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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Yucatan Champs Look For Back-to-Back Titles at Eddie Herr; Crawford, Lederman and Black Reach Finals

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Bradenton, FL--

Ideal conditions for Saturday's semifinals brought out scores of local tennis fans, with many of them gravitating to courts 15 and 17, where the 18s division matches were played. Toting their own lawn chairs, many of them in tennis clothes, they settled in for a three hours of high quality tennis that had many of them shaking their heads in wonder.

Although most of them were unaware of it, the spectators were also witnessing impressive stamina from two of the players--Lauren Davis of the U.S. and Dominic Thiem of Austria. Both had collected the singles titles at the Yucatan Cup in Mexico the week of Thanksgiving and had flown to Florida to take on the top juniors again at the Eddie Herr.

Thiem, the No. 3 seed, made it easy on himself in the semifinals, eliminating No. 2 seed Roberto Quiroz of Ecuador 6-2, 6-1. Quiroz had lost the first set of his quarterfinal match with George Morgan of Great Britain 6-0 Friday but still had managed to win the match, but against Thiem, Quiroz seemed out of sorts and especially peeved about the service line calls Thiem was getting. With a one-handed backhand, Thiem sees a lot of balls hit to that side, but his forehand was exceptionally sharp against Quiroz. Thiem will play No. 5 seed Oliver Golding of Great Britain in the noon final Sunday. Golding defeated No. 6 seed Joris de Loore of Belgium 7-6(5), 6-2, escaping with the first set despite an ugly game serving at 4-4. Golding made four consecutive unforced errors to give de Loore a chance to serve out the set, but de Loore played an equally sloppy tenth game, with a double fault and two unforced errors, putting Golding right back in the set and ultimately, the match. Golding defeated Thiem in two tiebreaker in the only previous meeting at the Roehampton Grade 1 on grass.

The all-American battle between Grace Min and No. 5 seed Lauren Davis was extremely competitive despite Davis winning by the routine-looking score of 6-2, 6-4. Davis, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament, broke Min twice to take an early 3-0 lead, but Min got on the board with a break of Davis. Davis got it right back and held for a 5-1 lead and had a set point with Min serving down 1-5, but Min kept fighting. Even on a point she lost in that game however, Davis demonstrated how tough she is to beat. At deuce, Min hit a good drop shot that Davis raced to the net and scooped back over. Min hit a deep lob near the baseline and Davis scurried back, nearly crashing into the fence in a vain attempt to reach it. Min went on to hold, and saved two more set points with Davis serving for the first set at 5-2, but a return error by Min at 40-30 secured the first set for Davis.

With both girls standing on the baseline and hit the ball cleanly there were some breathtaking rallies, but in the second set the serves became unreliable. Four breaks in a row gave Davis a 5-4 lead, and in the crucial game, she held, coming up with two winners and forcing an error after a long rally on her first match point. Davis, who has won a $25,000 Pro Circuit event and the Yucatan Cup in the past five weeks, is happy with her standard of play since losing in the first round of the U.S. Open juniors to eventual champion Daria Gavrilova of Russia, the 2009 Eddie Herr champion.

"During the U.S. Open I think I was kind of in a slump," said Davis, 17. "I wasn't very confident with my game right then. I figured it out, though. I have to go into a tournament without any expectations. I wanted to win the U.S. Open and ended up losing in the first round."

Davis said she's feeling less tired than she would have anticipated after six matches last week and five so far this week.

"I kind of surprised that I'm not that tired. My legs are a little weak, but it's nothing I can't handle."

Davis will meet No. 4 seed Yulia Putintseva of Russia in the championship match at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. Putintseva ran her record to 3-0 over No. 2 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, the 2010 Roland Garros girls champion, taking a 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 decision. The 15-year-old Putintseva, the 2010 U.S. Open girls finalist, and Davis have not played.

In the girls 16s final, unseeded wild card Samantha Crawford of the U.S. will try to keep Sachia Vickery's 2009 trophy in the state when she takes on No. 2 seed and fellow 15-year-old Carol Zhao of Canada at 9:30 a.m. The big-hitting Crawford, who is from Tamarac, Fla., defeated No. 4 seed Ayaka Okuna of Japan 6-2, 6-1 in Saturday's semifinal, while Zhao had a much harder time with unseeded wild card Taylor Townsend. Zhao cruised through the first set, but Townsend, a left-hander with a willingness to serve and volley on occasion, forced a third set before falling 6-1, 6-7(4), 6-3.

Roy Lederman is back in an Eddie Herr final, three years after reaching the 12s final in 2007.

"I hope I do better this time," said Lederman, who lost 6-0, 6-0 to Joseph Di Giulio in that match.

Since his 7-6 in the third win in the second round over No. 5 seed Alexander Ritschard of Switzerland, Lederman has been rolling, and in his 6-2, 6-1 semifinal victory over Jhonatan Gonzalez of Venezuela, he was on top of his game.

"I played amazing, amazing," said Lederman. "I didn't miss a shot the entire match, I don't think."

Lederman, 15, believed the several dozen people in the stadium court stands to cheer on local resident Gonzalez helped with his focus.

"He had like 40 people watching him, clapping. My winners-silence; his winners-the entire place going nuts. So I guessed I used that as a motivator as well."

Lederman's opponent in the 9:30 a.m. final is Jamie Galleguillos of Chile, the No. 10 seed, who defeated No. 12 seed Jordan Daigle of the U.S. 6-4, 6-3. Lederman and Galleguillos have never played.

The boys 14s championship will go to the winner of the Peter Ashley and Clement Geens match, scheduled for 11:00 a.m. Ashley, the No. 12 seed from Great Britain, beat unseeded Omar Salman of Belgium 6-0, 6-2. Although Ashley didn't exhibit anywhere near the pace that Salman could generate, he successfully lured Salman into going for too much too often, a la Andy Murray. Ashley is aiming to earn Great Britain's second straight boys 14s singles title, with Luke Bambridge the 2009 champion. Geens, another unseeded Belgian, beat No. 6 seed Zandrix Acob of the U.S. 6-2, 6-3 to advance to the final.

While the two contestants in the boys 14s are 14, the girls 14s singles championship, scheduled for 11:30 a.m., will feature a 12-year-old and a 13-year-old. No. 3 seed Francoise Abanda of Canada, the 2009 Junior Orange Bowl 12s champion, will face 12-year-old Alecia (Tornado) Black of the U.S. Black, a wild card, has reached her second consecutive Eddie Herr final, having finished runner-up to Mariya Shishkina last year.

On Saturday, Abanda fell behind 2-0 early against top seed Valeria Patiuk of Israel, but didn't get away from her game plan of moving Patiuk around the court. Eventually Patiuk tired, with Abanda securing a 6-4, 6-1 victory. Black also had her challenges in the opening set, but she too found her form to post a 6-4, 6-0 victory over unseeded Qiuyu Ye of China.

The 14s doubles titles were decided on Saturday afternoon. Valeria Patiuk of Israel and Maria Tsakanyan of Russia, the No. 4 seeds, beat top seeds Ulyana Ayzatulina of Russia and Ioana Ducu of Romania 6-2, 6-3.

The boys 14s doubles final closed out the day's action with unseeded Borna Coric of Croatia and Stefan Kozlov of the U.S. beating No. 7 seeds Filippo Baldi of Italy and Omar Salman of Belgium 7-6(3), 6-1.

For complete results, as well as photos and stories, see eddieherr.com.