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Monday, January 23, 2012

Unseeded Wiersholm and Daniel Surprise Seeds to Take Tennis Plaza Cup Titles in Boys 18s and Girls 14s; Thirouin Claims Boys 14s Title

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

Fourteen-year-old Henrik Wiersholm went from second alternate to champion, winning the Tennis Plaza Cup boys 18s title Monday morning with a convincing 6-0, 6-1 victory over No. 2 seed Ognjen Samardzic.

Wiersholm dominated the championship match from the outset on a warm and breezy morning at Salvadore Park, even though the Pacific Northwest native plays and trains more often on indoor hard courts than the Har-Tru court surface of this tournament.

"I've never had very good results on clay," said Wiersholm, who has just begun living and training at the USTA's Boca Raton Center. "But for the last couple of weeks I've been able to train on it and I'm getting used to it. It's a big difference, but I like it. It's tough, it's physical."

Although both finalists had tough three-setters in their semifinal matches Sunday, it was the older and bigger Samardzic who seemed to feel the effects of the four matches in two days. The 16-year-old from Bradenton, Florida had a difficult time sustaining rallies, and at one point said, "I guarantee my mom could make more balls in the court."

Wiersholm, who needed two players to drop out to get into the tournament, kept his level of play high. Even the erratic play of Samardzic didn't cause his own level to drop, and he won the first ten games of the match before dropping his serve to give the 2011 finalist his only game of the match.

"I think he was a little bit tired from his last match," said Wiersholm, who a year ago at this time was winning the Les Petits As title. "That definitely helped me out when I came out to a strong start at the beginning. I was a little bit tired, but I told myself if I could get an extra boost of energy at the beginning, I could sustain that, which is what I did."

Samardzic mentioned the fall he took in his 7-6 in the third semifinal win over Jake Albo may have contributed to his poor play, although he was careful not to use that as an excuse.

"He deserved to win, props to him," said Samardzic, who lost to Brett Clark in last year's final. "Physically, I'm not one-hundred percent, but that's not an excuse. In tennis you have that all the time. He played much better than me today. There's not much to say. No excuses, he beat me pretty bad."

The jump from the 14s to the 18s is, not surprisingly, a large one, according to Wiersholm.

"Players are much more physical," said Wiersholm, who turns 15 in March. "You're not going to be able to beat them just off of technique. You have to beat them physically also. Guys are going to get to balls that kids aren't getting to in the 14s, and you have to realize that and prepare for it to happen."

Wiersholm couldn't be happier with his level of play throughout the tournament, his second in the 18s division.

"I played well," he said, then repeated, "I played well."

In the girls 14s final at the USTA Level 3 National tournament, unseeded Jaeda Daniel upset top seed Sofia Kenin 6-2, 7-6(4), earning her first win over her Florida rival.

"I was playing my game and being aggressive," said the 12-year-old left-hander. "It's exciting."

Kenin usually also plays an aggressive game, but the petite 13-year-old was making many more unforced errors than usual, especially in the first set. She gradually reduced those in the second set, only to see her serve go seriously haywire serving a 3-4. Kenin double faulted three consecutive times to give Daniel the opportunity to serve for the match, but Daniel couldn't convert, double faulting herself at 30-40 to get Kenin back on serve. Kenin held for 5-5, saving a match point when Daniel hit a second serve return long. She won her third straight game when Daniel was unable to get her first serve in during the next game.

Although she didn't double fault, Daniel missed six straight first serves, and Kenin began pouncing on the harmless second serves Daniel gave her, and broke to go up 6-5.

The breeze picked up midway through the match, but Daniel said that wasn't the reason she was having difficulty serving.

"It wasn't that so much," said Daniel. "It was mostly me, and that's something I have to work on."

Kenin made her first serves in the 6-5 game, but she was unable to keep the ball in the court, making three unforced errors, while Daniel forced another. In the tiebreaker, Kenin's serve problems resurfaced with two consecutive double faults and Daniel took a 4-1 lead. Kenin never led but she did get within one point at 4-3 and 5-4, only to make errors that gave Daniel a two-point cushion.

At 6-4, Kenin got her second serve in, but after a short rally, Daniel took a chance on a big down the line forehand, and it was too big for Kenin, who couldn't reach it.

The 12-year-old Daniel is now planning on playing more 14s tournaments, but hasn't yet decided on her schedule.

Jean Thirouin is the only top seed to earn a championship at Salvadore Park, after he collected a come-from-behind victory over No. 2 seed Michael Kuznerko to claim the boys 14s title.

Thirouin served for the opening set, lost it in a tiebreaker, but took control midway through the second set to post a 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-0 victory.

"I got a little tight," Thirouin said of his failure to serve out the opening set at 5-4. "I played too flat and too safe. He also started playing better and controlling the points."

Thirouin, who just began training full time at L'academie de Tennis in Boynton Beach, Florida, lost to Kuznerko at a National Open last July, so his ability to overcome the loss of the first set was especially satisfying.

"In the third set I had lots of energy," said the 14-year-old, who is from Houston, Texas. "I played really, really well, compared to the other two sets. I kept the ball in play and played safe. I'm pretty happy with the way I played."

Another top seed prevailed in the boys 12s, with Boris Kozlov defeating No. 2 Antonio Mora 6-1, 6-4 at the Biltmore Tennis Center.

Rather than feeling the pressure of the top seeding, Kozlov looked at the positives of the number 1 after his name.

"It kind of makes you want to win more," said Kozlov, the 11-year-old brother of Stefan Kozlov. "You feel more confidence when you go out on the court. So I don't think it's pressure, it's more like confidence."

Mora had numerous game points that he failed to convert in the second set, and down 5-2, began resorting to moon balls to try to change his fortune. It worked for two games, but not a third, as Koslov held off the challenge in the final game.

"He had a lot of chances," Kozlov said. "But he didn't take them, and I played pretty good."

Kozlov will continue playing some 14s tournaments in Florida, his home section.

"I'm going to to start playing more 14s, because the tournaments here are starting to get easy, and I'm winning almost every one," said Kozlov, who won a Florida 12s designated tournament earlier this month. "Not to sound cocky or anything, but my dad wants me to start playing more in the 14s."

The results from the finals in the other divisions:

Girls 18s: Johnnise Renaud(7) def. Sherry Li(3) 7-5, 6-4.
Boys 16s: Tommy Mylnikov(1) def. Alexandru Gozun(2) 7-5, 6-2.
Girls 16s: Mia Horvit(3) def. Jessica Golovin(8) 6-1, 6-4.
Girls 12s: Amanda Anisimova(8) def. Alyvia Jones(1) 6-2, 7-5.

For complete results, including doubles, see the TennisLink site.