Gilchrist, Domijan Give U.S. Two Chances for a Championship ~~~
©Colette Lewis 2005
Two unsung players from the U.S. will take the court hoping to win a prestigious Eddie Herr title on home soil Sunday morning at the IMG Bollettieri Academy.
Nadja Gilchrist, a fifteen-year-old from Rochester New York, has now won eight straight matches in girls 16s since last Friday--three in qualifying and five in the main draw--and until today she hadn't need three sets for any of those victories.
But even after dropping the first set in her semifinal match with fellow American qualifier Cristala Andrews of Las Vegas, Gilchrist wasn't concerned.
"She played really well in the first set," said Gilchrist perhaps remembering the crosscourt short angle winner Andrews hit down set point in the first set tiebreak. "I thought I could come back, play smarter maybe, set it up better."
Coached in Rochester by Billy Nealon and now in her second year at the Smith Stearns Tennis Academy in Hilton Head, the powerful righthander picked up her game and dominated the next two sets, taking the match by a score of 6-7 (7), 6-2, 6-2.
"I started playing amazingly---making a better choice of shot and serving better," Gilchrist said of the turnaround.
Asked if she was tired from all the tennis she's played the past nine days, Gilchrist flashed a big grin.
"Tired? No. I just like winning."
Gilchrist now faces twelve-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal, who defeated her doubles partner and Bollettieri Academy schoolmate Mallory Cecil (USA) 6-3, 6-4.
"It was hard," the 2003 Eddie Herr girls 12s singles finalist said. "My ground strokes were working and I guess I played well."
Later in the afternoon Larcher de Brito and Cecil captured the 16s doubles title in a tense 8-6 final against Ioana Ivan and Irina Paraschiv of Romania.
Earning a spot in the girls 14 final is unseeded Belgian Tamaryn Hendler, who reached the final of both the Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl last year as a twelve-year-old. Hendler defeated fifth seed Valeriya Savinykh of Russia 5-7, 6-0, 6-1 and will meet her conqueror in last year's Junior Orange bowl final, Russia's Valeria Solovieva, who is also unseeded. Solovieva beat Pipiya Nanuli of Russia 6-4, 6-0.
Thirteenth seed Alexander Domijan's propects for an upset of boys 14s top seed Borut Puc of Slovenia may have seemed remote when comparing seeding, but their straight-set paths to the semifinals and Domijan's history against Puc argued for a close match.
"I beat him 6-1, 6-4 in the Round of 64 last year," said the rail-thin fourteen-year-old from Gainsville Florida. "I thought my chances were about 50/50 today."
Using his forehand crosscourt to dissect Puc's backhand, Domijan looked razor sharp in his 6-2, 6-3 victory. Coached by his father and grandfather, Alexanders both, Domijan now trains at Saddlebrook.
Domijan now must slay another dragon, the second seed, Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, who ended unseeded South African James Munro's run with a 6-1, 6-4 victory.
The boys 16 final will also feature a 13th seed, lefthander Gonzalo Escobar of Ecuador. Escobar lost his first set of the tournament, to fourteen-year-old wild card Rhyne Williams (USA), but he prevailed 6-2, 6-7(2), 6-2. His opponent in Sunday's final will be Radu Albot of Moldova seeded sixth, who bested his second straight Roddick-Moros Academy student. Friday he scored a straight set win against Vladimir Ignatic, and third seed Drew Daniel (USA) was next in his path. Radu dropped his first set of the tournament, but closed out Daniel(USA) 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.
The girls 14s and 16s finals begin at 9:00 a.m. Sunday, as does the boys 16 championship match. The boys 14s and boys and girls 18s finals begin at approximately 10:30 a.m.
For full draws and times, see www.eddieherr.com