©Colette Lewis 2007--
Key Biscayne FL--
Australia's Bernard Tomic added another crystal bowl of oranges to his collection on Saturday when the top seed defeated unseeded Jose Pereira of Brazil 6-2, 7-5. Wild card Lilly Kimbell of New Braunfels, Tex. may be new to international tournaments, but she caught her flight home Saturday night with two bowls in tow, taking the singles title from Katarina Palivets of Canada 6-2, 6-3 and the doubles title with partner Zoe DeBruycker of California.
The 15-year-old Tomic, the 12s Junior Orange Bowl winner in 2004 and the 14s Junior Orange Bowl winner last year, would have been seeded in the 18s, but elected to play the 16s instead.
"I would have loved to play the 18s in a Grade A, but I wanted to make three titles," Tomic said. "I was sure I could have made good results in the 16s, and now I've got three, and I'd like to get one more next year."
Tomic's two-handed backhand has many admirers, but it was slice that gave him the edge on the hard-hitting Brazilian. After a routine first set, Tomic looked to be cruising to a victory, taking a 5-2 lead in the second set, but the 16-year-old Brazilian brought it back to 5-5, primarily with forehand winners, saving two match points when serving at 4-5. At 5-6, however, Tomic brought out his devastating backhand slice on a second serve return and Pereira ran it down but couldn't control it, giving the point, and the Orange Bowl championship, to Tomic.
"My slice is more consistent, but I like my backhand too," said Tomic, who has spent most of the past year working on his serve and forehand. "But I've still got to work on lots of things. I would put my level about four out of 10 these past few weeks."
Kimbell took down the hard-hitting Palivets with slice, volleys and placement, not with power, and Palivets was impressed.
"She's a very good player; she knows what she's doing," said Palivets, the No. 5 seed. "She makes you feel like you have no time. She comes in right away. She plays like a guy."
Kimbell, the USTA Girls 16s Hard Court champion this year, took that as a compliment.
"I try to attack the net a lot, because a lot of the girls just stay back and grind it out," said Kimbell. "But I try to finish off the points with my volleys."
Returning to Texas, where she attends New Braunfels High and plays on the team, Kimbell wasn't expecting to parlay her wild card into such resounding success, and had to be encouraged to take on the world by her coaches at John Newcombe's Tennis Ranch. But she's happy she took the leap.
"It's probably the biggest tournament I've ever won," said Kimbell, who with De Bruycker took the doubles title from top seeds Olivia Bennett of Trinidad and Victoria Lozano of Mexico 6-3, 6-4 Saturday afternoon, and who will celebrate on the flight home Saturday night by eating a few more oranges.
In the 18s semifinals on Saturday, No. 8 seed Melanie Oudin extended her winning streak to 27 on a warm and sunny morning by defeating doubles partner Mallory Cecil 6-0, 6-0. After zipping by Urszula Radwanska in the quarterfinals with a 6-0 third set, Oudin has won 18 straight games. And although the score was ultimately lopsided, the first few games were lengthy affairs--the first set took nearly forty minutes to play.
"At 2-0 me in the first, we both had game points," Oudin recalled. "I got two let cords, not on game points but on deuce points, to make it 2-1 or 3-0."
It was after that game that Oudin took control.
"I was definitely ready for anything, and she made a lot more errors than she usually does," said Oudin. "But then again, I didn't make any errors. I was playing really well."
Oudin's opponent in Sunday's final is No. 9 seed Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal, who lost her first set of the tournament Saturday, but rebounded for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over unseeded Aranxta Rus of the Netherlands. Rus, a tall left-hander, gave Larcher de Brito trouble with her defense, varying the pace, tracking down deep shots and occasionally cracking a forehand down-the-line winner.
"At first I was pretty nervous because I lost to her before in Mexico in a $25,000 (Women's ITF Event)," Larcher de Brito said. "But I said, Mexico is in the past now. In the third set, she was missing a little more, but I was also getting to my shots a lot more, just going for everything all out."
Larcher de Brito admitted she was aware of Oudin's streak.
"She's been doing really well. I've heard of her winning a lot of matches," Larcher de Brito said, although she has not seen Oudin play this year, but holds a 2-0 record head-to-head in matches played last year.
The boys' 18s semifinals both were extended to three sets, but both ended quickly, for different reasons.
Ricardas Berankis's hope for the year-end No. 1 junior ranking looked to be dashed when Jarmere Jenkins took a 5-2 lead in the third set, with the Lithuanian having lost the first 4-6 and won the second 7-5. But Jenkins, 17, began cramping during that seventh game, and although he won it, a trainer was called to court at the changeover to treat him for cramping. Berankis held for 5-3, although he too showed symptoms of problems; he did not run for a Jenkins winner in that game, and was grimacing and bouncing during it. Serving for the match at 5-3, Jenkins double-faulted, just missed two forehands wide, and was broken at love. When Berankis held for 5-5, Jenkins' stress was obvious: he was limping, stutter-stepping and unable to bend his knees for a serve. He threw his wrist band off his cramping hand, and after one point, retired, putting Berankis in the final.
"It's not the best way to win," said Berankis, who estimated his first serve percentage in the match at 1%. "But a win is a win."
Vlad Ignatic of Belarus, whom Berankis is chasing for the year-end top ranking, was in the stands, knowing that if Berankis lost, the 17-year-old from Vilnius has no chance of catching him. When told of Ignatic's attendance, Berankis laughed.
"Was he like 'c'mon, c'mon, keep winning,' was he like that?" Berankis asked, knowing that Ignatic was so quiet that he wasn't even aware the French Open Junior champion was in the crowd. "For sure he is interested," Berankis said.
Berankis must prevail in Sunday's matchup with No. 16 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, the 16s Orange Bowl champion last year. Dimitrov prevented a U.S. Open Junior final rematch when he defeated No. 9 seed Jerzy Janowicz of Poland 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
Dimitrov was down a break early in the third set, but he expressed no concern.
"I was pretty confident because, I know the guy, how he plays, I saw his final at the U.S. Open," Grigorov, 16, said. "I knew he was going to miss in the third set, somewhere, somehow and I just got in the right spot to break him back."
At 3-3 in the third, Dimitrov held, and the match was decided in the next game. At 30-40, Janowicz crushed a first serve up the T, but Dimitrov got it back. Janowicz attempted to hit a drop shot off the return, but it went into the net, and suddenly, Dimitrov was serving for the match.
He had no trouble doing so, with big first serves giving him the final two points.
Dimitrov is now under instructions from his doubles partner Ignatic, to deliver the year-end No. 1 spot to him as an early Christmas present.
"He said, 'please Grigor, please, do your best,'" Dimitrov said. "I told him I'd do my best to beat that guy."
The girls 18s doubles will be an all-American contest again this week, with Allie Will and Coco Vandeweghe taking on Cecil and Oudin. Vandeweghe and Will took their semifinal match from the Dutch pair of Richel Hogenkamp and Lesley Kerkhove 3-6, 6-1, 6-4; Cecil and Oudin avenged their loss in the Eddie Herr final to Kristy Frilling and Asia Muhammad, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, giving Oudin the same opportunity that Kimbell sezied to take two Orange Bowl titles.
The boys 18s doubles features No. 2 seeds Roman Jebavy of the Czech Republic and Vasek Pospisil of Canada against No. 7 seeds Matt Reid and John-Patrick Smith of Australia.
The boys 16s doubles title went to the unseeded Italian pair of Alessandro Colella and Fredrico Gaio, who defeated No. 3 seed Jordan Cox and Evan King, 6-3, 6-3.
For complete draws, see usta.com.
Saturday, December 8, 2007