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Saturday, May 5, 2012

Sharapova, Marino Win Daytona Beach ITF Titles; Min Defeats Hardebeck, Can Deny Sanchez French Open Wild Card in Sunday's Indian Harbour Beach $50K Final

Photo Courtesy Doug Wrege ©2012
The first of three ITF Junior Grade 4s in Florida concluded today in Daytona Beach, with Daria Sharapova (yes, it's her cousin) of Belarus winning the girls title and Juan Sebastian Marino of Colombia taking the boys singles championship.  No. 8 seed Sharapova, who turns 17 next month, defeated unseeded 15-year-old Jessica Ho of the US 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) in today's final to claim her first ITF title.  The fourth-seeded Marino, 17, defeated unseeded Nicolas Jarry by a less-dramatic 6-2, 6-4 score.  Jarry was listed from Chile when he competed in the 16s division at the Orange Bowl last December, but is currently showing on the draws as USA, and played high school tennis in Miami this spring. Like Sharapova, Marino also picked up his first ITF junior title, his in his first ITF tournament outside South America.

The boys doubles title went to Turkey's Alp Horoz and Jonathan Quenard of Switzerland, the No. 7 seeds, who beat No. 4 seeds Daniel Kerznerman of the US and Tommy Mylnikov of Canada 6-7(0), 6-2 10-7.  No. 6 seeds Mingxiu Du of China and Rianna Valdes of the US won the girls doubles title, beating unseeded Jessica Golovin and Ndindi Ndunda of the US 6-1, 6-1.

Qualifying draws for the Plantation Grade 4 this week have begun, and those results and the complete Daytona Beach draws can be found by following the links at the USTA's Player Development page for ITF junior tournaments.

Last weekend's Pro Circuit action brought us one unexpected French Open wild card winner, with Brian Baker coming through qualifying to win the $50,000 Savannah Challenger and with it, enough points to earn the USTA's reciprocal wild card for Roland Garros.  This week, wild card Maria Sanchez can book her spot in the main draw with a win in Sunday's final at the $50,000 tournament in Indian Harbour Beach, Fla.

Trying to deny Sanchez that opportunity will be US Open girls champion Grace Min, who can't win the wild card herself, but can assist fellow Georgian Melanie Oudin, who currently leads in the standings after her win last week in the $50,0000 Charlottesville tournament. Sanchez reached the quarterfinals in Charlottesville, while Oudin lost in the second round in Dothan and Indian Harbour Beach, so  Sanchez will overtake her by 88 points to 80 in the best-two-of-three results used for the women's standings.

Sanchez beat Lauren Davis today, and Davis needed only to win that match to assure herself of the wild card, but Sanchez was much steadier in her 6-4, 6-0 victory. The former USC All-American, in her first full year on the professional circuit, has gone from 696 at the end of 2011 to 341 now, with a big jump coming after this week's results are added, regardless if she wins or loses Sunday.

Min, whose 18th birthday is tomorrow, is ranked 247 now, but she was also unseeded this week. Min had looked very strong up until today, disposing of top seed Irina Falconi in the first round and Shelby Rogers in the second with the loss of four games in each of those matches. After taking out Allie Kiick yesterday, again in straight sets, Min met qualifier Krista Hardebeck today, and was down 4-0 in very short order. But Min worked her way back into the match, serving much better in the second set, and after falling behind 4-2 in the second set, she won 11 of the next 13 games to beat Stanford recruit Hardebeck 2-6, 7-5, 6-1. Hardebeck, who was playing her seventh match in seven days, may have simply run out of gas. Min has used her drop shot very effectively this week, and there's no reason to expect she'll shelve it Sunday against the much bigger Sanchez.

The match will be streamed on SpaceCoastSportsTV, beginning around noon Eastern, after the doubles final at 11.

In the men's $10,000 Futures in Vero Beach, two recent college graduates have reached the final.  Pedro Zerbini of Brazil, who finished at Cal last May, will play JP Smith of Australia, whose stellar career at Tennessee also came to an end at the Stanford NCAAs. Smith, the No. 2 seed, beat former teammate and No. 4 seed Tennys Sandgren 6-2 , 7-5 today, while the unseeded Zerbini advanced when former Pepperdine star Bassam Beidas retired at 2-2 in the opening set. It is Smith's first singles final of the year, while Zerbini reached the Oklahoma Futures final last month.

Smith will also play in the all-collegiate doubles final on Sunday, with former Vol Ben Rogers. The top seeds will face No. 4 seeds Vahid Mirzadeh (Florida State) and Ed Corrie (Texas) after the singles final.

Draws can be found at the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.