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Saturday, November 27, 2010

More Rain Postpones Start of Boys 12s at Eddie Herr; U.S. Players Start Strong in 18s Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Bradenton, FL--

An early morning rainstorm moved through Bradenton Saturday, delaying the start of the girls 12s first round. By the time the courts dried, nearly three hours of daylight was lost, and the decision was made to postpone the first round of the boys 12s until Sunday morning. That kept the boys and girls 18s qualifying roughly on schedule, although overcast skies in the late afternoon caused suspension of matches due to darkness, while those players waited for a lighted court to open.

Five of the 16 No. 1 seeds (all seeded players are given No. 1 seeds in the 12s) lost in the opening round, but both of the U.S. seeds, Cristina Rovira and Sofia Kenin, advanced easily. Rovira beat Katerina Filip of Sweden 6-0, 6-0, and Kenin defeated Mila Hartig of South Africa 6-1, 6-0.

I saw some of Melissa Plambeck's 6-0, 6-0 victory over No. 1 seed Hikaru Nonaka of Japan, and although there were some long deuce games, Plambeck, who trains at Bollettieri's, obviously won them all. Nonaka struggled mightily with her serve, often double faulting multiple times in a game, and Plambeck managed to maintain her concentration throughout. Magdalena Dobinda of the U.S. defeated No. 1 seed Iesha Shepherd of the Bahamas 6-0, 6-1, Sofia Sewing of the U.S. beat No. 1 seed Akayla Ellis-Agard of Barbados 6-0, 6-0, and Ashley Kratzer of the U.S. downed No. 1 seed Krista Cerpina of Latvia 6-4, 6-4.

In the boys 18s qualifying, a couple of wild cards who hadn't played much recently got off to good starts. Spencer Newman defeated Dor Belfer of Israel 6-4, 7-6(6), and although the future Florida Gator's left knee was wrapped in ice after the match, he said it was precautionary.

Jeremy Efferding, another wild card coming back from extended time away from competition, defeated No. 12 seed Kevin Kaczynski of Germany 7-5, 6-4. Efferding, who had an emergency appendectomy prior to the Clay Courts in July, played his first tournament since his operation at the Evert ITF earlier this month, reaching the quarterfinals, and despite a slow start today, showed his recovery can now be considered complete.

The early 0-3 hole he dug himself was primarily due to a problem with his racquet.

"I had a string malfunction, and it lowered the tension by like 10 pounds. It was like a beginner's," said Efferding, 17. "I didn't know what was going on. I was barely touching the ball and it hit the fence."

Once Efferding corrected the problem, he won four straight games, going from down a break to up a break. Kaczynski's serve wasn't imposing, so even when Efferding dropped his serve to make it 4-4, there wasn't any reason do think he had lost his opportunity for the set. At 5-5, Kaczynski was broken, and Efferding served for the set. Every point between the two was a lengthy one--the match took nearly two and half hours, despite being straight sets--and that included the final game of the first set, but a couple of good first serves got Efferding out of trouble. Of the two, Efferding was more comfortable finishing at the net, but the bulk of the points were decided from behind the baseline. When Kaczynski ventured in, Efferding hit several excellent passing shots, and that dampened the German's enthusiasm for any more trips toward the net.

In the second set, Kaczynski was down an early break, got it back, and immediately lost his serve again, giving Efferding a 4-3 lead. The racquet bounces got more serious after that, and with most of his shots going wide in the next game, Kaczynzki fell behind 5-3. He held in the next game, but Efferding took a 40-15 lead when serving for the match, double faulted on his first match point, then completed the victory by wrong-footing Kaczynski.

"I'm super happy to be back into it," said Efferding, who trains at the USTA National Center in Boca Raton. "I was out for at least a month and a little more, just zero (activity). But I have had time to get back into it. I was able to walk, jog, play a little bit every day, and now I'm back doing fitness every day."

Of the 16 U.S boys in the 18s qualifying, 10 advanced to Sunday's second round. Connor Farren defeated No. 5 seed Peda Krstin of Serbia 7-6(5), 6-2, and Harrison Richmond downed No. 7 seed Benjamin Lock of Zimbabwe 6-3, 6-3. Richmond was down an early break in the second set, but used some excellent defense and several effective lobs to take control, winning the final four games of the match.

No. 9 seed Alex Petrone and No. 11 seed Evan Song advanced in straight sets, as did Anthony Delcore, Austin Smith, Mitchell Polnet and Roberto Cid.

In the girls 18s qualifying, Liz Jeukeng ousted top seed Juliana Gajic of Canada 6-1, 6-1 and Natalia Maynetto defeated No. 3 seed Marcela Zacarias of Mexico 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. Other U.S girls advancing to the second round were No. 11 seed Denise Starr, No. 9 seed Jennifer Brady, No. 6 seed Tristen Dewar, No. 8 seed Kelsey Laurente, as well as wild card Maci Epstein, Alexandria Stiteler, Lynn Chi, Nadia Echeverria Alam and Julia Jones.

Matches are still in progress as of 9 p.m. Saturday, but for results and times, click here.