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Friday, January 20, 2012

Tiafoe Wins Teen Tennis; Hardebeck Takes Traralgon Grade 1; Four Americans Qualify for Australian Open Junior Championships

Francis Tiafoe gave himself quite a 14th birthday present today, beating Michael Mmoh 6-3, 6-3 in the all-American Aegon Junior International Teen Tennis 14-and-under tournament in Bolton, England. Tiafoe, the No. 15 seed, had reached the semifinals in the tournament last year. He won every match in straight sets, and beat the No. 7, No. 1 and No. 3 seeds in his final three wins.

The news was not as good for the US in the girls final, with Great Britain's Maia Lumsden, the No. 5 seed beating No. 8 seed Tornado Ali Black 7-5, 6-1 to claim the girls championship.

The US claimed three of the four titles in Bolton, the boys and girls doubles and the boys singles, and the eight players now cross the Channel for the Les Petits As, in Tarbes, France. All eight are in the main draw there, but the qualifying for the prestigious event has begun. For the qualifying draws and other information, see the tournament's website.

For the complete results at Teen Tennis, see the Tennis Europe website.

For more on the finals at Bolton, see usta.com.

In Australia, qualifier Krista Hardebeck of the US won the ITF Grade 1 Loy Yang in Traralgon, beating No. 6 seed Anna Schmiedlova of Slovakia 7-5, 6-4 in the final. Hardebeck received a walkover from An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium, the 2011 Australian Open girls champion, who will not defend her title due to a recurring wrist injury, in the quarterfinals, so she had to win "only" seven matches to take her first junior title since the Easter Bowl Grade B1 in 2010. Hardebeck beat four seeds, not including Mestach, in her run to the final, and received a special exemption into the Australian Open junior championships.

No. 16 seed Filip Peliwo of Canada surprised top seed and world No. 1 Luke Saville of Australia in the boys final, saving two match points to take the championship 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4. Nick Kyrgios of Australia and Wayne Montgomery of South Africa won the boys doubles; Ilka Csoregi of Romania and Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia won the girls doubles.

Four Americans qualified for the Australian Open junior championships Friday, with Julia Elbaba, Catherine Harrison, Trey Strobel and Mackenzie McDonald earning spots in the main draw, which begins Sunday (Saturday night in the US). The draws should be out early Saturday morning here in the US, and can be found at the ITF junior website.

I spent a few hours today back at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center, where the Orange Bowl was held last month, watching the quarterfinals of the $25,000 women's pro circuit event there. I was particularly interested in the match between Elizaveta Ianchuk of Ukraine, who had played the Orange Bowl, and American Lauren Davis, who I had last seen winning the 2010 Orange Bowl at Crandon Park.

Davis, who still occasionally suffers symptoms related to the concussion she got last spring when a piece of TV equipment fell on her head as she prepared for an interview, looked in great form, quickly taking control of the match from Ianchuk. Ianchuk, like Davis 18 years old, barely had a game point on her serve in the entire match, and the only game she won was a break of Davis in the fifth game of the first set of the 6-1, 6-0 clinic. Davis served well, hit both her forehand and backhand with great depth and pace, and also found some impressive angles. She will face an entirely different opponent in the semifinals against veteran Ahsha Rolle of the US, who uses her touch and volley skills relentlessly, even on the Har-Tru surface. Davis also reached the semifinals of the $25,000 tournament in Innisbrook last week, before falling in three sets to Grace Min. The other semifinal in Plantation will feature the only seeded player to make the quarterfinals, No. 5 Gail Brodsky, who beat Heidi El Tabakh of Canada 7-5, 6-3. She faces Johanna Konta of Australia, a 6-1, 6-3 winner over Alexandra Stevenson of the US.

At the $10,000 Futures just north of Plantation, Jack Sock beat Andrea Collarini 6-3, 6-1 to advance to the semifinals, where he'll play No. 7 seed Nicholas Devilder of France. Sock has yet to drop a set in his eight wins to start off 2012. No. 6 seed Pedro Sousa of Portugal will play unseeded Olivier Patience of France, who breezed past American Brian Baker 6-1, 6-1 today.

Former University of Illinois player Ruben Gonzales and Chris Kwon won the doubles title, beating Sekou Bangoura and Ed Corrie 6-3, 7-5.

For all results, see the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.

I will begin coverage of the National Level 3 Regional this weekend in Coral Gables, the Tennis Plaza Cup, tomorrow. Grant Solomon and Frances Altick are the top seeds in the 18s; Tommy Mylnikov and Marie Norris are the top seeds in the 16s. For the seeds in all four divisions, and the draws, see the TennisLink site.