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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Junior Orange Bowl Day 3: A Score of U.S. Players Reach Round of 16


Coral Gables, FL--

Perfect weather conditions greeted Junior Orange Bowl participants in Wednesday's third round of boys 12s and boys and girls 14s action and U.S. players took advantage, with a total of twenty reaching the round of 16 in the three divisions.

Joe Di Giulio of Newport Beach, Calif., the No. 1 seed from the U.S., leads a group of six U.S. boys into Thursday's round of 16. He is joined by unseeded countrymen Justin Butsch, of Miami Beach, Fla., Roy Lederman of Miami, Fla., Mackenzie McDonald of Piedmont, Calif., Grant Solomon of Dallas, Tex., and Benjamin Donovan of Germantown, Tenn. Di Giulio and Croatian Borna Coric are the two seeds remaining in the draw, and they will face each other in the quarterfinals if they win Thursday at Tropical Park.

The girls 14s third round at the Biltmore Tennis Center will feature seven U.S. girls, with Lauren Herring, the No. 4 seed and Ellen Tsay, the No. 5 seed advancing Wednesday with straight set wins. Herring, of Greenville, N.C., broke her opponent, Kim-Alena Twelker of Germany, as she served for the first set at 5-4, and rolled on from there, winning nine of the next 11 games for a 7-5, 6-2 win.

"She played pretty well," said the Easter Bowl champion, who reached the quarterfinals of the 16s Orange Bowl earlier this month. "But I think she lost it there mentally, at the end." Both girls displayed impressive power, but during the course of the match Herring detected a pattern she could exploit.

"Her backhand was much stronger than her forehand," Herring said. "Her forehand seemed to crack under pressure, during tight points. I tried to base my point structure around her forehand--hitting more to it and opening up the backhand, and then going to the backhand. It was a weird match, I had to use more of my speed rather than my shots. She liked to dictate, and I found if I was going for my shots, I made a lot of first strike errors."

Joining Herring and Tsay in the third round are unseeded Megan Kurey of Alpharetta, Ga., Nicole Melichar of Stuart, Fla. and Breaunna Addison of New Braunfels, Texas. No. 17 seeds Caitlyn Williams of Knoxville, Tenn. and Monica Puig of Miami, Fla. have also reach the final 16.

Seven U.S. boys reached the round of 16 in the 14s at the University of Miami, and one of them, Michael Rinaldi, a No. 9 seed, has the unenviable task of trying to derail top seed Tiago Fernandes of Brazil. For the second consecutive day, Fernandes faced an internationally experienced American, and the result was exactly the same, a 6-3, 6-0 win for the Brazilian, this one over Sean Berman of Irvine, California. Unseeded Shane Vinsant of Keller, Tex., No. 17 seed Dennis Novikov, of Redwood City, Calif., No. 9 seeds Bjorn Fratangelo of Pittsburgh, Pa. and Spencer Newman of Miami, Fla., will face opponents from other nations on Thursday, but No. 9 seed Emmett Egger of Issaquah, Wash., and No. 7 seed Spencer Simon of Santa Barbara, Calif. go head-to-head for a place in the quarterfinals. Both have cruised througt their first three matches without dropping a set.

That certainly has not been the case for unseeded Johann Skattum of Norway, who dropped the first set of his win on Tuesday and then again on Wednesday against unseeded Connor Glennon of Great Britain. Skattum, a semifinalist last year in the 12s, came back for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory, but he was obviously weary after the two strenuous contests.

"This one today was definitely tougher, because I was more tired from yesterday, and my game was a little bit shaky--I couldn't play my best," said Skattum, for whom outdoor tennis is something of a novelty. "But I got through it."

The jump from the 12s to the 14s is often a difficult one, but Skattum notes gains in both experience and skills that have led to continued success.

"Last year, this was like one of my first big tournaments to play and even though every one of these players has improved, my game has gotten a lot better. My serve was really weak last year."

Skattum lives and trains in Norway, and plays the European junior circuit, but he has significant U.S. heritage, with both his mother and grandmother originally from the United States.

The girls 12s completed second round action on the clay of Salvadore Park on Wednesday. Unseeded Floridians Alexandra Kiick of Davie, Sachia Vickery of Hollywood and Madison Keys and Jennifer Brady, both of Boca Raton, all recorded straight set wins and will play each other on Thursday. Brady, a qualifier, meets Kiick, while Vickery and Keys will square off in a rematch of the Eddie Herr final, won by Keys in three sets. Jerricka Boone, of Chicago, Ill., the No. 1 U.S. seed, also advanced in straight sets.

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