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Saturday, December 2, 2017

Four Americans Claim Singles Titles at Eddie Herr; Osuigwe and Burel Reach ITF Girls Final; Skatov and Andreev Play for Boys ITF Championship

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Bradenton FL--

All six Eddie Herr International singles finals played at the IMG Academy Saturday morning featured an American, and four US players emerged with titles on yet another warm and sunny day in Bradenton Florida.  A fifth American has an opportunity to collect an Eddie Herr title on Sunday, when Whitney Osuigwe will play for the girls ITF championship.

The girls 16s final was the only match featuring two Americans, with No. 13 seed Katrina Scott taking out unseeded Kailey Evans 6-2, 6-2.
Both players had lengthy three-set semifinal wins on Friday, with Scott saving four match points in her 0-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(3) victory over Kylie Collins, but Scott said she felt fine in the final.

"Physically I felt good," said the 13-year-old from Woodland Hills, Calif. "I recovered well after my match yesterday."

Scott would not let herself dwell on her losses last year in the Eddie Herr 12s final and the Junior Orange Bowl 12s final.

"Definitely you always think about those losses," Scott said. "But you learn from them. Today I wasn't thinking about that, because I knew if I thought about that, bad memories were going to come back. So I was just focusing on staying positive, thinking about the match today and the point we were at."

Evans said she felt tired, but gave credit to Scott.

"She ended up playing better on the big points, I'll give her that," said the 14-year-old Texan. "She played a great match."

Evans admitted that reaching the final was unexpected.

"I just wanted to win first round," said Evans, who will be playing the Junior Orange Bowl in two weeks. "This is my second 16s tournament."

Scott has just one day off before she switches to the clay at the Orange Bowl in Plantation, where she received a wild card into the 16s tournament.

"I'm friends with Kailey and she played a great match and I know she had a great tournament and I'm really proud of her," Scott said. "It was just really nice, knowing that for 16s, an American was going to win it."

Another 13th-seeded American won the boys 16s, with Ron Hohmann taking out No. 3 seed Nicholas-David Ionel 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, the only three-set final of the day. Hohmann didn't have the same amount of support as the 15-year-old Romanian, who trains at the IMG Academy, yet he managed to use the atmosphere to his advantage.

"I kind of used it as motivation," said the 16-year-old New Yorker, who trains with Todd Widom in Coral Springs Florida. "I used it to fire myself up, so I didn't let it affect me."

Hohmann said his level dropped in the second set, with Ionel able to take advantage.

"He didn't miss as much, and I started making way too many unforced errors," Hohmann said. "In the third set, I just refocused my brain, said just don't make those errors, and I'll be good."

When Hohmann closed out the match, he let out a huge roar, having captured the first major junior title of his career.

"Honestly I did surprise myself," Hohmann said. "But I always believed I could win. And it finally came true."

Hohmann believes his forehand, his serve and his quickness are the strengths of his game, and once he shook off his nerves, he was able to display those in the biggest final of his life.

"I was nervous in the first round, to be honest," said Hohmann, who is not playing the Orange Bowl. "But I channeled those nerves to play better. I'm still in shock right now."

The intensity of the boys 16s final on the Stadium court was matched by that of the girls 14s final on the adjacent Grandstand court, with No. 2 seed Vivian Ovrootsky defeating No. 4 seed Brenda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic 7-6(4), 6-4.

Ovrootsky did not know the 12-year-old Fruhvirtova's game but had managed to take note of her playing style earlier in the week.

"I remember playing two courts down from her, and I said, dang, she's a really good player," said the 13-year-old from San Jose, Calif., who was competing in the Eddie Herr for the first time. "If I play her, it's not going to be easy."

Ovrootsky, who was down early in the first set, said Fruhvirtova's aggressive game caused her to make an adjustment in her strategy.

"She moved the ball around really well and she was getting on offense better than I was," said Ovrootsky, who trains at the Eagle-Fustar Academy in Northern California. "She would make me have to play really defensively, and I had to overcome that, but I would say I did a decent job of changing from defense to offense."

Like Scott, Ovrootsky is playing the 16s Orange Bowl, and she is still entered in the Junior Orange Bowl 14s as well.

But after that, Ovrootsky will take some time off to rest and prepare for the European trip to Bolton England and Tarbes France for Les Petits As, with the USA team featuring two Eddie Herr champions in Scott and Ovrootsky.

The top two seeds met in the boys 14s, with No. 2 Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan defeating No. 1 seed Alex Bernard 6-3, 6-2.

The top two seeds also met in the girls 12s final, with No. 1 Brenda Fruhvirtova, Linda's sister, capturing the title, with a 6-4, 6-1 decision over No. 2 Tsehay Driscoll. 

Fruhvirtova, who is 10 years old, was pleased with her performance.

"I played aggressive and smart tennis," Fruhvirtova said. "She made some mistakes, but I play good."

Fruhvirtova, who can play the Eddie Herr eight more years if she wishes to, said she enjoyed her first visit to the Bradenton event.

"It has really good organization, it's a good tournament and I hope I come back next year."

The boys 12s title went to No. 3 seed Juncheng "Jerry" Shang, who added the prestigious international hard court title to his USTA Boys 12s Clay Court title back in July with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Lennon Jones of Japan.

Shang trailed 5-3 in the second set after getting broken at 3-4, but Jones was unable to serve out the set and Shang went on to take the final four games of the match.

"I just try my best to enjoy the match," said Shang, who trains at the Sanchez-Casal Academy in Naples, Fla. "I don't think about the result. I fight a lot and respect my opponent."

Shang, who did not lose a set in his six victories, acknowledged his win over top seed Nishesh Basavareddy in the semifinals, his second victory over Basavareddy in the past four months, was important for his confidence, but he faced a different challenge when facing Jones, who he did not know.

"I use the warmup and the first few games," Shang said of sizing up an opponent for the first time. "I hit to his backhand almost all the time, but if I had a chance, I would go to his forehand too."

Shang, who moved with his family from China a year ago, said he discovered that Jones was never mentally out of the match.

"After the first set, he was still fighting," said Shang, who is playing the Junior Orange Bowl 12s later this month. "But my purpose was to play like I had in practice, and just enjoy."

The finals of the ITF portion of the tournament will be played on Sunday, with top seeds Osuigwe and Russia's Timofey Skatov taking on unseeded opponents.

Osuigwe will face Clara Burel for the girls title, while Skatov will meet Adrian Andreev for the boys championship.

Osuigwe blitzed through her first set against unseeded Yasmine Mansouri of France and finished off a 6-1, 6-3 victory in front of a large crowd at on the Academy's Har-Tru show court.

"In the beginning she wasn't making many balls and I was pretty dominant throughout the entire match, I think," Osuigwe said. "I was playing really well, had a lot of first serves in and I was moving well."

The 15-year-old, who lives and trains at the IMG Academy, where her father is a coach, has not lost a set in her five victories, and she has yet to feel threatened by her opponent.

"I've really been the one that's controlling the match," Osuigwe said. "Today, I was never really down, and yesterday, I wasn't either. Mainly in these matches, the match has just been on my racquet."

Osuigwe, who is playing in her eighth Eddie Herr, had never reached a semifinal until this year, but is always happy to have the support of the local fans and IMG coaches and students.

"It's amazing playing at home," said Osuigwe, who has already clinched the ITF Junior year-end No. 1 ranking, but still plans to play the Orange Bowl as her last junior tournament. "Obviously that comes with a little bit of pressure, but I've gone through it and I've been doing well with it this tournament. And it's nice to see all the people who come out and support us."

Unlike Osuigwe, Burel has been tested throughout the week, with three three-set wins.  In Saturday's semifinal, the 16-year-old from France defeated Viktoria Dema 7-6(5), 6-2, adding the Eddie Herr final to her Yucatan semifinal last week in her first trip to North America.

"I've played a very good tournament," said Burel. "Every match was very tough and I'm so happy to be in the finals."

Despite all the tough, close matches, Burel is outwardly a picture of serenity and focus on the court, but she says she must control her emotions in order to execute her game plan.

"Inside, I am not calm," said Burel, who trains in Paris with the French federation. "But if I start to talk negative, I can't play, so I stay calm and play my game."

The challenge of playing the world No. 1 is something Burel is looking forward to.

"I know she is a very good player, so I just have to do my best, and we will see on court tomorrow," Burel said.

The two boys finalists have played before, with this week's top seed Skatov defeating unseeded Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals of the European 16s championships this past July. Saturday, Skatov advanced to his first Grade 1 final with a 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 10 seed Alan Rubio Fierros of Mexico, but despite the scoreline, and his four previous straight-sets wins, Skatov said he has been tested in every match.

"This week I've played well," said the 16-year-old, who trains both in Russia and in Spain. "Every day is very tough match against very good players. But I just do my work, stay aggressive."

Skatov is just getting used to having the target of the No. 1 seeding on his back.

"Everybody wants to try to beat me," said the US Open junior semifinalist. "It's pressure and they play better, yes."

Andreev, like Burel, has had his share of tough matches, coming from a set down in today's semifinal against No. 14 seed Stefan Palosi of Romania to post a 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory.

"I started bad, but as the match progressed, I started to play better," said Andreev, who took out No. 3 seed Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan in the second round and No. 13 seed Drew Baird in the third round.

Andreev expects to be competitive with Skatov again.

"Last time was close enough," said Andreev, who is playing the Eddie Herr for the third time after reaching the 12s final back in 2013. "I was leading in the first set and I just lost the momentum, I guess, lost the important points in the sets, so we will see. He's a great player and he's playing with lots of confidence, so he goes for his shots."

Andreev will go home with a winner's trophy regardless of the outcome of Sunday's final, after he and Keenan Mayo won the boys doubles title, despite never having played together before. The unseeded Andreev and Mayo defeated No. 8 seeds Rubio and Dostanbek Tashbulatov of Kazakhstan 3-6, 6-4, 10-4 Saturday afternoon.

"It's my second ITF title in doubles, so I wasn't expecting it," said Andreev. "We play our first time together and worked well, so I'm really happy."

"I wasn't expecting much because this was our first time playing," said Mayo. "But I'm super happy with the result today and we did a good job this week. Obviously, he's a great player, in the singles final and everything tomorrow, so hopefully moving forward we can play together a lot more and continue the good results."

That won't happen at next week's Orange Bowl, where both have previous commitments to other partners.

The top seeded team claimed the girls doubles championship, with Osuigwe and Caty McNally breezing through the draw without dropping a set all week.  In the final, the Wimbledon girls doubles finalists beat No. 7 seeds Thasaporn Naklo of Thailand and Naho Sato of Japan 6-3, 6-1, dominating the important points with their aggressive play.

McNally was in great form throughout the match, digging out smashes and volleys to keep the point alive on numerous occasions.

"She has pretty good hands, but today was on another level," Osuigwe said of McNally's defense.

McNally said their success, which includes the Grade B1 Easter Bowl and Grade A Milan doubles titles as well as the clinching match in the Junior Fed Cup this year, has fed on itself.

"We have really good chemistry together, so when we get out on the court, we know what we need to take care of," said McNally. "If we do that, we usually do well, the result is usually pretty good."

The 12s, 14s, and 16s doubles finals were also played Saturday afternoon, with the results below. I will post photos of the champions and finalists in those divisions at a later date.

Boys 12s:
Kyle Kang (USA) & Andrew Salu (USA)[2] d. Lennon Jones(JPN) & Yutti Oki(JPN) W/O-PC

Girls 12s:
Brenda Fruhvirtova(CZE) & Linda Fruhvirtova(CZE)[1] d. Tsehay Driscoll(USA) & Ava Krug(USA)[2] 7-6(5), 2-6, 12-10

Boys 14s:
Victor Lilov(USA) & Evan Wen(USA) d. Alvaro Guillen-Meza(ECU & Francisco Lamas(VEN)[2] 5-7, 6-4, 12-10

Girls 14s:
Estefania Gonzalez(VEN) & Lorelyz Marruffo(VEN) [7] d. Dariya Radulova(BUL) & Selin Sepka(TUR) [2] 3-6, 6-3, 10-6

Boys 16s:
Michael Eala(PHI) & Van Phung Nguyen(VIE) [4] d. Leighton Allen(USA) & Vikas Deo(USA) [5] 7-5, 6-7(4) 10-4

Girls 16s:
Savannah Broadus(USA) & Kailey Evans(USA)[2] d. Maria Aguiar(PUR) & Maria Rivera(GUA)[1] 6-3, 6-7(7), 10-2