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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Chung, Routliffe Claim Orange Bowl 16s Titles; Thiem, Putintseva Meet Familiar Foes in 18s Finals Sunday

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Plantation, FL--

At last week's Eddie Herr, Erin Routliffe lost 6-0, 6-0 in the first round, to eventual champion Tornado Ali Black. This week the 16-year-old from Toronto swept both the singles and doubles titles at the Orange Bowl, giving Canada its first champion in the 16s division.

Routliffe defeated No. 2 seed Katie Boulter of Great Britain 6-4, 6-3 Saturday morning at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center, using her serve to maximum effect throughout the match. Routliffe was broken only once, in the third game of the match, and she immediately broke back. Routliffe broke Boulter for the first set, and Boulter was unable to dent the Routliffe serve in the second set.

"She's a great player and she has a very big serve," the 15-year-old Boulter said. "I found it quite hard to return serve today, and that was where I lost the points and games. I tried a mix of things--tried to step in and hit it and try to be slow, but it didn't really work. It was one of those things when it wasn't my day."

Serving from behind in the second, Boulter paid the price when she was broken at 3-4, giving Routliffe the opportunity to serve out the match.

It wasn't easy, but the 6-foot-2 right-hander hit a big first serve to get to match point, then another to produce a return error that gave her the championship and a second Tiffany bowl.

"It feels great right now," said the 13th seeded Routliffe, who won the doubles title Friday night with Canadian partner Charlotte Petrick. "I'm feeling pretty confident in my game. I've adapted to clay this week and I think I've played the important points well, which is a weakness of mine. I usually lose a lot of close matches, but this week it was good."

Despite her Eddie Herr loss and little experience on the clay surface, Routliffe wasn't surprised by her run this week.

"I knew that if I played my best, I could win," said Routliffe, who has recently moved to Montreal to train at Tennis Canada's National Centre there. "And I played pretty well."

Routliffe's family, which includes two younger sisters, weren't in Florida to watch her, but she is bringing back a souvenir or two.

"My mom will be happy with the new fruit bowl," Routliffe said, then corrected herself. "Two new fruit bowls."

Unseeded Hyeon Chung of Korea claimed his second bowl of oranges too, although his first one wasn't Friday night, but rather back in 2008, when he won the Junior Orange Bowl 12s. In Saturday afternoon's 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 12 seed Diego Pedraza of Colombia, Chung trailed 4-0, but came all the way back to hold a set point in the tiebreaker. Pedraza came up with a drop shot winner to save it, however, then took the set with a strong forehand.

The toll of fighting off Chung's comeback began to show on Pedraza late in the second set. Pedraza was broken serving at 3-4, and Chung held at love to even the match. Pedraza managed to hold in the opening game of the third set, but this was his fourth three-setter of the week, including a long, tough win over No. 4 seed Hugo DiFeo of Canada Friday night, and his body was not up to the task, as he lost the final six games.

"I got off to a good start, but he kept his composure, he was always there," said Pedraza, 16. "And in the end, I think the physical part played a little role. That doesn't take anything from him, he deserves it."

Chung doesn't speak English, but said through interpreter Sky Kim that he felt his choices were few when he fell behind early.

"I was already down 4-0 in the first, so I thought, okay, I have nothing to lose, just start one by one, just build it."

As the match wore on, Chung began to notice that Pedraza's footwork was not what it had been in the first set.

"I noticed he had trouble setting up for balls," said the 15-year-old, who trains with Pedraza at the IMG Bollettieri Academy. "I tried to take it up a notch."

Chung's familiarity with Pedraza from the practice matches the two played at the Academy helped ease the pressure of the final, and he said he was "very happy," that he had given Korea its first Orange Bowl champion.

The streaks of Eddie Herr champions Dominic Theim and Yulia Putintseva continued, with each posting tough two-set victories to advance to the 18s finals.


Top seed Thiem, who has won 17 consecutive ITF junior matches, beat No. 12 seed Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan 7-6(3), 6-3 and will face fellow Austrian Patrick Ofner in a rematch of last Sunday's Eddie Herr final. Ofner fought back to take a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) decision from unseeded Filip Peliwo of Canada.

Peliwo served for the match at 5-4 against No. 7 seed Ofner, but played a sloppy game, got few first serves, and got only as close as deuce. The unforced errors continued for Peliwo in the next game on Ofner's serve, but he hit three winners in the precarious 5-6 service game to force the tiebreaker.

Ofner led 4-1 and 5-3 in the tiebreaker, but the Canadian came back to tie it at 5-5, only to make a costly unforced error when his forehand sailed way long the next point. Ofner took advantage of his first match point, driving a two-handed backhand with so much pace and depth that Peliwo couldn't control his reply.

"It was very close in the end," said Ofner, 18. "I think I was a little bit more lucky than he today, and I'm very happy to have won the match."

Although the change to clay has not been an entirely welcome one for Americans, Ofner could not have been happier about it.

"I like the clay very much," said Ofner, who doesn't detect much of a difference between the Har-Tru surface and the red clay prevalent in Europe. "I was very happy they changed the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl to clay. My favorite surface is clay, so I am so happy."


In the girls semfinals, Putintseva, the No. 2 seed, trailed American Sachia Vickery 5-1 in the second set, but fought off a set point to record a 7-5, 7-5 victory, her 11th in a row on the ITF junior circuit. Sunday's final will be another Eddie Herr rematch, this one of a quarterfinal between Putintseva and Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, which the Russian won 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. Kontaveit reached her first Grade A final when top seed Eugenie Bouchard of Canada retired at 0-6, 6-4, 4-2 in Saturday's semifinal.

Kontaveit had no trouble explaining the reason for her slow start. "I was very tired from yesterday's match," said Kontaveit, who turns 16 in two weeks. "I had a really long and tough match (a three-set win over No. 3 seed Indy de Vroome), so I couldn't find that power in myself. But I started winning some points and got some confidence and got 5-0 up."

Kontaveit couldn't close out that big lead however, having only one set point in two chances to serve out the set. She broke Bouchard at 4-5 to win the set however, and was able to trade powerful ground strokes with Bouchard until the 16-year-old Canadian missed during the early stages of the third.

Kontaveit was happy with her level of play Saturday, but she was excited about the prospect of playing Putintseva again.

"I lost to her 6-4 in the third, it was really a close match," said Kontaveit, who trains in Estonia, but speaks English as if she's lived in the United States all her life. "I would like to get revenge."

Putintseva's 7-5, 7-5 victory over wild card Sachia Vickery of the US was full of loud noises, drama and breaks of serve. Putintseva and Vickey both train at the Mourataglou Academy in France, but there no camaraderie evident, quite the opposite in fact. Vickery was obviously bothered by Putintseva's celebrations and exclamations and seemed to be trying the strategy of one-upping Putintseva rather than ignoring her, which is the usual path taken by opponents.

Vickery had a set point serving at 5-3 in the second, but her usually reliable backhand failed her. She netted two in a row from 40-30, then hit a third way long to put Putintseva back on serve.

Putintseva held, broke, and with the assistance of a point penalty for racquet abuse levied against Vickery at the changeover, held to claim the victory. There was no handshake by Vickery, as she went straight to her chair to pack up her bag.

The doubles finals are set, with Theim the sole competitor going for the sweep. He and partner Robin Kern of Germany, the No. 1 seeds, will play No. 4 seeds Liam Broady and Joshua Ward-Hibbert of Great Britain. Thiem and Kern beat Jannis Kahlke of Germany and Joseph Van Dooren of Belgium 7-6(5), 6-2, while Broady and Ward-Hibbert avenged their loss in the Eddie Herr final to Belgians Julien Cagnina and Jeroen Vanneste 6-1, 6-2.

While the Eddie Herr boys doubles champions fell in the Orange Bowl semifinals, the Eddie Herr girls doubles winners advanced to the final with a 6-4, 3-6, 18-16 win. Unseeded Jennifer Brady and Kendal Woodard of the US saved five match points in the match tiebreaker against No. 6 seeds Allie Kiick of the US and Carol Zhao of Canada, with Woodard hitting two huge first serves from match point down at 15-16, then finally ending the 25 minute tiebreaker with a backhand volley winner up the middle.

Brady and Woodard will play No. 2 seeds Victoria Kan of Russia and Ganna Poznikhirenko of Ukraine in Sunday's final. Kan and Poznikhirenko defeated No. 8 seeds Christina Makarova of the US and Diana Bogoliy of Ukraine 7-5, 6-4 in Saturday's semifinals.

For complete results and order of play for Sunday, see the tournament page at usta.com.

Ken Thomas will be webcasting the singles finals at radiotennis.com beginning at 10 a.m. with the boys singles final.