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Monday, December 3, 2007

Orange Bowl 18s Underway

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Key Biscayne, FL--

When we arrived at Crandon Park early Monday afternoon, the first obvious change from last year's Orange Bowl was in color. The courts are now Sony Ericsson purple, and the new presenting sponsor, Dunlop, has prominent orange signs on every court. There is more canopied bleacher seating on the back courts, but not everything was an improvement. The "no-see-ums" have occasionally annoyed in years past, but tonight they were so prevalent and persistent that spray pumps of Off and Cutter were passed from spectator to umpire to player to coach. Another irritant was the lack of a results board, and with the draws not currently updated, I won't be able to give precise scores in this post. (They are now up--click here.)

The girls' 18s were finishing as we arrived, but I did have an opportunity to talk to wild card Alison Riske about her straight set win over No. 12 seed Simona Halep. Riske said she went into the match unaware of Halep's junior ranking (26) and her semifinal showing at the Eddie Herr, and just played. The mid-80 temperatures and no wind aren't typical conditions, but Riske didn't know it, as it was her first time there.

I wandered around, reacquainting myself with the court numbers (now much easier to identify with new banners) and met Joshua Rey, who is writing about the Orange Bowl for usta.com. He seemed full of enthusiasm and tennis knowledge, so I recommend you follow his coverage all week.

My timing wasn't bad today, as I saw Rhyne Williams, seeded 11, close out his 6-4, 7-5 win over Xander Spong of the Netherlands with a late break. Ryan Harrison, the No. 15 seed, got revenge for his first round U.S. Open junior loss to Slovenia's Borut Puc with a straight set win. Ryan Noble gave No. 5 seed and Tennessee Volunteer John-Patrick Smith of Australia all kinds of trouble but couldn't get an early break in the third set back, losing it 6-4. Wild card Bob Van Overbeek lost in three sets to Mikhail Birykov of Russia and Ty Trombetta couldn't slow down No. 16 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria. Dimitrov used his drop shot to maximum effect during the games I saw. I missed all of Wil Spencer's two-set win over Vasek Pospisil of Canada, but I did see wild card Tennys Sandgren take a medical timeout down 3-0 in the second set against Alin Constantin of Romania for foot pain. He couldn't save that set, but he reverted to his first set form to win the third 6-1.
Mateusz Kecki won the first set tiebreaker from Poland's Jerzy Janowicz, the U.S. Open Junior finalist, but he lost the next two sets.

As darkness descended, the court lights came on and the bugs got really bad, things got really interesting. No. 14 seed Jarmere Jenkins needed a third set tiebreaker to get past Silvio Dadic of Croatia. At 5-5 in the tiebreaker, a Dadic shot landed just wide and Jenkins made the most of his first match point opportunity, cranking an unreturnable serve to earn a spot against Sandgren in the second round.

Wild card Dennis Nevolo had cruised in his first set against Poland's Szymon Tatarczyk 6-0, but when I arrived at the Stadium Court, the second set tiebreaker had just begun. Neither player seemed nervous or tentative, but Nevolo made almost no unforced errors to take a 6-3 lead. Even a net cord winner then by Tatarczyk couldn't discourage Nevolo and when he avoided a third set, he let out a shout of triumph mixed with relief.

The next tiebreaker I saw was in the final set of the match between Bradley Klahn and Eddie Herr semifinalist Mirza Basic of Bosnia. Klahn had gotten an early break in the third, but Basic got it back to 3-3 and he squeaked by Klahn in the tiebreaker 7-5.

There are matches beginning at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, so it's time for some rest.