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Monday, December 6, 2010

Wild Cards Advance in Girls 18s Orange Bowl Opening Round

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

South Florida doesn't get much colder in early December than the 64 degree high reached today at the Dunlop Orange Bowl, but the chill in the air didn't stop five U.S. wild cards from advancing into the second round of the girls draw.

When I arrived shortly before 1 p.m. after making the drive from Bradenton, I was alerted to an upset in the making by Josh Rey, who is again doing the daily reports for usta.com. He directed me to a nearby court, where Monica Turewicz of the U.S. was leading top seed and reigning U.S.Open girls champion Daria Gavrilova of Russia 4-3 in the third set. I made my way over to the court, but the upset didn't materialize, as Gavrilova, displaying the variety that makes her so difficult to beat, won the final three games of the match. The gusty winds didn't make for the prettiest tennis, but the 16-year-old Russian hit a beautiful lob winner against the wind, and in the following game displayed her touch at the net, executing a perfect stop volley winner.

I didn't see any of Skylar Morton's 6-4, 6-1 victory over No. 6 seed Caroline Garcia of France, but it was an impressive win for the 16-year-old wild card from Maryland. Garcia is ranked 19th in the ITF Junior rankings and is in the Top 300 in the WTA rankings. Other U.S. wild cards advancing to the second round were, Vicky Duval, who beat Saska Gavrilovska of Serbia 6-3, 6-1, Jan Abaza, who defeated Eri Hozumi of Japan 6-1, 6-3 and Gabrielle Andrews, a 6-1, 6-2 winner over Darya Lebsheva of Belarus.

The fifth wild from the U.S to post a win was Ashley Dai, and her victory was considerable tougher for several reasons. Playing against her friend Rio Kitagawa of Japan, who trains with Dai at the Weil Academy in Ojai, Calif., Dai survived both psychological and weather-related challenges to take a 7-6(4), 4-6, 7-6(4) decision.

"I was a little nervous because last time I played her, I didn't win a game," Dai said of their match in the quarterfinals of a Grade 3 in Morocco in May. "It was on clay. She played well, and I don't know what I was doing."

In this afternoon's match, Dai broke to take a 6-5 lead in the third set, but wasn't able to serve it out.

"It's hard to play someone you train with everyday," said Dai, 16. "We were both pretty nervous in the beginning and until the third set, we were both playing kind of tentative. As the match escalated, we both started playing better and better. She made some errors, and I just stepped it up."

The sixth girls wild card to play Monday was Kelsey Laurente, the 16s finalist last year. Laurente lost to No. 13 seed Natalija Kostic of Serbia 6-3, 6-3. Anna Mamalat, the seventh wild card, plays on Tuesday. Ellen Tsay, the 8th, withdrew.

The boys wild cards did not fare as well. Christian Harrison and Michael Redlicki both lost in three sets, although Evan Song did advance with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Patrick Elias of Germany. No. 14 seed Shane Vinsant reached the second round with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory over Maxim Dubarenco of Moldova.

Unlike in past years, the 16s first round matches were all played at Biltmore Tennis Center, and that continues on Tuesday, so my focus tomorrow will be on the 18s at Crandon Park.

Bjorn Fratangelo and Krista Hardebeck are doing the player blogs this year for usta.com. Both play their first round matches on Tuesday.

For their blogs, as well as results and order of play, see dunloporangebowl.com.