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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Unseeded Osuigwe Claims Junior Orange Bowl 12s Title; Oliel, Potapova Take 14s Championships; Devald Wins Boys 12s

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Coral Gables FL--

Whitney Osuigwe outshone the field in the girls 12s division, joining Junior Orange Bowl veterans Anastasia Potapova of Russia and Yshai Oliel of Israel in winning championships Tuesday at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center at the University of Miami.

Moisture on the courts from heavy dew overnight delayed the start of the girls finals by two hours, and when Osuigwe finally did take the court against Himari Sato of Japan, a No. 1 seed, she was equally slow in getting started.

But after trailing 3-1 in the opening set, Osuigwe began seeing the dividends of a strategy she'd developed from her third round loss to Sato at the Eddie Herr, and she went on to claim a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

"I was smarter this time, knowing what to do after I had lost to her last time," said the unseeded Osuigwe, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. "I knew what works and what doesn't and I used my forehand more in hitting heavy spin balls to her backhand side."

Sato began to contribute uncharacteristic errors to Osuigwe's cause, and after a tight first half of the second set, she was broken, giving Osuigwe an opportunity to serve out the match at 5-3.  She was unable to do that, however, and she had a few choice words for herself during that changeover.

"I told myself some negative things," said Osuigwe, who admitted difficulty keeping her focus when she was so close to the finish line. But the 12-year-old regrouped, breaking Sato to earn what she called her best win ever.

"It feels good, because I've been trying to win it for three years," said Osuigwe, who has been invited to travel with the USTA to the Bolton Teen Tennis and Les Petits As tournaments next month.

For the second-seeded Potapova, her 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 5 seed Bianca Andreescu of Canada allowed her to replace the memories of last year's girls 12s final loss to Hurricane Tyra Black with more positive ones.

"Last year I lost here in the finals," said the 13-year-old, who also won the Eddie Herr title earlier this month. "I just think, second time, I can't lose."

Andreescu, who was aiming to become the first girl to ever win both the 16s Orange Bowl title and the Junior Orange Bowl 14s title in the same year, started off well, leading 4-0 in the first set, before losing her focus and the next six games.

"She just wanted it more than me today," said Andreescu, who lamented her lack of intensity. "I just kind of lost my focus a little bit. When I'm up, that's what I usually do. I think, oh it's easy, I'll just win these two games and that's it. But today, she just played a little bit better than me."

Andreescu began to struggle with her first serve, and Potapova took advantage, taking control of the point when she had a look at a second serve.

In the second set, Andreescu had opportunities to reassert herself, but she failed to convert two break points with Potapova serving at 3-2 and immediately lost her next service game.  Potapova was unable to serve out the match, but she broke Andreescu, crushing a forehand winner to claim the title.

After a two and a half hour semifinal win over Iga Swiatek of Poland, in which she saved a match point, Potapova admitted that she was feeling some mental and physical fatigue that contributed to her slow start. But once Andreescu's errors started to pile up, Potapova could relax and hit out, using her flat, powerful ground strokes to challenge Andreescu.

"She made many mistakes," said Potapova, who will return home to Russia, then play Les Petits As in January. "I think it was not her day, but it was my day. I'm happy, I'm really happy."

Unlike Potapova, Oliel had only good memories from his previous final, back in 2012, when he won the boys 12s at Salvadore Park over Patrick Sydow.  But top seed said the second title was just as gratifying as the first, with a 7-5, 7-5 victory over unseeded Chen-jui Ho making him just the ninth boy to capture both the 12s and 14s Junior Orange Bowl titles.

Oliel took leads in both sets in the battle of left-handers, but both times Ho fought back to even it. In each set however, it was Oliel who managed a break with Ho serving at 5-6.

"It was a very tough match and Ho played very good," said Oliel. "I tried to move him a lot and not put the ball to his forehand, because it's very good. I tried to go for the backhand and open the court."

In the second set, games went quickly, with neither player challenged much on his serve. Ho had a game point to take it to a second set tiebreaker, but Oliel hit an inside in forehand winner to get to deuce, and then pounded a backhand deep in the corner to force an error and to earn a match point.  Oliel went to his forehand when he got the opportunity in the that final rally and eventually maneuvered himself into position to attempt a forehand winner, which just clipped the tape, but landed in, to give him the victory.

"His ball is different from anybody," said Ho, who trains at the Sandpiper Bay Club Med Tennis Academy in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, two hours north of Miami. "He has more spin, and he's lefty. And my fitness, it's not there yet. I need to improve, so I can play longer and longer. But congrats to Yshai, and I will get better and better."

Oliel returned to the 14s for this tournament after playing the ITF at the Eddie Herr, qualifying and winning a round before falling to No. 7 seed Chan-yeong Oh of Korea in three sets.

"You have a lot of pressure," said Oliel, who did not drop a set in the tournament. "But I focus on every match. I don't say I will win the tournament, but focus on every match, every point, every game, and try to do my best again. I don't think about it. I know I have to play good, don't be angry, try always to be happy in the game."

Oliel will return to Israel to celebrate, then head back across the Atlantic for ITF Junior tournaments in South America next month.

The boys 12s champion Borna Devald of Croatia, who defeated Ross Weibull of Sweden 6-1, 6-0 in the final at Salvadore Park, received a message from his namesake Borna Coric wishing him good luck prior to the final.  Coric, who was a finalist in the 14s in 2010 and is now in the ATP Top 100, has served as an inspiration to Devald.

"We played one time," said Devald, a No. 1 seed. "Just tiebreak. It was very fun. He won."

Devald, who lost only one set in his seven wins this tournament, said he played his best in the final.

"Match by match, I play better and better, and in the final, it was my best match of the tournament," said Devald. "It's a pleasure to play here."

Wiebull, a No. 9 who twice came from a set down to advance to the final, simply met his match in the final, according to his father Tobbi.

"Coming into the match he was playing marvelous, but [Devald] did not give Ross a chance to come into the match. If you want to beat him, beat him big. And that's what the guy did."

Wiebull and Devald were presented their trophies at the University of Miami by this year's Junior Orange Bowl honorary chair Martina Navratilova.

The results of the third place matches and feed-in consolation finals are below.  For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

Girls 14s third place: Taylor Johnson[4] (USA) def. Iga Swiatek[9] (POL) 6-2, 6-1

Girls 14s fifth place: Caty McNally[6] (USA) def. Brindtha Ramasamy (CAN) 6-0, 6-1

Boys 14s third place: Roscoe Bellamy[7] (USA) def. Sebastian Baez[2] (ARG) walkover

Boys 14s fifth place: Keenan Mayo[3] (USA) def. Nicholas Mejia[4] (COL) 6-3, 6-4

Girls 12s third place: Cori Gauff (USA) def. Alina Charaeva[9] (RUS) 6-1, 4-6, 6-2

Girls 12s fifth place: Emma Raducanu (GBR) def. Charlotte Owensby (USA) 6-4, 6-2

Boys 12s third place: Daiki Yoshimura[9] (JPN) def. Jeffrey von der Schulenburg[1] SUI
0-6, 6-3, 6-2

Boys 12s fifth place: Aidan Mayo[9] (USA) def. Spencer Brachman (USA) walkover