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Friday, December 12, 2008

Three of Four Orange Bowl Singles Titles Will Belong to Americans

©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.


vatennis said...

mitchell frank is the most underrated player in the usta by far. most of the good players in that area are looked over by the rest of the country.

tennisjunky said...

Wouldn't worry or care about Frank being underrated by the USTA as they rarely get it right anyway. What is interesting is that none of the 91-92 Amerian boys except for Domijan seem to have taken the next real leap. Not including Kulda in that group as he is a late 92 and much younger than the other 92s such as King and Cox, and not including Harrison as he is still injured. Best luck to Jenkins tomorrow...

tennisbuff said...

"most of the good players in that area are looked over by the rest of the country" ??????

I can't see how that is true, with Denis Kudla and Junior Ore coming from that area, even that same club.

Mitchell Frank is NOT underrated. He is respected by most players and coaches. He is always dangerous to play. He is part of a very strong boys 16s class.

getreal said...


vatennis said the mitchell frank is the most underrated player "in the usta" NOT "by the usta". That's a big difference in meaning. Everyone knows you dislike the usta, but let's not over do it.

However, you are right by saying that Domijian has taken a real leap in his game. Hard work pays off and not having the mind set to go to college.

Justthefacts said...

Anyone know why the Australian juniors are not at the Orange Bowl (Tomic, etc.)?

Matt said...

Tomic will play Brisbane

AndrewD said...

The Australian juniors weren't at the Orange Bowl because it's at a ridiculous time of the year. Why play in America when you can stay at home in Australia and prepare for the Australian season. Players like Tomic might receive a wildcard to certain tournaments (Brisbane is the most likely - assuming he isn't suspended by the ITF) while others will put their energies into qualifying for professional events.
As Alex Domijan said about the Eddie Herr, "It's just a junior tournament".

vatennis said...

thank you getreal. also i said most. denis and junior have already proved themselves to be good players. i am saying that many players from that part are overlooked and im not just talking about from mid atlantic.

tennisjunky said...

to getreal....

I don't dislike the USTA. In fact I have been a due's member myself for years. My criticisms are meant to be constructive because either the organization has financial problems or they just don’t (or care) about the funds these kids need for travel. My observation is I just don't see them supporting their top junior players financially, as from what I gather most yearly high performance grants are small/tiny vs. the real cost of going to tournaments and at least a few parents of girls I know are so stretched financially to give their kids opportunities. . I understand the USTA does not have the coaching staff to send teams for different age groups to different international events, but at least they could allocate enough the funds so the player could go, and perhaps even take a coach, like the French federation does. Or spend the funds to have a non-usta coach take a team, that would be the most cost effective as there are a lot of good US coaches that are not expensive. If you look at most of the ITF grade 1s there are very few US players , if any, vs other countries. Even US players who make the main draw of any of the junior slams only get a travel grant of $1,000, that's it, which does not even cover the cost of the air. What does not look good going forward is that if financial support was limited in good economic times, probably the USTA will have to really cut back across all levels or support for tennis in the current economic climate. That is reality. As for juniors being overlooked or not overlooked, the real bottom lime is no-one gets overlooked who gets results, either on the boys or girls side from any country.