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Monday, January 21, 2008

Plaza Cup--Day Three; Seven of Eight Champions Crowned Before Rain

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Miami, FL--

While the rest of the country shivered through the holiday weekend, those in Miami dodged rain drops, with Monday's showers moving in during the mid-afternoon.

Seven of the eight age division champions were decided before the occasional bouts of drizzle blossomed into full-fledged, court-soaking rain, but the boys' 18 final between Sekou Bangoura, Jr. and Billy Federhofer, tied at a set apiece and 1-1 in the third, has been pushed back until Tuesday morning.

The 12s and 16s joined the boys 18s at the Biltmore Tennis Center for the final day, and Miami's Monica Puig was the first champion to emerge, with a 6-4, 6-0 victory over top seed Rebecca Bodine of Tarpon Springs, Fla. in the girls 16s. Puig, the second seed, was down immediately after being broken in the opening game, but she fought back to 3-3, only to lose her next service game. In the next game however, she broke Bodine again, and for her it was a pivotal moment in the match.

"The key point for me was at 4-all," said Puig, 14. "After I broke her at 4-3, I had the momentum, and I just had to hold serve and play solid."

She did, and when Bodine was serving to stay in the set, it was Puig who came up with the winners on the 30-30 point, blasting a second serve return winner to earn a set point and then putting a forehand so deep that it handcuffed Bodine.

"I tagged a lot of second serve returns," said Puig, who had met Bodine only once before in the 10s and had lost badly then. "I was pretty nervous in the beginning, because I knew she was going to give me a tough time."

Although Bodine continued to play hard and hit deep in the second set, Puig's confident play on her own serve but pressure on Bodine's, and the result was three breaks, including the final one for the championship.

In the boys' 16s final on the adjacent court, friends and doubles partners Jeremy Efferding and Ridley Seguso went to three sets before Efferding, like Seguso, unseeded, took the match 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

The boys traded breaks early in the first set, with Efferding getting the set-deciding break at 3-4, when Seguso was given a code violation for racquet abuse on game point. Efferding served out the first set and took a 1-0 lead in the second, but Seguso got it right back and added two more to even the match. With both players willing to finish at the net and to stay back, points were long and entertaining and the obvious respect they had for each other made even the frustrations of errors less painful.

"He was playing great," said Efferding of Lake Worth, Fla. "He was hitting winners left and right, so sometimes you just have to say 'too good.' It encouraged me to go for the shots, hit the winners, so we had a high-quality good match."

Efferding, 14, admitted to some weariness after four matches the previous two days, including a match tiebreaker win over top seed Daniel McCall Sunday evening.

"It's really tough. I like to have one match a day, I like those tournaments." Efferding said. "Lots of hard core stretching, eating, relaxing. You just have to push yourself."

The boys 12s title went to top seed Stefan Kozlov of Pembroke Pines, Fla., a 6-4, 7-6 (4) winner over No. 4 seed Juan Padilla of Key Biscayne, Fla. The match featured a lot of service breaks, but very few moon balls, as both players went for winners, not safety. At 4-4 in the first set, Kozlov held and broke Padilla at love to take the opening set, but Padilla kept his composure throughout the second set, including saving threematch points serving at 5-6.

In the tiebreaker, Kozlov, a very demonstrative nine-year-old who sobs one minute and breaks into a fist-pumping 'c'mon' the next, took a 6-2 lead, lost the next two and then hit a backhand winner on his sixth match point. It was anybody's guess what the right-hander was doing when he hit three left-handed shots with the match in the balance and a tried a left-handed quick serve.

A natural left-hander took the girls 12s title, as No. 3 Alexandria Stiteler of Bradenton, Fla. downed No. 2 seed Sierra Stone 6-4, 6-3. The boys 14 winner was top seed Gordon Watson, of Naples, Fla., a 6-2, 6-1 winner over No. 4 seed Trey Strobel of Bradenton, Fla. at the Riviera Country Club's clay court facility. The girls 14 champion is N. Miami Beach's Alexandra Morozova, the No. 6 seed, who defeated No. 4 seed Denise Starr of Miami 7-6(6), 6-4 on the Salvadore Park clay. Unseeded Mallory Burdette of Jackson, Ga., outlasted No. 4 seed Maria Belaya of Melbourne, Fla. 5-7, 6-3, 7-5, to claim the girls 18s championship, also at Salvadore Park.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.


Bigfoot said...

Off the subject of this tournament but in a much bigger tournament all 3 American boys have reached the 3rd rd. of the Aussie Open and Madison Brengle has won 2 matches handily.

Austin said...

I know it is very expensive, but I can't get my head wrapped around the fact that we only sent three boys and two girls to the Australian Open. That just baffles me. It's not like all the sudden this year it became expensive, it has always been that way. The field in general seems to be watered down. I dont follow ITF closely, but I do know the top names and they seem to not be there.

david said...

True, there are a bunch of top players missing: Ricardas Berankis, Uladzimir Ignatic, Jonathan Eysseric, Gastao Elias, Grigor Dimitrov, Jarmere Jenkins, Rhyne Williams, Alexei Grigorov, Henrique Cunha, Filip Krajinovic, Giacomo Miccini, Austin Krajicek, Chase Buchanan, etc.

Still, winning it would be a major accomplishment. And it's not all that uncommon for Grand Slams to be missing a lot of top players.

For example, the following players were absent at the U.S. Open: Donald Young, Kei Nishikori, Michael McClune, Martin Klizan, Petru-Alexandru Luncancu, Brydan Klein, Peter Gojowczyk, Kellen Damico, Michal Konecny, Rupesh Roy, etc.

Although I have to say it's a little more surprising that so many players are absent this early in the year. I wonder if Bernakis, Ignatic, Eysseric, and Elias will play any of the Grand Slams.

Bigfoot said...

All though there are some of the top players missing that would add to the quality of the draw that still doesn't mean that any of these guys mentioned would win the tournament even if they were there. All it means is it would add 1 more tough match in the draw for whoever wound up winning it anyway. Most of the guys mentioned ended up playing the Futures tournaments in Fla. instead of making the trip Down Under but David you are right if you look at all the past Slams its no more watered down than those. Many Europeans skip Wimbeldon because its on grass and they have clay court games but that still does not make it any less prestigous. Many hard cort players skip the French because they dont have a clay court game as well. Big surprise tonite is that Madison Brengle lost in the 3rd rd. and it looks like Ryan Harrison is the only American left on the boys side. Good luck to him.

florida said...

To Austin...Australian is on hard, a preferable surface for US players. In fact if you look at many high grade level ITFs juniors travel from all over no matter on what continent and the US is never well represented, because of the cost and lack of USTA support to help mitigate that cost. Only 3 US boys for Australian is a reflection of that. Williams may not have made the trip as he plays more futures but there are enough other US players in the top 140 with strong hard court games who did not and I know it’s a question of cost, especially for those who would be in the qualies. If USTA high performance cant get it together to make it realistically affordable for players to go to the jr grand slams , it’s sad and a reflection of high performance overall. Seems that little Serbia with very limited resources and facilities seems to have a formula to product top ATP players, but the US is floundering.
Colette, thanks for your suggestion on how the USTA can make it possible. SUggest you forward it to the powers that be....