Kiick Wins Girls 16s Title; Davis and Min to Decide Girls 18s Dunlop Orange Bowl Championship Sunday
©Colette Lewis 2010--
Key Biscayne, FL--
When Allie Kiick pleaded for tickets to pop star Katy Perry's concert tonight in Miami, she never imagined she would be celebrating an girls 16s Orange Bowl singles title. Promised backstage passes if she made the semifinals, the 15-year-old wild card didn't stop there, defeating Catherine Harrison 5-7, 6-2, 6-0 to claim one of the most prestigious titles in junior tennis.
Her father, former Miami Dolphin running back Jim Kiick, had stopped attending his daughter's matches by mutual consent. Admittedly a classically jittery tennis parent, Jim Kiick stayed away all week, but with an enviable lack of superstition by Allie, was invited to attend the final.
"I actually thought he had work, and I didn't know if he wanted to come or not, because he gets so nervous," Kiick said. "But he means well. He just wants me to win so bad, and I know that, it's just so hard for me sometimes. But I wanted him to be here."
"And I'm glad I was here," Jim Kiick chimed in. Calm on the outside, sitting high in the bleachers on court 1 and wearing a Dolphins cap, Jim Kiick was one of many spectators supporting his daughter, who lives in Plantation and trains with Harold Solomon. But Jim Kiick later admitted to knots in his stomach, especially after Allie Kiick lost the first set with a forehand into the net.
She wasn't as concerned however.
"I usually come back in the second a lot," said Kiick, the fifth straight U.S. girl to win the 16s title. "I like to give my Dad a heart attack. So it was like, let's do it again."
More accustomed to Harrison's considerable pace, Kiick began to use a variety of shots to counter it, with her speed making it difficult for Harrison to finish points.
"I was trying to be more aggressive, and mix it up as much as I could," Kiick said. "Slicing, lobbing, hitting top spin, hitting hard, and it worked."
After one winner, a perfect lob that helped Kiick to a 2-0 lead in the third set, Kiick smiled broadly. After the match, she explained why.
"My coach always gets mad at me for hitting lobs, usually he wants me to hit passing shots, so when that worked, I just had to smile and be like, I told you. It does work."
Harrison's serve, so reliable in her two wins on Friday, including a nearly three-hour marathon with European 16s champion Silvia Garcia Jimenez of Spain in the semifinals, gave her much more trouble on Saturday, producing eight double faults and only one ace.
"It was my legs on my serve," said Harrison, who lost the final nine games of the match. "I couldn't really push up like I was doing yesterday. I had a lot more double faults today, and my serve definitely wasn't as strong."
Although Harrison got noticeably less patient as the match wore on, swinging for the lines earlier in the point, she gave Kiick credit for that.
"She did a really good job of moving it all around the court, and her game just kept getting steadily better as the match went on," the 16-year-old from Germantown, Tenn. said. "She gets to everything-she's really fast. She likes that forehand, and has really good touch also, good hands."
Kiick will not play Winter Nationals, instead taking her annual snowboarding and skiing trip after Christmas, but once she returns from her time off, she is looking to try her hand at some Pro Circuit tournaments, while continuing with ITF Junior events in hopes of earning a ranking that will get her into the junior slams.
"Maybe I can handle it now," Kiick said of competing in pro tournaments. "I just wanted to make sure I was ready."
While the girls 16s title has been the exclusive property of the United States in recent years, the French boys have been in something of a drought in the 16s. But when Friday's semifinals were complete, France was assured of its first champion since Julien Jeanpierre's title in 1996, with top seed Lucas Pouille facing No. 7 seed Laurent Lokoli in Saturday's final.
Lokoli emerged with a 6-3, 6-0 win, and although he dominated all week, losing only 19 games in his six victories, his history against his friend and doubles partner was not good.
"I played him three or four times and I lost every time," said the 16-year-old right-hander, who trains daily with Pouille at the National Center for Sports and Physical Education outside Paris. "It's the first time that I win, and it's very good for me."
Pouille never seemed entirely comfortable in the match, and although he has a big serve and powerful forehand, he had trouble staying in the rallies with Lokoli. With Lokoli moving forward, even serving and volleying on occasion, Pouille was kept guessing and never found his rhythm.
Lokoli knew that winning the title could have a significance for his future, and shortly after the match, Lagardère Group's Ken Meyerson, Andy Roddick's agent, introduced himself to the new champion.
"For me to win was important, because a lot of good players were here," said Lokoli. "I don't know what happened but I was very good in my head, my shots were very good, and the courts were very good for me. I feel the ball very good. It's very good to win here for the future."
The 18s semifinals were short on drama on the mild and calm Saturday, with all four matches decided in straight sets, or less, with one cut short by an injury. Unseeded Grace Min of Lawrenceville, Ga. advanced to her first Grade A final when her opponent, No. 13 seed Natalija Kostic of Serbia, rolled her left ankle trailing 4-0 in the first set. Kostic had her ankle taped, but played only one more point before retiring.
"I was attacking and I had a volley on top of the net," Min said, describing the circumstances of Kostic's injury. "I hit behind her, and I guess she stepped the wrong way trying to get to it."
Kostic was the first seeded player Min had encountered all week, and she has dropped only one set on her way to the final, but for the 16-year-old, who reached the semifinals at the Eddie Herr last week, there has been no looking past her opponents.
"I've been able to stay focused and not get too ahead of myself," Min said. "And I'm just trying to keep that up throughout the whole tournament."
If Min is expecting any sympathy from Lauren Davis, her opponent in the final, she's not going to get it. The eighth-seeded Davis, who beat Min in the semifinals of the Eddie Herr 6-2, 6-4, on Saturday took out No. 3 seed Monica Puig of Puerto Rico 6-1, 6-3. After losing only 13 games in her five victories, and winning back-to-back Grade 1s prior to the Orange Bowl, Davis was asked if she is starting to feel bad for her opponents.
"No," replied Davis, who has now won 17 straight ITF junior matches, and ten consecutive Pro Circuit matches. "Not at all."
Against Puig, who had taken Davis to three sets in the final of the Yucatan Cup, in a match that lasted over four hours, Davis knew she had to change her strategy.
"I was just all defensive in that match in Yucatan," said the 17-year-old Ohio native, who is now living in Boca Raton and training at the Evert Academy there. "I just tired myself out so badly, it was four and a half hours, it was ridiculous. So (today) I just tried to hit a lot deeper and get my first serves in, and just be aggressive."
Puig wasn't able to put any pressure on Davis in the opening set, but with family and friends from her hometown of Miami cheering her on, she did manage to stay with Davis in the first half of the second set. It took Puig, 17, a long time to hold in the first game, needing four deuces, and she was broken in another lengthy game to fall behind 2-1. She got her sole break of Davis to pull even at 3-3, but Puig's last hope faded when she was broken in the next game. Davis lost only one point in the final two games.
Although small in stature, the 5-foot-2 Davis is able to generate great power and control points from the baseline.
"I'm a good mover on the court, and I'm fast and I like to play aggressive," said Davis. "I'm better when I'm aggressive. But I can get to a lot of balls."
Davis said she expects Min to come to the net, but when they played last week at the Eddie Herr, she remarked that she was surprised how much of a grind that match turned out to be.
"I know she likes to come to the net, so I have to be prepared for that," Davis said. "But if I stay focused, I think I'll do okay."
Although the U.S. is assured its second Orange Bowl girls 18s champion in the past three years, Great Britain and the Netherlands have never claimed a boys 18s title. One of those two countries will get its first when George Morgan takes on Jannick Lupescu in Sunday's final.
Britain's Morgan, seeded ninth, made short work of Belgian Joris de Loore, the seventh seed, using his serve and an effective strategy to post a 6-2, 6-1 win.
"I know he's quite a big hitter from the back, so I tried to play my game, be in control more, use his strokes and come forward a bit and serve well," said the 17-year-old, who won the Junior Orange Bowl 14s three years ago. "On the big points I served well."
Morgan recalls playing, and beating, Lupescu three times several years ago, but the 17-year-old from the Netherlands isn't convinced.
"I remember one or two matches," said the good-natured Lupescu. "Or one, I think, just one."
Regardless of his history against Morgan, Lupescu could only be pleased with his performance in his 6-1, 6-3 semifinal victory over unseeded American Alexios Halebian. Lupescu was firing on all cylinders from the outset, and Halebian struggled on his own serve throughout the match.
In the second set, Halebian had two break point opportunities, with Lupescu serving at 4-2, and then serving for the match at 5-3. In the first, at 30-40, Halebian chipped a return that floated long, and Lupescu held for 5-2. At 5-3, 30-30 Lupescu tried a drop shot that didn't get over the net, but saved the break point with a sizzling backhand winner down the line. His first match point was lost to a double fault, but when he got another, Lupescu finished it with a volley winner.
Davis and Min will play the girls final first, at 10 a.m., followed by Morgan and Lupescu.
The 18s doubles finals will also be played Sunday morning. The unseeded U.S. team of Lauren Herring and Madison Keys will play No. 5 seeds Margarita Gasparyan of Russia and Ganna Poznikhirenko of Ukraine. Herring and Keys downed Eddie Herr champions and No. 6 seeds An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands 2-6, 7-5, 10-5, in Saturday's semifinal, breaking to take the second set on a deciding point and dominating the match tiebreaker. Gasparyan and Poznikhirenko defeated unseeded Tristen Dewar of the U.S. and Marcela Zacarias of Mexico 6-2, 6-2.
Two unseeded teams will contest the boys 18s doubles final. Julien Cagnina and Jeroen Vanneste of Belgium will play Liam Broady of Great Britain and Nik Razborsek of Slovenia. Cagnina and Vanneste defeated unseeded Marcos Giron of the U.S. and Wilfredo Gonzalez of Guatemala 1-6, 6-3, 10-7. Broady and Razborsek also advanced by virtue of a match tiebreaker, taking out No. 2 seed Hugo Dellien of Bolivia and Roberto Quiroz of Eucador 6-4, 3-6, 10-8.
The boys 16s doubles title went to European 16s champions Vasco Mensurado and Frederico Silva of Portugal, who defeated compatriots Rodolfo Pereira and Diogo Rocha 7-5, 6-2.
"We thought we could play well in 16s, instead of playing 18s here," said Mensurado.
As for playing their countrymen in the final, Mensurado did express some surprise at the all-Portuguese championship match, saying he and Silva had expected to play opponents from another country.
"They played well," said Silva. "It's good for the future for us."
Mensurado and Silva were not taken to a match tiebreaker in any of their five victories.
While the boys 16s champions were longtime partners, not so for the girls 16s champions. Carol Zhao of Canada and Estelle Cascino of France were playing their first tournament together at the Orange Bowl, but they meshed well. After a couple of wins in match tiebreakers, the No. 3 seeds found their form, winning the semifinals and finals in the straight sets. In the final, Zhao and Cascino defeated Francoise Abanda of Canada and Christina Makarova of the U.S. 6-4, 7-5.
"The first few matches were pretty tough, because we were getting used to playing each other," Zhao said. "But we played better as the tournament went on."
"It's great to win this tournament with my partner," said Cascino. "It's a great tournament, and I am so happy."
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