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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Top Seeds Absent From Grass Court Semifinals

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Philadelphia, PA--

The heat and humidity that smothered the Philadelphia area for the first two days of the International Grass Courts were ushered out by the heavy thunderstorms Tuesday evening. In Wednesday's quarterfinals, it was the underdogs serving as the catalysts for change, with the No. 1 seeds in both boys and girls divisions falling, and with unseeded finalists assured in each singles championship.

Boys top seed Alex Llompart of Puerto Rico was the first to be eliminated Wednesday morning, when 2007 Grass Court finalist Ryan Lipman took control early in a 6-3, 6-1 victory. Llompart, one of the most entertaining grass court players imaginable, didn't disappoint despite the loss. Always ready to do a Boris Becker style dive or roll, Llompart hit two volleys from a sitting position during one point against the unseeded Lipman, and ended up winning the point, but it didn't faze Lipman. Using his lob volley to great effect, especially from the backhand side, the 17-year-old from Nashville kept Llompart scrambling backwards, and although the No. 1 seed made some amazing gets, it wasn't enough.

Lipman's semifinal opponent will be unseeded Matt Kandath of New York, who came from behind to oust No. 7 seed Junior Ore 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3, in the day's only three-set singles match. No. 5 seed Jordan Cox of Georgia earned a tough 7-6(4), 7-5 decision over No. 2 seed Harry Fowler, with Fowler fighting back from 4-1 down in the second set, but failing to force a second tiebreaker. Cox will meet the highest boys seed remaining, No. 4 Devin Britton, who advanced by a 6-2, 1-0, ret. inj. score over Frank Carleton. Carleton rolled his ankle while moving toward the show court's far doubles alley, just outside of which was the old-fashioned scoring device that was stationed there for the first time this week. Carleton stopped short of actually colliding with it, and a trainer was called, but he retired shortly thereafter and was also unable to take the court for his doubles match later in the afternoon, coincidentally also against Britton and his partner, Fowler.

In the bottom half of the girls draw, 2008 Easter Bowl 14s champion Sachia Vickery will meet 2006 Easter Bowl 14s champion Beatrice Capra. Maryland's Capra, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament, showed no signs of conflicting emotions in her 6-1, 6-3 win over good friend and doubles partner Brooke Bolender, the No. 4 seed. Floridian Vickery, who is now 8-0 in ITF main draw junior matches since becoming eligible to play them when she turned 13 last month, avoided her third consecutive three-setter when she won the second set tiebreaker she had lost in her two previous matches, beating unseeded Fidan Manashirova 6-1, 7-6(3).

Third seed Lauren McHale served effectively in her 6-3, 6-1 victory over unseeded Alexandra Cercone, who seemed a step slow after her three-hour-plus win on Tuesday over No. 6 seed Lauren Embree. McHale, from New Jersey and heading for nearby Princeton in the fall, will face No. 8 seed Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada in the semifinals.

The sixteen-year-old Dabrowski, seeded eighth, handled top seed Alexa Guarachi of Florida 6-3, 6-2 in the final singles match of the day. Dabrowski used her drop shot and slice effectively, keeping Guarachi off balance and unprepared for the occasional laser-like backhands from Dabrowski's racquet.

The doubles semifinalists are a study in contrasts. All four of the boys seeds are still vying for the championship, and none of the girls seeds are. In addition to No. 2 seeds Britton and Fowler advancing due to Carleton's injury, top seeds Denis Kudla and Llompart, No. 3 seeds Cox and Raymond Sarmiento, and No. 4 seeds Lipman and Ryan Noble earned straight set wins Wednesday afternoon and evening.

The last remaining seeded girls team, No. 2 seeds Shinann Featherston and McHale, lost in the evening feature match, to Bolender and Capra, 6-3, 7-6(5). With many of the dining Philadelphia Cricket Club members looking on, the nearly two-hour contest featured exceptional net play by both teams, with multiple digs and reflex volleys on many of the crowd-pleasing points. Featherston and McHale saved one match point with Capra serving at 6-5, and two more at 6-3 in the tiebreaker, but couldn't save the last one. Bolender and Capra will face Jessica Alexander and Embree in one semifinal; in the other, first-time partners Kate Fuller and Nicole Stracar earned a three-set win and will meet Elianne Douglas-Miron and Laura Slater, who advanced via walkover.

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