©Colette Lewis 2008--
It was a chilly day by Florida standards, but there was some exciting competition to keep the sweatshirt-wearing fans gathered around the courts rather than a fireplace. The match that got everyone's attention at the conclusion of the day featured 14-year-old wild card Christian Harrison against No. 3 seed Jose Pereira of Brazil in the boys 18s.
With the boys 18s scheduled as the last singles matches of the day, it was after 2:30 when Harrison and Pereira took court 13. When Harrison won the first set 6-4, the buzz began to circulate, and dozens of spectators began to gather behind the fenced court, which has no seating. Pereira, who was a finalist in the Orange Bowl 16s last year, and won the Grade A Copa Gerdau in March, won most of the important points in the second set, taking it 6-1. In the third set Harrison was down a break, but he pulled even, then ahead, forcing Pereira to deal with the pressure of serving down 4-5. Pereira held for 5-5 and in his next service game to force the third set tiebreaker.
By this time, the sun was setting, a biting north wind was blowing, and still the crowd swelled to several hundred as not only tennis fans, but other academy sports students stopped by to see if Harrison could complete the upset.
He fell behind 4-2 at the first changeover, but Harrison had his first match point at serving at 6-5. He failed to play aggressively however, and Pereira took control of the point to force another changeover. The 17-year-old Brazilian earned his first match point with an overhead winner, but his backhand went long to make it 7-7. A drop shot winner, which had been effective throughout the match, gave Pereira another match point, but Harrison, who still has not had his growth spurt, countered with an ace, which Pereira called out, only to be overruled by the courtside umpire. A backhand volley winner gave Harrison his second match point, but Pereira hit a service winner to make it 9-9.
The crowd, which was generally favoring Harrison due to his size disadvantage, was holding its collective breath when he missed a backhand to give Pereira his third match point. That was enough to end the three hour contest, with Harrison's defensive lob floating just long to give Pereira the 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(9) victory.
The day had started for me at the 12s, and, has been the case most of the first four rounds, there were not many compelling three setters. Unseeded Deiton Baughman and Stefan Kozlov of the U.S. lost a total of three games in their wins, and will now face each other in the quarterfinals, while three other U.S. players, including No. 1 seed David Crisovan, fell in straight sets. The match between Timothy Kane and Carter Lin was much more interesting, however, and I watched the last half of Kane's 0-6, 6-2, 6-0 win.
I wasn't keeping score, but there were some games that lasted fifteen minutes, and some points that saw forty or fifty balls hit. There were the usual 12s moonballs, and as neither player has any strength or size advantage--or speed disadvantage--the occasional outright winner smacked with pace was a jolt for players and spectators alike. The most impressive facet of the match was the way Lin fought throughout the third set despite the score, the composure of both boys (the 12s can feature tears and meltdowns in abundance), and the sportsmanship displayed. Lin, who trains at Bollettieri's, had the support of other players and friends from the academy, but Kane appeared to be on his own, and none the worse for that.
The final game, which must have gone to eight or nine deuces, was indicative of how deceptive a score can be and I left the court pleased that the 12s can be produce true competition without the drama that often mars that division.
Alexandria Stiteler kept alive hopes for a second consecutive U.S. girls 12s winner with a hard-fought 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory over fellow No. 1 seed Ah Song of Korea.
I had my first look at Wimbledon girls champion Laura Robson of Great Britain since last December, and the No. 1 seed, who beat Brooke Bolender of the U.S. 6-2, 6-2, has grown considerably in the past 12 months. The parts of the match that I saw were plagued with inconsistency and poor serving, some of which was certainly due to the cool and breezy condiditons, but Robson survived the always difficult return to junior competition after success in the professional ranks. Girls 18s seeds falling in the first round were No. 5 Rachel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands, No. 12 Silvia Njiric of Croatia, No. 13 Karina Pimkina of Russia and No. 15 Bianca Swanepoel of South Africa.
Boys 18s top seed Yuki Bhambri of India survived a tough three set match with Mikahail Biryukov of Russia. No. 6 Ryan Lipman of the U.S., No. 7 Adrien Puget of France, No. 9 Blaz Rola of Slovenia, No. 10 Karim Maamoun of Egypt and No. 11 Shuichi Sekiguchi of Japan lost their first round matches.
For more photos, see eddieherr.com. Nick's Picks, Bollettieri's blog, has a brief update of the Christian Harrison - Jose Pereira match. For complete results, see the tennisinformation site.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008