©Colette Lewis 2009--
Twenty-four hours of rain came to an end on Saturday, and in its wake were wind chills in the mid-50s, blustery winds and seven Americans finalists in five age divisions at the Eddie Herr.
Friday's victories by Stefan Kozlov and Mariya Shishkina in the 12s singles gave the U.S. its first two titles, and two more are guaranteed with all-American finals in the 16s.
Sachia Vickery, the only No. 1 seed still in the running for a title, got past her longtime rival Vicky Duval, the 16th seed, 6-4, 0-6, 6-3 in a match played indoors at the IMG Bollettieri Academy. The quality of play varied from great to poor, with Vickery coming out impressively, and hardly committing an error in the first four games. The 14-year-old Vickery, who now trains at the Mouratoglol Academy in France, completely lost her way in the second set, as the unforced errors piled up and Duval took full advantage. In the third set Duval fell behind early, but caught Vickery at 3-all, only to be broken in the next game and then again in the final game.
Vickery's opponent in the final is No. 5 seed Caitlyn Williams, whose grandfather Mike DePalmer helped Nick Bollettieri establish his academy more than 30 years ago. Williams defeated unseeded Breaunna Addison, also of the U.S., 6-2, 6-3 in an outdoor semifinal match Saturday.
In the boys 16s final, 2008 14s champion Alexios Halebian goes for his 13th consecutive win at the Eddie Herr against friend and roommate Hunter Harrington after each defeated qualifiers in Saturday's semifinals. The seventh-seeded Harrington, playing indoors, took out Austria's Dennis Novak 6-4, 6-1, while No. 8 seed Halebian defeated Luis Patino of Mexico 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, in a match that finished under the lights of court 10.
The frentic activity at the Eddie Herr makes some players uncomfortable, but Halebian isn't one of them.
"I like the atmosphere here," said Halebian, 15. "It feels good, and I always play well."
Harrington, who has yet to lose a set in the tournament, expressed surprise at his performance this week.
"Coming into the tournament I didn't feel I was playing that well," said Harrington, 16. "This is one of the better tournaments of my life. I've played really well so far and I hope I can keep it up for one more match."
Harrington braved the cold and wind to support Halebian during his semifinal, and he is looking forward to playing him again.
"It's going to be fun," Harrington said. "I play with Al really every day, I play doubles with him and I'm actually rooming with him. He's one of my good friends. Last time we played, it was pretty windy and we had a really close match, I saved two match points. In practice, we go back and forth, so it should be fun."
"He's my teammate, he's a nice guy," Halebian said. "We cheer each other on usually. Win or lose in the finals, we'll be enemies on the court and friends after."
Another champion looking for second consecutive Eddie Herr title is Daria Gavrilova of Russia, who captured her first last year in the 14s. The 15-year-old Gavrilova skipped the 16s and went straight to the 18s this year, and after her 6-4, 6-3 win over Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski, the No. 3 seed has 12 straight match victories in Bradenton. Her opponent in the final is wild card Di Zhao of China, who defeated No. 13 seed Polina Leykina of Russia 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. Both girls 18s semifinals were played indoors Saturday morning.
Last year Denis Kudla reached the semifinals at the Eddie Herr; this year the No. 4 seed has gone one step further, earning some revenge in the process, with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 13 seed Sekou Bangoura Jr.
At October's Pan American Closed in Tulsa, Okla., Bangoura downed Kudla in the quarterfinals on his way to the title. But today Kudla felt the unsettling conditions may have favored him.
"I think it kind of messed up his strategy," said Kudla, 17. "I thought he was going to play similar to how he played me in Tulsa, a lot of high balls, which made me uncomfortable in Tulsa, and I was impatient. I was a lot more patient today. Conditions were weird, and I think it affected him. In the wind, it's tough to play the way you want to play. It's something I dealt with better than he did today."
Kudla's opponent in the final is No. 3 seed Marton Fucscovics of Hungary, who defeated unseeded Jack Carpenter of Great Britain 6-3, 6-2. Fucsovics and Kudla have not played before, but Kudla is familiar with his game.
"I saw him at Junior Davis Cup last year," said Kudla, who led the U.S. to the 16-and-under title in Mexico. "He's a great competitor. I'm looking forward to playing him. I haven't been in a final in a while, and I'm pretty excited."
Two Americans who train at the USTA Boca Raton National Center will compete for titles in the 14s division. Unseeded Spencer Liang dashed Great Britain's hopes for an all-English final, defeating Pippa Horn 6-3, 6-2, and will face No. 16 seed Katy Dunne for the championship.
In the boys 14 final, No. 5 seed Luke Bambridge of Great Britain will play No. 13 seed Thai Kwiatkowski, who upset top seed Thien Nguyen of Vietnam 6-4, 6-3 Saturday afternoon.
"I'm actually three-fourths Vietnamese, so it was pretty cool to play him," said Kwiatkowski. "He's a really nice guy, I talked to him after his matches and I talked to his family a little bit. It's nice they made the trip here to the tournament."
Kwiatkowski has always struggled to control his emotions while on the court, but believes he is making progress on that front.
"I've been trying to focus on my side of the court," he said. "I usually have a tough time with my head, but I'm trying to stay in the match and stay calm--try to make the other player beat me and not beat myself."
Two doubles titles were determined Saturday evening, both in the 16s division. The second seeds from Mexico, Carolina Betancourt and Marcela Zacarias defeated the top seeds from Canada, Elisabeth Abanda and Elianne Douglas-Miron, 6-1, 5-7, 12-10.
In the boys 16s doubles final, unseeded Diego Hidalgo of Ecuador and Thiago Monteiro of Brazil saved three match points in the match tiebreaker to upset No. 1 seed Mitchell Krueger and Alex Petrone of the U.S. 2-6, 6-4, 13-11.
The unseeded U.S. team of Mia King and Josie Kuhlman will play for the girls 14s doubles title on Sunday against top seeds Natella Nabieva of Uzbekistan and Laura Ucros of Columbia.
Harry Fowler, who did not play singles this week, but was given a wild card into doubles with partner Mark Verryth of Australia, will play for the boys 18s title on Sunday against No. 1 seeds Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France and Kevin Krawietz of Germany.
For complete results, including doubles and mixed doubles, see the tennis information site. For additional photos and stories, see eddieherr.com.
Saturday, December 5, 2009