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Sunday, January 18, 2009

Plaza Cup 18s Finalists Include Only One Seed

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Coral Gables, FL--

It was another dawn to dusk day of tennis at the Plaza Cup Sunday, with singles and doubles quarterfinals and semifinals packed into the eleven hours of play at the 18s site of Salvadore Park.

When the Har-Tru dust had cleared, No. 3 Andrew Butz was the only seed still alive, having overpowered unseeded Spencer Newman 6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals, and unseeded Jeremy Efferding 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals.

When the big right-hander's first serve is on, there are few who can counter his first and third ball power, and on Sunday, the 16-year-old from Vero Beach didn't cool off at any point in either match. Although Butz complained often about the courts' uneven bounces, it wasn't ultimately much of a factor, and even Efferding's willingness to come in to the net was secondary to surviving Butz's forceful offense.

Hoping that Butz will not continue in that vein is 15-year-old Bjorn Fratangelo of Pittsburgh, who advanced to the finals with wins over fellow unseeded players Zachary Katz and Michael Alford. In the morning match, Fratangelo beat Katz 6-2, 6-4, and took the semifinal when Alford was forced to retire after losing the first set 7-5. Alford ran wide for a shot in the first game and went down with a cramp, and although he attempted to serve a couple of more points, he couldn't continue.

The girls 18s final will feature two unseeded players, with Mary Clayton of Plantation, Florida meeting Kelsey Laurente of Miramar, Florida. Clayton has yet to lose a set in the tournament, but she came close in Sunday's semifinal with top seed Jackie Kasler. Kasler, who had served for the first set at 6-5, couldn't hold, but she took a 3-0 lead in the ensuing tiebreaker. Clayton then played flawless tennis, capturing the next six points, and although Kasler held her next two serves, Clayton got an unforced error from Kasler to claim the first set. In the second set, Kasler got down 4-0 before she found her game again, but Clayton, two-handed on both sides, didn't panic when she was broken serving for it at 5-2, and finished the victory by breaking Kasler in the final game.

Laurente, only 14, took out No. 2 seed Maria Belaya 5-7, 6-3, 10-7 in the quarterfinals. Laurente's slight frame gives no indication of how strong she is mentally, and her placement and consistency keep her in every match. In the semifinals, Laurente took an early lead in each set against No. 5 seed Brittany Dubins and despite a few anxious moments late in the second set, cruised to a 6-1, 6-4 win.

The girls 14s final will also be played at Salvadore Park on Monday, with top seed Alexandra Kiick facing No. 3 seed Blair Martin. In the boys 14s at Riveria Country Club, No. 1 seed Thai Kwiatkowski will meet second seed Jordan Daigle.

The boys 16s final pits unseeded Alexios Halebian against No. 2 seed Hunter Callahan, while the girls 16s singles features No. 1 seed Jacqueline Crawford and unseeded Reeree Li. Those matches are on the hard courts of the Biltmore Tennis Center.

The 12s finalists in the boys division are No. 4 seed Chase Colton and unseeded Alexander Knight. In the girls 12s, No. 4 Diana Kussainova will meet No. 5 Elysse Graci for the championship.

For complete draws, including consolation and doubles results, see the TennisLink site.

In the Champion Porsche Pro Circuit events completed today in Boca Raton, No. 2 seed Jose Armas of Venezuela defeated No. 1 seed Gabriel Moraru of Romania 7-5, 6-3, and qualifier Gabriela Paz, also of Venezuela, downed unseeded Sharon Fichman of Canada 6-4, 7-6(4). For complete results, see the Pro Circuit results page.