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Friday, December 2, 2011

Schaefer, Dubrivny Take Eddie Herr International 12s Titles; Krueger and Thiem Meet for Fifth Time in B18s Semis Saturday

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Bradenton, FL--

Artem Dubrivny of Russia made his first visit to the Eddie Herr a memorable one, taking the boys 12s singles championship 6-2, 6-3 over American Alex del Corral on a cool and crisp morning at the IMG Bollettieri Academy. Dominique Schaefer of the United States prevented a Russian sweep of the 12s titles however, taking out Sofya Zhuk 7-5, 7-5 to claim the girls singles championship.

Dubrivny said after the match he wasn't nervous, and the second seed roared out to a 5-0 lead with del Corral struggling to counteract the pace and transition game of the athletic Russian.

Despite Dubrivny's outstanding play during that stretch, del Corral still had opportunities, and was in every game, but the occasional untimely error kept him off the board. The 12-year from Miami began to find his form in the sixth game, holding for the first time and breaking Dubrivny, who found the net several times during that stretch.

Serving at 2-5, the top-seeded del Corral fought off three set points and had three games points in the five-deuce game, but Dubrivny eventually forced an error from del Corral with one of his many aggressive points.

The American broke to start the second set, and took a 3-1 lead, but Dubrivny held and broke with a stunning forehand pass. The Russian speaks little English, and needed his coach to provide translation in the post-match interview, but when that angled forehand landed in, he shouted "Let's go" in English. After saving a break point in the next game, Dubrivny led 4-3, and del Corral was broken after a slew of unforced errors early in the rallies.

Serving for the match, Dubrivny had a match point at 40-30, but double faulted, which he later admitted was due to nerves. A topspin forehand winner over del Corral's head gave him another match point however, and although he missed his first serve again, the nerves didn't reappear. Putting his fist to his mouth after del Corral's return went long, Dubrivny then raised both hands and his face skyward in celebration of seventh consecutive straight-set victory.

Dubrivny said his power was a factor in his victory, as well as his ability to handle del Corral's high topspin, but he wasn't entirely happy with his level of play throughout the match. Asked how he would rate his performance on a scale of 1 to 10, Dubrivny said. "It would be five. I didn't play my best game today."

Del Corral was impressed with his opponent's performance however.

"He's fast, and it's hard to close out points against him," he said. "He overpowered me, so I tried to change the game against him in the second set, but he still came out with great shots."

While the boys final featured the first and second seeds, there was a decided underdog in the girls final, with the unseeded Schaefer against the No. 7 seeded Zhuk, already a client of IMG.

The 12-year-old Californian started well, taking a 2-0 lead, but then lost four straight games as Zhuk began to force a few errors from Schaefer.

But as quickly as Zhuk took control of the set, she lost it, as Schaefer refused to get into a hitting contest with the Russian, a strategy Schaefer had formulated after watching Zhuk play.

"I saw how she played, and saw she didn't really like the high ball," said the 12-year-old, who trains at the Weil Academy in Ojai, California. "So I just kept hitting high until she gave me an easy ball, so I could just hit it, or mix it up, but not just hit hard, hard."

Schaefer won five of the next six games employing that strategy, breaking Zhuk to take the set 7-5, but fell behind 4-1 in the second set, with Zhuk serving to take a 5-1 lead. Schaefer broke to make it 4-2 instead, and she knew she had a chance to come back for the straight-set win.

"I wanted to win, but I didn't know I could come back in that second set," Schaefer said. "When it was 1-4, I got kind of mad, but when it was 2-4, I thought I could come back."

Zhuk served for the set at 5-4 and had two set points, the second of which Schaefer saved with her quickness and touch. After the ball clipped the net cord and fell over to her side, Schaefer ran full speed to get it, then angled a perfect forehand along the net to the opposite sideline, a shot that had the dozens of spectators blinking with disbelief.

Schaefer went on to break, held her serve and continued to pressure Zhuk, who couldn't find a way through her opponent's defenses. At 15-40, Zhuk's backhand went wide and Schaefer had won the biggest tournament of her young career.

"I been working really hard for this, training for these tournaments, the Eddie Herr," said Schaefer. "It feels really good to win this, amazing."

Zhuk pointed to Schaefer's variety as a deciding factor in the match.

"She did more drop shots, played more volleys," said Zhuk, who turned 12 on Thursday. "Drop shots, flat shots, other balls, and for that she win. She played very good in this match. I can play better, but she played better than me this match."

Schaefer also picked up the girls doubles title later in the afternoon, when she and Anna Bright, the No. 4 seeds, beat No. 7 seeds Ekaterina Antropova and Polina Golubovskaya of Russia 6-2, 6-4.

Dubrivny fell short of matching Schaefer's twin titles, as he and Alexei Popyrin of Australia, the top seeds, lost to unseeded Juan Otegui and Camilo Ugo Carabelli of Argentina 6-4, 6-3.

While the 12s singles finals were being played on Court 15, Mitchell Krueger, a former Eddie Herr 12s champion, was battling in the 18s quarterfinals for a chance at a second Eddie Herr title five years later. The fourth-seeded Texan served for the match against unseeded Kevin Kaczynski of Germany at 5-4 in the second set, couldn't convert, lost the set in a tiebreaker, then fell behind 4-2 in the final set before pulling out a 6-2, 6-7(4), 7-6(2) victory.

"I wasn't even thinking about being down 4-2," said Krueger. "Because I was serving it wasn't that big of a deal. It wasn't really until after the match that I realized I was down 4-2. I told myself at the changeover I just needed to play one good return game to get back in the set, and that next game I broke him."

Krueger had a match point with Kaczynski serving at 5-6, and although he wasn't able to convert that one, he dominated the tiebreaker to finish the three-hour plus match with a victory.

His opponent in Saturday's semifinal is a familiar one, top seed Dominic Thiem of Austria, who beat No. 12 seed Yoshihito Nishioka of Jpan 7-5, 6-2.

Thiem and Krueger have played four times in the past 20 months, splitting those encounters.

"Round five," said Krueger, who beat Thiem 6-2, 6-2 in the first round of the US Open juniors in September. "I've beaten him both times on hard, he's beaten me both times on red clay. I think we're both pretty comfortable with that match, we've been there so many times."

The other boys 18s semifinal will feature No. 2 seed Liam Broady of Great Britain against No. 6 seed Patrick Ofner of Austria.

Taylor Townsend is the sole American girl remaining in the draw after her 6-4, 6-0 win over Kelsey Laurente of the US. Townsend will play No. 2 seed Yulia Putintseva of Russia, the 2010 Eddie Herr finalist, in one of Saturday's semifinals. The other will have No. 11 seed Ganna Poznikhirenko of Ukraine playing No. 9 seed Victoria Kan of Russia.

An American winner is assured in the girls 16s, with all four semifinalists from the US and none of them seeded.

In Saturday's semifinals, Alyssa Smith will play Caroline Doyle and Dasha Ivanova faces wild card Tornado Ali Black, who was a finalist in the 14s last year.

The only American still in the boys 16s is qualifier Andrew Shafer, who has already won seven matches this week. Shafer will play No. 9 seed Jordi Arconada of Argentina, who trains at the Racquet Club of the South in Norcross, Georgia. The other semifinal will pit wild card Tommy Mylnikov against No. 15 seed Andrei Apostol of Romania.

The boys 14s final is certain to have a Korean finalist, when No. 5 seed and 2010 12s champion Duckhee Lee meets No. 9 seed Seongchan Hong. The third Korean in the semifinals, Chan Yeong Oh, will play No. 16 seed Alejandro Tabilo of Canada.

The girls 14s semifinals will feature No. 6 seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine versus No. 4 seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia, and Mariya Shishkina of the US against No. 2 seed Naiktha Bains of Australia.

Play begins with the semifinals in the 14s and 16s at 9 a.m. Saturday. The boys 18s semifinals begin at 9:30 a.m., followed by the girls 18s semifinals. The girls 18s semifinals in doubles do not feature any players still in singles, so the doubles final will also be Saturday. Jennifer Brady and Kendal Woodard are in the semifinals, as is Christina Makarova and her partner from Ukraine Diana Bogoliy. Although it is on the schedule, it is unlikely the boys doubles final will be played on Saturday, since all four boys in singles are still in the doubles too, meaning that would be three matches in one day for at least one player, no matter what the outcome of the semifinal matches.

For the 18s draws and results, see the ITF junior website. For the other divisions, see the Tennis Information site. For more photos and stories see eddieherr.com.


curiosity killed the cat but I'm no cat said...

Just wondering if you know why Seoungchan Hong hasn't seemed to play any tournaments since the beginning of the year (not even korean ones). Any talk of him being injured?

In my opinion he was the best player in the 14s division from the get go and it was a shame for other players that his seeding was so low.

Jon from PBG said...

Someone need to fix Shaefer's extreme grip. Works in the 12s, not so much in the 16s and 18s.