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Sunday, December 3, 2017

Whitney Osuigwe, Adrian Andreev Claim ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr Titles; Grade A Orange Bowl Begins Monday in Plantation

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Bradenton FL--

Whitney Osuigwe and Adrian Andreev warmed up for the ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr singles championships by claiming the doubles titles on Saturday, then completed their sweeps on Sunday on the Har-Tru courts of the IMG Academy.

The perfect weather conditions may have been one factor in the large crowd for both finals early on a Sunday morning, but Osuigwe was the main attraction. Only 15, IMG Academy resident Osuigwe was playing in the Eddie Herr for the eighth time, but was in her first final, with the top seed a heavy favorite against unseeded Clara Burel of France. Although Osuigwe dropped her first set of the week, she prevailed 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, holding up under the pressure of expectations that accompanied her local status and her seeding.

Osuigwe went down a break twice in the opening set, but Burel gave her advantage back immediately.  Osuigwe saved a break point serving at 4-4 and Burel, who had struggled with her second serve throughout the first set, had a nightmarish end to the 4-5 game, double faulting twice from 30-30 to hand Osuigwe the first set.

Burel was looking at a quick end to her first appearance in a Grade 1 final when she went down 3-1 in the second set, but the 16-year-old recovered, winning four straight games to take a 5-3 lead. Burel was able to serve out the set, but not without drama, as she failed to convert two set points at 40-15, with the second lapse a crushing miss into the net of an easy putaway. She recovered however, converting her third set point with a big forehand that forced an error from Osuigwe.

"I play more aggressive and I take every chance to go to the net," Burel said of her second set comeback. "I do everything, just more aggressive."

"I think I played two loose points," Osuigwe said of her lull in the second set. "She really stepped on it and started playing better and better. I wouldn't say I let her in, but I gave her two loose points and she played pretty well overall."

The third set was close at the beginning, with three holds of serve to start, but a tiring Burel wouldn't win another game.

"I was too tired," said Burel, who had reached the semifinals of the Grade 1 Yucatan Cup last week and won three three-setters in advancing to this week's final.  "I played a lot matches in three sets this week, so I was tired and she played better in the third set."

Osuigwe said she sensed that Burel was fatigued.

"I'm pretty good in third sets to be honest," Osuigwe said. "She's been playing a lot more games than me, and I could tell that she was tired, so I just moved her around."

Despite the confidence she displayed in the third set, Osuigwe admitted her losses in her last two major junior finals, at the Grade As in Japan in October and Mexico City last month, did enter her mind.

"I was thinking about it this morning," said Osuigwe, who is coached at the IMG Academy by her father Desmond. "But I tried not to, and I'm happy that I finally did it."

Osuigwe, who has clinched the title of ITF World Junior Champion for 2017, is not ruling out playing in junior slams next year, but building her WTA ranking is the top priority for 2018.

"I think the biggest difference is mentally," Osuigwe said of the transition from the junior to the pro circuit. "I don't think the tennis is really too drastic of a change, but if I can just keep getting stronger in my head, I think I can do pretty well."

There is one more junior tournament left for Osuigwe in 2017, next week's Orange Bowl, but Burel will not be playing it, with her decision to withdraw coming after today's final.

While the top seed in the girls draw emerged as the winner, boys No. 1 Timofey Skatkov of Russia was upset by the unseeded Bulgarian 6-4, 6-1.

The two 16-year-olds had played in the semifinals of the European 16s championships in July, with Skatkov earning 6-4, 7-5 victory, but in the four months since then, Andreev said he had changed.

"I believe more than before," said Andreev, who spent three weeks prior to the tournament training at the IMG Academy and expects to make it his permanent base going forward. "I changed my mentality and that's why I'm here today, that's why I won. I grew up physically and mentally."

Skatov had been dominant leading up to final, winning all five of his matches in straight sets, while Andreev had earned three-set victories in the quarterfinals and semifinals, but any fatigue he might have felt was not on display Sunday morning. Hitting flat and deep, Andreev forced Skatov in errors that he didn't make earlier in the week.

"My opponent played very well," said Skatov, a semifinalist at the US Open junior championships this year. "He was so aggressive and not a lot of mistakes. I was not too focused and made mistakes too much. I was just running during points, not aggressive."

Andreev said most of what he learned from his previous loss to Skatov was to put more trust in his own game.

"Mentally I believe more," said Andreev, whose junior ranking of 90 contrasted with Skatov's ranking of 11. "Before, I didn't believe I could beat him. Today, I come to the court and I believed. This is the most powerful thing you can do for yourself. I worked really hard, and when you work really hard and you want something really bad, you can achieve it."

Andreev heads to the Orange Bowl, where he will be unseeded, with the hope that he can match 18-year-old Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic's 2016 achievement of winning both the major Florida tournaments.

"I'm looking forward to Orange Bowl," Andreev said. "I hope I do good there too. [Kecmanovic] is now 200 ATP, so we'll see where I will be in the future."

The Grade A Orange Bowl draws have been released, with the fields similar to those at the Eddie Herr. Alexa Noel, who won both the Abierto Juvenil Grade A and the Grade 1 Yucatan Cup in the weeks before the Eddie Herr is the No. 2 seed behind Osuigwe. Coco Gauff, who has not played since reaching the US Open girls final, could play Osuigwe in the second round. Elysia Bolton, who did not play any of the preceding three weeks, is the No. 3 seed. Skatov and Uisung Park of Korea are the top two seeds, with Andrew Fenty, who did not play the Eddie Herr, the No. 5 seed. Andreev starts his tournament against No. 15 seed George Loffhagen of Great Britain.

Play in the first round of the 16s began today. Eddie Herr champions Vivian Ovrootsky and Katrina Scott will play their first round matches on Monday.

For the draws, order of play and link to live scoring, see the tournament website.