©Colette Lewis 2010--
Coral Gables, FL--
Nicole Frenkel was down a set for the first time in the tournament, trailing Yulia Bryzgalova of Russia in the Junior Orange Bowl girls 12s championship match on a clear and calm morning at Salvadore Park. Bryzgalova had hardly missed a ball in the first six games of the match and held on for a 6-3 win in the first set.
But the unseeded Frenkel, facing her fourth No. 1 seed of the tournament, found her way back into the match in the second set, and finished strongly in the third to take a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.
The left-hander from Boston was able to withstand the heat from Bryzgalova's forehand with a strategy she and her coach Celeste Frey had gleaned from watching the Russian the day before.
"Her forehand was really powerful and she hit a lot of winners, and her backhand was not as a powerful, but she was more steady on that side," said Frenkel. "So it was a challenge. I tried going wide to the backhand and opening up the court to her forehand, and I tried to mix up the pace."
After a ten-minute break between the second and third sets, Bryzgalova looked a step slow and dropped the opening game on serve, but that was just the first of four breaks to open the final set. Serving at 3-3 30-30 Bryzgalova missed an overhead and received a penalty for racquet abuse from the chair umpire, which gave Frenkel the game. Bryzgalova looked surprised, but she didn't say a word in protest. Frenkel had an opportunity to take control in the next game, but Bryzgalova hit two jaw-dropping crosscourt angled backhand winners to earn two break points, and Frenkle double faulted on game point to make it 4-4.
But as good as Bryzgalova's backhand was in that game, it was that bad in the next, when three backhand errors and a winner by Frenkel gave the American a 5-4 lead. With all the difficulty Frenkel had experienced with her serve throughout the match, finishing the match in the next game seemed unlikely, but she had the advantage of serving with her back to the sun.
"I was pretty much guessing on that (other) side, because the sun was just exactly where the ball was," said Frenkel. "My coach told me to adjust the toss, and I was telling myself that, but it's really hard. But on this side it was just like night and day."
Frenkel got all but one first serve in during the final game, and Bryzgalova missed three returns, although one was an unlucky net cord. A backhand wide gave Frenkel her first championship point, and another first serve saw Bryzgalova go for a big forehand return. It went long, and after nearly two and a half hours, Frenkel could claim the bowl of oranges she craved.
"I love coming here and playing here," said Frenkel. "My inspiration was the oranges, I really wanted the oranges. And it's so beautiful here."
While most champions view the oranges as an ornament or a nuisance, Frenkel had a completely different appreciation for the tournament's fruit. Asked how she would celebrate, Frenkel replied:
"I'm celebrating by eating an orange. It's so exciting, and I'll definitely remember this forever. It's my last 12s and I finished it really well."
The other three divisions' semifinals were played Wednesday at the University of Miami, and in the boys 12s, Eddie Herr finalist Michael Mmoh reached his second major in three weeks with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over fellow No. 1 seed Mikael Wondwosen of Sweden. Mmoh's opponent in Thursday morning's final is unseeded Oh Chanyeong of Korea, who defeated unseeded Michal Kusznerko of the U.S. 6-1, 6-4.
The boys 14s semifinals were both straight set affairs. Top seed Joshua Sapwell of Great Britain had little trouble with No. 8 seed Christian Garin of Chile, taking a 6-0, 6-3 decision. Clement Geens of Belgium, a No. 9 seed, served for the first set against unseeded Borna Coric of Croatia at 6-5, but lost the game and the subsequent tiebreaker. Coric took control after that, with the 2009 Boys 14s semifinalist posting a 7-6(5), 6-1 victory.
The girls 14s final will be a rematch of one of the semifinals last year, when Brooke Austin of the U.S. beat Dominica Gonzalez of Ecuador 6-2, 6-2. Austin, seeded sixth, reached the final for the second straight year with a 6-0, 7-5 victory over qualifier Varvara Flink of Russia, while No. 5 seed Gonzalez ousted top seed Barbara Haas of Austria 4-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(1).
Haas served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but Gonzalez stayed alive when Haas hit a forehand long at 30-40. At 3-3 in the tiebreaker, Haas made four consecutive forehand errors to give Gonzalez the set. She desperately needed the ten-minute break to regroup, but having won all her previous five matches so easily, she didn't have a lot of experience in making adjustments.
Gonzalez raised her game in the third set, while Haas continued to have trouble controlling her forehand, and with a break of Haas at 2-2 , Gonzalez stayed in front, serving for the match at 5-4. A very loose game cost her a chance to end it, but she broke Haas again in the next game, and again served for the match, this time at 6-5. Gonzalez didn't get to match point in that game either, with a double fault leading to a break point, which Haas converted with a forehand winner.
In the final tiebreaker, Gonzalez was able to put those disappointments behind her. At 2-0, she anticipated a screaming forehand pass by Haas, improbably massaging the ball over the net for a drop volley winner and a 3-0 lead. A forehand winner and a gorgeous backhand pass gave Gonzalez a 5-1 lead, and a good first serve earned her five match points. She converted the first, putting away a forehand at the net to end the nearly three-hour battle.
"I knew it would be a tough match and I would have to play really, really well to beat her," said Gonzalez, who counts Haas among her group of friends. "In the tiebreaks, I knew I had to give everything, and I played really well in the tiebreaks."
Austin had a much shorted match with Flink, but it could have been even less complicated that she made it. Leading 6-0, 4-1, Austin managed to lose both those breaks and it was suddenly 4-4 in the second. Austin broke Flink to serve for the match at 5-4, but a double fault on match point and unforced error and another double fault and it was 5-5. Another break of Flink gave Austin one more chance to avoid a tiebreaker, and this time she took it, hitting a forehand winner at 40-30 to earn another shot at the title that eluded her in 2009.
"I think I started to think too much about the next match, instead of focusing on my match," said Austin. "Whenever I was ahead I would get tight, but when it was tied I was fine. It was really weird."
Gonzalez is looking forward to another shot at Austin.
"Last year I was 13, I didn't play well," said Gonzalez. "I hope to play well this time. This year is my year, I think."
The finals in the boys 12s and girls 14s begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday at the University of Miami. The boys 14s final will follow at 10:30 a.m.
For complete results, see the TennisLink site.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010