©Colette Lewis 2008--
It's back to the juniors for me at the Plaza Cup, in its second year as a Level 3 USTA National tournament for all age divisions. It is played at five site in Coral Gables and Miami, including three of the sites that are used for the Junior Orange Bowl, so it's familiar territory for me.
But the first site I visited today, the Riviera Country Club, is not a Junior Orange Bowl venue, so I wasn't sure what to expect. Not far from the University of Miami, the eight clay courts there host the boys 14s and it's a great place to watch tennis, the golf course providing a backdrop, and the viewing area one story up.
Most of the first round matches finished quickly, but the contest between Floridians Roy Lederman and Ognjen Samardzic wasn't one of them. The first set, won by Lederman 6-4, took more than an hour to complete, and the second, also won by the third-seeded Lederman by the same score, took equally as long. Lederman, a finalist at both the Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl in the 12s, defends well, and against Samardzic he often retrieved what seemed a certain winner. I also caught the first set of the first round match between No. 2 seed Ken Sabacinski and Alexander Ritschard. Ritschard won the Florida 14s sectional last week, and watching him hit forehand winners with regularity, it was easy to see how he could overpower the field. But Ritschard had difficulty with his serve, double faulting often and Sabacinski took advantage, winning the first set tiebreaker 7-5. I didn't see the remainder of the match, but Sabacinski won it 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-1.
I stopped by the boys 18s site at the Biltmore Tennis Center, and several of the first round matches had not begun due to damp courts. Marcia Frost of collegeandjuniortennis.com is in Florida and we watched some of No. 2 seed Jeffrey Morris' 6-2, 6-2 win over Michael Gilliand. Many of the same Florida boys that I saw last weekend in the Tampa sectional were there, and two of them--Billy Federhofer, the top seed, and Sekou Bangoura Jr., the No. 3 seed, have advanced to the quarterfinals.
Marcia and I made our way to Salvadore Park, where the girls 18s and 14s were being played. We watched No. 3 seed Jackie Kasler, last week's 18s sectional winner in Tampa, make short work of Robyn Beddow 6-2, 6-0, and then settled in for the marquee match of the afternoon, with unseeded Mallory Burdette taking on unseeded Alina Jerjomina. Burdette has been playing well since returning from injury this fall, winning the ITF Grade 4 in Boca Raton in November and reaching the finals of the Grade 1 Yucatan last fall to bring her ITF ranking to 99. But Jerjomina matches Burdette in size, strength and power, and although the first set was decidedly in Burdette's favor at 6-1, Jerjomina came back in the second, breaking Burdette at 4-5. The third set saw many a well-struck backhand, and more than a few errors, but in the end Burdette prevailed 6-4, to set up a quarterfinal meeting with Kasler.
A rain shower around 8 p.m. disrupted some play, but most of the quarterfinals matchups are set. For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.
Saturday, January 19, 2008