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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Plaza Cup--Day Two

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Miami, FL--

Sunday wasn't a sunny day at the Plaza Cup with persistent rain showers throughout the morning making the venues with clay courts the place to be. I arrived at the Riviera Country Club, the boys' 14s site, as top seeds Gordon Watson and Ken Sabacinski were closing out their quarterfinal matches in straight sets. No. 4 seed Troy Strobel had already advanced; it was up to No. 3 seed Roy Lederman to complete the semifinals with the four top seeds. Lederman had dropped the first set to No. 8 seed Brett Clark, but took the second and was leading 3-0 in the third when Clark retired with an arm injury.

In the break between the quarterfinals and semifinals, I decided to check on the other clay site, Salvadore Park, and the girls' 18s quarterfinals were in progress when I arrived. Unlike the boys' 14s and the boys' 18s, the top four seeds did not survive the quarterfinals, as No. 3 seed Jackie Kasler couldn't get going against unseeded Mallory Burdette, falling 6-3, 6-2 and No. 2 seed Cassandra Herzberg losing to unseeded Amy Simidian by the same score. I didn't see any of No. 4 seed Maria Belaya's win over Jenna Doerfler, but it was the only one that required the match tiebreaker in lieu of the third set, which was implemented due to the rain. Belaya defeated Doerfler 6-0, 2-6, 10-5.

During that break between the quarterfinals and semifinals, I scurried to the Biltmore Tennis Center, where they were just beginning the quarterfinal matches in the boys' 18s. No. 2 seed Jeffrey Morris and No. 4 seed Spencer Wolf earned their spots in the semis in straight sets, but top seed Billy Federhofer and No. 3 seed Sekou Bangoura Jr. both needed to win the second sets of their matches to get to the match tiebreaker. Both did, and both were being played at the same time. Federhofer used a second serve winner to take his tiebreaker 10-8 from unseeded Mark Schanerman, while Bangoura and No. 6 seed Patrick Whitner played on in theirs. 6-6, 9-9, 12-12, the change of ends and the tension mounted. Bangoura hit a backhand winner down the line to save a match point, and then squandered two of his own with unforced errors. Whitner was content to play soft rally balls until he found an opportunity to attack, which is often Bangoura's style, and the strategy worked--until Bangoura finally took a 13-12 lead. With a first serve producing a short return Bangoura stepped in and hit a winner and headed to the net to shake hands, only to have Whitner say he had called the serve out. The official on court accepted Whitner's call, and after a discussion, Bangoura was awarded a first serve, which he missed. The second serve was dangerously close to landing long, but Whitner played it, and hit a forehand return well long, providing an anticlimactic finish to a dramatic contest.

With that break, I headed back to Salvadore Park for the 18s semifinals and watched Burdette pull out a tough first set against No. 1 seed Rachel Saiontz then cruise to the finish 7-5, 6-0. Belaya, who I had not seen play this weekend, was impressive in her 6-4, 6-3 victory of Simidian. It didn't matter what Simidian, a tall and powerful left-hander did, Belaya had an answer, and her ability to hit difficult shots effortlessly was a treat to observe.

Conditions were challenging, with cool temperatures, brisk winds and long-delayed match times, and the forecast for Monday is not encouraging. The plan is still to move all the hard court finals to the Biltmore, so I should get a chance to see the 16s and 12s for this first time this tournament.

Here are the finalists Monday:
Girls: Sierra Stone (2) vs. Alexandria Stiteler (3)
Boys: Stefan Kozlov (1) vs. Juan Padilla (4)

Girls: Denise Starr (4) vs. Alexandra Morozova (6)
Boys: Gordon Watson (1) vs. Trey Strobel (4)

Girls: Monica Puig (2) vs. Rebecca Bodine (1)
Boys: Jeremy Efferding vs. Ridley Seguso

Girls: Mallory Burdette vs. Maria Belaya (4)
Boys: Billy Federhofer (1) vs. Sekou Bangoura, Jr. (3)


get real said...

It appears that the level of play for the girls 16s and 14s is very weak. Is it that the heavy hitters are playing itfs and not even bother with the local level. Couldn"t help noticing also the girls 16s and 14s for Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl, the girls like Stephanie Vidov, Sloane stephens are not even interested in capturing a title in their own division. I know their level is above 14s and 16s. It seems the truly talented ones that are going for pros could not be bothered with juniors at the low level. Can someone explain the thought process. I would think competetion at any level is good. (maybe not at a low level that has been seen)