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Thursday, December 4, 2008

Kozlov Plays For 12s Title; Richmond Saves Seven Match Points in 14s Victory; Five U.S. Boys Reach 18s Quarterfinals

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Bradenton FL--

Beautiful weather returned to Florida on Thursday, and the ideal conditions assisted the Eddie Herr competitors who battled through some grueling round of 16 matches in the 14s, 16s and 18s divisions.

The 14s were particularly taxed, as they were required to play two rounds of singles and a round of doubles on Thursday. The U.S. can claim two quarterfinalists in the girls 14s, with No. 5 seed Victoria Duval winning both her matches, as did unseeded qualifier Nadia Echeverria Alam of Miami. Three U.S. boys have reached the quarterfinals, although top seed Tyler Gardiner was eliminated in his second match of the day. Unseeded Alex Halebian, who has yet to lose a set in the tournament, will meet Robert Livi, who survived a three-hour war of attrition with a cramping Maksim Kan of Uzbekistan 6-4, 5-7, 7-5.

I saw little of any of those matches, but I did happen upon fifth seeded John Harrison Richmond's contest with No. 10 seed Peda Krstin of Serbia, when the reigning 14s national champion was down 2-5 in the second set, after losing the opening set in a tiebreaker. The left-hander from South Carolina saved two match points in that game and five more at 4-5, and went on to win 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-3.

The 12s finals are set, and 10-year-old Stefan Kozlov of Florida will attempt to become the fourth straight U.S. boy to take the Eddie Herr title, following Emmett Egger, Mitchell Krueger and Joseph DiGiulio. The unseeded Kozlov defeated Geonju Shin of Korea, also unseeded, 6-4, 6-1 and will meet another Korean, Hyeon Chung, a No. 1 seed, in Friday's final. Chung downed Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia, a No. 1 seed, 7-6(2), 6-2. In the doubles final, Chung and Shin will meet Kokkinakis and his partner, Deiton Baughman of the U.S.

The girls 12s semifinals were in stark contrast to the boys', as both went three long, arduous sets. Simone Pratt of the Bahamas, a No. 1 seed, finally subdued unseeded Ksenia Laskutova of Russia 6-2, 2-6, 6-4, and in a battle of unseeded players, Estelle Cascino of France fought back to take a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Domenica Gonzalez of Ecuador.

In the 16s, top seed Raymond Sarmiento cruised into the quarterfinals, where he is joined by No. 9 seed Spencer Newman and unseeded Shane Vinsant. The Americans are outdone by the British, however, who have half of the quarterfinalists. The only quarterfinalist for whom English is a second language is No. 8 seed Arturs Kazijevs of Latvia.

The girls 16s also have a very comfortable top seed in Canada's Eugenie Bouchard, whose quarterfinal opponent is lucky loser Giuliana Olmos of California. No. 2 seed Christina Dinu of Romania is also marching through the draw. Liz Begley and Breaunna Addison are the other U.S. quarterfinalists.

In the 18s, the day's major upset saw unseeded Heather Watson of Great Britain oust No. 2 seed Kristina Mladenovic of France 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2. Watson won the Yucatan Cup in Mexico last week and is playing with great confidence. If an American girl is to keep Melanie Oudin's 2007 Eddie Herr title in the country, it will fall to No. 9 seed Lauren Embree, who defeated No. 8 seed Valeria Solovieva of Russia 7-5, 6-0, or Nicole Bartnik. Bartnik, who shocked top seed Laura Robson on Wednesday, will face Embree for a semifinal spot, after defeating wild card Annie Mulholland of the U.S. 7-5, 6-4.

The U.S. is assured two semifinalists in the boys 18s, with two All-American quarterfinals. No. 14 seed and 2007 Eddie Herr finalist Alex Domijan and 16s national champion Jordan Cox will play for the first time after Domijan defeated Justin Eleveld of the Netherlands 6-4, 6-0 and Cox eased past qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-4, 7-6(6). I saw the end of Cox's victory, and in the final few games, he played very smart, controlled tennis, avoiding the temptation to get in a fast-paced ground stroke war with the hard-hitting Basilashvili. At 5-5 in the tiebreaker, Basilashvili missed a backhand pass wide to give Cox his first match point, but the 16-year-old from Georgia crushed a forehand winner to level it at 6-6. A fortunate Cox mishit that landed on the baseline and handcuffed Basilashvili led to Cox's second match point, and this time a big forehand went long, giving Cox the win.

The other All-American final will pit No. 16 seed Denis Kudla against unseeded Matt Kandath. Both went three sets on Thursday, and for Kudla, that was just business as usual, as all three of his matches have gone the distance. Against unseeded Russian Artem Ilyushin, Kudla came back to take a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 decision. Kandath let a 5-2 third set lead slip away, but played a strong final set tiebreaker to take out No. 12 seed Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2) in a three-hour slugfest.

Fourth-seeded Chase Buchanan started sloppily against No. 13 seed Dino Marcan of Croatia, but recovered for a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win to set up a contest with Julen Uriguen of Guatemala. The unseeded Uriguen defeated Devin Britton 6-2, 6-2. Top seed Yuki Bhambri of India had his second three-setter of the tournament, but prevailed over Julien Obry of France 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. His quarterfinal opponent is qualifier Sebastian Fanselow of Germany, who has yet to lose a set in six matches.

For additional photographs, see eddieherr.com. For all results, see the tennisinformation site.