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Thursday, November 29, 2007

American Champions Assured in 12s; Krajinovic Edges Harrison in Dramatic 18s Contest

©Colette Lewis 2007—
Bradenton, FL—

The U.S. will have its third consecutive boys' 12s champion at the Eddie Herr and its first girls' champion since Gail Brodsky in 2003, regardless of the outcome in Friday's finals. No. 1 seeds Floridian Roy Lederman and Californian Joe Di Giulio will decide the boys' champion; Sachia Vickery and Madison Keys, both from Florida and No. 1 seeds, meet for the girls' title.

Three of the semifinals in the 12s were straightforward affairs. Vickery rolled past Korea's No. 1 seed Su Jeoung Jang 6-2, 6-2; Keys breezed past unseeded Alexandra Kiick 6-1, 6-1, the same score that Di Giulio posted against unseeded Elio Levi.

Lederman's victory over unseeded Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy was the marathon in the group, and I should have known it would be when the first game of the 9 a.m. match was decided at 9:20. After nearly three hours and untold rallies, Lederman emerged with a 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 win to take his spot in the final.

While Lederman and Quinzi were playing the points so typical of 12s, getting to everything, but unable to finish, I moved to the "stadium court" match of the day pitting two of the world's best 15-year-olds, Ryan Harrison of the U.S. and Filip Krajinovic of Serbia. Although only a few years removed from the 12s, neither player had any trouble ending a point, especially in the final four or five games of the match. After surviving two match points, it was Krajinovic who moved on with his 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7) win, but to the scores of spectators who witnessed it, the result was secondary to the heart, poise and skill shown by both players.

I arrived just when Krajinovic had earned the split, and in the first game of the third set, he was broken. A crucial turning point came when Harrison had two break points at 3-1, but couldn't convert them. He needed that extra break serving at 5-4. At 30-30, a Krajinovic forehand caught the tape, giving Harrison a match point, but a very nervous forehand that landed several feet behind the baseline brought it to deuce. Another forehand error by Harrison gave Krajinovic the ad, and he put away an overhead to even it at 5.

The advantage didn't last long, however, as Harrison hit two stunning backhand winners down the line on his way to a 0-40 lead and this time it was Krajinovic who made a forehand error to give Harrison his second chance to serve it out. This time he didn't reach a match point, and at 30-40, a backhand error sent the match to the tiebreaker.

The crowd grew as the word of the tiebreaker spread, and the Serbs among them were especially demonstrative. Neither player showed any disappointment and little emotion, however, and both seemed to raise the level of their games when behind. That was Krajinovic at first, but when he ran out to a 5-0 lead in the tiebreaker, it was Harrison that stepped up his play, and he saved three match points, the final one on Krajinovic's serve at 6-5, by executing an exquisite angle volley. After the change of ends, Krajinovic lost his fourth straight point on an errant forehand and Harrison had his second match point. This time it Krajinovic who came up with a winning volley, and when Harrison was passed at the net on the next point, it was Krajinovic who had the match point. He converted it--Harrison hit a forehand wide--and as the two shook hands, Krajinovic could be heard saying "good match, man."

Afterward the IMG Bollettieri Academy grounds were buzzing with fans asking each other if they'd seen it, and those who had would say that Krajinovic used the wrong adjective. Great, not good, was the word of choice.

Krajinovic, a wild card, will face qualifier Alex Domijan of Florida, who defeated Tennys Sandgren 6-1, 6-2. The only other American boy remaining in the 18s is wild card Chase Buchanan of Ohio, who avenged his recent loss in Tulsa to Wil Spencer by a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 score.

In girls' 18s, Madison Brengle, the No. 3 seed, was surprised by Arantxa Rus of the Netherland 1-6, 7-6 (5), 6-4, leaving No. 5 seed Melanie Oudin and Julia Boserup as the only U.S. girls in the draw, and they meet in Friday's quarterfinal. Oudin defeated wild card Chloe Babet of France 6-2, 6-1 and Boserup upset No. 4 seed Bojana Jonvanovski of Serbia by the same score.

The boys' 16s has two U.S. players remaining--Sekou Bangoura, the No. 6 seed, who overcame a first set loss for the third consecutive match, and unseeded William Parker. Four U.S. girls remain in the 16s division: No. 13 seed Courtney Dolehide, who upset No. 1 seed Viktorya Yemialyanova of Belarus; qualifier Maria Belaya, wild card Alexandra Cercone and No. 8 seed Zoe DeBruycker.

The 14s lost one its favorites Thursday when Christian Harrison, the No. 3 seed, fell to No. 15 seed Dennis Novikov, also of the U.S., 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Spencer Newman, the No. 14 seed, and unseeded Robert Livi are the other remaining U.S. players in that draw.

In the girls' 14s, unseeded Jacqueline Crawford and No. 5 seed Monica Puig will represent the U.S. in the quarterfinals on Friday.

The boys' and girls' 12s doubles championships were decided on Thursday. The girls' doubles title went to Jennifer Brady of the U.S. and Saska Gavrilovska of Serbia when Tina Jiang and Ayaka Okuno of the U.S. were unable to compete due to illness.

The boys' title match was marred by a scoring controversy early in the contest between Yifan Dang of China and Tom Hill of Great Britain and Gage Brymer and Joseph Di Giulio of the USA. Although I was told by spectators that the game score was 1-1, a disputed call in the third game had Dang claiming it was 3-0, not 1-1 deuce, and when an official finally checked on the court (the match was not chaired), the score reverted to 1-0 in favor of Dang and Hill. The match eventually went to a tiebreaker, and Brymer and Di Giulio couldn't hold a 5-2 lead, dropping the eight-game pro set 9-8 (5).

For complete draws, see eddieherr.com.