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Sunday, February 21, 2016

Ambrozy, Zhu Among Six Teens to Reach Final Round Qualifying in Plantation; Loeb Captures $25K Title; Querrey Wins Delray; Fritz, Paul Qualify for ATP Acapulco

©Colette Lewis  2016--
Plantation, Florida--

Six teenagers have advanced to Monday's final round of qualifying for the $10,000 Plantation Futures, with four of them--Oliver Crawford, Adam Ambrozy, Alexandre Rotsaert and Evan Zhu--in search of their first opportunity for an ATP point.

The 16-year-old Crawford, who reached the fourth and final round of qualifying in the Palm Coast Futures earlier this month, advanced with a 6-2, 6-4 win over fellow teen Oscar Ortiz of Argentina, and he will play Reilly Opelka, who defeated Trey Hilderbrand 6-3, 6-2.  The 18-year-old Opelka has 11 ATP points, and Juan Pablo Ficovich of Argentina, the other teenager in the final round of qualifying, has 4.

Rotsaert, who, like Crawford, is 16, also came within one win of a Futures main draw, losing in the final round of qualifying a year ago in Palm Coast.  He advanced to this week's final 16 with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Piotr Zbroja, and will face No. 3 seed Jason Kubler of Australia Monday.

Ambrozy, an 18-year-old from St. Petersburg, Florida, will be making his first appearance in the final round of Futures qualifying after he picked up the best win of his career, beating No. 2 seed Gianni Mina of France 7-6(3), 4-6, 7-6(2) in three hours and 15 minutes.

Ambrozy did not break Mina's serve once in the match, but his own serve was strong enough to stay competitive.

"He had a pretty big serve, but my game's big enough at this point now that I can hang in there," said Ambrozy, who has won three consecutive three-setters. "I just needed to hang in there, which I did. I just got lucky in the tiebreakers--it could have gone either way--and I'm fortunate to have won."

A key juncture in the match came at 1-1 in the third set, when Ambrozy got behind 0-40 on his serve, but won the next five points to hold.

"When I'm down 0-40, I'm thinking, I've never broken this guy," Ambrozy said. "I have to some how get this hold even if it kills me. I just battled it back. If I would have lost that game, it would have been very tough for me to recover from that situation."

In the third set tiebreaker, Ambrozy was up a mini-break at 3-1, and although Mina got the mini-break back, he promptly lost both his service points when Ambrozy applied pressure with a good return and then a well-struck backhand. Two backhand errors by Mina gave Ambrozy the win, and some confidence.

"I think I just proved today that I can play at a high level, and beat someone who is really, really good," said Ambrozy, who meets No. 14 seed Carlos Salamanca of Colombia Monday. "Obviously I was the underdog here, but I think I proved to myself and other people that I belong at the pro level, and we'll see what happens tomorrow."

Ambrozy, who has committed to Columbia, is on his own this week, having driven from St. Petersburg, but is staying with Andrew Heller, a friend and fellow Ivy League recruit (Yale), who also played in qualifying here.

Zhu has twice advanced to the final round of qualifying, both in this week's Plantation Futures and in Laguna Niguel in September of last year.

Today he defeated No. 16 seed Nathan Pasha, the former Georgia star, 6-4, 6-2 to once more be one win away from the main draw.

"I'm playing really solid," said the 17-year-old, who trains at the Taylor Dent Academy in Southern California. "I'm playing tight, not as in nervous, but no loose points on the big points. That's what's helped me get through the tough matches."

Zhu said the final game of the first set was instrumental in his win over Pasha.

"At 5-4 in the first set, it was pretty tight until then," said Zhu. "There were a couple of deuces, it was a really close game and pulling that one through really shifted the momentum."

Zhu has played four of this year's Futures qualifying tournaments in Florida, even though he hasn't had much chance to train on the Har-Tru surface so prevalent in the state.

"I used to train a lot on clay when I was 12, 13," Zhu said. "But since I've been in California, I don't think I've been on clay once. It only took me two or three days to adjust, and I like playing on clay, I think it's really fun."

Zhu's opponent in the final round of qualifying is unseeded David Fleming of Chile.

The main draw was released tonight, with Darian King of Barbados the top seed, and Noah Rubin seeded No. 2.  Rubin will play Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, who last played at the Veltri Tennis Center in December, when he won the Metropolia Orange Bowl.  The draw is also showing two lucky loser spots available, so 10 of the 16 players remaining will be in the main draw.

In the final of the previous week's tournament, No. 7 seed Juan Carlos Saez of Chile defeated No. 3 seed Victor Hanescu of Romania 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(5), saving a match point in the process.  Hanescu, who had saved a match point in his quarterfinal win over Stefan Kozlov Friday, served for the match at 5-4 in the final set. At 40-30, he had a routine forehand volley that he put into the net, with Saez going on to take the game.  In the tiebreaker, Hanescu committed to serving and volleying and was successfully executing that strategy until 5-5, when Saez rifled a forehand return winner to give himself a match point.  Another good forehand forced a Hanescu forehand into the net, and Saez had his eighth Futures title, all on clay.

In Surprise, Arizona, Jamie Loeb won her fifth Pro Circuit title and her second at the $25,000 level, beating CiCi Bellis, the No. 8 seed, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Jacqueline Cako and Danielle Lao, seeded fourth, won the doubles title, beating qualifiers and former University of Michigan teammates Emina Bektas and Sarah Lee 6-2, 4-6, 10-8.

In the all-American final at the ATP Delray Beach, Sam Querrey defeated Rajeev Ram 6-4, 7-6(6) to earn his first ATP title since 2012. For more on the championship match, see this article from the ATP website.

Qualifying is complete for next week's ATP tournament in Acapulco with both Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul advancing to the main draw with wins today.  Fritz, the No. 2 seed in qualifying, beat No. 7 seed Adrian Menendez-Maceiras of Spain 6-3, 6-2 and Paul defeated No. 5 seed JP Smith of Australia 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.  Fritz has drawn No. 8 seed Jeremy Chardy of France in the first round, with Paul facing Illya Marchenko of Ukraine.  Ryan Harrison, who reached the semifinals in Acapulco last year, also qualified, beating Alex Sarkissian 6-1, 6-4.


curious said...

What ever happened to Sean Berman…South African, New Zealand, American, Australian junior?