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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Stiteler to Play for Junior Orange Bowl Girls 12s Title Monday: Semifinalists in Boys 12s & 14s and Girls 14s Set

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Coral Gables, FL--

Few would have blamed Alexandria Stiteler if she had resigned herself to a loss in the semifinals against No. 1 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia. The 12-year-old left-hander from Bradenton had survived a nearly three-hour quarterfinal match with Valeria Patiuk of Israel, another No. 1 seed, Sunday morning, and under the hot afternoon sun was down 3-0, two-breaks to Vekic to open the match.

The chair umpire had called the score wrong several times early in the match and had missed an out ball by Vekic, depriving Stiteler of a point she had clearly earned, but even that failed to ruffle her.

"I got upset, but then I calmed down when I saw he wasn't going to change it back," Stiteler said. "I just kept playing and came back."

Stiteler, who trains at Sarasota's Celsius Tennis Academy, came all the way back, taking the first set 7-5 and rolling past a demoralized Vekic 6-1 in the second set. Vekic, who had beaten Eddie Herr champion Estelle Cascino of France 7-5, 6-2 in the morning quarterfinal, showed her first sign of cracking when she double faulted on break point at 4-3 in the first set. With Stiteler serving at 5-5, an overrule by the chair umpire against Vekic at 30-30 gave Stiteler a game point, but the game went to four deuces, and Stiteler saved a break point before finally securing a 6-5 lead.

Vekic seemed to lose confidence after the overrule, and serving at 5-6, 15-30, she overruled herself on a baseline call to give Stiteler two set points. A Vekic forehand into the net gave Stiteler the first set, and despite the subsequent bathroom break, Vekic couldn't stall Stiteler's momentum.

Stiteler held in the first game of the second set and had Vekic down 0-40 in the next game, but the Croatian, who trains at Bollettieri's, came back to hold. It was the last game she would win, as the relentlessly positive self-talk coming from Stiteler--several times she could be heard saying let's finish this--propelled her through the next five games.

"I used to be negative," Stiteler admitted. "and I've controlled that, figured out how to work that. I used to lose a lot of matches because of that, because of getting too angry."

The unseeded Stiteler, who won the Prince Cup in Miami last week and was a quarterfinalist at the Eddie Herr earlier in the month, will play Indy de Vroome of the Netherlands for the championship Monday morning. De Vroome, a No. 1 seed, handled two No. 1 seeds on Sunday, taking out Brooke Austin of the U.S. 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals and Eleanor Dean of Great Britain 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals.

In the girls 14s, unseeded Sachia Vickery and Vicky Duval, a No. 9 seed, advanced to the semifinals with wins over Americans. Vickery had a battle on her hands in the second set against qualifier Jan Abaza of Florida, but Vickery got a break at 4-4 and stayed patient in the final game, waiting for an opening. When she finally got it, often after 20 or 30 balls, Vickery took her shot, and with two forehand winners closed out the match 6-2, 6-4. Duval, who is now the only seed remaining in the main draw, came back from a set down against No. 17 seed Ashley Dai, playing excellent defense in a 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory.

No. 3 seed Kyle McPhillips was tripped up by qualifier So Ra Lee of Korea 6-3, 6-3. Lee will play Duval in Monday's semifinals, while Vickery meets Austrian Christine Kandler, who beat No. 4 seed Ganna Poznikhirenko of Ukraine 4-6, 6-1, 7-5.

The U.S. has two boys still vying for titles in the 12s and 14s. Unseeded Noah Rubin of the U.S. outlasted Christian Garin of Chile 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 in one of the 12s quarterfinals at Tropical Park. Rubin plays Brazil's Silas Cerqueira (1) in one semifinal, while Eddie Herr champion Hyeon Chung of Korea (1) takes on Borna Coric (1) of Croatia in the other. Coric, a quarterfinalist last year, continues to roll through the draw; he hasn't lost more than two games in any of his five matches, including today's 6-0, 6-1 rout of Daniel Kerznerman of the U.S.

In the 14s, Harrison Richmond of the U.S. overcame a hiccup in the second set to down fellow No. 9 seed Filip Veger of Croatia 6-3, 5-7, 6-2. Richmond was up 5-2 in the second set, lost five straight games, then completely dominated the third set to earn spot in the semifinal against Filip Peliwo of Canada. The unseeded Peliwo surprised top seed Moos Sporken of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-1. Great Britain's Liam Broady and Canada's Ed Nguyen, both No. 9 seeds, will meet in the other semifinal, which is a rematch of the Les Petits As final back in February, won by Nguyen. Broady beat No. 8 seed Julien Cagnina of Belgium 6-3, 6-1 and Nguyen ended the run of U.S. qualifer Alexander Ritschard 6-2, 6-3.

Except for the girls 12s, which will stay on the Har-Tru of Salvadore Park, the other three divisions will play semifinals and finals at the Biltmore Tennis Center Monday and Tuesday.

For complete results, including consolation draws, see the Tennis Link site.