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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Williams Faces Dimitrov in Boys Junior Orange Bowl Final; Brodsky Meets Kamenskaya For Girls 14 Title

Williams Faces Dimitrov in Boys Junior Orange Bowl Final; Brodsky Meets Kamenskaya For Girls 14 Title ~~~
©Colette Lewis 2005
Coral Gables FL--

Two unseeded Americans hope to topple number one seeds Friday in the 14s finals of the Junior Orange Bowl. Rhyne Williams of Tennessee and Gail Brodsky of New York, accomplished players who compete primarily in 16s and 18s, earned their shots at top seeds Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria and Viktoriya Kamenskaya of Russia with three-set victories Friday at the University of Miami's Neil Schiff Tennis Center.

Williams, a winner over second seed JT Sundling Wednesday, continued his excellent play, defeating third seed Jose Silva in the semifinals 6-3, 5-7, 6-1. Williams, 14, had two match points when Silva was serving at 2-5, but the muscular Brazilian saved them, and a deflated Williams lost the next five games.

"I felt like after that (eighth game) I just started going for way too much," said Williams, whose mother Michelle DePalmer reached two Orange Bowl finals, winning one.
"I was trying to hit lines, rather than work the point."

During the break between the second and third sets, Williams used the time to listen and to eat.

"Martin (Van Daalen, USTA High Performance Coach) talked to me and my mom talked to me, and I ate a banana and some Skittles. It was a refocus, and that was all I needed."

Williams held and broke to start the third set, but when Silva broke back to make it 2-1, the outcome was still in doubt, given Williams' troubles holding the lead in the second set. The big righthander with the backwards Tennessee baseball cap played patiently, however, and his strategy of making Silva hit ball after ball eventually paid off. The Brazilian failed to hold serve the rest of the match and when Williams got his third match point, he converted it with a second serve winner.

Awaiting Williams in the final is top seed Grigor Dimitrov, who advanced with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Alex Domijan of Florida. Dimitrov and Domijan met in the Eddie Herr 14s final nearly three weeks ago, and the result was a routine win for the Bulgarian. Dimitrov saw a different level from Domijan Thursday and praised his opponent after the match.

"We both played better than in the Eddie Herr," said the stylish fourteen-year-old. "He pushed me to play good."

Domijan's forehand gave Dimitrov difficulties, and the court movement and coverage of the tall, thin righthander, who trains at Saddlebrook, forced Dimitrov to hit even harder and deeper. But coming up with a winner when it matters is standard operating procedure for Dimitrov, who survived a third set tiebreak in Wednesday's quarterfinal match with Bernard Tomic of Australia.

As Dimitrov vacated court one, fellow Weil Tennis Academy student Gail Brodsky strode on to it for her semifinal match with Albina Khabibulina of Uzebekistan, the tenth seed.

Brodsky took control of the match early but once Khabibulina found her rhythm, the groundstroke battle lines were drawn, and there was nothing simple about the 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 victory.

"She got a lot more consistent and she started playing a lot better, and it definitely put a lot of pressure on me," Brodsky said.

Serving for the match at 5-4, Brodsky was unable to put it away, and she admitted that doubt began to creep into her mind.

"When it gets to 5-all in the third set, you don't know what to think," Brodsky said.

But when she broke Khabibulina and got a second chance to serve it out, she didn't stumble, scorching a forehand winner at match point.

"When I went out, my father told me 'don't be afraid--play your own game'," said Brodsky. "So I figured I might as well go for it, might as well make it good."

Brodsky admitted that she knows nothing of the top seed Kamenskaya, who made short work of fourth seed Indire Akiki of Croatia 6-4, 6-1.

"I don't know most of these players," Brodsky said. "Maybe that's an advantage for me, maybe it's not, I don't know." Then Brodsky jokingly asked if the reporter interviewing her had a scouting report on Kamenskaya she could use. Because the answer was no, Brodsky will concentrate on playing her game, which has been honed for three years at the Weil Tennis Academy in Ojai California.

"It'a a great place for practice, for everything, it's amazing," Brodsky said. "When Grigor came there he was already a great player, and I saw him improve tremendously there. And I've improved so much in the past three years. People who see my game now and before just don't recognize me anymore."

Both girls and boys 14s finals will be played Friday morning at the University of Miami.

De Coster and Harrison to Vie for Boys 12s Title

Mika De Coster, the Eddie Herr finalist, and Christian Harrison, an Eddie Herr semifinalist, have worked their way, unseeded, to the final of the Junior Orange Bowl 12s. De Coster, from California, defeated friend and fellow sectional player Jacob Jung 6-1, 7-5 Thursday morning, while Harrison beat fellow Texan Andrew Korinek 6-3, 6-4.

De Coster and Harrison have split the two matches they have played, but De Coster expressed confidence in his game.

"He's been having a great tournament," said De Coster of Harrison, "and I'll need to stay patient."

"If I play good, I think I'll beat him, but I have to play good," De Coster said.

Suffering from a cold the past several days, De Coster said he felt fine, reluctant to give Harrison an edge in any area. "I'm fine really. I'll just pop an Advil and I'll feel better."

One player feeling very good is Hanna Orlik who has added the Junior Orange Bowl 12s title to the Eddie Herr championship she won earlier in the month. Orlik, of Belarus, defeated qualifier Blazena Lukac of Croatia 6-0, 7-5 on the clay courts of Salvadore Park Thursday afternoon.