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Friday, December 10, 2010

Unseeded Kiick and Harrison Will Decide Girls 16s Orange Bowl Title Saturday; Davis, Min and Halebian Reach 18s Semifinals; Meltdowns Lead to Defaults

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Key Biscayne, FL--

On Thursday, the dreadful weather conditions were the cause of most of the misery, but on Friday, the characteristic Miami weather was back, so the problems sprouting up on the courts were chiefly self-inflicted.

No. 3 seed Mate Pavic of Croatia received a game penalty for verbal abuse in his singles match with No. 12 seed Jannick Lupescu of the Netherlands and continued to rage after the match, which led to his default in doubles. He and partner Juan Sebastian Gomez of Colombia were the top seeds in the 18s doubles. Ironically, Lupescu was the recipient of two game penalties in his third round match with Great Britain's Oliver Golding Thursday night, who was also defaulted from doubles for on-court behavior in that loss. Golding was playing with George Morgan of Great Britain, who managed to advance to the semifinals in singles without incident. Morgan, the ninth seed, defeated No. 4 seed Roberto Quiroz of Ecuador 6-3, 6-4.

Morgan's semifinal opponent is No. 7 seed Joris de Loore of Belgium, who ended the winning streak of Austria's Dominic Thiem. Thiem, who had won 15 ITF Level 1 or above matches in a row, was forced to retire down 6-3, 3-2, with what is being reported as a abdominal strain. Lupescu will face 2009 16s Orange Bowl champion Alexios Halebian, who defeated No. 8 seed Hugo Dellien of Bolivia 6-2, 6-4 to post his 10th consecutive Orange Bowl victory.

"I don't want to think about that right now, but it's good, it's a good place," said the 16-year-old, who is in his third year with the USTA at the Boca Raton Training Center.

After defeating top seed Gomez in the opening round, Halebian let a straight-set win slip away against Luis Patino of Mexico in his next match, losing the second set in a tiebreaker and only avoided a third set due to Patino's cramping in the opening game.

"If he didn't cramp, it might be a different story," said the native of Glendale, Calif. "I have to focus on not letting guys back into the match. I'm trying to prepare better if I win the first set and get a good start, to try to finish the match as soon as I can, instead of letting the guy in a little bit."

Serving at 4-4 in the second set, Halebian faced two break points. At 15-40, he hit an ace, then used his signature drop shot to bring Dellien in and stroke a forehand pass by him. Those two chances gone, Dellien then contributed two unforced errors, and in the final game, double faulted to give Halebian two match points. Halebian only needed one, with Dellien hitting a backhand wide just a few strokes into the rally.

The much anticipated girls 18s encounter between top seed Daria Gavrilova of Russia and No. 8 seed Lauren Davis proved to be as lopsided as the previous two, with Davis taking a 6-2, 6-0 decision. At the Grade A Italian Open, Gavrilova had won only four games from Davis in the semifinals, and in the first round of the U.S. Open, Davis had been limited to the same number. Asked why their matches aren't more competitive, Davis was at a loss.

"I don't really know," said the 17-year-old from Ohio, who has now won 16 straight junior matches since November 23rd. "At the U.S. Open I was in a slump, my confidence was low, so as soon as she got up on me, I was like dead, you know. But here I feel really strong, coming off good wins, so I feel good."

Davis used her ever-reliable backhand to keep Gavrilova on the defensive, and also showed off some of the variety and touch that the 16-year-old Russian is known for.

In her four Orange Bowl victories, Davis has dropped only nine games, and has put up a 6-0 set against each of her opponents.

"I just know how to break someone down mentally," said Davis, with a trace of hesitation in her voice. "So I think that's why I don't give up many games."

The win by Davis sets up a rematch of the Yucatan Cup final with No. 3 seed Monica Puig. The Miami resident, who represents Puerto Rico, struggled early against No. 5 seed An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium, but once she secured the first set, breezed to a 7-6(5), 6-0 victory. In the final of the Yucatan Grade 1 two weeks ago, Puig won the only set that Davis has surrendered in her last 11 matches but lost the match 4-6, 7-5, 6-4.

In a quarterfinal match between unseeded Americans, Grace Min put an end to the run of Gabby Andrews, taking a 6-2, 6-1 decision. Although the two exchanged perfect lob winners on consecutive points, Min's arsenal was just a bit too well-stocked for the 13-year-old. Min will play No. 13 seed Natalija Kostic of Serbia, who ousted No. 7 seed and Eddie Herr finalist Yulia Putintseva of Russia 1-6, 6-2, 7-6(2).

Putintseva found herself down a match point serving at 4-5, but saved it with a forehand winner, then immediately broke, when the 16-year-old Serbian double faulted at 15-40. Kostic requested a trainer for the second time in the match, for her ankle, and when play resumed Putintseva was broken before reaching match point herself.

In the tiebreaker, Kostic was the steadier of the two, and down 4-2, Putintseva gave Kostic four match points when she netted two consecutive forehands. Kostic only needed the first, hitting a sharp angle forehand winner to end the two-hour and forty-six minute match.

In the 16s singles, compatriots will battle each other for the boys and girls titles. For the third year in a row, there are two Americans deciding the girls final, with unseeded Catherine Harrison and Allie Kiick posting quarterfinal and semifinal wins Friday.

Harrison's 6-0, 6-2 quarterfinal victory over top seed Christina Makarova was revenge for Makarova's win at the Grade B1 Pan American in Tulsa, and considering Harrison's next match, which went two and a half hours, securing that victory quickly certainly helped. Against Spain's Silvia Garcia Jimenez, the Tennis Europe 16s champion, Harrison, a semifinalist last year at the Orange Bowl, needed every bit of her energy to earn a 6-1, 1-6, 7-6(4) victory.

The match was a contrast in styles, with Harrison hitting nearly every shot flat and hard, with both hands, while Garcia Jimeniz used her sturdy legs to run down every shot and reset the point. In neutral rallies, Garcia Jimenez would hit deep top spin up the middle, while Harrison would pick up the pace at every opportunity, seeking the lines and corners. Harrison went down a break for 4-3, but got it right back. At 5-5 in the final set, Harrison was shaking out her hand, beginning to feel cramps there as well as tightness in her hip, but she survived to take a 6-5 lead. Garcia Jimenez ended the next game with a rare overhead winner, and it was on to the tiebreaker.

After her excellent defense earned her the opening point, Garcia Jimenez lost the next five points, mostly on backhand errors, although Harrison also crushed a couple of winners too. At 5-3, Garcia Jimenez made another backhand error, and Harrison had three match points. On the first, Harrison's return of Garcia Jimenez's second serve was just long, but on the next one, the backhand error returned, and Harrison had reached the final that eluded her in 2009.

"I just told myself to keep fighting," said Harrison, 16. "Last year I kind of went out timidly, so this year, no matter what happens, I was just going to swing out, and gosh, it worked."

Harrison has been working particularly hard on her second serve, and in the tense late stages of the match, it held up well.

"I can really rely on that when it gets to tough situations," Harrison said. "It's really easy to just go for a first serve, because you know you are going to be able to make your second. She wasn't really attacking--she only hit one or two winners on my serve."

In the final, Harrison will play, for the first time, unseeded wild card Allie Kiick, who recorded two straight set victories on Friday. In the quarterfinals, she beat No. 5 seed Christine Kandler of Austria 7-5, 6-1 and a few hours later, took out No. 2 seed Carol Zhao of Canada 6-3, 6-3. The 15-year-old Kiick, who had reached the quarterfinals of the Eddie Herr as a qualifier, admitted that she is playing her best tennis now, and gave herself a good chance to win the title.

"My game has improved a lot," said the daughter of former Miami Dolphin running back Jim Kiick. "I really had nothing to lose, because I was a wild card in this tournament. I came in and tried my best, and it's working so far, so hopefully it works tomorrow."

Kiick's recent success has come at a good time.

"I'm so happy, because I have not done well this past year. To make to the finals of the Orange Bowl is definitely a booster for me."

Whether her father will attend the final is still up in the air. A nervous parent when he did watch his daughter play in the younger age divisions, Jim Kiick may not want to put himself through the agony of an Orange Bowl final.

"I don't think he'll be able to handle it, especially the finals," Kiick said. "We'll see though."

The boys 16s champion will come from France. Top seed Lucas Pouille will face friend and doubles partner Laurent Lokoli, the seventh seed, after the 16-year-olds each posted two wins Friday.

In the quarterfinals, Pouille overcame No. 8 seed Luke Bambridge 7-5, 3-6, 6-1, while Lokoli took out No. 16 seed Alexander Ritschard of Switzerland 6-1, 6-2. In the semifinals, Pouille again had the tougher match, beating No. 13 seed Thien Hoang Nguyen of Vietnam 7-5, 6-4, while Lokoli cruised past unseeded Harrison Adams of the U.S. 6-2, 6-1.

The doubles finals are also set in the 16s. No. 3 seeds Estelle Cascino of France and Carol Zhao of Canada will play No. 2 seeds Christina Makarova of the U.S. and Francoise Abanda of Canada for the girls championship.

The boys 16s doubles final is an all-Portugal affair. No. 3 seeds Vasco Mensurado and Frederico Silva will play the unseeded pair of Rodolfo Pereira and Diogo Rocha.

In the 18s, the only U.S. players still in the hunt as the semifinals approach on Saturday are Marcos Giron, who is playing Wilfredo Gonzalez of Guatemala, and Lauren Herring and Madison Keys.

For complete results, see dunloporangebowl.com.