©Colette Lewis 2008--
Coral Gables, FL--
Indy de Vroome of the Netherlands overcame a stiff test administered by Alexandria Stiteler of the U.S. to capture the girls 12s Junior Orange Bowl title Monday morning at Salvadore Park. In the 14s semifinals held at the Biltmore Monday afternoon, South Carolina's Harrison Richmond and Florida's Vicky Duval earned spots in Tuesday's finals.
De Vroome, a No. 1 seed, and the unseeded Stiteler battled for two-and-a-half hours on the green clay, and in the first set, neither girl could find a rhythm or sustain any momentum. After each held serve to open the match, there were six straight breaks of serve, until Stiteler finally held to take a 5-4 lead, although she didn't actually have to win the final two points, as at deuce, de Vroome received a game penalty for racquet abuse. De Vroome had flung her racquet at the end of the previous game, after two doubles faults and an unforced error had given Stiteler that game, and had received a point penalty, but she said after the match that she thought the umpire was unfair in his judgments against her. De Vroome's coach explained that under European rules, that punishment is unknown, but it actually seemed to help his young charge, as she regrouped and won the next three games.
De Vroome's first serve was giving her fits throughout the match, but when she was serving for the first set at 6-5, it became a weapon, not a liability, as she got 4 of 6 first serves in, forcing return errors from Stiteler. After an hour and ten minutes, the first set finally concluded, but nothing had been decided.
Stiteler, from Bradenton, Fla., took a 4-1 lead in the second set, but de Vroome came back to take a 5-4 lead, breaking Stiteler with a rifled backhand down the line winner on break point. When de Vroome took a 40-0 lead serving at 5-4, it looked to be her match, but Stiteler kept fighting, hitting a forehand winner on the first match point and getting several nervous backhand errors from de Vroome and eventually a double fault, to even the set at 5-5.
"I just wanted to keep playing that same way, get to the third set," said Stiteler, who had won her quarterfinal match in three sets on Sunday.
Stiteler did crack several more forehand winners in the next game, but they weren't enough to counteract the errors she made. De Vroome, on the other hand, kept the ball in play with depth and pace and gave Stiteler no free points, and again de Vroome earned an opportunity to serve for the match.
And again, Stiteler refused to go quietly. The left-hander hit two clutch forehand winners to put de Vroome in a 15-40 hole, but the tiebreaker that loomed never materialized. De Vroome saved one break point with another stunning backhand down the line, and three straight errors by Stiteler gave the title to de Vroome.
Asked what she was thinking on that fourth match point, de Vroome answered, "I have to win."
And win she did, with a trip back home to the Netherlands to celebrate both her win and the holidays scheduled for Tuesday.
The gritty Stiteler was disappointed in her level of play in the final--"I missed too much,"--she said, but overall was satisfied with her last two weeks of tennis, winning the Prince Cup and reaching the Junior Orange Bowl final. "I played good these two weeks."
The boys 12s semifinals were played at the Biltmore tennis center at the same time as the girls final was played at Salvadore Park, with No. 1 seeds Hyeon Chung of Korea and Silas Cerqueira of Brazil earning berths in Tuesday's final, and ending the streak of U.S. boys claiming the 12s title at three (Christian Harrison 2005, Reo Asami 2006, Joseph Di Giulio 2007). Chung, who won the Eddie Herr three weeks ago, came back to down Borna Coric of Croatia 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, while Cerqueira subdued unseeded Noah Rubin of the U.S. 6-4, 6-2.
In the girls 14s, 13-year-old Vicky Duval will take on qualifier So Ra Lee of Korea. Lee surprised Sachia Vickery 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, staying with the quick and consistent Vickery thoughout the second set, and maintaining a high level of play in the third, while Vickery began to make unforced errors when she could not control the point.
Duval's 6-4, 6-2 win over the feisty Christine Kandler of Austria was not an easy one, but Duval's superb defense and emotional stability contributed to her victory.
"When she starts screaming that actually motivates me," said Duval, a No. 9 seed, who trains at IMG/Bollettieri's Tennis Academy. "If she gets down, I think I can get her even more mad. I try to show as little emotion as I can myself."
After breaking Kandler at 4-4, Duval served for the set, and after six deuces and four set points, Duval finally took the game, when Kandler couldn't return a second serve. Kandler missed several swinging volleys in that game when she had earned control of the point, and demoralized, she couldn't counteract the practically error-free tennis that Duval played in the second set.
A quarterfinalist in the Junior Orange Bowl 12s last year, Duval was aiming toward the 14s thoughout the year.
"Me getting to the quarterfinals in the 12s gave me motivation to win the 14s," Duval said. "So I've been training really hard, and I'm so excited to be in the finals."
Harrison Richmond also has positive memories of the Junior Orange Bowl, as he was a semifinalist two years ago in the 12s, losing to champion Reo Asami. This year the No. 9 seed from South Carolina has gone a step further, reaching the final with a 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 win over unseeded Filip Peliwo of Canada.
Richmond played lethargically in the first set, staying back and rallying with Peliwo. After taking an early 4-2 lead in the second set, Richmond was broken, and Peliwo briefly led when he held for 5-4, but Richmond broke at 5-5 and came up with some good serves to earn a third set.
In the third, Peliwo was a step slower than he had been, and Richmond played his shots with more conviction, constructing shorter points by closing the net more often. He took a quick 4-1 lead and Peliwo, who showed signs of being in pain in the last three games, never mounted a serious threat to Richmond's lead.
Richmond will face Canada's Edward Nguyen, also a No. 9 seed, after Nguyen beat Liam Broady of Great Britain 6-3, 6-3. Nguyen, who lost to Asami in the 2006 12s final, will be seeking his second major international 14s title of 2008, having won the Les Petits As in February.
Against Broady, whom he defeated for the Les Petits As title, Nguyen displayed his aggressive all-court game, pressuring Broady to come up with passing shots as he moved relentlessly forward. Nguyen also returned Broady's left-handed serves well, practice he no doubt will find pertinent against Richmond, another lefty.
The consolation finals are also set for Tuesday. Americans Alex Halebian, who lost to Richmond, and Mitchell Krueger, who lost to Nguyen, both in exciting third-round matches, will meet for fifth place in the boys 14s.
The girls 14s consolation title will be decided between Jan Abaza of the U.S. and Rosalie Van Der Hoek of the Netherlands. The boys 12s consolation final features Andre Biro of Hungary against Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia.
Brooke Austin of the U.S. won the girls 12s consolation title Monday afternoon.
For complete draws, visit the TennisLink site.
Monday, December 22, 2008