©Colette Lewis 2009--
Rancho Mirage, CA--
Unseeded Fred Saba of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the recent USTA Spring National champion, is playing in only his second ITF Junior tournament, having failed to qualify in his first last fall in the Grade 4 at the Evert Academy. Taking on one of the hottest players in the U.S. juniors right now, No. 7 seed Mitchell Frank, in the second round of the Easter Bowl, Saba showed that international experience and a number next to your name in the draw isn't a prerequisite for victory. The 17-year-old right-hander overwhelmed Frank, the champion at the International Spring Championships last week in Carson, 6-0, 6-3 on a cool and breezy day at the Rancho Las Palmas Resort.
Saba served well from the outset, and Frank's consistency, one of his major strengths, just wasn't there. The 16-year-old from Virginia is rarely the player to blink in a long rally, but his shot tolerance was uncharacteristically low Wednesday, with his backhand a frequent culprit.
Down 4-0 in the opening set, Frank commented to himself that he couldn't make a ball right now, and he would stare in disbelief when yet another shot went awry. After failing to win a game in the opening set, Frank may have been puzzled, but he wasn't discouraged, and at the set break, said "just like Brazil," a reference to a Banana Bowl match last month when he was down 6-1, 5-1, 40-15, but came back for the win.
It looked like Frank's comeback was about to begin in the second set, when he recovered from a 4-1 deficit, breaking Saba for the first time at 4-2 to get back on serve. But in the next game, a couple of Frank's shots were inches out on the baseline, and Saba broke at love to take a 5-3 lead, then served it out, cranking a forehand winner on match point.
"I didn't strike the ball too well, but I thought I played extremely smart," said Saba, who is 20-1 in 2009. "He's a very patient player, and to counter, you have to be patient and pick your spots. I thought I did that well, made a lot of balls, and served and returned well and took control of the point when the ball was there."
Saba will face unseeded Clay Thompson in the round of 16 Thursday. Thompson, a finalist in the Easter Bowl 16s last year, beat No. 11 seed Garrett Brasseaux 6-3, 6-2. Two other unseeded players reached the third round with wins over seeded players, with 2007 16s Easter Bowl champion Lawrence Formentera defeating No. 12 seed JT Sundling 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 and Daniel Kosakowski upsetting Denis Lin, the 13th seed, 6-1, 6-3.
The girls 18s quarterfinals are set, with two unseeded players making the final eight: 2008 Easter Bowl 16s champion Ellen Tsay and Shelby Rogers. Rogers defeated Danielle Lao 7-5, 7-6(5), while Tsay downed Gabrielle De Simone 6-2, 6-1.
The top four seeds eased past their opponents in straight sets, with No. 1 seed Lauren Embree posting a 6-3, 6-2 win over unseeded Mary Clayton and No. 2 seed Kristie Ahn taking out No. 15 seed Jessica Pegula 6-1, 6-3. Ahn and Pegula have similar games, but Ahn is both quicker and more effective using angles than Pegula, who recently won a qualifying match in a WTA event. No. 3 seed Beatrice Capra beat her doubles partner and friend Brooke Bolender, the No. 14 seed, 6-3, 6-1, while Christina McHale, seeded fourth, recorded a 6-3, 6-2 victory over unseeded Courtney Dolehide. Embree plays Tsay and McHale meets Nicole Gibbs, seeded 8th, in a rematch of their three-set quarterfinal contest last year. Ahn will face Rogers, and Capra will meet the only girl to need three sets, No. 9 Alexandra Cercone, who downed No. 5 seed Pamela Montez 1-6, 6-0, 6-4.
The 14s quarterfinals are also on Thursday, with boys top seed Trey Daniel still in the hunt after a three-set victory over No. 10 seed Jack Murray, and girls No. 1 Julia Elbaba advancing with a straight set win over a No. 17 seed, Peggy Porter.
The top seeds in the 16s, Belinda Niu and Shane Vinsant, have reached the third round with victories on Wednesday.
For complete draws in the 14s and 16s, see the TennisLink site. For the ITF results, click here.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009