©Colette Lewis 2010--
Opening day was kind to the seeds in the 18s division Monday at the IMG/Bollettieri Academy. On a warm and thankfully rain-free afternoon, there were 14 seeds in action in the 32 matches played in the ITF Grade 1 18s, and 13 of them advanced to the second round, including No. 1 seeds Mate Pavic of Croatia and Irina Khromacheva of Russia.
It's rare when a player is completely happy with his or her performance, but wild card Vicky Duval, who downed No. 7 seed Ilona Kremen of Belarus 7-5, 6-1, couldn't hide her satisfaction when reporting her score. After taking the first set with a late break and hold, Duval, who turns 15 on Tuesday, really found her form. "I played so well," said Duval, who is now training at Bollettieri's again and had Nick himself as a spectator at her match.
Duval was the only 14-year-old with any success on Monday, as Indy De Vroome of the Netherlands, Kanami Tsuji of Japan, Barbara Haas of Austria and Domenica Gonzalez of Ecuador--all 14 years old--lost their opening matches in the 18s division.
Grace Min of the U.S., who defeated Haas, 6-3, 7-6(3), was one of six U.S. girls to win. Wild cards Stephanie Nauta and Catherine Harrison earned straight set wins, as did Lauren Herring.
Ashley Dai was the last American to finish, at around 5:10 p.m., and she did it with a flourish, defeating Yuliana Lizarazo of Colombia 7-6(5), 0-6, 7-5. Lizarazo served for the match at 5-4, but didn't get a match point, as Dai dug in to get the break back. Dai refused to play tentatively, hitting both backhand and forehand flat, hard and deep, but Lizarazo stayed in the points with some excellent defense.
The match turned when at 5-6 15-30, Lizarazo had an easy overhead at the net on a desperate short lob by Dai. Whether it was the tension of the moment or the low angle of the sun, she missed it, badly, giving Dai two match points, which she didn't need. After such high quality tennis in the final games, it turned out to be an unfortunate let cord that went in Dai's favor ending the match. Lizarazo's supporters in the crowd groaned with dismay at her bad luck, but it was Dai who advanced to the second round.
On the boys side, No. 13 seed Shane Vinsant, No. 15 seed Bjorn Fratangelo, No. 16 seed Dennis Novikov and wild card Michael Redlicki were the four U.S. players to advance among the six who played. Gonzales Austin lost to top seed Pavic 6-3, 7-6(6), and Christian Harrison, playing in his first junior match since April of 2009, lost to fellow 16-year-old Lucas Pouille of France 6-4, 6-2. Harrison led 4-1 in the opening set, but was unable to sustain that level and won only two more games after taking that lead.
Few seeds in the younger age divisions played, as there were byes into the second round for the 14s seeds, and the girls 16s have yet to play. But in the boys 16s, top seed Trey Strobel of the U.S. cruised past Michal Rolski of Poland 6-0, 6-2 in a match played under the high-wattage lights on what is known as Nick's, or stadium, court.
The 12s are down to the final 32 in both boys and girls divisions. Three boys qualifiers from the U.S. have advanced to the third round: Michael Mmoh, Bailey Showers and Austin Di Giulio, while No. 1 seed William Blumberg has yet to lose a game in his two victories.
In the girls 12s, 2009 semifinalist Anastasia Nefedova, an unseeded wild card this year, has advanced to the third round, as have two No. 1 seeds from the U.S.-Sofia Kenin and Cristina Rovira. One of the day's longest matches saw Nandini Das of India outlast Soo-min Kim of Korea 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-4 in over three and a half hours of play on Court 10.
Play begins at 8 a.m. on Tuesday with the third round of boys and girls 12s.
For more photos, stories and results, see eddieherr.com.
Monday, November 29, 2010