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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Samardzic and Wiersholm Reach Tennis Plaza Cup Boys 18s Final; Unseeded Daniel Plays Top Seed Kenin for Girls 14s Championship

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Coral Gables, FL--

Last year, Ognjen Samardzic reached the Tennis Plaza Cup boys 18s final as an unseeded 16-year-old. This year, Samardzic has again reached the final, as the No. 2 seed, and taking over his role as unseeded underdog is 14-year-old Henrik Wiersholm.

Neither boy had an easy time in his semifinal match, which in these USTA National Level 3 Regionals, is played on the same day as the quarterfinal. Samardzic defeated No. 4 seed Jake Albo, a longtime Florida rival, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5), with an unusual delay with Samardzic at 6-5, match point, in the tiebreaker.

Serving a 3-4, Samardzic took a tumble near the service line, with Albo passing him to take a 5-3 lead. At 5-4, Albo had the match on his racquet, but missed a defensive volley just wide, so close that Samardzic asked the roving umpire to confirm the call. She did, but she also noticed that Samardzic had scraped his knees in the fall, and she left to ask the chief umpire if it was bad enough to warrant a stoppage in play. In the meantime, Albo lost his third straight point, when the drop shot he had used so effectively on numerous occasions late in the match floated harmlessly into Samardzic's strike zone and he put it away, giving him match point.

The referee determined that Samardzic needed to leave the court to clean up his knees, and he returned several minutes later to play what turned out to be the final point. Albo got a good look at a forehand pass, but hit it wide, and Samardzic had overcome the disruption to reach the final for the second straight year.

"It actually happened to me once before," said Samardzic, who said he had played Albo nine or ten times and had only lost once. "It wasn't match point, but it was 5-4 in the third and I was bleeding and I asked if I could continue play. That umpire said she would pretend she didn't see it, so I got away with it that time, so I was hoping for the same, but didn't get it this time."

Wiersholm, playing in his second 18s tournament, lost the first set to Sam Swank, who had beaten top seed Grant Solomon in the second round Saturday, but quickly took a 5-0 lead in the second set. Things got really interesting then, with Wiersholm losing five straight games before taking the set in a tiebreaker and going on to take 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 decision.

"I had three set points at 5-0," Wiersholm said of the second set. "And I ended up having seven set points before I won the set. Mentally I don't know where I am. I was a little bit surprised that it was that close and a little bit surprised that I won."

Wiersholm and Samardzic have never played, but Nikola Samardzic, Ognjen's younger brother, does have a victory over Wiersholm.

"At clays three years ago, my younger brother beat him, so it's a bit of extra pressure," Samardzic said. "It's an awkward situation. I know him only through (Stefan) Kozlov, they're pretty much the same generation. He's improved a lot, but that's all I know."

The girls 14s final will feature No. 1 seed Sofia Kenin against unseeded Jaeda Daniel. The 13-year-old Kenin, who has yet to drop a set in her four victories, took a 7-5, 6-3 decision from No. 5 seed Adriana Reami 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals, while Daniel eked out a 7-6(5), 6-7(1), 6-4 win over unseeded Madeline Meredith.

The 12-year-old Daniel said she was fortunate to come through with the win.

"She's a really good player and it's always hard to beat good players," said Daniel. "It was interesting, there were a lot of long rallies, but there wasn't a lot that I could do to hurt her. So it was just bad luck she lost."

Daniel, who won the Florida Closed in the 12s, and was a semifinalist at the Eddie Herr 12s last month, is just beginning to make the transition to the 14s age division.

"It's a tough transition," said Daniel, who is from Wesley Chapel, Florida. "The players are a lot better, tougher so it's going to be hard. It's fun, it's different, and I'm looking forward to it."

The boys 14s final, which will be played Monday morning at Salvadore Park, along with the girls 14s and boys 18s, is a matchup of the top two seeds.

Top seed Jean Thirouin overcame No. 3 seed Kaden Funk 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the semifinals, while No. 2 seed Michael Kuznerko defeated unseeded Pietro Rimondini 6-3, 6-2.

Numbers 1 and 2 will also meet in the boys 16s finals at Biltmore Tennis Center, with top seed Tommy Mylnikov playing No. 2 seed Alexandru Gozun. In the girls 16s final, No. 3 seed Mia Horvit, who beat top seed Marie Norris in the semifinals, takes on No. 8 seed Jessica Golovin, who ousted unseeded Jeannez Daniel, Jaeda's older sister, in the semifinals.

In the girls 18s, which are being played at the Riviera Country Club, No. 3 seed Sherry Li will face No. 7 seed Johnisse Renaud for the championship. Li defeated unseeded Katerina Stewart 6-3, 6-4, while Renaud took out No. 2 seed Alanna Wolff 7-6(4), 7-5.

Stewart had toiled for just over four hours to defeat top seed Frances Altick 7-6(7), 4-6, 7-5 in the quarterfinals, saving a match point when Altick served for the match at 5-4 in the third, while Li needed barely an hour to get past Emily Groeneveld 6-0, 6-0.

In the boys 12s, top seed Boris Kozlov will play No. 2 seed Antonio Mora for the championship. In the girls 12s, top seed Alyvia Jones will play No. 8 seed Amanda Anisimova.

Draws and results are available at the TennisLink site.