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Monday, November 30, 2009

Qualifiers Clayton and Niu Take Down Seeds in Opening Round of Girls 18s at Eddie Herr

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Bradenton, FL--

Mary Clayton and Belinda Niu were match tough after their three qualifying wins over the weekend, and they proved it with upsets Monday in first round 18s action at the Eddie Herr International. Clayton downed No. 4 seed Camila Silva of Chile 1-6, 6-2, 7-6(4), and Niu took out No. 9 seed Irnia Khromacheva of Russia 6-4, 6-3 on another ideal day for tennis at the IMG/Bollettieri Academy.

Clayton, who had rolled through her two qualifying matches on Sunday after saving two match points in her opener on Saturday, again saved two match points against Silva, No. 12 in the ITF junior rankings.

Niu was on court over seven hours on Sunday, and admitted that she was tired and sore this morning, but there was little sign of it against the 14-year-old Russian.

"I think I played pretty well," said the 16-year-old from Oregon, who trains at the Evert Academy. "I was a little bit nervous, but I tried to play through it."

Niu said she wasn't familiar with Khromacheva's game, having not played her before, but didn't let it worry her.

"I knew she was a seed, so that she was a good player, but I didn't really have expectations, I just wanted to play my best," she said, putting her level in today's match at 7 on a scale of 10.

Madison Keys, another Evert Academy student, had too much power for Anna Orlik of Belarus, taking a 6-3, 6-3 victory in a contest between two former Eddie Herr 12s champions, Orlik in 2005 and Keys in 2007. Orlik, now 16, had trouble holding serve, and although she fought back from down 3-0 in the final set, Keys got the break she needed with Orlik serving at 3-4, and held for the win.

Qualifier Danielle Collins and French Open girls finalist Daria Gavrilova of Russia had a spirited battle before Gavrilova emerged with a 6-0, 4-6, 7-6(3) victory. The match was moved to a lighted court in the third set, but there seemed no advantage to either after Collins held a long and tense game serving at 5-6. But in the tiebreaker, Gavrilova, the Eddie Herr 14s champion last year, successfully wrong-footed Collins on several key points and hit a backhand winner to squelch the challenge from Collins.

If there is to be a third consecutive girls 18s winner from the U.S., she will come from the top half of the draw, as all seven Americans in the bottom half lost their first round matches. In addition to Clayton, Niu and Keys, wild card Stephanie Nauta and Monica Turewicz advanced to the second round, which will be played on Wednesday.

Top seed Heather Watson, the 2008 Eddie Herr 18s finalist, had little difficulty with Marianne Jodoin of Canada, taking their match by a 6-2, 6-0 score. Watson, who trains at Bollettieri's and attends school there, couldn't help but smile at four of her male classmates, each of whom painted his back in with a letter, then spelled out G O H W by lining up and raising their shirts to display their message.

Number six seed Yana Buchina, who lost to Watson in September's US Open girls final, withdrew due to illness today and was replaced by lucky loser Tamara Bizhukova, also of Russia, who advanced to the second round.

The boys 18s and 16s first round will be played Tuesday.

The 12s are down to the round of 16, and there are seven U.S. girls and five U.S. boys still vying for the title. No. 1 seeds Tommy Paul and Stefan Kozlov won in straight sets, as did unseeded Francis Tiafoe. Alex Rybakov came back to defeat Nathan Ponwith 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 in a battle of unseeded Americans, and Reilly Opelka upended Yancy Dennis, a No. 1 seed from the U.S., 6-3, 7-5. Dennis had three set points with Opelka serving at 4-5, 0-40 in the second set, but the Floridan won the next five points, broke Dennis and held firm after a long game at 6-5, taking the win on his third match point.

The seven girls remaining also include two No. 1 seeds: Ndindi Ndunda and Anastasia Nefedova, who are two of only three No. 1 seeds remaining in the draw. Rebecca Weissmann, Mariya Shishkina, Gabrielle Robinson, Tornado Ali Black, and Diana Kussainova are the other U.S. players who will try for quarterfinal berths on Tuesday.

For complete results and draws, see the tennisinformation site. For more photos and stories, see eddieherr.com.