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Monday, December 19, 2011

Eddie Herr Champions Shishkina and Schaefer Fall in Junior Orange Bowl Third Round

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

Both boys Eddie Herr champions are still alive in their quest for back-to-back titles, with 12s winner Artem Dubrivny of Russia and 14s champion Alejandro Tabilo of Canada cruising through in straight sets in their first three matches. But on a breezy Monday in South Florida, both Eddie Herr 14s champion Mariya Shishkina and 12s winner Dominique Schaefer of the US lost three-set battles, ending their dreams of an Orange Bowl title.

The No. 2 seed, Shishkina lost to Emma Higuchi of the US 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. Although I saw only parts of the second set, it was obvious that Higuchi was capable of staying with Shishkina in the long rallies and was able to withstand the pressure of the three or four consecutive well-struck balls that Shishkina relies on to get errors from her opponents. Higuchi, who trains at the USTA National Center in Carson, will play another American in the round of 16 Tuesday, Ellie Halbauer, who beat American Ndindi Ndunda, a No. 9 seed 6-3, 6-1. The whole bottom quarter is made up of Americans, already assuring a semifinalist. Usue Arconada beat Romanian Jacqueline Cristian 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 and will play No. 8 seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Star Makarome.

In addition to those four, there are six other Americans still in the girls 14s draw. Top seed Tornado Ali Black had no trouble with Meredith Xepoleas of the US, taking the match 6-1, 6-0. With her win at the Eddie Herr in the 16s division, the 13-year-old Black is on the must-see list of anyone interested in junior tennis, but today's match simply wasn't close enough to keep the fans attention. Black doesn't make many unforced errors, and Xepoleas, today at least, did which combined to produce the lopsided score.

Black is joined in the round of 16 by Americans Marie Norris and Mia Horvit, No. 9 seeds, qualifier Bridget Forster, No. 6 seed Katerina Stewart and Maria Smith.

One of the favorites in the draw, No. 3 seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia, who just won the Nike Junior International Masters title, struggled in her match with Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia, but got through by a 6-7(6), 6-1, 6-4 score. Konjuh failed to convert on four set points in the opening set, and up 6-3 in the tiebreaker, lost five straight points, but still managed to maintain her composure to come back in three sets.

The boys 14s round of 16 doesn't have quite as many Americans as the girls 14s, but still has an impressive number with seven. All six US boys seeded have advanced with No. 2 seed Cameron Klinger, No. 4 seed Stefan Kozlov and No. 5 seed Henrik Wiersholm getting through today's third round in straight sets. No. 8 seed Francis Tiafoe, No. 12 seed Sameer Kumar and No. 16 seed Tommy Paul also reached the fourth round, as did qualifier William Blumberg.

The US could have had exactly half of the boys remaining had 12s Junior Orange Bowl champion Michael Mmoh been able to close out qualifier Basil Khuma of India. Mmoh couldn't convert his set points in the opening set, which Khuma won in a tiebreaker 7-8(8). Khuma served for the second set at 5-4, but Mmoh broke, held and broke to send the match into a third set, and he had a 2-0 lead to start the final set, but Khuma hung tough, despite the disappointment of again failing to serve the match out at 5-4 in the third. Using some deft drop shots and uncannily accurate lobs, Khuma served for the match for a third time after breaking Mmoh for a 6-5 lead. Again Khuma, who trains at the IMG Bollettieri Academy, as does Mmoh, fell behind when attempting to serve it out, but he survived a long rally at 30-40 when he combined a drop shot with a passing shot to bring it to deuce. Mmoh missed a return to give Khuma his first match point, and he converted it with a down the line backhand winner to claim the victory, which ended under the lights, three and a half hours after it began.

In the girls 12s, Schaefer lost to qualifier Shweta Sangwan of India 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. There are only six seeds remaining in the girls 12s, including two Americans: Catherine Bellis and Jaeda Daniel. Other Americans to advance to the round of 16 are Riley McQuaid, qualifier Sofia Sewing, Claire Liu, Nicole Conard and lucky loser Polina Kiseleva.

The boys 12s has the fewest Americans remaining with only five in the round of 16, all of them seeded: No. 2 Alex del Corral, No. 4 Patrick Kypson and No. 9 seeds Alexandre Rotsaert, Sam Riffice and Noah Makarome.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.