©Colette Lewis 2013--
Coral Gables, FL--
The Junior Orange Bowl champion's bowl of oranges in the girls 12s went to Claire Liu in 2011 and Abigail Desniatnikov in 2012. On Sunday, they will meet in the girls 14s semifinals, with the winner getting a shot at a second silver bowl in Monday's final.
The unseeded Desniatnikov, still only 12, had the easier of the two quarterfinal matches, with the Ohio resident beating unseeded Canadian Maria Tanasescu 6-3, 6-3, then returning to the pathway between courts 2 and 3 at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center at the University of Miami to see who she would play.
Second seed Liu, just 13 herself, was in a tough third set with unseeded Kylie McKenzie, who trains with the USTA at Carson along side Liu.
After winning the first set 7-6(3), Liu had been overwhelmed by McKenzie's power and her own unforced errors in the second set, losing it 6-1. Trailing 2-0 in the third set, Liu collected herself, got the break back, then broke McKenzie to take a 4-3 lead. Liu, who qualified for the US Open Junior Championships and won a round in the main draw, came up with some big shots when she needed them, including a perfectly executed drop shot winner serving at 4-3, 30-all in the third.
McKenzie saved two match points serving at 3-5, one on an outstanding defensive lob, the second when Liu made an unforced error.
Once McKenzie won the game, she asked for a trainer, and received treatment on her leg, while Liu went to her serving position on the court and began jogging around.
"I just kept moving my feet," said Liu, who is from Thousand Oaks, California. "I was doing mirroring shots, and thinking just one point at a time. Because I had two or three match points in the other game, and the same thing happened yesterday, so I kind of knew what to do this time."
McKenzie helped Liu keep her focus by continuing to hit with great depth and pace, and Liu was down 15-30 in the final game. But she raised her level, hitting two consecutive forehand winners to get to match point, then put away a swinging volley to claim the 7-6(3), 1-6, 6-4 victory.
"She's had a really great tournament," Liu said of McKenzie. "She was basically hitting it hard and really deep and getting everything back. She's good, obviously. And it kind of helped that I wasn't playing my best too."
Liu credits her experience in big matches with helping her get through difficult encounters like this one.
"All the experience has helped with my confidence," said Liu. "I know if I'm put in a bad situation, I can still come out winning."
Desiatnikov would be the underdog Sunday even if healthy, but she said after her win over Tanasescu that she was dealing with both a blister on her racquet hand and a sore right shoulder.
"It is a really sharp pain when I serve," Desiatnikov said of the shoulder injury. "Sharp pains go through my arm, so I have to just block it out and just play."
Desiatnikov can't match Liu's power, and she knows what she'll be facing, as she's competed mostly in the 16s division this year.
"You have to control the point better," Desiatnikov said of the challenges in the older divisions. "You give one weak shot to the girl and she's going to hit a really good ball off that. It might not be a winner, but then she's going to approach and hit a volley winner. So you have to make every ball at least a decent ball."
Liu acknowledged she has the pressure on her in their upcoming semifinal, but doesn't think it will be a problem for her.
"I'm sure when I get on the court, it won't matter at all," said Liu. "Just as later on, it doesn't matter who's older or not."
The other semifinal in the girls 14s will feature top seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic against unseeded Vanessa Wong of Canada. Vondrousova defeated Ashley Lahey of the United States, a No. 5 seed, 6-1, 6-0 in less than an hour, while Wong won a tough battle with Kayla Day of the United States, also a No. 5 seed, 6-4, 7-5.
In the boys 14s, the only player expected to be in the semifinals who actually got there is No. 2 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, who beat Sam Riffice of the United States 6-4, 6-4. He will play Alex de Minaur of Australia, a No. 17 seed, who beat Max Stewart of Great Britain, a No. 5 seed, 6-2, 2-6, 6-1.
Kyrylo Tsygura of the United States earned his way into the semifinals with a 6-2, 7-6(7) win over fellow No. 9 seed Alexei Popyrin of Australia, who had beaten top seed Samuele Ramazzotti of Italy in Friday's fourth round.
Tsygura gave Popyrin fits with his retrieving and defensive skills, but Tsygura also had to stay with his game plan trailing 4-1 in the second set.
"I had to change the spins and change the heights on the ball," said the 14-year-old from Washington, DC. "I had to move the guy around, which I think I did really well. He was a big guy, camping out on the forehand side and just blasting them."
The success of his strategy in the first set led to a lack of focus in the second.
"I kind of got unfocused, I was looking around at my friends, and I couldn't convert my opportunities," Tsygura said. "I sat down at the changeover, put a towel over my head and told myself to refocus completely. I went through the game plan in my head and I brought it back to 4-all."
Tsygura saved a set point trailing 6-7 in the tiebreaker.
"I just closed my eyes and hit a backhand," Tsygura said. "And it was on the line. That always helps. Then I hit a really good forehand passing shot when he tried to come in. On match point, I was just running side to side, and he missed."
Once Popyrin's backhand went wide, Tsygura turned toward his friends, raising both hands in the air and yelling c'mon. A semifinalist at both the USTA Clay and Hard Court Championships this year, Tsygura said this trip to the final four is more meaningful.
"It definitely feels different, I think," said Tsygura, who trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland. "It's international, a lot of different kids, a lot of different faces. It feels much better to be in the semis of Orange Bowl."
Tsygura will face qualifier Axel Geller of Argentina, who won his eighth match in eight days Saturday, ending Yshai Oliel's quest for a consecutive Orange Bowl titles. Geller, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament, beat 2012 12s champion Oliel, a No. 17 seed, 6-4, 6-2.
The girls 12s will semifinals will move from the Biltmore Tennis Center to the University of Miami on Sunday, and there will be an all-American semifinal in that age division too.
No. 2 seed Hurricane Tyra Black continued her march through the draw, but she did surrender more games in her 6-2, 6-3 quarterfinal win over Serbia's Olga Danilovic than she had in her previous four victories. Blalck will play Amanda Anisimova, the No. 4 seed, who downed unseeded Thasaporn Naklo of Thailand 7-6(5), 6-2. Anisimova, who won the Nike Junior Tour International Masters title last week, beat Black in the semifinals of the Spring Nationals this year.
The other girls 12s semifinal has Eddie Herr champion Anastasia Potapova of Russia, the No. 1 seed, taking on Xiyu Wang of China, a No. 5 seed. Potapova defeated Natasha Subhash of the United States, a No. 9 seed, 6-1, 6-2, while Wang won the only three-set match in the girls 12s quarterfinals, beating No. 3 seed Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Three of the four boys 12s quartefinals went three sets, with the lone remaining No. 1 seed, Adam Neff of the United States, losing to Sebastian Grundtvig of Denmark, a No. 5 seed, 7-6(4), 5-7, 6-1. Cannon Kingsley, the other American in the quarterfinals, lost to fellow No. 9 seed Nicolas Alvarez Varona of Spain 6-3, 6-1.
Alvarez Varona will play unseeded Wojciech Marek of Poland, after Marek defeated No. 5 seed Mihailo Popovic of Serbia 2-6, 7-6(4), 6-4.
Grundtvig will face another No. 9 seed, Juan Cerundolo of Argentina, who beat No. 5 seed Alexander Zgirovsky of Belarus 2-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(4). Because the Salvadore Park surface is clay, they boys 12s will remain there through the end of the tournament.
For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.