The day started with rain, and ended with it, making it the fifth straight day with rain here in the Miami area, but it was early and late enough to keep disruptions to a minimum.
I hadn't seen Bob Van Overbeek play since the Easter Bowl, so he was first on my list of players to watch. David Roditi, the USTA High Performance coach for the 1992s, stopped by and I ended up chatting with Chris Brandi, who works with Bob at The Harold Solomon Tennis Institute when he is not taking masters classes at the University of Florida. Van Overbeek won easily, 6-1, 6-0, and his all-court game and big serve are impressive, as is his recent improvement, according to Brandi.
First round matches are often one-sided, and I saw many of those Monday, leaving me in search of a match to capture my attention. I found one mid-afternoon, when Miami's Spencer Newman took on Rodney Carey of the Bahamas and emerged with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory. Carey was the top seed in the 14s at the Eddie Herr, but lost in the third round and was not seeded in the Orange Bowl. Newman also lost in the third round at the Eddie Herr, so the tiny 13-year-old didn't go into the match without hope.
"The guy that beat him lost 1 and 0 in the next round (at the Eddie Herr), so I knew he was beatable," Newman said. "I kept moving him side to side and then hit the closing volley."
After the first set, when Carey appeared to be caught off-guard by both the pace and the outright winners off the racquet of his much smaller opponent, the quality of his play rose, which led to many excellent sustained rallies. Often the points ended with a winner or a forced error, and several times Carey simply looked incredulous when Newman would crack a forehand winner.
"I stayed positive," said Newman, "even after the second set. I wanted it really bad."
Newman, who lives only ten minutes from the University of Miami courts, had quite a cheering section, including his coach Liz Petrine, wife of Don Petrine Jr. of the Royal Palm club. Also in attendance were fellow Royal Palm players Jenny Stevens and Bradley Mixson, who just completed their first semesters at University of Virginia and Florida State University respectively.
"Bradley hit with me yesterday and Jenny warmed me up today," said Newman. "It's neat they just got back from school and they've come out to support me."
Two matches were unfinished when the rains came about 5:30 p.m.: Emmett Egger versus Guillermo Coria's younger brother Federico, and the much anticipated encounter between Sebastian Lavie, the unseeded player from New Zealand who was a finalist at Les Petits As, and No. 2 seed Federico Gaio of Italy, who was a semifinalist at the Eddie Herr. They were in a first set tiebreak when the unpredicted deluge swamped the courts.
Several of the U.S. players expected to make an impact at the Junior Orange Bowl were felled by injury. Raymond Sarmiento is still suffering from a pulled stomach muscle and withdrew. Shaun Bernstein was ill and did not make the trip from New York and Justin Rossi's back kept him from his place in the draw.
Monday, December 18, 2006