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Thursday, April 9, 2009

15 Americans Vie for Semifinal Spots at ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Carson, CA--

Third seed Valeria Solovieva of Russia is the only international player remaining in the singles draws at the International Spring Championships as the action moves to the quarterfinal round on Friday.

Solovieva, who trains in Florida, has had no difficulty in her first three matches, losing only eight games total, and on a mostly cloudy and calm Thursday morning, she overpowered Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada 6-2, 6-1. Solovieva is the only seed remaining in the bottom half of the draw, and Friday she will face 2008 ISC semifinalist Danielle Lao, who defeated unseeded Monica Turewicz 6-1, 2-6, 6-2. Courtney Dolehide and Grace Min will meet in the other bottom-half contest. Dolehide downed 13-year-old Vicky Duval 6-4, 6-2 in a much closer match than the score indicates, while Min, who had defeated second seed Beatrice Capra on Wednesday, continued her strong play, beating No. 15 Jessica Pegula 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.

Girls top seed Lauren Embree breezed past unseeded Lauren Davis in the first set, hitting with depth and pace, and going very agressively for the lines. But the second set was anything but easy for the 18-year-old from Marco Island, Fla., and Davis, 15, served for the second set at 5-4. Embree's experience proved too much however, and Davis lost the final three games to give Embree a 6-1, 7-5 victory.

Embree faces No. 9 seed Sloane Stephens in Friday's marquee matchup. Stephens has been playing brilliantly this week, and No. 6 seed Anna Orlik of Belarus had no answers for Stephens's powerful ground game in a 6-1, 6-0 loss.

The fourth girls 18s match on Friday will pit No. 16 seed Brooke Bolender against No. 10 seed Nicole Gibbs. Gibbs blew past unseeded Alexandra Anghelsecu 6-1, 6-2, while Bolender came back to defeat No. 4 seed Pamela Montez 1-6, 6-1, 6-2.

In the boys 18s, No. 3 seed Harry Fowler once again found himself down a set, this time to No. 14 seed JT Sundling, but he recovered for a 0-6, 6-3, 6-2 win. He will face No. 9 seed Mitchell Frank, who ended unseeded Jeremy Efferding's ITF winning streak at eight, by the score of 6-2, 6-3.

Dennis Novikov, the only unseeded boy remaining, eliminated No. 7 seed Yasutaka Uchiyama of Japan 6-4, 6-4 and will meet top seed Denis Kudla in the quarterfinals. Kudla defeated unseeded wild card Lawrence Formentera 7-6(7), 6-4, although he struggled at the finish of both sets. In the first set tiebreaker, Kudla took a 6-2 lead, only to see Formentera win the next five points to earn a set point of his own. The unforced error of choice for both boys was a netted forehand, which cost Formentera his set point and Kudla two of his, but the 16-year-old from Virginia finally capitalized on his fifth chance. In the second set, Kudla wasted three match points at 5-4, 40-0, making two unforced errors, then double faulting, but again he collected himself and won the next two points to get the win.

No. 4 seed Evan King dominated No. 16 seed Sean Berman 6-2, 6-1, then became an interested spectator at the match between his friend Bob van Overbeek and Matt Kandath. Van Overbeek, seeded 11, had taken the first set 6-3, with the eighth-seeded Kandath taking the second by the same score. Van Overbeek, showing some excellent defense as well as his usually potent serve and forehand, closed out the third 6-3.

The fourth singles match on Friday will feature two Tennessee boys, as No. 5 Bo Seal will face second seed Tennys Sandgren. Seal defeated No. 10 seed Junior Ore 7-5, 6-1; Sandgren won his third straight three-setter, beating No. 13 seed Denis Lin 6-4, 5-7, 6-2. Sandgren certainly didn't make it easy on himself, watching a 4-1 second-set lead disappear, as Lin won six of the final seven games to even the match. In the third set, Lin broke Sandgren for a 2-1 lead, but he lost the final five games of the match.

Although the top two singles seeds remain, the same can't be said in doubles. Girls No. 1 Embree and her partner Kate Fuller were beaten by the unseeded Belarus team of Karyna Alesha and Viktoryia Kisialeva 1-6, 7-5, 10-3. And Seal and Fowler, No. 1 in the boys draw, lost to No. 6 King and Raymond Sarmiento by the bizarre score of 6-0, 0-6, 10-8.

In the 16s single quarterfinals, which were played at the upper level courts at the same time as the 18s third round, No. 6 seed Giuliana Olmos upended top seed Breaunna Addison 7-6(1), 6-2 and will face No. 8 seed Krista Hardebeck, a 6-4, 6-4 winner over unseeded Ashleigh Antal. No. 2 seed Caitlyn Williams came back to defeat No. 5 seed Sarah Lee 2-6, 6-0, 6-2. Williams's opponent in Friday's semifinal will be No. 7 seed Ashley Dai, who squeezed past No. 3 seed Molly O'Koniewski 7-6(5), 7-6(4).

Boys 16s top seed Shane Vinsant, a 7-5, 6-2 winner Thursday over No. 12 seed Johnny Wang, will face fellow Texan Mitchell Krueger in the semifinals. Krueger, seeded eighth, got past No. 9 seed Spencer Simon 6-4, 7-6(1). No. 2 seed Spencer Newman battled past No. 6 seed Bjorn Fratangelo 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-2 to set up a meeting with No. 11 seed Dennis Mkrtchian, a 6-1, 6-1 winner over unseed Michael Riechmann.

For complete results and draws, see the TennisLink site.