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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Domijan and Embree Reach Eddie Herr 18s Finals; Halebian, Echeverria Alam, and Sarmiento Play for Titles in 14s and 16s

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Bradenton, FL--

Alex Domijan and Lauren Embree had very dissimilar Eddie Herr experiences in 2007. As a 16-year-old qualifier Domijan reached the 18s final, while Embree, also 16 then, lost in the first round. But on a variably cloudy Saturday at the IMG/Bollettieri Tennis Academy, both easily handled their semifinal opponents to reach the 18s final.

Domijan, seeded 14, dominated top seed Yuki Bhambri of India, taking a 6-2, 6-3 decision, his fifth consecutive straight-set win this week. Domijan's serve and forehand were cleanly struck throughout the match, but he thought he was fortunate to get past the Bollettieri-trained 16-year-old.

"I got lucky on a couple of my service games," the Saddlebrook-trained Domijan said. "He had a bunch of break points--in the last game and in the first set he had a couple. It was really just a couple of points."

The 6-foot-6 Domijan will be appearing in his third Eddie Herr final, having reached the 14s in 2005 and the 18s last year. By contrast, his opponent in Sunday's match, unseeded Julen Uriguen of Guatemala, has reached his first ITF Grade 1 final. With a 6-4, 6-2 victory over No. 16 seed Denis Kudla of the U.S., Uriguen continued his phenomenal play this week, results he attributes to a change in his attitude.

"I'm keeping my mind focused and not letting anything affect me," said the 17-year-old, who has been training at the John Newcombe Tennis Academy in Texas. "I think I have the game, but my problem is always my mind, so I knew if I was able to control it, I knew I would get good results."

Uriguen has been in some tight spots in matches this week, but often it has been his serve that has proved the difference.

"My serve has helped me a lot," he said. "It helps me through tough games, when it's ad out, I'm able to hit a good serve and win the point easy."

Like Domijan, Embree hasn't dropped a set all week and even with a comfortable lead against unseeded Sophie Oyen of Belgium, Embree was careful not to let down in her 6-4, 6-3 semifinal victory.

"She was down a set yesterday and the day before, and I knew she'd saved a bunch of match points against someone earlier so I knew I had to close it when I had the chance to," Embree said.

Embree, seeded ninth, had scouting reports that helped her stay away from a ground stroke battle with the Belgian.

"I talked to my friend who played her before and she said she loved pace, so I tried to mix it up a lot, and that seemed to work out well," Embree said.

Her opponent in the final will be unseeded Bollettieri student Heather Watson of Great Britain, who is fashioning quite a run in the past several weeks, having captured the just completed Grade 1 Yucatan Cup. Against No. 3 seed and 2007 Eddie Herr 16s champion Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan, Watson fought back from a 3-1 final set deficit to take a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Playing in front of a large crowd on her customary court 15, Watson took a page from Embree's scouting book and refused to get in a pace contest with the hard-hitting 15-year-old. Watson concentrated instead on her own serve and in their rallies, she would play it safe until an opportunity came. In the pivotal game of the third set, Diyas, serving with a 3-2 lead, could not convert any of the seven game points she had in the eight-deuce game, and double faulted on the second break point to allow Watson to pull even.

Diyas had some success with her drop shot, but Watson began to read it and in the tenth game, with Diyas serving, another one went awry, giving Watson the first point. two unforced errors quickly gave Watson three match points and she only needed two when Diyas put a forehand into the net.

In the boys 16s, top-seeded Raymond Sarmiento of the U.S. vanquished his third British player in a row, taking out unseeded Ben Davis of Great Britain 6-4, 6-3 and on Sunday will face his fourth, unseeded Jack Carpenter. Carpenter eliminated fellow Brit Lewis Burton 7-5, 6-3.

The girls 16s final is the only one that has gone to form, with top seed Eugenie Bouchard of Canada earning her chance at the title with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Elizabeth Begley of the U.S. No. 2 seed Christina Dinu of Romania had her first test of the tournament, but emerged with a 6-3, 7-6(4) win over Marianne Jodoin of Canada.

The all-American contest in the boys 14s semifinals was a long and well-played one, with unseeded Alex Halebian outlasting No. 5 seed Harry Richmond 2-6, 6-3, 7-5. Halebian's opponent in Sunday's final is No. 4 seed Pedro Guimaraes of Brazil, who had a much easier semifinal match, taking out No. 14 seed Nikola Milojevic of Serbia 6-1, 6-1.

The only qualifier still standing is Nadia Echeverria Alam of the U.S., who has won eight matches in the last eight days in girls 14s, and earned a spot in the final with a 6-3, 6-0 win over No. 5 seed Victoria Duval, also of the U.S. Awaiting Echeverria Alam in the final is top seed Daria Gavrilova of Russia, who defeated No. 9 seed Patricia Martins of Portugal 6-3, 6-3.

Echeverria Alam, whose ranking dropped due to injury, isn't conceding anything to her Top 100 ITF ranked opponent.

"She is a very good player, but my strategy is just the same as I've been doing before," said Echeverria Alam. "Have my mental and fitness level high, play my game, be loose and see the results."

An American championship is assured in boys 18s doubles with the unseeded team of Jordan Cox and Evan King reaching the final against No. 5 seeds Devin Britton and Jarmere Jenkins. Cox and King breezed past the No. 1 seeded team of Borut Puc of Slovenia and Dino Marcan of Croatia 6-4, 6-1, while Britton and Jenkins dismissed No. 2 seeds Yuki Bhambri of India and Alex Sanders of Australia 6-3, 6-2.

The girls 18s doubles features No. 3 seeds Anna Orlik of Belarus and Great Britain's Laura Robson against the No 6 seeds Beatrice Gumulya of Indonesia and Kanyapat Narattana of Thailand. Orlik and Robson beat No. 7 seeds Amandine Hesse of France and Silvia Njiric of Croatia 6-4, 6-4 in Saturday's semifinal; Gumulya and Narattana outlasted the unseeded South African team of Christi Potzieter and Bianaca Swanepoel 3-6, 6-4, 10-4.

The doubles champions in the 14s and 16s divisions were crowned on Saturday. The boys 14s featured two teams from the U.S., with No. 2 seeds Terrell Celestine and Tyler Gardiner taking the championship by a 7-6(6), 6-1 score over top seeds Harry Richmond and Trey Strobel.

The girls 14s doubles champions are unseeded Olga Ianchuk of Ukraine and Daria Lebesheva of Belarus, who downed fourth seeds Julija Kulibaba of Latvia and Ganna Poznikhirenko of Ukraine 5-7, 7-5, 10-2.

Second seeds Arturs Kazijevs of Latvia and Dovydas Sakinis of Lithuania earned the boys 16s doubles title with a 7-6(4), 6-3 victory over Emmett Egger and Shane Vinsant of the U.S. The girls 16s doubles champions are Karyna Alesha and Viktoryia Kisialeva of Belarus, the fourth seeds, who downed unseeded Eugenie Bouchard of Canada and Chanelle Van Nguyen of the U.S. 4-6, 7-6(5), 10-6.

For complete draws, see the tennisinformation site. For more photos and stories, visit eddieherr.com.