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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Kostyuk, Lopatetska Give Ukraine Two Junior Orange Bowl Titles; Argentina's Tirante and China's Wang Capture Boys Championships

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Coral Gables, FL--

Two proud Ukrainian girls won Junior Orange Bowl titles on a warm and sunny Tuesday morning at the University of Miami's Neil Schiff Tennis Center, while Argentina picked up its third major junior title of the month in South Florida in the Boys 14s singles.

No. 7 seed Dasha Lopatetska took the Girls 12s title, beating top seed and Eddie Herr champion Noa Krznaric of Croatia 7-5, 6-0, joining friend Marta Kostyuk in the winner's circle, after the fifth-seeded Kostyuk defeated Naomi Cheong of the United States 6-3, 6-4 in the Girls 14s final.

Krznaric had not lost a set in winning the Eddie Herr and in reaching the final of the Junior Orange Bowl, but Lopatetska stayed with her throughout the 70-minute first set. Lopatetska served for the set at 5-3, was broken at love, but she didn't let that derail her, and she held for a 6-5 lead.  Krznaric, who frequently cries after losing a point, couldn't cope with the pressure of serving to stay in the set and she double faulted at ad-out.

Two long games opened the second set, but when Lopatetska broke Krznaric in the second game, the outcome was decided.

"In the second set, I played my best tennis," said Lopatetska, who lost in the first round of the Eddie Herr as the top seed, but did not lose a set this week. "She didn't know what to do with me, and I don't give her a chance to win.  First set was very very tough, every point, every serve, every return and when I won it, I was, c'mon, you must win this trophy."

The second set ended as the first did, with a Krznaric double fault, and 14s champion Kostyuk was the first to congratulate Lopatetska, meeting her on court after the handshake.

"Marta is a great player for Ukraine, and we are very proud," said Lopatetska, who is spending the next five days in Boston with her coach and her coach's family before returning to Ukraine. "Marta and I will now play for our country, our parents, our club. This tournament is very important for me; it's the unofficial champion of the world, and it should help me to grow up, get ready for WTA and win all the grand slams."

Kostyuk added the Junior Orange Bowl title to her Eddie Herr title, staging a big comeback in the second set, when Cheong had a 3-0, two-break lead.

"I played very bad then," said Kostyuk, who lost eleven straight points from 30-15 up in the first game of the second set. "Maybe she started thinking, I can win, and she started doing more mistakes, so I was like, c'mon, let's go, you can do it."

Cheong, one of the No. 9 seeds, agreed that once Kostyuk relocated her game, Cheong wasn't getting any free points.

"I had to force her to make errors," said Cheong, who like Kostyuk is 13. "And she made even less errors after I went up 3-0. Of course you want them to miss, so you can get the points, but you have to learn how to earn it yourself. This was good for me, because I can get better at doing that. If I have chances, I need to take them."

Kostyuk admitted she was worried when serving at 2-4 15-30 in the second set.

"The first set was good, but the start of the second set was very bad.The score was 4-2 and it was very scary, I think," said Kostyuk, who is coached by her mother Talina Beiko, a member of the Ukrainian Fed Cup team in the 1990s, as well as another coach in Ukraine, where she will return for Christmas.

Cheong saved three match points serving at 4-5, with Kostyuk showing signs of nerves with three unforced errors from 40-0 up. Cheong earned a game point with a forehand on the line, but she missed her next two forehands to give Kostyuk a fourth match point, and this time Kostyuk hung in the point until she got the short ball she wanted and finished with a backhand swinging volley winner.

"It's unbelievable, I think," Kostyuk said of her Eddie Herr - Orange Bowl double. "It's a surprise. This is a big trophy for me and I think it is one step in my career. I think I can play better and better and better."

Kostyuk is eligible to compete in Les Petits As next month, and with her two titles here in Florida, will be a favorite in Tarbes, a status she said she is perfectly comfortable with.

Top Boys 14 seed Thiago Tirante fell one match short of both titles, with the 14-year-old from Argentina losing in the final of the Eddie Herr before taking the Junior Orange Bowl title with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Anton Matusevich, a No. 17 seed from Great Britain.

Tirante, who lost to Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwain in the Eddie Herr final, needed to win a third-set tiebreaker in the second round of the Junior Orange Bowl to give himself a chance for redemption.

"It took me a while to get adjusted in that first match," Tirante said in Spanish, with Miami Herald reporter Michelle Kaufman serving as translator. "I wasn't playing very well and I'm very thankful and grateful that I was able to pull it out, basically, with my heart, and it propelled me to this day."

Tirante had not lost a set since, and he thoroughly dominated the final, using his serve and forehand to keep Matusevich on the defensive. Up early in both sets, Tirante had one brief misstep in the third game, when he was broken and Matusevich held for 2-2, but Matusevich was too inconsistent to keep up with Tirante and his last two service games were riddled with disheartening double faults.

Even when up 5-2 in the second set, Tirante, who described himself as passionate and whose favorite ATP player is Australian ATP pro Nick Kyrgios, never lost his intensity, with the fist pumps and exhortations of vamos never flagging.

"This is one of the biggest junior tournaments, and it was a goal of mine to win here," Tirante said. "I'm very, very happy. It was a dream come true for me."

Tirante's win is the third of the month for Argentina, with Maria Lourdes Carle and Sebastian Baez, who was on hand for the final, claiming the 16s titles at the Metropolia Orange Bowl nine days ago.

“It makes me very proud," Tirante said. "It shows that junior tennis in our country is improving day by day and we are becoming an international force in the juniors.”

The boys 12s final, played on the Har-Tru courts at Salvadore Park, produced a second double, with Xioafei Wang of China adding the Junior Orange Bowl title to his Eddie Herr championship with a 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 8 seed Jewon Jeon of Korea.

Wang, who won the Eddie Herr as a qualifier, was the top seed at the Junior Orange Bowl, and he lost only one set in his seven victories. Although score of the final appears lopsided, the match took nearly two hours to complete.

Third Place and Consolation Results:
In addition to the finals, the third place and consolation finals were played on Tuesday.  

At the Boys 12s at Salvadore Park, unseeded Alexander Bernard of the US took fifth place, beating No. 3 seed Hamad Nedjedovic of Serbia 6-4, 7-6(7).  Eduardo Morais of Portugal had been awarded third place on Monday when Christopher Li of Peru of was unable to compete due to injury.

In the Girls 12s, No. 4 seed Cori Gauff came from 6-0, 5-1 down to defeat No. 5 seed Charlotte Owensby 0-6, 7-5, 6-2 for third place. Fifth place went to No. 6 seed Yeonwoo Ku of Korea, who beat No. 3 seed Kylie Bilchev of Great Britain 7-5, 6-1.

Third place in Girls 14s went to unseeded Yuki Naito of Japan, who defeated unseeded Loudmilla Bencheikh of France 6-2, 7-5.  Unseeded Himeno Sakasume of Japan took fifth place, beating Qinwen Zheng of China 6-2, 0-6, 6-1. (The match should have been decided in a match tiebreaker, but was not).

Unseeded Sebastian Grundtvig of Denmark took fifth place in the Boys 14s with a 6-2, 6-1 win over No. 7 seed Jack Draper of Great Britain, and Seon Yong Han of Korea, a No. 17 seed, defeated No. 4 seed Timofey Skatov of Russia 7-6(5), 6-4 to take third place.

Complete draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/sports/tennis/article51130945.html#storylink=cpy


Junior Tennis Fairness said...

For what it is worth, at some point the Orange Bowl has got to do more to verify the true age of international players other than accepting at face value a passport or some other form of identification that is itself likely predicated on a manipulated date of birth. This "looking the other way" mentality - no doubt tolerated in order to attract international players to continue to play the Orange Bowl without undue interference or scrutiny -- is antithetical to the purpose of grouping players by age in junior tennis so that like age players can test their skills against one another. If I wanted to have my 12 year play a 13 or 14 year old, which he does already, I can do that any time. The point is that he wants to determine where he stands vis-à-vis other like 12 year olds from other countries, not where he stands against players from other countries who claim to be 12 but are really 13 or 14. Not only do many international junior players not look their stated age to any casual observer, the internet is replete with information contradicting their "represented age" as "presented to" Orange Bowl officials. The parents of American juniors spend a lot of time, money and effort to participate in this fantastic tournament, and all we ask for is a level and fair playing field where a 12 year American boy is not being matched up against an international player who is very likely 13 or 14, or even older, and is thus, unfairly physically advantaged. For example, as to the Boys 12s winner from China, not only does he not objectively or physically look like a 12 year old, he is stated to be 13 (or a "teenager") in various publicly available articles, which, if true, is simply not fair to anyone else in the tournament:

See e.g.,

("The wind has been hitting the ground hard all morning, sweeping the clay off the ground. Xiaofei Wang, 13, must adjust his serve accordingly if he stands a chance of winning the first point of the match.")

(Chinese publication noting that "Chinese teenager Wang Xiaofei came out the winner of this year's Future Tennis Aces tournament on Saturday after beating Briton Jack Pinnington-Jones in straight sets.)

Obviously, to succeed as a professional tennis player, you need to be prepared to play and beat everyone at some point, but not when you are 12 and you are playing a tournament where you expect your opponent to be 12 (or younger) and your entry into that tournament is premised on that age equality.

Em said...

I have to agree about the age cheating, while I am not familiar with cases in point, it happens here in US as well, and many of offending players play for USTA yet were born in another country. You have a 16 year old with junior ITF profile claiming 16, and the kid has Davis Cup profile claiming 18 years old but for another country? Which one is right? And how many kids have been 12 for 4 years now? Now, to be honest some countries have a funny way of counting years, like you are 12 but in your 13th year, so they might say you are 13 in a paper. From some of the pictures on zootennis, I am very surprised how mature some of 14s Orange Bowl boys look.

abc said...

Junior Tennis Fairness,

I have no idea how old Xiaofei Wang actually is. Maybe he's 12, maybe he's 13. The only reason I can think for the confusion in the articles (other than actually lying about his age) is that in some Asian countries, children are considered '1' year old at birth, making them a year older than they would be in America. The only way to properly identify the age would be to find out the birth year...which may/may not have been tampered with.