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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Top B14s Seed Borza Survives Another Tough Test; US Girls Continue Strong Showing in Junior Orange Bowl 12s

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

After boys 14s top seed Bogdan Borza of Romania had saved match points in the first round, the likelihood of more drama from the European champion probably wasn't high, but I wanted to see him play, and I knew American qualifier Aron Pierce would present some problems for him in Sunday afternoon's second round match.

I spent an hour watching the boys 12s at Salvadore Park, with top seed Artem Dubrivny looking very strong again in a 6-0, 6-2 win over Alex Rushin of the US, so I decided to go to the University of Miami to watch Pierce and Borza before heading to Key Biscayne to see some of the girls 14s.

The match, which fortunately was played on court 1, which provides ample seating, great viewing and some shade, was close from the start, with seven straight holds. Pierce got the first real opportunity in the eighth game, with two break points in the three-deuce game but he missed a return and then a forehand and the Romanian lefthander held. Pierce was broken in the next game, giving Bogdan a break point with a double fault, and Bogdan immediately converted, hitting a great return on an excellent first serve that Pierce couldn't handle. Bogdan held to take the first set 6-4.

Pierce's serve was the biggest shot on the court, and he probably averaged two free points a service game when he got it in. With that ability to hold serve Bogdan was immediately in trouble when he lost his first service game of the second set to go down 2-0. Pierce wasn't holding at love in his service games, but he was able to come up with big serves when he needed the, and he hit one running forehand passing shot that brought appreciate applause from the spectators scattered around the court. He held on to take the second set 6-3.

Bogdan showed some good court speed and instincts but didn't have a shot that was as effective as Pierce's serve. In the third set, Bogdan seemed to be increasingly agitated, talking to himself loudly when he missed a shot, and the level of play from both players dropped. Errors began to shorten points, and Pierce's first serve percentage began to drop. When Pierce, a 14-year-old from Houston, was broken serving at 2-3 in the third, it looked like Bogdan would survive, but it wasn't quite that easy.

Bogdan faced two break points at 15-40 serving at 4-2, but Pierce made two forehand errors, and Bogdan won the next two points to claim a 5-2 lead. Pierce couldn't get his first serve working in the final game, and was broken at 15 to give Borza a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 win, in just over two and a half hours.

"His serve is very good, his serve is unbelievable," said Bogdan, who admitted two long matches in consecutive days was not ideal for energy conservation. "When he served his first serve it was very hard for me to return. The second serve, sometimes I knew how to return it."

Bogdan, who trains in Bucharest, was relieved to have survived again.

"It's better to play very short match, so the end of the week I'm okay," he said. "But it's okay. The important thing is that I won."

Due to the length of that match and the storm clouds looming over Key Biscayne, I did not go out to Crandon Park. I missed what I had anticipated would be a very good second round match, and by the looks of the score it was, with American Jessica Ho defeating No. 4 seed Naiktha Bains of Australia 2-6, 6-1, 7-5. Mariya Shishkina, the No. 2 seed, did not have to face Eddie Herr finalist Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine in the second round after all, with Kalinina having withdrawn before the tournament began, but somehow a lucky loser's name was not inserted into the draw in her place until today. Shishkina advanced to the third round, as did top seed Tornado Ali Black.

After watching Henrik Wiersholm, Stefan Kozlov, Reilly Opelka and Michael Mmoh advance to the B14s third round, I returned to the Biltmore Tennis Center, where there were still a few girls 12s matches on under the lights. Kayla Day was in a third set with Inci Ogut of Turkey, and although it was much more difficult than her 6-1, 6-0 win in Saturday's first round, she again came through, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. The day's last match saw American Madeline Meredith defeat Julia Logtenberg of Spain, a No. 1 seed, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Other US girls advancing to the third round were Riley McQuaid, Kariann Pierre-Louis, Ryan Peus, Rachel Papavasilopoulos, Sofia Sewing, Mallory Gilmer, Claire Liu, Anna Bright, Polina Kiseleva, Danielle Quevedo, Nicole Conard, Jaeda Daniel, Catherine Bellis and Dominique Schaefer. That's exactly half of the 32 girls remaining.

All six of the seeded Americans remaim at the boys 12s, with Alex del Corral(2), Patrick Kypson(4), and Vasil Kirkov, Noah Makarome, Sam Ruffice and Alex Rotsaert (all 9 seeds) advancing today.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.