Sunday, July 22, 2012

Danielle Collins Claims Girls 18s Clay Court Championship in Fifth Attempt

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Memphis, TN--

Few tennis players at any level could take a five-month break from competitive tennis and win a national championship in their first tournament back. Danielle Collins added her name to that short list Sunday morning, when she defeated No. 4 seed Jamie Loeb 6-1, 6-4 to claim the Girls 18s National Clay Court Championship on another steamy day at the Racquet Club of Memphis.

Collins, seeded No. 16, had taken time off this winter and spring to deal with senior activities at Northeast High School in St. Petersburg, Fla., although she continued to train at IMG's Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton between bouts of tendinitis in her knees. Graduating last month, Collins returned to competitive tennis on Monday, when she lost the first set to Jessica Ho and trailed 4-1 in the third set before winning the final five games of the match.

"I had such a close first match and I almost wasn't able to pull it out," said the 18-year-old, who was competing in her fifth 18s Clay Court Championship in Memphis. "So to be able to come back from that and get better each match, improve, that was my goal the whole tournament. I was able to reach my goal and it's a great feeling."

Collins had played an outstanding match against defending champion Gabby Andrews in Saturday's semifinal, rolling to a 6-3, 6-0 victory, and although she wasn't quite at that level Sunday against Loeb, she had enough left to end Loeb's impressive 33-match winning streak.

Loeb struggled with her serve throughout the match, double faulting often, and she never found the key to counter Collins devastating ground strokes. Loeb did have a brief lead to open the second set, getting her first service hold in the opening game, and breaking Collins in the next, but Collins won the next three games. From then on neither player held serve, with five straight breaks, the last one earned when Collins hit a drop shot winner from deep in the court that went over to Loeb's side of the net, then spun back into it. It wasn't the first drop shot winner Collins had hit, but it was the most improbable and significant, giving her a 5-4 lead, although she maintained Loeb's version of the shot is superior to hers.

"She would drop shot so much," said Collins. "Her drop shot is really good; it's better than mine. So to be able to hit that, at that point in the match, it was kind of like, yeah, finally caught you."

Collins still faced the difficult task of holding her serve, and Loeb had two break points to even the second set. On the first, at 30-40, Collins hit a backhand winner, and on the second, she hit a good first serve that caused Loeb's return to go just long.  An ace gave Collins her first match point, but Loeb replied with a clever forehand passing shot winner. On the second match point, Collins missed a forehand wide, and on the third match point, Loeb again hit a forehand passing shot for a winner. Finally, on match point number four, Loeb just missed a forehand slice wide, and a relieved Collins had her sixth gold ball.

"It's very discouraging when you get a ball around the service line, you hit it, you think you're going hit a winner, but she's so good at anticipating, she gets to it and she passes you," Collins said. "Not once, but twice. But I just told myself, you've got to be patient, eventually she'll break down and I'll be able to close this out. Just stay calm, don't get too angry, and stay motivated, get to the finish line."

Loeb thought her slow start hurt her against Collins.

"I could have gotten off to a better start, she came out swinging right away," said Loeb, a 17-year-old from New York. "In the second set, I got into more of a groove.  Maybe if I'd served a little better, if I could change that, but overall, I think I fought really hard to the end, and never gave up."

Loeb, who trains at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York, felt she was close to turning the match around in that final game.

"As a player, I never give up, even if I'm down 5-0, 40-0 even," Loeb said. "I've come back from being down 5-2 in both sets, winning the match 6 and 6, so I knew today, being down match points, I wasn't going to change my mentality. I just kept fighting, unfortunately, it just didn't work out."

Collins is no longer ITF age eligible, as she turns 19 in December, so she will not be offered the US Open wild card that goes to the Girls 18s Clay Court champion, but she is interested in the qualifying wild card for the WTA event held indoors at the Racquet Club in February that she earned with her victory.

"I'll be in college then, but I'm sure they'll let me play this tournament," said Collins, who joins the team at the University of Florida next month. "Hopefully Scott (Dei, her coach) can come. I know he's always wanted to come here, so I'm sure he's happy I won."

After a little over two hours of rest for Loeb, the girls doubles final was played, with No. 2 seeds Ashley Dai and Maegan Manasse defeating Loeb and Madeline Lipp, the top seeds, 7-6(2), 6-1.

As storm clouds swirled around in all directions but miraculously didn't produce any rain, Dai and Manasse, who had never played together before, overcame a 4-1, two-break lead in the first set.

"We started a little slow, but we picked it up," said Manasse, whose usual partner, Zoe Katz, was injured. "We kept our cool and started to get more balls in," said Dai, who was playing in her third consecutive national doubles final, having taken silver at the Winters with Kourtney Keegan and won gold with Whitney Kay at the Springs. "We got more pumped, basically just kept it going," said Dai.

Both Manasse and Dai, who are from Southern California, were initially at a loss to explain how they meshed so quickly, but once they considered the question, they began to offer several reasons.

"I don't know, it just works," said Manasse. "She's better at net, so when I set it up, she can finish it with no problem," said Dai. "It works well, and she has a good backhand, I have a good forehand."

"And our personalities mesh well," said Dai, who has six gold balls, all in doubles.  "And we had fun throughout the whole tournament," said Manasse. "It was good."

In the bronze ball match in singles, top seed Gabby Andrews defeated No. 2 seed Brooke Austin 6-3, 6-1. In the consolation final, No. 14 seed Kourtney Keegan downed Katerina Stewart, a 17 seed, 7-5, 3-6, 12-10.

The bronze ball in doubles went to Tess Bernard-Feigenbaum and Spencer Liang, who beat Louisa Chirico and Denise Starr 6-3, 6-3 in a match between two No. 9 seeds.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

In Virginia Beach, Mia Horvit, the No. 10 seed, won the girls 16s Clay Court championship, defeating unseeded Francesca Dilorenzo 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.

At Delray Beach, No. 3 seed Mitch Stewart won the boys 16s Clay Court championship, beating No. 13 seed Baker Newman 6-1, 6-3.

The boys 18s final match was abandoned due to rain, with top seed Jared Hiltzik leading No. 16 seed George Goldhoff 6-4, 3-1.  Marcia Frost is covering the event for the Tennis Recruiting Network, so I'm sure she'll have more on this unfortunate ending in her recap.


Austin said...

I thought there was a mistake when I saw "abandoned" on the draw. That is pathetic, didn't even know that was possible to ever happen. What a complete joke.

Missie said...


What is the ITF rule on when you have to stop playing Jr ITF events.
(referring to the statement that D. Collins turns 19 in Dec.)


Brent said...

How in the world does it make sense to abandon the finals due to rain? The kids have been there for 10 days and don't have an interest in staying another 24 hours for a chance at a gold ball. I understand travel logistics are a challenge, etc. but that is absolutely crazy. If they are that flippant in regards to the integrity of the event, why even start?

Concerned said...

Ummm .really big USTA wild cards at hand. If the USTA..whoever they are..behaves like the kids associated with them ....well then no suprrises. Witnessed some of the most atrocious behavior durring a 16s nd under doubles match. USTA kids lost, but entire club rooting against them, based on behvior. No child playing but had to watch.
A true disgrace.....and we are paying for this. Totally unacceptable.

Wanted to wrrite letter to USTA but scared

rules are rules said...

ITF Rule on Age: Player loses jr eligibility starting Jan. of the year he or she turns 19 years of age

Maryjo said...

Indoor backup would be the only option, changing the last scheduled day of a tournament would never work for many reasons. And if you do it for one, you would have to do it for all.

Austin said...

Then do it for all! That is a ridiculous statment to support an argument for not doing it. Good reason why America is a has-been in this sport. When Serena calls it a day our country will be a doubles country only.

Do you all realize no American man other than Andy Roddick has reached the semifinals of a grand slam since Robby Ginepri & Andre Agassi at the 2005 US Open? They talk a lot about no major winner since Roddick in '03, but no one can even make it close to the end of majors, much less win them.

Brent said...

Concerned, are you willing to share who the individuals were exhibiting the embarrassing behavior? Kind of casts a pall across everybody unless you are willing to identify who the culprits were.

Missy said...

So if your birthday is in Dec, then Jan you can't play anymore ITF JR?
Then you literally can't play your 18th year - you only have a few weeks to play in your 18th year because January he/she can't play.
Thats an odd rule. If the player turnes 18 on Dec 31, then Jan 1, they have to stop playing?

Colette Lewis said...

That's correct Missie. The ITF does age eligibility by birth year, not by birth month, which is how the USTA determines age eligibility.

Missy said...

Thanks for the info Collette, I didn't realize that.


Concerned said...

Not sure of the kids names. It was either a round of 16 or 32 match They were clearly trying to humiliate their opponents....And completely violated the USTA rules. At one point both boys came bounding over to their opponents side of the net to question a line call. Talking to people on side of court during and between games.

Ultimately they ended up losing in a tiebreak. Justice!

Colette Lewis said...

I don't doubt your account, but if you don't know their names, how do you know they are associated with the USTA?

Austin said...

Why are my posts not being posted?

Colette Lewis said...

Sorry, did I miss more than that one on Clays that I just posted? I was traveling yesterday, and it's more difficult to monitor via my phone/ipad.

Colette Lewis said...

Thank you for the clarification. Please email me at clewis@zootennis.com if you would like to discuss this further.

Brent said...

OK, without knowing who exactly will apply for wild cards, but making some educated guesses, I will submit my guess as to the 18s seeds for KZoo. I think the old top 1000 ATP, top 150 ITF, then USTA national rankings construct is not as rigidly followed as we may have thought in the past, but interested into any intel anyone has for the exact process that drives the decisions. As always, some tough calls with college players like Novikov or guys who have been playing almost exclusively pro like Styslinger and Vinsant. I will throw out the following guess....

1. C. Harrison
2. M. Krueger
3. Michael Redlicki
4. N. Rubin
5. D. Novikov
6. M. McDonald
7. S. Papa
8. A. Halebian
9. S. Vinsant
10. J. Hiltzik
11. T. Kwiatkowski
12. S. Kozlov
13. R. Schneider
14. M. Styslinger
15. H. Adams
16. Martin Redlicki
17. C. Farren
18. A. Smith
19. G. Brymer
20. A. Siegel
21. J. Daigle
22. T. Strobel
23. K. Yee
24. H. Craig
25. R. Shane
26. D. Mkrtchian
27. M. Polnet
28. N. Paige
29. B. McClain
30. G. Goldhoff
31. D. Baughmann
32. C. Boyce

That would still leave a number of dangerous floaters in the draw including - Clark, Mays, Corinteli, Pura, Lin, Donaldson, Ho, Richmond, Page, Lederman, Karl, Lipman, Monaghan, etc.

Interested in others' thoughts....

Mr Peabody said...

USTA has a rule, that a player seeking a wild card, has to at least sign up for the tournament. They ran into a situation a few years ago, so they made the rule. Christian doesn't need a wild card since his name is on the National Championship Selection List for the National Hard Courts. He has signed up for the Decatur Futures(July 30-Aug 5). That would be a conflict( a player can not sign up for 2 tournaments for the same week). He has also signed up for the Edwardsville Future. Also, he could receive wc's into the Challengers during that time.So, it looks like he has his sights set on the "Pro Circuit". Good Luck to C.H.

Brent said...

If Harrison chooses to play two random Futures events instead of a chance to compete for his national championship, that is absolutely insane, even if he has decided he wants to go pro. Also, passing up a chance at the US Open. If I'm not mistaken, he will end his junior career having never played a match at Kalamazoo through a combination of injuries and crazy choices. But, when he makes it big as a pro, I have no doubt he'll be able to point back to the Decatur futures as the key tournament that changed the course of his career. Wow. When is the last time he played a match where he truly had public pressure on him as the favorite? That is an acquired skill and he hasn't practiced it in 4 years. Still will be cheering for him but I just don't get it.

check it out said...

On looking at the rd of 32 and 16 of the B16s dubs there are no players that can be considered "USTA" who lost in the TB. Maybe one or two guys may have attended a camp along the way. As a matter of fact there were only two or three players that train or have trained at a Training Center. So, unless the jerks that have been mentioned can be identified, they cannot be tagged "USTA". By the way, where were the officials? Did anybody call one?

Beyond all of that, abandoning the finals is totally unacceptable. But does anyone think something will be done about it? Nahhh.

Casual Observer said...

Brent, Given the fact that almost all of the top seeds at Kalamazoo have been playing in the same FUTURES as Harrison and he has moved to the top 650 in the world and had no problem far out performing them it seems silly to play Kalamazoo. The kid missed the better part of 3 years with serious health issues, not just injuries, and has come back in a short period of time to prove to be head and shoulders above that group. I am shocked and amazed at how well he has done. It does not mean that one of those kids could not beat him on a given day, but he has left them in the dust on professional results and the last time I checked the U.S. Open is a professional tournament. Obviously, whoever is guiding him knows what to do. His father I presume. If America is worried about developing PRO players for the future Christian seems to have a bright one. He has flown under the radar with little mention since coming back, but his results speak for themselves.

Brent said...

Casual, you make great points about Christian's remarkable comeback and very impressive results of late on the pro tour. Those results have been materially more impressive than anyone else who will be at KZoo other than that I would argue that Redlicki is in the same ballpark. Unfortunately, while your statements are accurate, they do not absolutely nothing to support the point that he should skip Kalamazoo. If he is that superior to his peers, he should have a great shot at the Open wild card. Not going to find that in Decatur. He has a chance at a national championship. Would you rather tell your grandkids about the time you were a national champion or about the time you made it to the round of 16 in Decatur? Finally, kid needs to play with pressure and expectations at some point. Basically, he hasn't played a match with true downside in years.

Austin said...

Not playing Kalamazoo means you are scared to lose, end of story.

Coach said...


That is obvious

Some don't get it