©Colette Lewis 2013--
Wild card Deiton Baughman and unseeded Jaqueline Cristian of Romania reached their first ITF Grade 1 semifinals with straight set victories Friday over October's Pan American Closed champions. Baughman defeated No. 13 seed Francis Tiafoe 6-4, 6-2, while Cristian repeated her 2012 Les Petits As finals victory over No. 2 seed Tornado Alicia Black with a 6-4, 6-3 win.
While the rest of the country shivered under an arctic chill, Bradenton could boast temperatures in the low 80s, with a refreshing breeze for quarterfinal play at the Eddie Herr International.
After several days of relative calm, the more typical breezy conditions returned, with Baughman citing his experience in dealing with them as one of the keys to his win.
"Overall I thought it was a pretty ugly match," said the 17-year-old from Carson, California. "It was pretty gusty out there, pretty hot compared to the previous couple of days and the ball seemed to be flying around for both of us. I think me being older, with more experience, I think I could take control of the situation a little bit faster."
The 15-year-old Tiafoe, from College Park, Maryland, fought his way back from 4-1 down in the first set, but was broken at 4-4, and Baughman served out the opening set. In addition to serving well, Baughman was able to keep Tiafoe on the defensive with his depth and pace, a position Tiafoe is not accustomed to.
"I felt like pushing him and pushing him eventually made him lapse mentally at the big points," said Baughman. "He started to make some crucial errors."
Baughman opened the second set by breaking Tiafoe and soon was up 4-0, with Tiafoe unable to counter the barrage of winners Baughman was hitting. At 5-0, Baughman served for the match, but was quickly broken and Tiafoe saved a match point in the next game, holding for 5-2.
The final game went four deuces, with Baughman saving two break points and Tiafoe fighting off two more match points. Netting forehands on those two match points, Baughman admitted he was nervous.
"I got pretty tight, I'm not going to lie," said Baughman. "It was my first potential Eddie Herr semifinal. The last time I was in the Eddie Herr quarterfinals I was 12, and I lost, so this time to get past that, I was a little tight."
Baughman was able to come up with a forehand winner to get his fourth match point, and another good forehand forced the error that gave him the win, and a semifinal meeting with No. 11 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia, who beat No. 3 seed Stefan Kozlov, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4.
"I've actually been training with him here the last couple of weeks after the Futures; we've been playing sets," said Baughman, who earned a special exemption into the Orange Bowl with his win. "Mentally he's pretty erratic, but when it comes to striking the ball, he's one of the best strikers I've ever seen. It's going to be a really tough match for both of us, but I'm looking forward to the challenge."
The other boys semifinal will feature No. 12 seed Naoki Nakagawa of Japan against No. 9 seed Kamil Majchrzak of Poland. Nakagawa won an 80 minute first set from qualifier Matias Zukas of Argentina, then took control of the second set to post a 7-6(3), 6-3 victory. Majchrzak dominated unseeded Fajing Sun of China 6-0, 6-2.
Cristian and Black had not met since Cristian downed Black 6-2, 6-3 to claim the prestigious 14-and-under title in Tarbes 22 months ago. The 15-year-old Cristian, who was out five months with an injury and the end of last year and the beginning of this year, took a 4-1, two-break lead in the first set. Smacking winners, particularly by attacking Black's second serve, Cristian suddenly lost her form and one the breaks, before finally holding to take the first set 6-4.
Cristian again took a two-break lead, serving for the match at 5-2, and again she couldn't close it out. But she continued to challenge Black on every return, and broke the US Open girls finalist for a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
"We've grown up in two years," Cristian said. "We've learned a lot in these years, a lot of experience for both of us. I guess we were both ready, and who was the best won. I felt I played very well."
Cristian, an IMG client, has been in the United States training for the past two months with the goal of doing well in the Eddie Herr.
"Before this tournament I really practice hard and prepared a lot," Cristian said. "I was getting ready for Eddie Herr because I wanted to do this result, and here they are."
Cristian will play No. 12 seed Sandra Samir of Egypt for the first time in Saturday's semifinals. Samir, who trains at the Advantage Academy in Irvine, California, reached her first Grade 1 semifinals with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-1 win over Sofia Kenin.
Top seed Varvara Flink of Russia will play No. 10 seed Jelena Ostapenko, another Les Petits As champion (2011), with both rolling to victories Friday. Flink defeated No. 11 seed Akvile Parazinskaite of Lithuania 6-4, 6-2 and Ostapenko beat unseeded Elena Ruse of Romania 6-3, 6-1.
The doubles finals are set for Saturday, with two unseeded teams meeting in the girls championship match. Parazinskaite and Katerina Jokic of Serbia will play Naiktha Bains of Australia and Anna Bondar of Hungary Saturday afternoon. The boys doubles championships Saturday morning will feature No. 6 seeds Omar Jasika of Australia and Kozlov against No. 2 seeds Filippo Baldi of Italy and Lucas Miedler of Austria.
In the younger age divisions, the run of the No. 1 seeds came to end in the boys 12s and the girls 14s. No. 8 seed Tyler Zink downed top boys 12 seed Alexander Zgirovsky 7-5, 6-3 and will play No. 4 seed Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria in the semifinals. The other boys 12s semifinal will feature No. 7 seed Blaise Bicknell of Jamaica and No. 2 seed Adam Neff.
Girls 14 top seed Kayla Day lost to No. 10 seed Olesia Pervushina of Russia 4-6, 6-1, 6-1. Pervushina will face No. 14 seed Hannah Lairmore in one semifinal. The other semifinal has No. 2 seed Sofia Sewing against No. 14 seed Lea Boskovic of Croatia.
The top four seeds have all advanced to the girls 12s semifinals. No. 1 seed and 2012 finalist Anastasia Potapova of Russia will play No. 3 seed Amanda Anisimova and No. 2 seed Hurricane Tyra Black will play No. 4 seed Ekaterina Makarova of Russia.
In the boys 14s, top seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia will play USTA 14s champion and No. 4 seed Brian Cernoch. The other semifinal has No. 12 seed Rudolf Molleker of Germany against No. 16 seed Patrick Kypson.
For the third consecutive year, all four girls 16s semifinalists are from the United States. Top seed Helen Altick will play unseeded Jaclyn Switkes and No. 3 seed Sydney Riles faces unseeded wild card Ingrid Neel.
Two unseeded US wild cards will play each other in one of the boys 16s semifinals. Alfredo Perez defeated No. 2 seed and European 16s Player of the Year Mate Valkusz of Hungary 6-1, 6-1, while Boyd beat fellow Southern Californian Connor Hance 6-3, 6-7(3), 6-3. Top seed Yunseong Chung of Korea will play No. 3 seed Ben Fatael of Israel in the other boys 16s semifinal.
Play begins at 9 a.m. for the boys semifinals, with the girls semifinals scheduled to follow at 10:30. The draws, as well as the 18s order of play, is available at eddieherr.com.