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Friday, November 30, 2007

Di Giulio, Keys Earn Eddie Herr 12s Championships

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Bradenton, FL--
Joe Di Giulio of Newport Beach, Calif. and Madison Keys of Boca Raton Fla., took different paths, but both reached their destination on a foggy and cool Friday morning at the IMG/Bollettieri Tennis Academy--the top of the 12s international tennis mountain, as the Eddie Herr 12s champions.

For the 12-year-old Keys, the journey was a long one. It took her over two and a half hours to emerge with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over longtime Florida rival Sachia Vickery, also 12. Several spectators commented that Keys seemed to be the more aggressive of the two, more offensive, but she fell behind when she took that game style too far.

"In the first set, I was trying to go for too much too soon," said the 5-foot-7 inch Keys, who had needed a third set tiebreaker to get by Canadian Louise Kwong in the quarterfinals. "I was a little more patient in the second set, went for less."

Vickery, who had sailed through the draw with her potent combination of offensive power and defensive anticipation, played from behind throughout the second and third sets. She would get herself back on serve, only to drop it in the next game, and the last two sets featured break after break, not unusual for the age group.

"My game plan was to be aggressive but to be a little more patient," said Keys, who trains at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton and won the Clay Court 12s this summer. "In the first set I got nervous, but I finally broke free of it and went for bigger targets."

Vickery, who had defeated Keys in four of their five meetings prior to this one, was disappointed with her mental performance.

"I couldn't stay focused," said Vickery, who like Keys was a No. 1 seed. "I kept losing it, I couldn't keep my head in the match."

But despite the loss, Vickery acknowledged that it was a good tournament for her. "I was serving well and moving well, hitting the ball better than I thought I would."

The last time Roy Lederman and Joe Di Giulio met, in the semifinals of the 12s Spring Nationals on clay, Lederman won, but Di Giulio emphatically put that loss behind him today with a 6-0, 6-0 victory.

Lederman had played a three hour semifinal match on Thursday, but he emphatically denied it was a factor in his performance in the finals.

"I wasn't tired at all," Lederman, 12, said. "He didn't miss a ball in an hour, and I was impatient and didn't move my feet. It's tough when he doesn't miss, not one ball."

The first game of the match was a long one, with Di Giulio holding after saving break points, but after that he played nearly perfect tennis.

"I didn't make any unforced errors really," said Di Giulio, a quarterfinalist in last year's Eddie Herr. "Last time, he played better, and I didn't play my best. I came into this match thinking if I could play my game, I'd have a good chance of winning."

That game is what is commonly described these days as all-court, with a willingness to finish points at the net and to take away his opponent's opportunity to prepare for a shot. Di Giulio's dominance this week can hardly be overstated--he lost a total of 15 games in his seven victories, and he was happy with his play all week.

"I'm pretty excited," said the exceptionally poised 12-year-old, who boarded a plane for California to spend two weeks at home before returning for the Junior Orange Bowl. "I've never won an international tournament before, and I hope I can keep it up in the Orange Bowl."