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Thursday, December 3, 2015

Sigouin Ousts Top Seed Ruud, McKenzie Saves Match Point to Join Four Other US Girls in Quarterfinals at Eddie Herr ITF Grade 1

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Bradenton, FL--

No. 14 seed Benjamin Sigouin didn't go into his third round Eddie Herr ITF match against top seed Casper Ruud lacking confidence.  The 16-year-old Canadian had beaten Rudd 7-5, 7-5 this spring in a Grade 1 on German red clay, and with the knowledge gained from that encounter, he again toppled Ruud, this time on the Har-Tru Courts of the IMG Academy, by a score of 6-4, 7-5.

"I knew how he played, so I knew what to expect," said Sigouin. "I think my game matches up well with his--my forehand to his backhand--so I tried to use that as much as I could."

Ruud was up 4-2 in the second set, but given the surface, Sigouin was not about to concede the set.

"All the service games were close," he said. "It wasn't like a hard court match, hold and hold. I knew every game I had a chance, I just had to play the first couple of points right and I did."

Sigouin is beginning to warm to clay as a surface.

"I've been playing a lot on clay recently," said Sigouin, a semifinalist at the Grade A in Mexico City two weeks ago. "I used to be a hard court player, but now I like the clay a lot."

One of those tournaments on clay was the Junior Davis Cup, with Sigouin joining Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime in claiming Canada's first title at the 16-and-under ITF team championships in Madrid in October.

"I've been having a good fall since Junior Davis Cup," said Sigouin, who trains at Tennis Canada's National Tennis Centre. "It gave me some confidence for sure. I knew I'd been playing well, so I just needed to execute, and it happened."

Sigouin's doubles partner Auger-Aliassime had much more difficulty with his third round opponent, ITF No. 62 Alexandar Lazarov of Bulgaria, but eventually came away with a 2-6, 7-6(8), 7-6(2) victory.  The sixth-seed saved two match points with Lazarov serving for the match at 6-2, 5-3, 40-15, then saved another in the subsequent tiebreaker, forcing an error on a deep forehand to the corner.

But Lazarov was far from resigned to a loss after failing to convert those match points. At 5-5 in the third set, Lazarov broke the 15-year-old from Quebec with a perfect lob on the baseline, but the 17-year-old won only one point serving for the match, with Auger-Aliassime really digging in.

Lazarov, who has a one-handed backhand, missed a volley in the third point of the third set tiebreaker and Auger-Aliassime took advantage, hitting a good first serve, then a backhand winner for a 4-1 lead. When Lazarov missed a forehand, an unforced error he rarely committed up to that point, Auger-Aliassime had all the margin he needed and he closed out the match, with all the emotions he'd kept in check coming out in a loud roar.

Sigouin will play No. 8 seed Jurabek Karimov of Uzbekistan in the quarterfinals after Karimov posted a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 win over Ryan Storrie of Great Britain in another lengthy match, which was played at Academy Park.

Auger-Aliassime will play No. 13 seed Yibing Wu of China, who surprised No. 3 seed Yunseong Chung of Korea 6-1, 6-2.

The only American left in the boys draw is No. 12 seed Ulises Blanch, who beat qualifier John McNally 6-1, 6-3.

Blanch, who has now reached the quarterfinals in the three tournaments--the Grade A in Mexico City, the Grade 1 Yucatan Cup and here--said his serve has been the key to his advancement.

"I've been serving pretty well," said the 17-year-old, who has trained in Buenos Aires, Argentina the past four years. "At the beginning of the week I hadn't really found my ground strokes; they weren't as solid as I thought they could be. Today and yesterday, I've been very solid from the back, which also helps me to serve better. I know if the serve's not there, I have the ground strokes to back me up, so I put more on the serve and it's working."

Despite his years training on red clay, Blanch does not consider it his best surface.

"I like the clay, but I don't feel like it's my favorite surface," said Blanch, who said he is most likely turning pro rather than attend college. "I like every surface. Hard court, when I was small I trained on hard court and I loved it. Clay, I play on all the time, so I feel good on it. And I went to play grass this year for the first time ever, at Wimbledon, and I really played well there, so I really don't have a preference."

Blanch will play No. 4 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia, who advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-0, 6-3 win over qualifier Elliot Benchetrit of France.

"He's a very good player," said Blanch, who beat De Minaur 7-6(2), 7-5 in the semifinals of a Grade 2 in Argentina early this year. "He has a different style, you don't find that style much. Actually it's enjoyable to play, because you don't play against a guy like that every day."

The match in the bottom quarter will feature No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece against No. 7 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia.  Tsitsipas defeated unseeded Kacper Zuk of Poland 6-0, 6-1 and Kecmanovic eliminated unseeded Vasil Kirkov 6-2, 6-4.

The US girls continued their impressive results this week, with five advancing to the quarterfinals, three of them unseeded.

Unseeded Claire Liu defeated No. 9 seed Kayla Day 6-3, 6-3 and will play top seed and defending champion Dalma Galfi of Hungary in the quarterfinals. Galfi breezed past Jaqueline Cristian of Romania 6-0, 6-2.

No. 2 seed Sonya Kenin had anything but an easy time with No. 16 seed Anastasia Detiuc of Moldova, needing over three hours to advance by a 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 score. She will play No. 5 seed Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia, who defeated No. 10 seed Katherine Sebov of Canada 6-4, 0-6, 6-0.

Two of the four all-American third round matches produced an all-American quarterfinal, with Amanda Anisimova set to play No. 15 seed Alexandra Sanford.  Anisimova took out No. 11 seed Michaela Gordon 6-1, 1-6, 6-2 and Sanford defeated Kelly Chen 7-6(7), 6-4.

Of the five three-set matches in the girls third round, none was more dramatic than Kylie McKenzie's 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 win over qualifier Hanna Chang.

McKenzie had come back from 3-1 down in the second set, but Chang ran out to a big lead in the third set, although all the games were long, and high in entertainment value. Chang's ability to return McKenzie's big shots and her own aggressive play, including many drop shot winners, had McKenzie searching for answers. Serving down 5-1, 30-40, McKenzie blasted a forehand winner to save the match point, and Chang never got another, with McKenzie playing flawless power tennis to win the final six games of the match.

"Especially with the way I play, backing off and getting tight and nervous is not going to do me any good at that point," McKenzie said of her willingness to go all in when match point down. "I have a higher chance if I just play my game and go for it and usually that works well for me, to play aggressive on match points."

McKenzie said she was a "little bit ill", but never considered using that as an excuse to quit fighting.

"You just have to fake it and pretend you feel fine," said the 16-year-old from Arizona, who had beaten Chang 6-1, 6-0 last year at the Grade B1 in Tulsa.  "When you're in a match like that with adrenaline, and you're really pumped to come back, you forget about how you feel a little."

McKenzie was impressed with Chang's level of play.

"She played really well today, I thought," said McKenzie. "She came up with a lot of really good shots, good drop shots and she played aggressive. I thought it was a really good match, actually."

McKenzie will play unseeded Oana Gavrila of Romania who defeated Morgan Coppoc 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 in a match played at Academy Park.

The doubles semifinals are set with top seeds Kecmanovic and Rudd playing No. 6 seeds Wu and Toru Horie of Japan in the boys top half and No. 8 seeds De Minaur and Bjorn Thomson of Ireland taking on No. 5 seeds Sigouin and Auger-Aliassime.

Top seeds Galfi and Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia will play No. 6 seeds Liu and Bianca Andreescu of Canada in one girls semifinal with No. 2 seeds Ingrid Neel and Kenin against unseeded Gavrila and Craciun of Romania.

The ITF draws and Friday's order of play can be found at eddieherr.com.

Rain arrived several hours earlier than predicted this afternoon, preventing all the doubles from being completed in the 12s, 14s, and 16s, but the singles quarterfinals are set.

Boys 12s:
Martin Damm [USA] (11) v Xiaofei Wang[CHN]
Maximo Lucentini Sanchez [ARG] (13) v Jacobi Bain[BHS]
Woodam Song [KOR] v Saud Alhogbani [USA] (4)
Jewon Jeon [KOR] (8) v Shintaro Mochizuki [JPN]

Girls 12s:
Yeonwoo Ku [KOR] v Elvina Kalieva [USA] (5)
Charlotte Owensby [USA] (3) v Cori Gauff [USA] (7)
Nikki Yanez [USA] (8) v Kylie Bilchev [GBR] (4)
Punnin Kovapitukted [THA] (6) v Noa Krznaric [CRO] (2)

Boys 14s:
Thiago Agustin Tirante [ARG] (1) v Luis Iriarte Bastidas [VEN]
Filip Cristian Jianu [ROU] (4) v Jack Draper [GBR] (5)
Admir Kalender [CRO] (10) v Timofey Skatov [RUS] (16)
Chun Hsin Tseng [TPE] (13) v Nini Dica [ROU]

Girls 14s:
Saara Orav [EST] v Manu Carmen-Roxana [ROU] (7)
Margaryta Bilokin [USA] v Adrienn Nagy [HUN] (5)
Marta Kostyuk [UKR] (8) v Himeno Sakatsume [JPN]
Gia Cohen [USA] v Anastasia Tikhonova [RUS] (2)

Boys 16s:
Sangeet Sridhar [USA] (1) v Brian Cernoch [USA] (5)
Drew Baird [USA] v Patrick Zahraj [GER]
Trey Hilderbrand [USA] (11) v Andrew Fenty [USA] (4)
Ryan Goetz [USA] (13) v Karl Friberg [SWE] (2)

Girls 16s:
Selma Cadar [ROU] (1) v Mihaela Marculescu [ROU] (5)
Ulyana Shirokova [RUS] (3) v Alise Krista Cernecka [LAT] (11)
Sohyun Park [KOR] (8) v Meg Kowalski [USA] (4)
Tiffany Lagarde [CAN] (6) v Nicole Mossmer [USA] (2)

Draws for the 12s, 14s and 16s can be found at the TennisLink site.