©Colette Lewis 2008--
Coral Gables, FL--
Harrison Richmond is no stranger to big tennis occasions, reaching the Easter Bowl final in April and winning the USTA Nationals in San Antonio in August. So when the left-hander from Pawleys Island, South Carolina fell behind 3-1 in the opening set, losing his first two service games, he didn't panic, and less than an hour later, he had won 11 of the next 13 games to defeat Canada's Edward Nguyen 6-4, 6-1.
"I came out a little nervous, making some errors, but I knew I just needed to settle into the match a little more," said Richmond, a No. 9 seed. "Once I did, I was able to get a rhythm and make my shots, not do too much, and do what I needed to do to win."
If Richmond found his rhythm, Nguyen, also a No. 9 seed, never did, looking entirely unlike the player that had dominated his opponents in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
"I wasn't on my game today," Nguyen said. "I just couldn't make the shots I made all week. I was just a bit nervous at the beginning, but after I got into it, I still couldn't get my rhythm."
Nguyen's serve was the most obvious problem, as first serves were scarce and double faults appeared at inopportune times, such as on set point at 4-5 in the opening set.
In the second set, Richmond played much more aggressive and assured tennis, taking a 3-0 lead, and Nguyen's hope of comeback essentially ended when he was broken for a second time to put Richmond up 4-0. The racquet abuse point penalty Nguyen received after losing that game gave Richmond yet another free point, one of the many early Christmas presents Richmond received from Nguyen.
"I didn't have to do that much with the ball," Richmond admitted. "I just let him miss. He missed a lot, and I didn't have to hit that many winners. I thought it would be tougher to break him, but he didn't make many first serves. I thought at one point he might start picking it up, and I was ready, but I really didn't have to do too much."
Richmond joins Clancy Shields (2001) and Rhyne Williams (2005) as U.S. Junior Orange Bowl 14s champions this decade, and he ranks the accomplishment near the top of his tennis achievements.
"It's a great win, probably my best tournament ever," Richmond said. "It's a great feeling, and I'm definitely glad I could pull it off."
Junior Orange Bowl champions aren't unusual for the United States, but Korea isn't accustomed to dominating international junior tennis. On Tuesday, however, they claimed both the girls 14s and boys 12s titles, an accomplishment that delighted the dozen or so "team members" that cheered every point that their compatriots won.
Qualifier So Ra Lee was the first to claim a title for Korea, defeating Vicky Duval of the U.S. 7-5, 6-3.
The match was ultimately decided in two different eight-deuce games, both won by Lee. At 5-5 in the first set, Lee saved five break points to take a 6-5 lead, and after falling short so many times in that game, Duval, a No. 9 seed, couldn't survive the next one, hitting a backhand into the net at 30-40 to give Lee the first set.
"I felt like I was cursed on every break point," the 13-year-old Duval said. "I lost it every time. She played really well, and I thought she deserved it."
The second game of eight deuces came earlier in the second set, when Duval was serving, trying to extend her 3-2 lead. Winners alternated with errors, but again it was Lee who emerged with the game, and she took control after that.
Duval had had some success with short angles against Lee, but the Korean kept herself in every point with pace and precision from the baseline.
After losing in the second round of the Eddie Herr, Lee felt that the four qualifying matches she had to win to make the main draw were actually beneficial.
"She told me yesterday that she actually arrived in the U.S. just a couple of days before the Eddie Herr," said Daniel Yoo, a Korean touring professional based in Florida, who served as an interpreter. "Her confidence and her conditioning wasn't really a hundred percent. But here, she had to play the qualies, and little by little she built up the confidence and it ended up well, very well."
Lee may not have had too many expectations after her performance at the Eddie Herr, but that can't be said for Hyeon Chung, who became the first Korean to win an Eddie Herr title when he took the boys 12s championship without dropping a set earlier in the month.
A No. 1 seed at the Junior Orange Bowl, Chung was a clear favorite, and in Tuesday's final he demonstrated why, taking his second major junior title with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Silas Cerqueira of Brazil, also a No. 1 seed.
"After he won Eddie Herr, he just told himself he was going to try hard," Yoo said, interpreting for Chung after the match. "He wasn't really thinking that he won Eddie Herr so he has to win Orange Bowl. He is very proud to win back to back and to share this day with Lee and our country."
The consolation final and third place matches were also played on Tuesday. Sachia Vickery of the U.S. defeated Christine Kandler of Austria 6-4, 6-2 for third in girls 14s; Jan Abaza of the U.S. took fifth place with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Rosalie Van Der Hoek of the Netherlands. In boys 14s, Liam Broady of Great Britain was awarded third place when Filip Peliwo of Canada was unable to compete due to injury. Fifth place in boys 14s went to Mitchell Krueger of the U.S., who defeated Alex Halebian of the U.S. 6-2, 7-6(3). In boys 12s, Borna Coric of Croatia downed Noah Rubin of the U.S. 7-5, 6-2 for third place. Fifth place in boys 12s went to Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia, a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victor over Andre Biro of Hungary.
For complete results, visit the TennisLink site.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008