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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Plaza Cup 18s Finals Feature Kiick Vs. Townsend and Samardzic Vs. Clark

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Coral Gables, FL--

The Plaza Cup packs a lot of tennis into three days, with singles, doubles and a full feed-in consolation. Good weather and a match tiebreaker in lieu of a third set are required for a successful tournament, and on Sunday there was plenty of both at Salvadore Park.

Although the day started with temperatures in the 40s, abundant sunshine soon warmed the air, and there wasn't much breeze to accent any chill. With doubles and consolation matches in the morning, it was downright pleasant by the time the main draw quarterfinals began.

Brett Clark, the sixth seed in the boys 18s, wasted no time in disposing of top seed Justin Crenshaw, posting a 6-4, 6-0 quarterfinal victory. Clark used his serve and his forehand to win the majority of his points in that one, while Crenshaw didn't seem comfortable from the beginning. In the semifinal, Clark didn't appear quite as sharp against unseeded Ryan Smith, who had beaten No. 8 seed Blaine Willenborg 6-1, 6-4 in their quarterfinal contest. But Clark, a 16-year-old from Naples, managed to keep Smith's serve from hurting him too much, earning a 6-4, 6-3 win, his fourth straight-set win of the tournament.

Clark's opponent in the final, Ognjen Samardzic had a much tougher route to the championship match. The 16-year-old from Bradenton outlasted No. 5 seed Matt Saiontz 7-6(5), 7-5 in the quarterfinals to reach the semis against unseeded Joshua Dancu. Dancu, a senior who has committed to DePaul, beat Dylan Gunning in the quarterfinals 6-2, 6-3, and took the opening set from Samardzic by a 6-3 score, primarily on the strength of his forehand and some erratic play from Samardzic. But by the second set, Samardzic had eliminated most of the errors from his game, forcing a match tiebreaker with a 6-3 second set. In the tiebreaker, Samardzic built up a big lead that he nearly gave away, but at 9-8 he came up with a big first serve to earn his spot in the final.

Fifteen-year-old Allie Kiick and 14-year-old Taylor Townsend will contest the girls 18s championship match on Monday, after each took two straight-set victories on Sunday.

The Dunlop Orange Bowl 16s champion, Kiick defeated unseeded Courtney Colton 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals and unseeded Caroline Doyle 6-3, 6-1 in the semifinals. Doyle, who has recently begun training at the USTA's National Center in Boca Raton, had taken out Rianna Valdes in the quarterfinals 6-4, 6-2.

Townsend, like Kiick unseeded in the tournament, defeated No. 6 seed Laura Wiley 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, and was rolling along nicely against No. 3 seed Lindsay Graff in the semifinals, when suddenly the wheels came off. Up 6-4, 4-1, Townsend proceeded to lose four straight games, and Graff was serving to send the match into a match tiebreaker. Graff was broken however, and in the subsequent second set tiebreaker, couldn't capitalize on her opportunities. At 5-5, she hit a forehand long, and Townsned came up with a big serve winner to secure the win 6-4, 7-6(5).

In the boys 14s, the match tiebreakers were everywhere, and finalist Reilly Opelka, the No. 2 seed, won both his matches in that tense fashion. Opelka beat unseeded Mark Epshteyn-Losey 3-6, 6-2, 10-6 in the quarterfinals, and unseeded Mirko Radosevic 3-6, 6-1, 10-6 to advance to the final. Radosevic had won his quarterfinal match over Alex Rybakov 4-6, 7-6(4), 10-8. In the top half of the draw, No. 1 seed Tate Allwardt and No. 4 seed Alfredo Perez posted straight-set quarterfinal wins over Chase Colton and Alexander Knight respectively, but their semifinal match ended dramatically, with Perez taking it 6-2, 2-6, 11-9. Allwardt had a match point at 9-8, but couldn't quite get to a drop shot by Perez, with his shot hitting the netcord and dropping back on his side. Perez won the next point with a putaway volley, and went to the drop shot again on his first match point. This time Allwardt got it back, but Perez was waiting to execute his next shot, a perfect lob that Allwardt had no chance to return.

The singles finals are scheduled for 9:30 Monday morning.

For complete results from the other age divisions, see the TennisLink site.