©Colette Lewis 2010--
Lee Duckhee of Korea trained for a full year with one goal in mind--to win the Eddie Herr title that eluded him in 2009. With two straight-set wins Friday in the semifinals and finals, Duckhee reached his goal in such dominating fashion that his inability to hear or speak was a secondary story.
A semifinalist in 2009, Duckhee went one step further when he took a 7-6(8), 6-1 victory from Mikael Wondwosen of Sweden, also a No. 1 seed, on Friday morning. In the afternoon final against qualifier Michael Mmoh of the U.S., Duckhee needed just over an hour capture the championship by a 6-0, 6-1 score.
Although unable to speak or sign, Duckhee can read lips of Korean speakers, and a translator was able to pass along his thoughts on winning the tournament.
"He's feeling excellent, fabulous. He's says he feels really good about himself because he's been practicing one year for winning this tournament. He lost last year to (Korea's Seongchan) Hong, and was a little frustrated, but he worked extra hard for the year, so he achieved his goal."
Duckhee's pace was a little too much for Mmoh, who won three qualifying and six main draw matches in the past eight days. Mmoh had not dropped a set until the semifinals against Lim Minseob, but he needed nearly three hours to take out the unseeded Korean 5-7, 6-3, 6-1. Despite struggling to keep up with Duckhee, the much bigger Mmoh, who is from Maryland but for the past several years has lived and trained in Dubai, was satisfied with his performance.
"It was a great experience to be in the finals," said Mmoh, who, like Duckhee, is 12 years old. "Before, I would watch people in the final and say I wish I could be like them, and this time I was in the final. Duckhee is a fantastic player, and he deserves to win the tournament."
A large crowd had gathered around court 18 for the boys final on a clear and cool afternoon, including Team Korea, the dozen or so players who competed at the tournament and were excitedly applauding every point Duckhee won, although he was unable to hear their cheers. Mmoh, playing in his first Eddie Herr, wasn't intimidated by all the spectators, but he did admit the stakes were high.
"I've done it before, but this was different because this was the Eddie Herr," said Mmoh. "I enjoyed it."
So did girls 12s singles winner Katarina Jokic of Bosnia-Herzegovina, who said she was feeling "super" after her 6-3, 6-0 win over wild card Anastasia Nefedova of Russia.
Jokic had helped her cause by taking her morning semifinal match from Sofia Kenin of the U.S. in straight sets 6-2, 6-4, although she did not have to win a match point. Kenin was given a game penalty for coaching at 5-4 in the second set, which gave Jokic the victory. Meanwhile, Nefedova and Cristina Rovira had barely reached the mid-point of their semifinal, and it was three and a half hours before Nefedova emerged with the 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 victory.
Oddly it was Jokic who said she was tired in the final, but she did admit that she still had her legs.
"I run very well, and I play very good today," said the 12-year-old right-hander, the first player from her country to win an Eddie Herr title. "I feel very great."
Although Jokic said she thought Nefedova played well in the final, the 11-year-old, who lives in Florida, didn't agree.
"I had to hit a little better," said Nefedova, who reached the 12s semifinals in 2009. "It was a good experience and I have to move forward, but I was expecting to win."
Asked what made Jokic so tough in the final, Nefedova had one word. "Consistency."
With the 12s tournament now complete, the focus turns to the 14s, 16s and 18s divisions, and the U.S. still has players contending in all but the boys 18s.
In the girls 18s, an American finalist is assured, as Grace Min and Lauren Davis advanced to meet each other with quarterfinal wins Friday.
Min was devastatingly precise in her 6-0, 6-0 blanking of No. 3 seed An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium, taking just under an hour to complete the win. The fifth-seeded Davis, the Yucatan Grade 1 champion last week, now has a ten match winning streak after taking down top seed Irina Khromacheva of Russia 6-1, 6-2, the same score Davis posted in her win last week over the ITF's fourth-ranked junior. Min and Davis have not played in ITF junior competition.
The other two U.S. girls in the quarterfinals, No. 12 seed Madison Keys and wild card Vicky Duval, couldn't overcome their higher-seeded opponents. Duval dropped a close 7-6(7), 7-5 decision to No. 2 seed and Roland Garros girls champion Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, and Keys fell to No. 4 seed and U.S. Open girls finalist Yulia Putintseva of Russia 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-0. It took Keys and Putintseva and Keys, both 15, nearly three hours to play two sets, with lengthy games and an inability to hold serve the norm. Putintseva twice served for the second set, at 5-4 and 6-5, but her first serve deserted her and Keys had an opportunity to take the match in the tiebreaker. Keys led 5-4 in the tiebreaker, but despite again missing two first serves, Putintseva went up 6-5. Keys saved a set point with a good first serve, but netted a backhand at 6-6 to give Putintseva another, and this time she converted when Keys hit a backhand wide.
The relentless Russian, who gives up at least 8 inches in height to Keys, took the momentum she gained in the tiebreaker and ran with it. When she got a second break of Keys to make it 4-0, the games got shorter and Putintseva earned her date with Svitolina. Putintseva has won both their previous meetings.
The boys 18s matches were all thrilling three-setters, with three of the winners coming from a set down to advance. Top seed Mate Pavic of Croatia lost to No. 6 seed Joris de Loore of Belgium 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5). De Loore will face No. 5 seed Oliver Golding of Great Britain, who posted a 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over No. 4 seed Mate Zsiga of Hungary. Yucatan Cup champion Dominic Thiem defeated Mate Delic of Croatia 3-6, 7-5, 6-2 to set up a meeting with No. 2 seed Roberto Quiroz of Ecuador. Quiroz beat No. 11 seed George Morgan of Great Britain 0-6, 6-3, 6-1.
In the 16s, an unseeded finalist is assured in the boys division, as Jhonatan Gonzalez of Venezuela meets Roy Lederman of the United States in one semifinal. Gonzalez survived a long and intense battle with No. 8 seed Samuel Monette of Canada 6-7(5), 6-0, 6-3. Lederman defeated unseeded Markus Ahne of Austria 7-6(0), 6-1. The other semifinal has No. 12 seed Jordan Daigle of the U.S. against No. 10 seed Jaime Galleguillos of Chile. Daigle, who is now training full time at the IMG/Bollettieri Academy, defeated qualifier Stephen Watson 7-5, 6-4, while Galleguillos beat qualifier Jose Gomez of Mexico 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Two American wild cards advanced to the semifinals of the girls 16s. Fourteen-year-old Taylor Townsend downed unseeded Estelle Cascino of France 6-3, 6-1 and will play No. 2 seed Carol Zhao of Canada, who beat No. 8 seed Anna-Maria Heil of Austria 7-5, 7-5. The other wild card from the U.S., Samantha Crawford, will play No. 4 seed Ayaka Okuno of Japan. Crawford beat doubles partner Alexandra Kiick 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, while Okuna eliminated No. 5 seed Ximena Siles Luna of Peru 7-5, 6-4.
The boys 14s semifinals feature two unseeded Belgians. Omar Salman and Clement Geens. Salman will play No. 12 seed Peter Ashley of Great Britain, while Geens will face No. 6 seed Zandrix Acob of the U.S. Acob reached the semifinals with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 victory over unseeded Alexander Sendegeya of Great Britain.
The girls 14s semfinalists include top seed Valeria Patiuk of Israel, who downed crowd favorite and 2009 12s champion Mariya Shishkina of the U.S. 6-4, 6-3 Friday on stadium court. Patiuk will play No. 3 seed Francoise Abanda of Canada, who earned a 6-3, 6-3 victory over No. 5 seed Ulyana Ayzatulina of Russia, in another match that featured a game penalty for coaching, this one against the Russian. An unseeded finalist will come from the other semifinal, with Qiuyu Ye of China facing wild card Tornado Ali Black. Ye defeated unseeded Mayar Sherif 6-4, 6-1, while Black prevailed over No. 2 seed Yihong Li of China 6-2, 6-3.
Two doubles champions were crowned on Friday, when the format changed from eight-game pro sets to no-ad best of three sets with match tiebreaker in lieu of a third. The boys 16s title went to Trey Strobel and Jordan Daigle of the U.S., the No. 2 seeds. Strobel and Daigle beat the unseeded Mexican team of Jose Gomez and Ricky Medinilla 6-3, 7-5.
In the girls 16s doubles, Ayaka Okuno of Japan and Riko Shimizu of the U.S., seeded sixth, defeated Aleiandra Cisneros and Giovanna Manifiacio, the third seeds from Mexico, 6-0, 3-6, 10-6 to capture the championship.
For complete scores, as well as photos and stories from the tournament, see eddieherr.com.
Friday, December 3, 2010