©Colette Lewis 2011--
Heavy rains drenched the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation Friday, delaying the Orange Bowl 18s quarterfinals and 16 semifinals for seven hours. When the matches were finally begun, around 5 p.m., the air was thick with humidity, puddles were still visible on several main courts and players were sent to the far reaches of the tennis center in search of the driest courts.
It was on one of those far courts, No. 24 to be exact, that wild card Sachia Vickery closed the night's play with a 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) victory over unseeded Varvara Flink of Russia. Vickery had twice served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5, but was unable to finish either time, to her obvious frustration.
Loudly berating herself throughout the match, the 16-year-old from Miramar, Fla. received a point penalty for verbal abuse at 5-4 15-40 in the third set. Vickery had already received a warning for an audible obscenity earlier in the match, so when she asked the chair umpire loudly, "are you blind?" after he confirmed a checked ball mark, the game went to Flink. The 15-year-old Russian played a sloppy game when she could have seized the momentum however, double faulting on game point, but it didn't cost her the match, as she broke back to force a tiebreaker.
Vickery had overcome the loss of a 6-0 first set in her third round match on Thursday, but in that win over No. 6 seed Zuzanna Maciejewska, she had seemed calmer and less demonstrative.
"I think it was because this was a big match for me," said Vickery, who trains at the Mourataglou Academy in France. "I've never been in the semis of a Grade A before. This is not my last junior tournament, but I don't play that many and I really want to get into the slams next year and I really want my ranking to be high."
Vickery was somehow able to shake off both her failures to serve out the match, and concentrate on her final chance in the tiebreaker.
"I just kind of put it in the back of mind," said Vickery, who had more than a dozen family members and friends supporting her from the small set of bleachers near the court. "I can't carry it on; I have to do something now or I'm going to lose. So it was just like, forget it, make the tiebreaker count and get a good start. And I did."
Vickery's opponent in the semifinals is No. 2 seed Yulia Putintseva of Russia, who beat Samantha Crawford of the US 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 on the court next to Vickery and Flink. Vickery has confidence she can post another win over Putintseva.
"It'll be tough, but I did beat her in Canada two months ago," Vickery recalled. "Hopefully I can go with the same strategy. It's not going to be easy, but I'm sure I can win if I play my best."
The other semifinal will feature top seed Eugenie Bouchard, who again had little difficulty advancing, beating No. 7 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia 6-3, 6-2, against No. 5 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia. Kontaveit outlasted No. 3 seed Indy de Vroome of the Netherlands 7-6(3), 2-6, 6-3 on another remote court.
Top seed Dominic Thiem of Austria extended his junior winning streak to 16 matches with a quick 6-1, 6-1 win over Kimmer Coppejans of Belgium. The Yucatan Cup and Eddie Herr International Champion will play No. 12 seed Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan in a rematch of an Eddie Herr quarterfinal, which Thiem won 7-5, 6-2. Nishioka beat unseeded Martins Podzus of Latvia 6-1, 7-5 in Friday evening's quarterfinal.
Another Austrian reached the semifinals, with Patrick Ofner, the No. 7 seed and Eddie Herr finalist, beating Janis Podzus, Martins' twin brother, 6-2, 6-0. He will play unseeded Canadian Filip Peliwo, who ousted No. 6 seed Julien Cagnina of Belgium 6-1, 6-4.
"I had a quick first set, played pretty much flawlessly," said Peliwo, who has prepared for the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl tournaments by training on the new Har-Tru courts at the Canadian National Training Center in Montreal. "He took a long bathroom break after that set, and came up with some changes I wasn't ready for. He started making more balls playing heavy, instead of going for his shots, and I wasn't expecting it. I started to go for it a bit more than I should have and went down a break 4-1 and 15-40. But I got my game together and came back, which was really a big relief."
Canada's Erin Routliffe, seeded 13th, earned a spot in the girls 16s final with a 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 14 seed Rasheeda McAdoo of the US. Routliffe will take on No. 2 seed Katie Boulter of Great Britain, who ended unseeded American Kimberly Yee's run of come-from-behind victories with a 7-6(4), 6-3 win.
In the boys 16s final, unseeded Hyeon Chung of Korea will take on No. 12 seed Diego Pedraza of Colombia. Pedraza beat No. 4 seed Hugo Di Feo of Canada 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, and Chung survived an equally grueling contest with No. 5 seed Brayden Schnur of Canada before pulling out a 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-4 victory. Whether Pedraza or Chung wins, he will be the first Orange Bowl champion from his country.
The 16s doubles titles were also decided on Friday evening, with No. 5 seeds Charlotte Petrick and Routliffe of Canada defeating the unseeded American team of Hadley Berg and Mary Closs 6-4, 6-3.
Routliffe won the Eddie Herr doubles title last week, with another partner, but she and Petrick quickly adjusted to each other this week.
"We learned a lot here," said Routliffe, who goes for the title sweep on Saturday. "How to work together more on the court, use each other, pump each other up."
Against the surprise finalists from California, the Canadians didn't stumble, and were happy not only with the prestigious title, but with the prize that goes with it.
"I'm really excited," said Petrick. "I really wanted that Tiffany bowl. My friend was telling me how great it is on her kitchen table, with all her fruit in it, so I was really motivated tonight to go get it."
That friend is Canadian Carol Zhao, who won the 16s doubles titles last year with France's Estelle Cascino.
In the boys 16s doubles final, the unseeded Brazilian team of Lucas Guitarrari and Marcelo Tibet Filho, playing their first tournament together, defeated the No. 3 seeded team of Alexander Sendegeya of Great Britain and Franz Sydow of the Netherlands 7-5, 7-5.
"I just want to thank Lucas for all the friendship we had all this week," said Tibet Filho. "I'm so happy. It was the best experience, all this week."
Guitarrari and Tibet Filho received strong support from a dozen or so friends and fellow Brazilian tennis players, all in the area to compete in tournaments. Hearing the huge cheers on every key point, Guitarrari and Tibet Filho felt it made a big difference in the match.
"Thanks to all the friends who came here," Tibet Filho said, looking at the celebration still underway among the players and coaches. "Special thanks to them."
For complete draws and Saturday's order of play see the tournament website.
Ken Thomas of radiotennis.com will be webcasting the finals this weekend.