blistering forehand that landed on the line to earn the victory.

Roh will face fellow IMG student Danil Panarin of Russia, who defeated No. 10 seed Charlie Camus of Australia 6-4, 7-5.

Top seed Iliyan Radulov needed just 55 minutes to dispatch No. 15 seed Timofei Derepasko of Russia 6-0, 6-1 to set up a rematch of his Eddie Herr quarterfinal with Sebastian Eriksson of Sweden. Eriksson, the No. 7 seed, defeated Roger Pascual Ferra of Spain 6-2, 7-5 and will look to avenge his 6-3, 6-3 loss to Radulov last week in Bradenton.

Two American boys advanced to the quarterfinals, with No. 5 seed Alex Frusina defeating No. 11 seed Lasse Poertner of Germany 6-4, 6-4 and No. 9 seed Kaylan Bigun rolling past wild card Jack Secord 6-0, 6-0 in forty minutes.

Frusina plays unseeded Luca Preda of Romania, who beat Nikita Filin 6-0, 6-2, while Bigun takes on No. 3 seed Nicolai Budkov Kjaer of Norway, who advanced when No. 16 seed Charlie Robertson retired trailing 6-1.

An American girl will reach the final from the bottom half of the draw after six of them contested third round matches Thursday.

No. 6 seed Tyra Grant defeated No. 12 seed Elizara Yaneva of Bulgaria 6-2, 6-3 and will face 2022 Orange Bowl 16s champion Alexis Nguyen, who won the battle of the wild cards 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 over Elizabeth Inonescu. Nguyen was up 4-3 in the second set over the 15-year-old from Pennsylvania, who won the girls 18s USTA Indoor Championships two weeks ago, but lost her next two service games and the set.

Nguyen went up 4-0 in the third set, countering Ionescu's big forehand by staying in the long rallies and keeping the ball deep. Although Ionescu was vocally frustrated with her own level, she managed to get one of the breaks back when Nguyen served for the match at 5-2, with her backhand doing the damage. After an easy hold it was 5-4, but Nguyen didn't falter in her second opportunity, hitting a forehand winner for her first match point and converting it when Ionescu's forehand went long.

The second wild card in the quarterfinals is Akasha Urhobo, who has had played four tiebreakers and two matches over three hours to reach her first J500 quarterfinal. Today the 16-year-old from Fort Lauderdale took out Victoria Osuigwe 7-6(9), 5-7, 7-5 in three hours and 20 minutes, while her opponent in the quarterfinals, No. 2 seed Kaitlin Quevedo, needed only an hour and 22 minutes to defeated Rositsa Dencheva of Bulgaria 6-1, 6-2.

The only American in the top half of the girls draw is No. 4 seed Iva Jovic, who battled No. 16 seed Monika Stankiewicz of Poland for two hours before coming away with a 6-4, 6-4 victory. Stankiewicz, who had beaten Jovic in the first round of the Eddie Herr in 2022, played at a high level throughout the match, keeping her ball deep and her errors to a minimum. But when she let up just a bit, Jovic took advantage, and closed out both sets.

Jovic's opponent in the quarterfinals is qualifier Jeline Vandromme of Belgium who defeated No. 9 seed Iva Ivanova of Bulgaria 6-1, 6-1. Vandroome won the European 16s championships in September and the Tennis Europe 16s Masters last month. 

After her scare in the second round, top seed Laura Samsonova had no trouble in the round of 16, beating No. 13 seed Gloriana Nahum of Benin 6-0, 6-2. She'll face No. 5 seed Hannah Klugman of Great Britain, after the 14-year-old defeated No. 11 seed Alisa Oktiabreva of Russia 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in just under three hours. Samsonova defeated Klugman in the quarterfinals of the 2023 US Open Junior Championships, with Klugman retiring trailing 6-0, 3-0.

Friday's boys doubles semifinals feature just one seeded team: No. 3 seeds Poertner and Budkov Kjaer, who defeated Maxwell Exsted and Cooper Woestendick 6-2, 6-4.  They will play Andrew Delgado and Matthew Forbes, who got a walkover from No. 5 seeds Camus and Robertson.

In the bottom half, Kalamazoo 18s champions and No. 2 seeds Adhithya Ganesan and Frusina lost to Eddie Herr finalists Roh and Atakan Karahan of Turkey 6-7(7), 6-1, 10-7. They will play Bernardo Munk Mesa of Spain and Panarin, who beat No. 8 seeds Keegan Rice of Canada and Bigun 6-3, 6-2.

Three of the teams in the girls doubles semifinals are seeded, with the exception Kaitlyn Rolls and Norway's Emily Sartz-Lunde. Rolls and Sartz-Lunde, who beat Valerie Glozman and Aspen Schuman 7-6(5), 7-6(2), will play top seeds Samsonova and Alena Kovackova, who saved two match points in the 6-3, 6-7(4), 11-9 win over Mia Yamakita and Urhobo.

Defending champions Jovic and Grant, the No. 3 seeds, beat Trinetra Vijayakumar and Sophia Webster 6-7(5), 6-2, 10-4. They will play No. 2 seeds Quevedo and Klugman, who defeated No. 7 seeds Wakana Sonobe of Japan and Tatum Evans 6-4, 6-4.

The singles semifinals of the 16s are also on Friday's schedule, along with the doubles finals. The results of today's quarterfinals:

Girls 16s:
Aoife Kuo(USA) d. Eva Oxford[13](USA) 7-5, 6-3 
Thea Frodin[3](USA) d. Nancy Lee[9](USA) 7-5, 6-3

Polina Sleptsova[6](KAZ) d. Avery Nguyen(USA) 6-4, 7-6(2)
Leena Friedman[2](USA) d. Sobee Oak(USA) 6-1, 7-6(4) 

Boys 16s:
Jack Satterfield(USA) d. Madhav Binu(USA) 6-1, 6-2
Ronit Karki[8](USA) d. Roshan Santhosh(USA) 6-3, 6-3

Gavin Goode(USA) d. Nicholas Patrick(USA) 6-3, 6-3
Dominick Mosejczuk[2](USA) d. Jon Gamble[11](USA) 6-4, 6-4

The girls doubles final will feature No. 3 seeds Aleksandra Kyselova of Ukraine and Zhang-Qian Wei of China against the unseeded American team of Anna Bennett and Emerey Gross. Kyselova and Wei defeated Berlie Simmering and Katie Spencer 6-0, 3-6, 10-4 in today's semifinals, while Bennett and Gross defeated Nola Jones and Calla McGill 6-3, 4-6, 10-4.

In the boys doubles final, 2023 14s Easter Bowl champions Ryan Cozad and Yannik Alvarez, the No. 5 seeds, will face No. 6 seeds Simon Caldwell and Zachary Cohen. Cozad and Alvarez defeated No. 8 seeds Mark Krupkin and Ilija Palavestra 6-4, 6-4; Caldwell and Cohen beat Nathan Germino and Jack Satterfield 7-5, 6-2.

See the ustaorangebowl.com website for draws and the order of play for Friday.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Reigning Orange Bowl 16s Champion Nguyen Continues Her Winning Streak, Beating J500 No. 3 Seed Kovackova; Top Seed in B18s Doubles Upset; 16s Quarterfinals Feature 15 Americans

©Colette Lewis 2023--
Plantation FL--

When Alexis Nguyen returned to the Frank Veltri Tennis Center for the first time since winning the 16s Orange Bowl title last year, the 16-year-old from Northern California was all smiles.

"I was excited and happy, all the emotions from the final came back," Nguyen said. "I love these courts, every single time I go here I play well, so hopefully, my first time playing 18s, I could do well here."

Nguyen picked up her first ITF J500 win Monday, beating Natalia Perez of Puerto Rico, nearly 600 points above her in the ITF Junior Circuit rankings, 6-2, 6-1. In her second round match Wednesday Nguyen faced an even more daunting challenge, facing No. 3 seed Alena Kovackova of the Czech Republic, No. 12 in the ITF world junior rankings.

"When I first came out, I thought she's the three seed, I've never seen her play before, and it was kind of cold too," Nguyen said.
"I didn't warm up right and I was kind in my own head."

That led to a quick 6-1 set for Kovackova, before Nguyen honed her tactics to emerge with a 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 victory.

"So after the first set, I said, my shots aren't doing anything to her, but unless I sit it, she can't really kill me off the court, she's more of a grinding player too," Nguyen said. "So I said I'm going to start being really physical and make her not want to play against me. If I'm going to go down, I'm going to go down swinging as hard as I can, fighting, making her play long points."

Nguyen went up 5-2 in the second set, but was unable to serve it out at 5-2 or 5-4. Rather than lament those lost chances, Nguyen focused on the next game, not the past one.

"I don't think I played a bad game, but on important points I got really nervous," Nguyen said. "But I tried to keep very positive. I'm like it's ok, you're 5-all, you've still got this. I don't think I was losing at all in the second set, so I said, you're still in a good position, stay physical. Just go after the ball, then breathe, and you'll be fine."

In the tiebreaker, the server took only two of the first nine points, but at 5-4, Nguyen held when Kovackova made a unforced error on the forehand side, making it 6-4. Nguyen converted her first set point with a good first serve, a rare short point that Nguyen welcomed but was not seeking.

"I was trying to get the points to be longer," Nguyen said. "I needed to move the ball, run her, and I had opportunities. I tried to stay physical, because when I was soft, I knew I was getting tight and that's when she would win it."

In the third set, Nguyen got a quick break to go up 5-3, and was determined not to make the same mistake she made in the second set. 

"The last set you didn't really close it out, so it's this point, right here," said Nguyen, who is coached by Nick Bezzubchenko and Joe Gilbert at the JMG Academy in Sacramento. "Every single point, whether I lost it or won it, I said, this point, go physical and I'm going to run her."

The strategy worked from 0-15, with two long rallies going to Nguyen, the second when Kovackova netted a drop shot attempt. Nguyen missed her first serve at 30-15, but Kovackova missed a forehand return on the second serve to give Nguyen two match points. She missed a forehand wide on the first, but converted the second when Kovackova's forehand landed just long, although Nguyen had to stop play and ask for the mark to be checked.

"I saw the ball land out, I looked at it and seeing he didn't call it out, so I stopped the point and I circled it," Nguyen said. "I felt like if I lose this one, it's going to be a little tight."

Nguyen is one of six American girls in the bottom half of the draw, and she'll play another wild card, recent 18s USTA Indoor champion Elizabeth Ionescu, who beat No. 15 seed Mika Buchnik of Israel 6-4, 6-4.

Nguyen's twin sister Avery is through to the quarterfinals of the girls 16s tournament, with Alexis saying they are drawing inspiration from each other this week.

"If anything, it kind of takes a little pressure off each other," said Alexis, who now has an eight-match winning streak in the Orange Bowl. "If one of us loses, all the pressure is on the other one to stay in tournament. We also feed off each other, 'you played good, I played good too, let's do it again tomorrow, we've got this.'"

Aside from Buchnik and Kovackova, the other girls seeds in action advanced although the top two seeds were definitely tested. No. 1 Laura Samsonova of the Czech Republic dropped the first set to Elena Bertea of Romania out on Court 10, but bounced back for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory. No. 2 seed Kaitlin Quevedo battled Krisha Mahendran of India for 93 minutes before taking the first set 7-6(4), then closed out the California resident 6-3 in the second set.

The boys lost two Top 8 seeds in Wednesday's second round, with Eddie Herr semifinalist Luca Preda of Romania beating No. 4 seed Rei Sakamoto 6-4, 6-3 and Danil Panarin of Russia defeating No. 6 seed Adhithya Ganesan 7-6(1), 6-4. Nikita Filin defeated No. 14 seed Viktor Frydrych of Great Britain 6-4, 1-6, 7-5.

There are four US boys in the round of 16: No. 5 seed Alex Frusina, Filin, No. 6 seed Kaylan Bigun and wild card Jack Secord. Secord, the 16s Eddie Herr champion, beat Jagger Leach 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 and will play Bigun on Thursday for a spot in the quarterfinals. 

Top seed Iliyan Radulov of Bulgaria and No. 2 seed Juan Carlos Prado Angelo of Bolivia lost just five games between them in their second round victories.

Radulov, the reigning Orange Bowl doubles champion, will not repeat, with he and partner Sakamoto, the top seeds, losing to Andrew Delgado and Matthew Forbes 6-7(8), 7-6(9), 10-3. No. 2 seeds and USTA National 18s champions Ganesan and Frusina won their second match in succession after dropping the first set, beating Lucca Guercio and Segundo Goity Zapico of Argentina 4-6, 6-1, 10-5.

Eddie Herr girls doubles champions Alisa Oktiabreva of Russia and Iva Ivanova of Bulgaria, the No. 4 seeds, lost to Kaitlyn Rolls and Norway's Emily Sartz-Lunde 6-3, 3-6, 13-11.

The quarterfinals in singles and the semifinals in doubles are on tap for Thursday in the 16s division, with 15 of the 16 singles quarterfinalists Americans.

16s Singles Quarterfinals:

Eva Oxford[13](USA) v Aoife Kuo(USA)
Thea Frodin[3](USA) v Nancy Lee[9](USA)
Polina Sleptsova[6](KAZ) v Avery Nguyen(USA)
Sobee Oak(USA) v Leena Friedman[2](USA)

Madhav Binu(USA) v Jack Satterfield(USA)
Roshan Santhosh(USA) v Ronit Karki[8](USA)
Gavin Goode(USA) v Nicholas Patrick(USA)
Jon Gamble[11](USA) v Dominick Mosejczuk[2](USA)

16s Doubles Semifinals:

Mark Krupkin and Ilija Palavestra[8](USA) v Yannik Alvarez(PUR and Ryan Cozad[5](USA)

Simon Caldwell and Zachary Cohen[6](USA) v Nathan Germino and Jack Satterfield(USA)

Berklie Simmering and Katie Spencer v Aleksandra Kyselova(UKR) and Zhang-Qian Wei[3](CHN)

Nola Jones and Calla McGill(USA) v Anna Bennett and Emerey Gross(USA)

Draws, order of play and links to live scoring can be found at ustaorangebowl.com.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

ITF J500 Orange Bowl Unkind to Eddie Herr ITF Finalists; Eddie Herr 16s Champion Secord Drops No. 8 Seed; Both 16s Top Seeds Fall in Second Round

©Colette Lewis 2023--
Plantation FL--

Three of the four Eddie Herr finalists made their way from the IMG Academy to the Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation after Sunday's finals in Bradenton, but their success last week did not extend to this week's ITF J500 Orange Bowl, with all suffering first round losses today.

Qualifier Trinetra Vijayakumar defeated Eddie Herr finalist Teodora Kostovic of Serbia, the No. 7 seed this week, 6-4, 2-1 with Kostovic retiring with a foot injury.

Eddie Herr finalist Theo Papamalamis couldn't summon his best tennis in his fourth consecutive week of tournament play, and wild card Noah Johnston took full advantage, earning a 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 victory over the 17-year-old from France.

Johnston is also playing his fourth tournament in succession, but had yet to post a win until today, while Papamalamis went 10-3 in the two J300 and the J500 that preceded the Orange Bowl.

Johnston built a two-break lead in the third set, but was well aware of Papamalamis's comeback credentials, having won from a set down twice to reach the Eddie Herr final.

"The hardest part of the match is finishing," said Johnston, a 16-year-old left-hander from South Carolina. "I knew he had a lot of comebacks, so I just tried to picture it at zero-zero and just kept going."

Serving at 1-5 in the third, Papamalamis was down three match points, but saved them all, including the third with a tricky stop volley. Johnston went up 40-15 serving for the match at 5-2, but again Papamalamis forced a deuce game, with a bullet of a backhand pass on match point No. 5.  But Johnston showed no frustration despite the missed opportunities and landed a forehand on the baseline to give himself match point No. 6. After seeing all of Papamalamis's creativity, Johnston displayed some of his own, hitting a perfect lob winner that Papamalamis could only track with the hope that it would go out. It did not, landing well inside the baseline, with a smiling Johnston celebrating his first singles win in the past four weeks.

"I wasn't counting," Johnston said of the number of match points that Papamalamis fought off. "I was trying to finish, but I didn't really think about the score, but just tried to get the job done in the fastest way possible, because I knew what he could do."

Part of that knowledge came from his hitting sessions with Papamalamis during this junior circuit swing.

"The last few tournaments we've gotten to know each other pretty well," Johnston said. "We've been hitting with each other, practicing with each other a lot. He's a really nice kid. Since those practices I had a little bit of a game plan, but it was still a battle to get through."

Johnston will face No. 15 seed Timofei Derepasko of Russia in Wednesday's second round.

Eddie Herr ITF champion Wakana Sonobe of Japan, seeded No. 8 this week, started her first round match with Nellie Taraba Wallberg by taking a hard-fought first set, but couldn't come up with the shots at big moments that had seen her through last week's title run, falling 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(5) to the 16-year-old from Sweden.

Sonobe fell behind 4-1 in the tiebreaker, but got the two minibreaks back and held for 4-all. But two shaky points gave Taraba Wallberg two match points, and she converted the first when Sonobe's forehand sailed long.

"I know she's a good player; I played her before and I lost," said Taraba Wallberg, who dropped a 6-3, 6-4 decision to Sonobe last month at the Junior Billie Jean King Cup competition in Spain. "I knew it would be a tough match."

Taraba Wallberg was up 5-3 in the third, but was able to halt the Sonobe comeback by holding easily to force the tiebreaker, which she was happy to win.

"I was really nervous, I was shaking, but I knew she felt the same, so I just tried to do my best," Taraba Wallberg said. "Everything and anything can happen in a tiebreaker, you never know, so I just fight for every point."

Taraba Wallberg's second round opponent will be wild card Akasha Urhobo. 

While the Eddie Herr ITF finalists and champion didn't fare well in their first round match, 16s champion Jack Secord picked up the biggest win of his ITF Junior Circuit career after switching surfaces, beating No. 8 seed Maxim Mrva of the Czech Republic 7-5, 6-4.

Mrva led his team to the Junior Davis Cup title last month in Spain, going undefeated during that ITF 16-and-under team competition, but he looked much less formidable in Tuesday's match, with his dubious shot selection and lack of commitment giving Secord opportunities.

"His engagement definitely goes in and out," the 15-year-old left-hander said of Mrva. "I was down a break most of the first set, but I stayed engaged and he lost it a little bit."

Secord, who had never played an ITF Junior Circuit match above the J200 level until today, had heard from a friend that Mrva's level and effort could fluctuate, so he was ready to accept any gifts that Mrva might give him.

Two of those came with Mrva serving at 4-5 in the second set. He double faulted at 30-all and then hit a drop shot early in the rally that went into the net, giving Secord the victory and a second meeting with fellow American Jagger Leach.

Unlike the ITF finalists, Secord played his Eddie Herr final on hard courts and, as a Chicago resident, doesn't have a lot of affinity for Har-Tru. 

"The draw didn't help me a lot, but I'm glad I could get my first big win," Secord said. "I was a little worried about that, green clay was not my favorite surface coming into this match, but it's definitely going up on my list."

Other notable matches today in boys draw saw top seed Iliyan Radulov of Bulgaria defeat lucky loser Santiago Padilla Cote of Mexico 6-3, 7-5, and No. 2 seed Juan Carlos Prado Angelo of Bolivia beat Luis Ferraz Sandoval Carvalho of Brazil 7-5, 6-3 despite being less than 48 hours removed from winning a $15K title in Bolivia.

No. 9 seed Kaylan Bigun won a three-hour and 29-minute first round match with Matthias Kask of Canada, saving five match points in his 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(3) win. After brushing aside the first match point at 15-40 with an overhead putaway, Bigun was facing another, which he miraculously saved with a desperation volley two feet from the net, which he hit while falling to court. The volley traveled over the net with so much spin that it bounced sideways when it landed on Kask's side, although Bigun still had to save three more match points before finally holding for 5-5. Bigun broke Kask to serve for the match, but played a shaky game to get broken, although he was the more solid player in the tiebreaker, avenging his loss to fellow left-hander Kask in the first round of the J500 two weeks ago in Merida Mexico.

In the first round of doubles, Jagger Leach and Nikita Filin added to the first round woes of Eddie Herr champions, beating No. 7 seeds Derepasko and Daniil Sarksian of Russia 7-5, 6-1, who took the title in Bradenton. All the seeded girls teams advanced to the second round, including Eddie Herr champions Alisa Oktibreva of Russia and Iva Ivanova of Bulgaria, the No. 4 seeds, who beat the wild card team of Alba Martinez and Athena Posas-Pacifico 6-2, 6-0.

The Orange Bowl 16s championships lost both their top seeds today in singles, with Madhav Binu of the United States defeating Kerem Yilmaz of Turkey 7-6(4), 6-4 and Nicole Weng of the United State beating Zhang-Qian Wei of China 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

The doubles quarterfinals in the 16s championships are Wednesday, with just one seeded girls team and four seed boys teams remaining. Results of all of today's matches and Wednesday's order of play can be found at https://www.ustaorangebowl.com/draws.