Neff Wins Marathon Match in Junior Orange Bowl 12s; Last Year's 12s Champions Keep Hopes for Another Title Alive by Reaching 14s Quarterfinals
©Colette Lewis 2013--
Coral Gables, FL--
The morning turned into the afternoon, and Adam Neff played on. One of four No. 1 seeds in the boys 12s, the Bradenton, Florida resident had served for his fourth round match against unseeded Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan back in the second set, more than two hours after the 10 a.m. contest had started. But Neff lost that game, the subsequent tiebreaker, and the first three games of third set, two of them on his serve. Nothing was going right for him on a blustery day on the Salvadore Park clay, with his forehand regularly finding the net, and his spirits sinking with every one missed.
But his return of serve didn't desert him in the third set, with Neff breaking Tseng for 3-1, holding in a long, physically taxing fifth game, then quickly breaking Tseng again to bring it back to 3-all before finally, after three hours and 40 minutes, Neff claimed a 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-4 victory.
"I'm very relieved," said Neff, the Eddie Herr 12s champion, who beat Tseng there in third round, also in three sets. "He was taking it to me and I was getting a little worried in the third set, going down 3-0, but I managed to pull it out."
Neff held easily to take a 4-3 lead, but Tseng wasn't done yet. Having little difficulty with Neff's pace, Tseng was able to stay in the points long enough to get an error from Neff, with Neff exclaiming "just get it over the net" when yet another forehand found the black cords. Serving at 4-4, Neff saved a break point, then hit a big swinging volley for a winner to take a 5-4 lead.
Tseng had proven his ability to get a break when he had to have it back in the second set, but holding when he had to was a bigger challenge, especially after being on court for over three and a half hours. He double faulted to start the game, and after a backhand from Neff went long for 15-15, Tseng shanked a forehand, then hit a backhand long to give Neff two match points.
Tseng knew he couldn't afford to miss his first serve again, with Neff hitting return winners off his second serve time and again in the match, but Tseng didn't get his first serve in. Neff moved two feet inside the baseline to return Tseng's second serve and although it wasn't a bad one, Neff crushed a forehand return winner to take the match.
"It was a choice that I made to be more aggressive," said Neff, who said he thought the windy conditions helped him once he adjusted to them. "I knew if I got into long rallies and was on the defense against him that I would lose. When he gets a chance, he'll strike and he does it well."
Neff admitted his was tired, expressing relief that he broke to end the match, because "if I had lost that game, I don't know what I would have done."
Neff said he could go for a nap, but he would do a lot of stretching and get help from his aunt, a physical therapist, who is with him this week, to get ready for Saturday's quarterfinal. The length of the match brought back memories for Neff, who said today's contest was the second longest he had played.
"The longest was back when I lived in Ohio and I was nine," said Neff. "It was four and a half hours--76, 67, 76. I won. But this was more tiring, because the points were a lot longer and there was a lot more stress."
Neff, who will play No. 5 seed Sebastian Grundtvig of Denmark in Saturday, was not the only American who pulled off an impressive comeback in the third set. Cannon Kingsley, a No. 9 seed, trailed Thiago Tirante, a No. 5 seed from Argentina, 5-2 in the final set, but won the final five games of the match for a 6-4, 0-6, 7-5 victory.
"I was down 5-2, 30-15, so I had to fight back," said Kingsley, who trains at the John McEnroe Academy in New York. "It was very tough, but I pulled it off."
Kingsley, who says clay is his favorite surface, expressed surprise at reaching the quarterfinals in his first Junior Orange Bowl. "It's my first international tournament," he said with a smile.
Kingsley will play Nicolas Alvarez Varona of Spain, a No. 5 seed, who ousted No. 1 seed and Nike Junior Tour International Masters champion Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.
The two other boys 12s quarterfinals will feature Argentina's Juan Cerundolo, a No. 9 seed, against Belarus' Alexander Zgirovsky, a No. 5 seed, and unseeded Wojciech Marek of Poland against Mihailo Popovich of Serbia.
After winning two consecutive three-setters, boys 14s top seed Samuele Ramazzotti of Italy lost one Friday at the University of Miami, falling to Alexei Popyrin of Australia, a No. 9 seed, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3. Popyrin will play one of two Americans left in the draw in Saturday's quarterfinals, Kyrylo Tsygura, a No. 9 seed, who beat qualifier Jonas Ziverts of Sweden 7-6(3), 7-6(1).
The other American quarterfinalist is Sam Riffice, a No. 9 seed, who defeated Rudolf Molleker of Germany 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-1 to earn a match with No. 2 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia. Kecmanovic defeated Patrick Kypson 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 in a rematch of the Eddie Herr final.
The 2012 boys 12s Junior Orange Bowl champion Yshai Oliel of Israel now has an 11-match winning streak going in Coral Gables. The 13-year-old left-hander, a No. 17 seed, defeated unseeded Toru Horie of Japan 6-3, 7-6(2) to set up a quarterfinal encounter with qualifier Axel Geller of Argentina. In the other quarterfinal, Max Stewart of Great Britain, a No. 5 seed, will play Australia's Alex de Minaur, a 17 seed.
Last year's girls 12s Junior Orange Bowl champion Abigail Desiatnikov has also reached the quarterfinals in the 14s, with the 12-year-old beating qualifier Tatiana Pieri of Italy 6-1, 6-2 today at Crandon Park. The unseeded Desiatnikov is joined in the quarterfinals by four other Americans: Ashley Lahey(5), Kayla Day(5), Kylie McKenzie and Claire Liu(2). Lahey will play top seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, Day faces unseeded Vanessa Wong of Canada, Desiatnikov meets unseeded Marie Tanasescu of Canada and McKenzie takes on Liu, assuring an American semifinalist. The girls 14s will move to the University of Miami for the quarterfinals Saturday.
The girls 12s has gone to form with the top four seeds into the quarterfinals. The two Russians, Anastasia Potapova and Ekaterina Makarova, and the two Americans, Amanda Anisimova and Hurricane Tyra Black, again won their fourth round matches in straight sets.
In the quarterfinals, Potapova meets Natasha Subhash of the US, a No. 9 seed; Makarova faces Xiyu Wang of China, a No. 5 seed; Anisimova gets the sole unseeded player in the quarterfinals, Thasaporn Naklo of Thailand. Black, who has lost only four games in four matches, will play Olga Danilovic of Serbia, a No. 5 seed.
For complete results, see the TennisLink site.