©Colette Lewis 2007--
Key Biscayne, FL--
The first showers to dampen the Crandon Park courts at this week's Orange Bowl didn't rain on Melanie Oudin's parade as the 16-year-old from Marietta, Ga., defeated top seed and ITF world No. 1 Urszula Radwanska of Poland 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-0 in Friday's quarterfinals to extend her junior winning streak to 26 matches.
Oudin, seeded eighth, took control of the first set, winning six straight games, and Radwanska was visibly and audibly unhappy with her own play and some of the calls made by the chair umpire. But the Wimbledon Junior Champion, celebrating her 17th birthday, broke Oudin to start the second and held for a 2-0. At that stage, a 10-minute stoppage was no more than a nuisance, but a deluge soon followed, sending the players scurrying to the lounge to wait out a two-hour delay.
"The little one we had, I was down 2-0 in the second, and as soon as we came back I got up 3-2," Oudin said. "So that actually helped me a little bit, it took her momentum away a little bit. After we came back at 3-2, I got up 4-2, but then it was 4-4. But I knew I was playing well enough, and I was doing the right things."
Although Radwanska was still talking to herself loudly in Polish, her play picked up in the final stages of the second set, and she played a exemplary tiebreaker, pushing Oudin to the court's edges and finishing at the net. The momentum seemed to be squarely on her side as the third set began, but Oudin roared to a 4-0 lead.
"In the third I came out trying to forget about the second set," said Oudin, who made only six unforced errors in the final set. "I was so close to finishing. But I didn't do anything different. I think I got a little tight at the end of the second and I wasn't hitting the ball, letting her go for the shots. But in the third I came out hitting the ball and going for my shots and it was working."
Radwanska's drop shot is among the best in junior tennis, and she went to it early and often against Oudin. But she might have been better off saving it for a more crucial stage in the match, as Oudin, who is extremely quick, began to see it coming.
"In the third she only hit a couple, but in first she did hit good drop shots," Oudin said. "In the beginning she was winning the points with them, but then I began reading them a lot better, and I was able to get there and put them away."
After such a milestone win and the strain of so many singles and doubles matches in the past two weeks, Oudin might want to relax, but it probably won't be on Saturday, when she must gear up to face her friend and doubles partner Mallory Cecil. Cecil, the No. 15 seed, overcame a tough challenge from wild card Alison Riske, earning a 6-4, 7-5 decision. Oudin and Cecil still plan to engage in their usual morning warm up, and after their singles semifinal is decided, will team up for the doubles semifinals Saturday afternoon.
The other girls 18s semifinal will find unseeded Aranxta Rus of the Netherlands against No. 9 seed Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal. Larcher de Brito, the only player to finish before the rains came, dismantled No. 2 seed and defending Orange Bowl champion Nikola Hofmanova of Austria 6-3, 6-0, while Rus scored an even more decisive victory over No. 3 seed Ksenia Pervak of Russia Friday afternoon, taking it 6-1, 6-0.
Jarmere Jenkins is the lone American representative remaining on the boys' side, and the No. 14 seed, who escaped a third set tiebreaker in his opening match, has been impressive since, particulary today, when he ousted Eddie Herr champion Gastao Elias 6-4, 6-4.
Playing on Stadium Court, Jenkins and Elias were for a few games the only attraction, as matches on the adjacent courts were being dried, with the whine of blowers filling the air. In the first set, Jenkins was up a break at 4-3 and gave it back for 4-4; in the second set, he came close to that same pattern. But at 4-3, 30-40, Jenkins surprised both Elias and himself with perfect serve and volley execution.
"I have no idea," Jenkins responded to a question asking what brought him to the net there. "I said 'don't do anything stupid'. I don't really come to the net a lot, but that was the right time."
When one of Elias's many unforced errors gave him a 5-3, lead Jenkins could breathe a little easier, and despite not getting a first serve in on either of his match points serving at 5-4, he held on for the win.
Elias, who has had only one day off in the past eleven days, looked less energetic in the hot and humid conditions than Jenkins, who did not play the Eddie Herr.
"I train with Wayne Odesnik now," Jenkins said. "He's crazy on fitness, so I'm not getting tired."
The semifinal could have been a more significant version of the practice matches Jenkins has been playing at the USTA National Training Center in Boca Raton against Chase Buchanan, but Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania would have none of that, flattening Buchanan 6-0, 6-1 to avenge his loss at the Eddie Herr last week.
The other boys' semifinal will pit No. 16 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria against No. 9 seed Jerzy Janowicz of Poland. Dimitrov, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament, defeated No. 8 seed Radu Albot of Moldova 6-2, 6-3; Janowicz, the U.S. Open Junior finalist, overcame 15-year-old Ryan Harrison's challenge 6-7(5) 6-4, 6-3.
Lily Kimbell, a wild card entry, continued to make her mark in the 16s, taking a 6-3, 6-4 decision from unseeded Stephanie Cornish of Great Britain, to earn a spot in Saturday's final. Kimbell, who will also play in the doubles final with partner Zoe DeBruycker, faces Canadian Katarena Palivets, who defeated U.S. wild card Elizabeth Begley 6-3, 6-3.
Top seed Bernard Tomic of Australia will seek his third Orange Bowl title, this one in the 16s division against unseeded Brazilian Jose Pereira (who played the Eddie Herr under the name of Jose Silva). Silva downed Eddie Herr 16s champion Pablo Carreno of Spain 6-4, 6-4; Tomic advanced with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over unseeded Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia.
I have had no internet access at my hotel since Friday, and likely will have to find alternatives for today's story.
Friday, December 7, 2007