©Colette Lewis 2012--
Sixteenth seed Barbara Haas has already beaten the world's top junior, taking out Taylor Townsend in the third round of the Eddie Herr International on Thursday. In Saturday's semifinal, the 16-year-old Austrian avenged two recent losses to Belinda Bencic of Switzerland to reach her first Grade 1 final, capping a dream week on the green clay of the IMG Bollettieri Academy.
Haas trailed Bencic 4-1 in the second set, but exactly as she had done against Townsend two days ago, she fought back, taking the final five games of the second set in a 6-3, 6-4 victory.
Bencic had beaten Haas in straight sets in the semifinals and the finals of two $10,000 ITF Women's Circuit hard court events this fall, so Haas had a good idea what she could do to enhance her chances of winning on clay.
"At the beginning of the second set I just let her play her game, and when she plays her game, she plays really well," said Haas, who trains in Vienna with Jaroslav Bulant of the Czech Republic. "She likes to play flat, and like this," said Haas, gesturing to her waist. "Just play power. She's near to the baseline and takes the ball early, so I just tried to play some more spin. On clay, it's good to play this way."
Haas said the key to what she called her "unbelievable" run this week was her mental approach.
"I played without pressure. I just played," Haas said. "I didn't think about some things, so I just played. I'm not thinking about, oh I could win this. I'm just playing."
Awaiting her in the final is 14-year-old Ana Konjuh of Croatia, who defeated No. 2 seed Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic in the semifinals 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Konjuh, who turns 15 later this month, was able to collect herself after taking a bathroom break following the first set, and displayed maturity and composure during the stressful final games of the match.
"In the first I was frustrated," admitted Konjuh. "But I calmed down because I know I can't be a professional player with that much frustration on every point. I'm trying to be calm, so everything's going to be like it's going to be."
Siniakova, ranked No. 3 in the ITF junior rankings, was more emotional, with her disappointment at being broken at 4-3 in the third set visible on her face and in her body language. She broke back immediately, but Konjuh didn't waiver from her vow of serenity and it paid off when she hit a deft backhand volley winner to take a 5-4 lead.
Serving for the match, Konjuh earned her first match point with a screaming backhand winner, and went to her towel before stepping back to serve. She missed a backhand, giving Siniakova hope, but the 16-year-old Czech made an unforced error to give Konjuh match point number two. Siniakova hit a backhand winner to get it back to deuce again, but a good first serve by Konjuh led to a missed return and match point number three. This time Konjuh made no mistake, cracking a forehand winner to finish the match.
Although she is only 14, Konjuh is competing in her fifth Eddie Herr.
"It's like home here to me," said Konjuh, who defeated Haas in the first round of a Grade 1 on clay last year. "I'm happy to make finals. I know her for a long time and we will see. I am hoping to play good like today, and be the best I can."
There is no history between the boys finalists, with No. 8 seed Christian Garin of Chile meeting No. 6 seed Laslo Djere of Serbia for the first time.
Garin dropped his first set of the tournament to unseeded Mazen Osama of Egypt, but the 16-year-old came back to post a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.
"You don't play your game against him," Garin said of Osama, a left-hander who hits two-handed on both forehand and backhand and uses drop shots and angles to add another facet to an unconventional game. "So it's very difficult, it's weird. He's a good player, he run every ball down."
At 4-4 in the third set, Osama earned a game point, but netted a forehand, and another forehand error gave Garin a break point. Another error, with Osama missing a routine pass long gave Garin the break, and the 16-year-old from Chile, who had reached the semifinals of a Futures earlier this month, was into his second Grade 1 final.
Djere, who has not played in the United States since last year's Eddie Herr, defeated No. 9 seed Elias Ymer of Sweden 6-3, 6-3. Djere has also had success on the Futures circuit this fall, reaching the finals of a $10,000 clay event in Serbia.
Against Ymer, Djere was the much steadier player, using his depth and pace to force errors, or simply wait for Ymer's unprompted mistakes. Ymer showed several flashes of the form that he had displayed in beating top seed Noah Rubin in Friday's quarterfinals, but Djere was able to weather those brief storms.
Asked about reaching the Eddie Herr final, his first in a Grade 1, Djere was candid.
"I didn't expect such good play from myself, it's fantastic," said the 17-year-old. "I wasn't thinking at all that I would play final. I just went out to court and tried to play my best tennis and it's so good a feeling. From the first match, I am very confident and feeling good on the court, and I hope that tomorrow I will play like this five matches."
Haas and Garin already have claimed championships, as they won the doubles titles Saturday afternoon.
Haas and Siniakova, the No. 3 seeds, defeated No. 6 seeds Gabby Andrews and Taylor Townsend of the US 6-3, 6-1.
Andrews and Townsend, who are the reigning Australian and US Open girls doubles champions, could never get on track, while Siniakova looked determined to finish her day with a victory after her loss in the singles semifinals.
"It was a tough match in singles, but doubles I want to win," said Siniakova. "I didn't think it would be like, I don't want to say easy, but I am so happy we won. We played good today."
Garin teamed with Nicolas Jarry of the US to take the boys doubles title over another unseeded team, Osama and Skander Mansouri of Tunisia 4-6, 6-2, 10-5. Garin and Jarry won last week's Yucatan Cup, and in their first time playing together, they made the semifinals of a Futures in Chile.
Jarry, who is the grandson of the great Chilean player Jaime Fillol, attributes their immediate success as a doubles team to their friendship.
"Because we're friends, and we like to hang around, say bad things to each other, we laugh," said Jarry, whose mother was born in California. "Our games are different, so I think it's complementary."
In the younger age divisions, four US girls are vying for titles in the 12s, 14s and 16s.
Ellie Douglas will play for the 12s title, after the No. 8 seed defeated top seed Abigail Desniatnikov, also of the US 6-1, 6-3 in Saturday's semifinal. Douglas' opponent is No. 10 seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia, who beat No. 12 seed Jiaqi Ren China, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Sofia Kenin of the US will look to add the Eddie Herr 14s title to her USTA National title when she meets Fanni Stollar of Hungary Sunday. Kenin, the third seed, beat Zhanian Wei of China, 6-3, 6-2, while Stollar ended 2011 12s champion Dominique Schaefer's quest for a second straight title 6-4, 6-1.
In the 16s, No. 4 seed Marie Norris will play unseeded Carolyn Xie in an all-American final. Norris beat No. 14 seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer 6-0, 6-1, while Xie advanced when Terri Fleming retired down 6-3, 2-0.
In the boys 14s, American Evan Zhu, the No. 4 seed, will play top seed Orlando Luz of Brazil in the final. Zhu had the much easier semifinal win, taking out Gianni Ross, also of the US, 6-2, 6-1, while Luz had to play over three hours before finally subduing No. 3 seed Chanyeong Oh of Korea, 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-2.
The boys 16s final will pit No. 2 seed Jordi Arconada, who, like Zhu, trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in Maryland, against top seed Ku Keon Kang of Korea. Kang defeated unseeded Walker Duncan of the US 6-4, 6-2, while Arconada prevented an all-Korean final with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Soon Woo Kwon.
The boys 12s champion will again be Russian, with Alen Avidzba playing Nikolay Vylegzhanin, the No. 3 seed. Avidzba def. No. 16 seed Rudolf Molleker of Germany, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, while Vylegzhanin reached the final with a 7-6(4), 7-6(2) win over top seed Yshai Oliel of Israel.
For complete draws, including the doubles, the champions of which will also be decided on Sunday in the younger age divisions, see eddieherr.com