Avidzba Survives with Third Set Tiebreaker Win over Ho in First Round of Junior Orange Bowl Main Draw
Coral Gables, FL--
It's not often that the underdog in a boys 12s match is a 6-foot left-hander who hits the cover off the ball. Technically, unseeded Chen-Jui Ho of Taiwan was David to No. 1 seed and Eddie Herr 12s champion Alen Avidzba of Russia's Goliath, but after watching a few points of their first round Junior Orange match Monday, it was impossible to frame the contest in those terms.
Ho, who outweighs the slightly built Russian by at least 60 pounds, took the first set from Avidzba, who last week reached the final of the Nike Junior Tennis International Masters, 6-0, and rumors circulated as far away as the Boys 14s site at the University of Miami that Ho was on his way to victory.
I had spend much of the day at the boys 12s site at Salvadore Park, but had gone to the University of Miami for a couple of hours in the afternoon. When I returned, Avidzba had taken the second set 6-4, and a third set was just beginning.
As dusk began to settle in on the 3 p.m. match, Avidzba had obviously become more accustomed to the ferocious pace Ho could generate, and was mentally able to handle the frustration of being unable to come near a Ho shot if it landed anywhere close to a line. Avidzba played defense, but often he could prolong rallies long enough to produce a Ho error, although neither player was broken in the final set. Ho's serve was capable of bailing him out of any tight spots, and Avidzba's concentration rarely lagged as the third set continued.
A small crowd had gathered near the fence around court 11, which was fortunately empty, giving a clearer view to the battle on court 12. Some of Ho's shots, including one massive overhead winner, drew giggles from the crowd, the only appropriate response to seeing such physical strength in that setting and peer group.
Avidzba didn't trail in the tiebreaker, winning a tough first point on his serve. Hon hit an ace to make it 1-1, but Avidzba maneuvered Hon out of position several times to take a 4-2 lead at the change of ends. Hon hit another ace to make it 4-3, but a Hon backhand error and a forehand winner by Avidzba brought him three matches points. Avidzba converted on the first, with Hon's forehand going wide, and after the handshake, both players sat on the court--Avidzba fighting cramps and Ho collecting himself after losing a match he certainly could have won.
While Avidzba survived the challenge, but three of the No. 1 seeds did not. Jenson Brooksby of the United States defeated No. 1 Naoki Tajima of Japan 4-6, 6-0, 6-3; Pedro Henrique Cordeiro of Brazil defeated No. 1 Cesar Cernuda Alonso of Spain 6-0, 6-2 and Patrick Sydow of the Netherlands defeated Bodan Zarkovic of Serbia 6-3, 6-1.
Of the 16 qualifiers who reached the boys 12s main draw, 11 advanced to the second round. Two of the seven lucky losers--William Grant of the US and Vinicius Nogueira of Brazil--also won their first round main draw matches Monday.
The top four seeds in the boys 14s advanced to the second round without difficulty, with Michael Mmoh, Chan Yeong Oh of Korea, Nathan Ponwith and Mikael Ymer of Sweden advancing in straight sets.
For complete results, see the TennisLink site.