Wednesday, December 18, 2013

McKenzie Defeats Mikheeva; Top Girls 14s Seeds Vondrousova and Liu Advance to Junior Orange Bowl Third Round



©Colette Lewis 2013--
Coral Gables, FL--

Today was my day to travel out to Key Biscayne's Crandon Park, the site for the early rounds of the Junior Orange Bowl girls 14s. Going out there more than once is impractical--with Miami traffic, an hour is the minimum from Coral Gables--and the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals all move to the University of Miami's hard courts, allowing another opportunity to see the survivors.

The weather was again perfect today, with sunny skies, temperatures in the mid-70s and not much breeze by Key Biscayne standards.

I got my first look at top seed Marketa Vondrousova and was impressed with the left-hander from the Czech Republic. Rachel Papavasilopoulos of the United States stuck with Vondrousova throughout the match, trying to throw off her rhythm with drop shots, angles and moon balls, which was often successful. But the forehand of Vondrousova was there when she needed a point, and she came away with a 6-3, 6-4 victory. 

Another player I had heard about but hadn't yet seen was Anastasia Mikheeva of Great Britain, who won the Nike Junior Tour International Masters championship last week in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. Mikheeva, seeded a surprisingly low No. 9 at the Junior Orange Bowl, wasn't at her best today, while her opponent, Kyle McKenzie was, leading to a 7-5, 6-3 victtory for McKenzie.

McKenzie, a 14-year-old from Arizona who trains at the USTA's Player Development Center in Carson, California, hit her forehand for countless winners, and stayed in every point much longer than Mikheeva could.  Even when she failed to serve out the first set at 5-3 in one of her rare poor games, there was no sign of frustration or any sense she felt she'd missed an opportunity.

"I knew what I did wrong," said McKenzie, who wasn't familiar with her opponent, but had gotten some tips on playing her from USTA coach Leo Azevedo. "I had a few loose mistakes, and I knew I had to pull that back together, and it was fine."

After Mikheeva held for 5-all, McKenzie held at love, then took advantage of Mikheeva's two unforced errors and a double fault to grab the first set.

McKenzie was broken in the opening game of the second set, but Mikheeva was unable to sustain any momentum she might have had, committing another double fault and several unforced errors to get broken right back.  

With McKenzie giving Mikheeva almost no free points while still hitting deep and close to the lines, McKenzie fashioned a 4-2 lead. She was broken back, but Mikheeva again failed to generate any kind of surge, losing serve again to give McKenzie a chance to serve out the match.  

If she was nervous, there was no sign of it, as she continued to serve well, hit out on her shots and put pressure on Mikheeva. At 40-0, Mikheeva netted a backhand, and after the quietest of celebrations, McKenzie approached the net for the handshake.

"I knew it was going to be a tough match, but if I played my best I could pull through," said McKenzie, who rated her level of play in the match at 8 or 9 on a scale of 1 to 10. "I thought I played really well today. I came out ready."

Although pleased with her performance, McKenzie is not satisfied with picking up a big win over one of the top players in Europe, and says she believes she can win the tournament.

Claire Liu, the No. 2 seed, who also trains with the USTA in Carson, advanced to the third round with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Maria Kozyreva of Russia.

In the boys 14s, No. 4 seed Noah Makarome fell to Alan Rubio of Mexico 7-5, 6-1. Top seed Samuele Ramazzotti of Italy dropped a set to Noah Schachter, but advanced by a 6-3, 3-6, 6-0 score and will face another American, Trent Bryde in Thursday's third round.

No. 2 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia cruised past Kaloyan Dimitrov of Bulgaria 6-2, 6-1 and will face Alafia Ayeni, a No. 17 seed, in the third round.

In the boys 12s, Thomas Yu, one of the four No. 1 seeds, was beaten by Tom Leblanc-Claverie of France 6-4, 6-3. Adam Neff, Brandon Nakashima and Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria, the other No. 1 seeds, all advanced in straight sets.

In the girls 12s, the top four seeds, Anastasia Potapova of Russia, Hurricane Tyra Black, Ekaterina Makarova of Russia and Amanda Anisimova, all moved into Thursday's third round.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site. 

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