©Colette Lewis 2008--
Key Biscayne, FL--
All four girls 18s semifinalists and both the girls 16s and boys 16 finalists are from the U.S., and in the boys 18s, an American finalist is assured, giving a decidedly red, white and blue tinge to the 2008 Orange Bowl at Crandon Park.
Thursday afternoon's rain left behind a cool breeze and lower humidity and the conditions were certainly to Sloane Stephens' liking, as the 15-year-old from Florida annihilated top seed and world No. 6 Ana Bogdan 6-0, 6-0, ending the Romanian's chance to finish as the ITF junior world champion.
It took less than an hour, and if you caught a few games, as I did, you saw Stephens pound one ground stroke after another, ratcheting up the pace until Bogdan hit a short ball or made an error. The devastation was so complete that it left Stephens looking for someone to hit with after the match.
"I'm sure it sends a message," Stephens, an unseeded wild card, said. "I just beat her love and love in a very short time. But we're in the semis, so obviously anyone who is in the semis worked hard and played very well to get there."
Stephens lost early at the Eddie Herr, but she feels her game has reached a new level in Key Biscayne.
"I'm playing really well and I feel it. I know the shots I can hit and the shots I can't hit and I'm feeling the court better."
Her opponent in the semifinals is 16-year-old Christina McHale, who played doubles with Stephens this week and was on September's Junior Fed Cup championship team with her. McHale faced the yin opponent in Friday's quarterfinal to the yang of Asia Muhammad in Thursday's round of 16. Russia's Daria Gavrilova doesn't have the serve, the volleys or the power of Muhammad, but she has amazing anticipation, quickness and court sense, forcing McHale to adjust. Frustration is also one of Gavrilova's weapons, but McHale didn't succumb, taking a 6-4, 6-2 decision from the 14-year-old Les Petits As champion.
Like Stephens, Eddie Herr champion and No. 11 seed Lauren Embree came out blazing in her match with No. 4 seed Ajla Tomljanovic, racking up the first set 6-0. But Tomljanovic, a 15-year-old Croatian who trains at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton, began to find the range in the second set, and took a 4-0 lead before Embree got on the board in the second, sending the match to a third set by winning the second 6-3.
When Embree got down 2-0 to start the third, it looked as if she might be seeing the end of her nine-match winning streak, but took back the momentum when she evened the match by breaking Tomljanovic, who had a 2-1 40-0 lead. Four games later, Embree's uncanny defense and consistency, and Tomljanovic's shaky overheads, had earned the Floridian a semifinal berth against unseeded wild card Julia Boserup.
At least 15 minutes after Stephens had disposed of Bogdan, Boserup and Beatrice Capra were concluding their first set, with Boserup breaking Capra--who had a set point at 5-4--twice, and managing a rare hold of serve in between. Her confidence high, Boserup went for the lines with her penetrating ground strokes in the second set, and coasted to a 7-5, 6-0 win.
In the boys 18s, unseeded Jarmere Jenkins of Georgia (the state) made short work of qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia (the country) taking a 6-1, 6-1 decision to set up a meeting with red-hot Eddie Herr champion Alex Domijan, who has now won 16 straight ITF junior matches. Domijan was clicking on all cylinders in a 6-2, 6-3 victory over No. 7 seed Nikolaus Moser of Austria. Earlier this year, Jenkins beat Domijan in a Texas Futures qualifying match that featured a 34 point tiebreaker, so an exciting match is anticipated.
The other semifinal will pit No. 4 seed Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany, who downed No. 6 seed Chase Buchanan 6-2, 6-4, against No. 2 seed Yuki Bhambri of India, who took out Julien Obry of France 6-3, 6-3.
The boys 16s semifinals produced a major surprise on Friday, when No. 12 seed Mitchell Frank ousted No. 2 seed and Eddie Herr champion Raymond Sarmiento 6-4, 6-2. Frank, who broke Sarmiento to start both sets, attributed his first victory in three meetings with Sarmiento to superior execution.
"He's a very tough player, but he plays pretty aggressive and today I was able to keep him a little more pinned to the baseline, instead of allowing him to attack as much," Frank said.
Frank, from Annandale, Virginia, will face No. 1 seed Denis Kudla, who cruised past unseeded Shane Vinsant of Texas 6-1, 6-2. Frank and Kudla train together at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, so Frank is aware that he will need to come up with a similar effort on Saturday to win.
"It's pretty close in practice, but when you get out here, it's who's ready," said Frank, who has beaten the No. 3 and No. 2 seeds on successive days. "Beating Raymond is going to give me a lot of confidence, but Denis has been playing very well, I know. It's going to be a tough, tough match. I'll celebrate this win for a few more minutes, then get ready for tomorrow."
Kudla is the only top seed to reach the singles final, with Eddie Herr girls 16s champion Eugenie Bouchard of Canada falling to No. 3 seed Madison Keys in Friday's semifinal. Keys, a 13-year-old student at the Evert Academy, who won the Junior Orange Bowl 12s last year, has not lost a set on her way to the final, with Bouchard succumbing 6-2, 6-3.
Another young Floridian, 14-year-old Chanelle Van Nguyen, earned a place in the final, defeating Giuliana Olmos of California 6-2, 6-3. The unseeded Van Nguyen was tested by the hard-hitting Olmos, but her superior consistency proved decisive.
The 16s doubles finals are set for Saturday, with unseeded Lauren Herring and Grace Min facing No. 2 seeded Marianne Jodin of Canada and Emi Mutaguchi of Japan in the girls division. Herring and Min breezed past top seeds Khristina Blajkevitch and Bouchard of Canada 6-1, 6-2.
Top seeds Kudla and Junior Ore of the U.S. will take on the No. 4 seeded Ecuadoran team of Diego Acosta and Roberto Quiroz. Both teams needed match tiebreakers to earn the spots, with Kudla and Ore prevailing over unseeded Eliot Barnwell and Joseph Cohen of Great Britain 6-0, 3-6, 10-8 and Acosta and Quiroz taking an even tighter 5-7, 7-6(3), 13-11 decision from the unseeded U.S. team of Campbell Johnson and Jack Sock.
The 18s doubles semifinals will be played Saturday, with two U.S. teams alive in the girls division. Unseeded Embree and Muhammad defeated No. 6 seeds Beatrice Gumulya of Indonesia and Kanyapat Narattana of Thailand 6-3, 7-6(4). Should they beat the unseeded Polish team of Paula Dania and Magda Linette, they could meet unseeded Brooke Bolender and Capra, who earned a 3-6, 6-3, 10-7 victory over the No. 6 seeded team of Fatma Al Nabhani of Oman and Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands. Bolender and Capra will need to take out top seeds Bogdan and Kristina Mladenovic of France to advance.
The boys 18s doubles semifinalists include No. 7 seeds Devin Britton and Jenkins, who eliminated No. 2 seeds and U.S. Open Junior champions Moser and Stebe 5-7, 6-4, 10-6. Top seeds Yuki Bhambri and Buchanan have advanced to the semifinals in the top half.
For complete draws, visit the Dunlop Orange Bowl page at usta.com.
Friday, December 12, 2008