Like Mother, Like Son--Williams Earns Junior Orange Bowl Title ~~~
©Colette Lewis 2005
Coral Gables FL--
Twenty-seven years ago Rhyne Williams' mother, the former Michelle DePalmer, won the girls 16 Orange Bowl title. Watching her son's 6-2, 7-5 victory over top seed Grigor Dimitrov on Friday in the Boys 14s brought back a flood of memories for the former University of Tennessee standout.
"This tournament means a lot to me, since I did win it as a junior," said Michelle Williams, who was standing in for her father Mike DePalmer, Rhyne's coach. "And it's fun watching him and being here with him for it."
Any fan of great tennis enjoyed watching Williams play all week, and with wins over second seed JT Sundling, third seed Jose Silva and top seed Dimitrov, the unseeded Tennessean took out the best enroute to his championship.
In Friday's final, Dimitrov started very slowly and failed to hold serve in the first set.
"The first set he came out a little bit tentative and was missing some," Williams said of the Bulgarian who is now training at the Weil Tennis Academy in Ojai California. "I was just trying to put the ball in play and let him hurt himself."
Using a variety of topspin on his groundstrokes, Williams occasionally outhit, but frequently outmanuevered his opponent, playing a refined version of clay court tennis on the University of Miami's hard courts.
As he did in the first set, Williams went up 3-1 in the second, but Dimitrov broke back to get even, where they stayed until Dimitrov served at 5-5. Down 15-40, Dimitrov erased one break point with an ace, but Williams countered with an excellent return on the next one. Dimitrov's reply was just long, giving Williams the opportunity to serve for the match. And when, at match point, his down-the-line backhand clipped the tape but did not change direction, Williams had his winner, and a championship to match his mother's.
The two will have plenty of time to compare notes on their long drive back home to Knoxville before Michelle leaves for the Winter Nationals with daughter Caitlyn, 12. Pro Circuit Futures tournaments in Florida are next on Rhyne's tennis schedule, but he has a specific celebration in mind first.
"I'm going to get a Big Mac on the way home," Williams said. "Eat a little junk food. I've been eating healthy the last month and a half."
Christian Harrison saved two match points in a second round win, and in his 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 finals victory over Mika De Coster Friday, he let one get away at 3-5 in the second set. But determined not to waste his opportunity, Harrison took advantage of the ten-minute break between the second and third sets.
"My dad got me calmed a little bit. He said you have to stay calm if want to have any chance of winning the third set."
The advice worked well, as Harrison returned to the agressive play that saw him take command of the first set, closing at the net and putting away the volley.
"I like coming to the net, but I like being at both the net and the baseline," said the eleven-year-old who trains at the Newcombe Academy in Texas.
Harrison's style left De Coster wondering after the match if he had countered it effectively.
"He played great in the first set," said De Coster, who like Harrison, was not seeded. "Maybe I could have lobbed him more."
In the second set De Coster, who was suffering from the flu all week, began to keep Harrison positioned more defensively.
"I started rallying, to get a rhythm. Cross court, cross court, cross court and it helped me get back in the match."
But after his brief lapse in the second set, Harrison returned to his more patient and error-free game, showing an uncanny anticipation of De Coster's shot selection. And when De Coster attempted to take control of the net, Harrison produced a perfect lob or passing shot.
Still De Coster, who took a nasty tumble trying to retrieve a drop shot in the second set, refused to concede he was beaten.
"You always have hope, I guess," the twelve-year-old from Southern California said. "I was just trying to get through one more match, one more day."
But on Friday, that day belonged to Harrison.
Viktoriya Kamenskaya of Russia may not be big, but her groundstrokes are. On Friday, she cooled off a redhot Gail Brodsky, capturing a 7-5, 6-2 victory in the Junior Orange Bowl Girls 14s final.
The unseeded Brodsky served for the first set, but couldn't convert it at 5-4, and Kamenskaya grabbed the momentum.
"There were certain important points that she just handled better than me," Brodsky said. "She was more consistent than I was and she returned all my best shots."
With many long games, the second set was far from routine, but the fourteen-year-old top seed didn't flinch at Brodsky's pace, leaving the New Yorker ultimately unsure of how to counter attack.
"I was hitting with all my power, and she got it back," said Brodsky. "I tried to do more and I missed. I think she has the perfect game style. She's a good counterpuncher and if I had to go out and play her again, I don't think I could tell anyone what to do against her."
In boys 12s, Jan Kuncik of the Czech Republic lost in the first round of the main draw and came through all ten of his backdraw matches to take fifth place defeating Joey Swaysland of Australia. Jacob Jung of the U.S. finished in third place with his win over Andrew Korinek, also of the U.S.
In boys 14s, Frank Carleton of the U.S. won the feed-in consolation draw, defeating James Chaudry of Great Britain, and the player who defeated Carleton in the main draw, Alex Domijan, also from the U.S. took third place, with his win over Jose Silva of Brazil.