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Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Top Seeds Open with Wins as Junior Orange Bowl Begins; Australian Open Junior Championship Acceptances; Kalamazoo Champion Brooksby Signs with Baylor

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Coral Gables, FL--

Opening day at the Junior Orange Bowl saw the top three seeds in all four age divisions advancing to the Thursday's second round.  I split my day between the boys 12s on the clay at Salvadore Park and the girls 14s at the University of Miami, and checked in briefly with the girls 12s at the Biltmore Tennis Center to close out the evening.

Rudy Quan, the top seed in the boys 12s, was drawn against qualifier Ryusei Miyazato of Japan, and after a few tough opening games, Quan found his form to post a 6-2, 6-0 victory.

"I stayed aggressive and maybe started to come in a bit more," Quan said of his plan to shorten some of the rallies against the left-hander. "I just had to remain."

Quan said he understands that his record this year, which includes singles gold balls at the Winter Nationals, Easter Bowl, Clay Courts, and Hard Courts, makes him a target.

"Everyone wants to win, and they are going to raise their game," said Quan, who trains at Johnson Ranch in Roseville California and is coached by Mike Gennette. "I just don't really think about my record or anything, I just go out and play ball."

Quan is playing in his first Orange Bowl, and competed in his first Eddie Herr two weeks ago, his first taste of international competition.

"At first it was pretty overwhelming," Quan said. "But then I got used to it, and I know that I'm just here for a tennis tournament, so I don't want to make it bigger than it is."

Quan lost in the semifinals of the Eddie Herr, not to an international player, but to Maximus Dussault, who he had beaten in the quarterfinals of the Clay Courts this summer. No. 4 seed Dussault, who went on to win the Eddie Herr title, lost in the first round today to Juhun Choo of Korea, 6-4, 6-1.  Dussault fell behind an early break in the first set, got it back to 4-4 but was broken in the next game. Dussault's unforced errors were a major factor in the outcome, but Choo kept his own level high. Choo saved four break points serving for the set, but when he finally got to a set point he converted it, and there was no comeback for Dussault in the second set. The 11-year-old fell behind two breaks at 3-0 and Choo was able to close out the match by staying in points until Dussault made an error.

Dussault and No. 8 seed Andrew Rundle, also in boys 12s, were the only top eight seeds to lose in the first round in the four divisions.

Girls 14s top seed Yayi Yang of Taiwan had the toughest match of the four top seeds, defeating Emma Roeck of the US 6-2, 7-5.  Boys 14s top seed Victor Lilov beat lucky loser Shrish Choudhary of the United States 6-0, 6-1 and girls 12s No. 1 seed Clervie Ngounoue defeated Mary Boyce Deatherage 6-0, 6-0 in another all-US contest. The ITF arranges their junior draws so that players from the same country do not meet in the first round whenever possible, but the Junior Orange Bowl is not an ITF event, and many of the first round matches here are between players from the same country, which is unfortunate, especially if they have travelled here from South America, Asia or Europe.

For complete results from today's first round and times for Thursday's second round matches, see the TennisLink page.

Speaking of traveling, the Australian Open Junior Championship acceptances have been release, with six US girls and seven US boys receiving direct acceptance.  The girls are Hurricane Tyra Black, Lea Ma, Gabby Price, Emma Navarro, Kacie Harvey and Chloe Beck. The boys are Cannon Kingsley, Tristan Boyer, Emilio Nava, Eliot Spizzirri, Zane Khan, Tyler Zink and Toby Kodat.  The boys initial cutoff was 91, with the girls cutoff 75. One player, Moyuka Uchijima of Japan, received main draw acceptance based on a pro ranking. She is 396 WTA, just making the Top 400 cutoff to receive main draw entry.

Denmark's Clara Tauson, who did not play the four North American tournaments that closed out the 2018 ITF Junior Circuit, is the top entrant in the girls draw, with Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria the top entrant in the boys draw.

I expected the ITF's new Transition Tour (now known as the ITF WorldTennisTour), which reserves space in lower level pro events for its Top 100 juniors, to have a positive impact on the fields in the major junior events, but that doesn't appear to be the case in Australia. The girls cutoff is higher, but the boys is about the same, and as usual, many of the top juniors are not making the journey.  It's probably too early to tell, since the cutoffs for the 15Ks and 25Ks under the new system aren't yet known, how important the ITF junior ranking position is, but Australia is an ideal way to secure big points early in the year.

In college signing news, blue chip senior Jenson Brooksby, who won the 18s title in Kalamazoo this year, announced he had signed with Baylor. Brooksby, who had verbally committed to TCU back in May, recently reconsidered, and today announced on Instagram that he had signed with Baylor for 2019-20. For more, see Baylor's release.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Junior Orange Bowl Begins Wednesday with Lilov, Quan, Ngounoue and Tang No. 1 Seeds; US Dominates America's Cup in Lake Nona

The Junior Orange Bowl begins on Wednesday in four locations in the Miami area, and Americans are the No. 1 seeds in three of the divisions.  Les Petits As champion Victor Lilov, who won the boys 12s title in 2016, is the No. 1 seed in the boys 14s, and Rudy Quan, who has won every USTA 12s National Championship in 2018, is the No. 1 seed in the boys 12s.

Clervie Ngounoue, who reached the Eddie Herr 14s final two weeks ago, is playing the Junior Orange Bowl 12s again this year, after reaching the semifinals last year.  Yayi Tang of Taiwan is the No. 1 seed in the girls 14s.

The tournament has provided a preview, which can be found here. There is one mistake in the paragraph about Quan. He has lost a 12s match this year, to Eddie Herr champion Maximus Dussault, in the semifinals at the Eddie Herr.

Below are the top 8 seeds in each age division. The full list of seeds (16 seeds for the 12s, 32 seeds for the 14s) and the draws are available now at the TennisLink site.

Boys 12s:
1. Rudy Quan(USA)
2. Alexander Razeghi(USA)
3. Antonio Volijavec(CRO)
4. Maximus Dussault(USA)
5. Quang Duong(USA)
6. Leo Cohen Bacrie(FRA)
7. Kaylan Bigun(USA)
8. Andrew Rundle(USA)

Boys 14s:
1. Victor Lilov(USA)
2. Bruno Kuzuhara(USA)
3. Chak Iam Wong(HKG)
4. Juncheng Shang(USA)
5. Constantinos Koshis(CYP)
6. Mili Poljicak(CRO)
7. John Kim(USA)
9. Fnu Nidunjianzan(USA)

Girls 12s:
1. Clervie Ngounoue(USA)
2. Brooklyn Olson(USA)
3. Valerija Kargina(LAT)
4. Jovana Grujic(SRB)
5. Amber Yin(USA)
6. Sara Saito(JPN)
7. Ela Milic(SLO)
8. Yufei Ren(CHN)

Girls 14s:
1. Yayi Tang(TPE)
2. Eleana Yu(USA)
3. Katja Wiersholm(USA)
4. Melisa Ercan(TUR)
5. Vivian Ovrootsky(USA)
6. Marina Stakusic(CAN)
7. Daniella Benabraham(USA)
8. Rebecca Lynn(USA)

Standing: Armistead, Colak, Brantmeier, Kreuger; Kim, Kang, Wiersholm, Ngounoue

In the week plus between the Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl, some players compete in the Orange Bowl 16s, but four US boys and four US girls play in the recently introduced team competition at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, the America's Cup. 14-and-under teams from the USA, Canada, Cosat(South America) and Cotecc(Caribbean) play each other, and this year, the United States won all three of its matches, beating Canada 7-1, Cosat 7-2 and Cotecc 7-2.

The US team consisted of Clervie Ngounoue, Reese Brantmeier, Katja Wiersholm, Ashlyn Kreuger, Jackson Armistead, Ozan Colak, Kyle Kang and Aidan Kim. Complete results can be found here.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Burel and Tseng Named 2018 ITF World Junior Champions; Cressy Wins Tallahassee Futures; Racquet Club of Memphis, Site of USTA Girls Clay Courts, to Close

The ITF Junior Circuit (note the new look website, part of the ITF World Tennis Tour) has concluded for the year, with the next tournaments scheduled to begin three weeks from now. Although no one could catch the current No. 1s, Clara Burel of France and Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan, the ITF waits until after the Orange Bowl to announce its ITF year-end world junior champions.  The 17-year-old Burel, who reached two junior slam finals, won the Youth Olympic Games silver medal and claimed the ITF Junior Masters title, finished just under 400 points ahead of Coco Gauff, who won the French Open and Orange Bowl titles. For more on Burel's run to No. 1, see the ITF website.

Tseng, who won the French and Wimbledon boys titles and reached the Australian Open final and the US Open semifinals, finished more than 1300 points ahead of Youth Olympic Games gold medalist Hugo Gaston of France. For more on Tseng's rise to the top of the junior game, see the ITF website.

The United States had two players in both the girls and boys year-end Top 10: Brandon Nakashima[5], Sebastian Korda[10], Coco Gauff[2] and Caty McNally[9].

The last USTA Pro Circuit event of the year was the $25,000 Futures in Tallahassee, with UCLA senior Maxime Cressy capping an impressive fall with his first Pro Circuit singles title. The unseeded 21-year-old from France, who defeated former Memphis standout Ryan Peniston of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6(4) in the final,  reached the final last week at the Waco $25K and the semifinals in the Columbus $25K the week before that. His ATP ranking will be inside the Top 500 when the points are added.  Unseeded Jordi Arconada(Texas A&M) and Michael Geerts of Belgium(Arizona State) won the doubles title, beating unseeded Felix Corwin(Minnesota) and Jacob Dunbar(Richmond) 6-3, 7-6(0) in the final. Geerts, who won the Waco Futures singles title two weeks ago over Cressy, now has eight Pro Circuit doubles titles, while Arconada now has four.

A couple of weeks ago the news came out that the Racquet Club of Memphis is closing, leaving the Girls 16s USTA National Clay Courts without a home.  Prior to 2018, the Racquet Club was the site of the Girls 18s USTA National Clay Courts, and I covered eight of those tournaments there, from 2008 to 2016. Although the heat in July was brutal, I enjoyed the tournament, and they worked hard to make the experience special for the girls and the college coaches who flocked there. Once the club lost the WTA (and ATP) event held there in February, the tournament could no longer offer a coveted WTA wild card to the Clay champion, and last year, the 18s moved to Charleston, where the winner now gets a wild card into the Volvo Open there. Aside from the loss to the USTA junior circuit, this is a major blow to tennis in general, as the club had a long and impressive history in both pre- and Open era professional tennis.  

I spoke to both the 16s tournament director and the USTA about the news while I was here in Florida, and as of now, a new site for the girls 16s is still up in the air, but I have been told it should be in place in the next month.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Gauff Comeback Ends with Another Orange Bowl Title; Finland's Virtanen Makes History with Victory over Khan

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Plantation, FL--

Just two years ago, Coco Gauff won the Junior Orange Bowl 12s championship, a title she had chased for five years before capturing. After her 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 victory over China's Qinwen Zheng in Sunday's ITF Grade A Orange Bowl championship match, in just her second attempt at one of the Junior Circuit's most prestigious tournaments, the 14-year-old French Open champion may already be saying goodbye to junior events.

Down 4-2 in the final set to the big-hitting Zheng, Gauff recalled the words of her father Corey.

"He told me at the beginning of the tournament, OK, this is probably your last junior tournament, so play how you want to be remembered, and that's what I was thinking," said Gauff, the No. 1 seed. "People mostly know me to always fight, and even when I was down that's how I want to be remembered, at least in junior tennis. We'll see what the next chapter has for me."

A rain shower just three games into the match resulted in a delay of more than two hours, and when Gauff and Zheng returned to the Har-Tru courts of the Veltri Tennis Center, Gauff took control of the match, winning the next four games and looking the sharper of the two.

Zheng, the Eddie Herr champion and second seed, was playing her 12th singles match in 14 days, and with both inner thighs taped, the toll of all that tennis was beginning to show. But the 16-year-old kept unleashing her powerful ground strokes and Gauff threw in a messy service game at 3-4 to get broken. Serving at 5-3, Zheng used a potent backhand to get out of a 15-30 hole, taking the second set on her first set point.

Gauff took a bathroom break, but after returning, she donated two double faults and was broken at love. Zheng held on to that break until serving at 4-3, but when Gauff hit a forehand winner on break point to level the set, she, and the crowd, were fully energized.

"The crowd has been here all week for me," said Gauff, who lives in nearby Delray Beach. "Clearly they were rooting for me, and there were faces who were here since Monday, not people I knew, but now I know. I was expecting when it rained, no one would come, but people came back. I think that kind of helped, because I remember saying this in my head, all these people are here rooting for you down 4-2, so you should start rooting for yourself. And I think that kind of helped turn the match around."

The 4-4 game was a classic, with Gauff saving three break points, with her serve responsible for getting her out of every jam.

"I was serving well the whole match," Gauff said. "If I didn't expect my serve to come through, I wouldn't have went for it, I just would have tried to get it in. I think on almost every break point I hit a good serve, and she missed it or something like that, and I'm just glad it went in."

After that five-deuce game, Zheng played her worst game of the set when serving to stay in the match. Her backhand sprayed around the court and she double faulted, and the match ended with another error.

While giving credit to Gauff, Zheng was disappointed with the way she played in the final four games of the match.

"She played really good at the end," said Zheng, who is known as Ana to her English-speaking friends. "I was 4-2 up and it's really difficult to lose like this, but she play more aggressive in the end and I was too defensive. That's the reason I lose. At 4-2 I should go, take the courage, take the match and not stay behind and wait."

Zheng will take time off and then prepare for the Australian Open Junior Championships next month, while Gauff will be concentrating on improving her WTA ranking, with a goal of getting into the slams this summer.

"Right now I'm just playing some ITFs (Pro Circuit), to get my ranking up and to see if I can get wild cards into certain tournaments," said Gauff, who is currently ranked 870. "I think next year, that's my goal, to be top 100 in WTA."

One of the reasons Gauff elected to play the last two ITF Junior Circuit Grade A tournaments of the year was the extra four WTA tournaments she can play if she finishes in the Top 5 in year-end junior rankings.

"A lot of people think I played this to finish No. 1," said Gauff, who will not catch France's Clara Burel for the top spot. "That wasn't my goal. My dad asked me mid-year, and I said, I don't really care, I just want to finish Top 5, so I can get those extra [WTA] tournaments."

Although Gauff elected not to focus on achieving the ITF Junior Circuit's No. 1 ranking, boys Orange Bowl champion Otto Virtanen is.  Just five minutes after 17-year-old from Finland defeated wild card Zane Khan of the United States 7-5, 6-4, he had already reset his goals.

"Yes, that's my goal now," Virtanen said. "Now, I decided now, yes. I really want to be number 1, so I'm looking forward to this season."

Virtanen, the No. 13 seed, had a slight edge in Grade A experience, with five tournaments at that level, compared to the 16-year-old Khan's three. But neither player looked comfortable to start the match, with four straight breaks to open it before Khan held serve to get his nose in front. At 5-all, Khan was able to save two break points with forehand winners, but on the third, his backhand sailed long.  Serving for the set, Virtanen went up 40-15, but again Khan held on, only to watch as Virtanen hit two consecutive aces to take the set.

"I had a lot of chances and I didn't play as good as I wanted to," said Khan, who is coached by his uncle Shariq Khan, and has also been training the past few months at Boca West with Antonio Fernandez and former ATP pro Sebastien Grosjean, who attended the final. "It was not easy playing him, because he had a really good serve and there wasn't much rhythm. He is really powerful with his shots and he had a good forehand and it wasn't easy to get into the points."

Virtanen admitted that, although he made less than half of his first serves, he was able to find one when he needed it.

"I served well the big points, yes, I served well," Virtanen said. "And I didn't rush in the really big points. In the last game he did two easy mistakes, he went too fast then, and I was lucky."

At 4-4 in the second set, Khan made three unforced errors, while Virtanen made sure he picked big targets in the rallies and Khan was broken at 15-40 when his backhand went wide. Serving for the title, Virtanen hit two massive forehand winners and a kick serve ace, and after an inexplicable drop shot attempt that missed on his first match point, he blasted his tenth ace to close it out.

Virtanen, who trains at the Good to Great Academy in Sweden, is the first player from Finland to win an Orange Bowl title, and he is hoping that accomplishment resonates in his home country.

"I'm going back home tomorrow, and I hope they have some special surprise," Virtanen said of his celebration plans. "I don't know [if it will be a big deal], I hope so, because for me, it's a big thing. I can't even realize, it's a really big trophy. Maybe today, later, I'll realize what I have done."

Virtanen is planning to play the Australian Open Junior Championships next month, as is Khan.
The doubles titles were also decided on Sunday afternoon, with No. 3 seeds Adrienn Nagy of Hungary and Sohyun Park of Korea taking the girls title, and No. 4 seeds Sergey Fomin of Uzbekistan and Gauthier Onclin of Belgium claiming the boys championship.

Nagy and Park, playing together for the first time, came from behind to defeat unseeded Kacie Harvey and Natasha Subhash of the United States 2-6, 7-5, 10-8.

"We actually said two weeks ago that we were going play together, since none of us had doubles partners," Nagy said. "We talked in Mexico that we would play together, so we are surprised to win, definitely."

Nagy attributed their slow start to the quality of their opponents play.

"The first set, they were playing really good and we didn't really feel it," Nagy said. "The wind and everything was different than yesterday. The second set, we started to play better and the super tiebreak was the best we played in this match. We put it together at the end."

"She is a very, very good partner," said Park, 16. "She has energy."

Nagy appreciates Park's ability to finish at the net, which she did on their third match point, poaching for the winning volley.

"She's really good with the volleys and I can always count on her," said the 17-year-old Nagy. "And she's really consistent from the baseline too. It's good to have someone you know is not going to miss it."
Fomin and Onclin also dropped the first set, unable to serve it out up 5-4 and losing a tiebreaker to unseeded Justin Schlageter of Germany and Gustaf Strom of Sweden 6-7(6) before rebounding for a 6-7(6), 6-1, 10-8 victory.

Like the girls champions, Fomin and Onclin, both 17, began their partnership very recently, at the Eddie Herr, where they won one match, but the pair did not lose a set all week until today.

"We played very well this week," Onclin said. "We just did what we had to do."

"We go to the volley," said Fomin. "And not stay at the baseline, so we do better this tournament. I think that is better, for me and my friend."

"It was an incredible week for us," Onclin said. "It's incredible."

Top Seeds Gauff and Zheng Reach Orange Bowl Final, Khan and Virtanen Vie for Boys Championship; Sieg, Llamas Ruiz Win 16s Titles; Zamarripa Takes $15K in Colombia

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Plantation FL--

Young Americans Coco Gauff and Zane Khan got revenge Saturday at the ITF Grade A Orange Bowl, dominating their opponents on another warm and sunny day in South Florida to reach Sunday's final.

The top-seeded Gauff defeated No. 3 seed Diane Parry of France, who had beaten her two weeks ago in the quarterfinals of the Yucatan Grade A, 6-0, 6-0 while Khan, a wild card, had a much longer wait for an opportunity against Mateus Alves of Brazil, who had beaten him last November in a Grade 2 in Peru.

The 16-year-old Khan came out firing against Alves and never let up against the big-hitting 17-year-old, well aware that Alves had won all four of his previous matches in three sets, including yesterday's quarterfinal over No. 8 seed Cannon Kingsley.

"I felt like if I didn't keep pushing him down and keep on him, he would come back, he would start feeling more confident on court," Khan said. "He is such a good player, such a good competitor and has such a good serve, it's not easy to break him. So, yeah, I tried to focus on my service games and get every ball back on the return games, make him play."

Khan, who had won three three-setters himself this week, was nursing a shoulder injury coming into the tournament, and considered withdrawing, but his coaches encouraged him to give it a try, and it has bothered him less as he continues to advance through the draw.

Although he earned a big win in the first round over No. 4 seed Deney Wassermann of the Netherlands, Khan didn't take that as any indication that six days later he would be playing the final.

"I felt every person after that was a really good player," said Khan, who is coached by his uncle Shariq Khan, and has also been training at Boca West with Antonio Fernandez and former ATP pro Sebastien Grosjean. "Just because I beat the 4 seed that didn't mean anything for the other guys. There were a lot of close matches, like yesterday, that could have gone the other guy's way."

Khan's opponent in the final will be No. 13 seed Otto Virtanen of Finland, who came back to beat unseeded Alejo Lingua Lavallen of Argentina 1-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Virtanen, who had beaten top seed Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria in the third round, went up 3-1 in the final set, but had to take a medical timeout due to shortness of breath.

"I had a hard time breathing," said the 17-year-old, who trains at the Good to Great Academy in Sweden. "Every point I felt like it is not going in. It was not a good feeling. I told I would take [a medical timeout] one game later, but then I played the one game and I just had an emergency, even if I was leading 3-1."

The trainer came out and spoke to Virtanen, but did not provide any treatment, and when he returned to play, he lost the next two games. But he began to feel better, mentally and physically.

"I reset everything, I have to play everything like from the beginning," Virtanen said. "I started with my best game at 3-all and finished with it."

Virtanen broke and held for a 5-3 lead, and the Argentinian left-hander saved a match point serving at 3-5. In the final game, Virtanen took a 30-0 lead, but two unforced errors on the forehand provided some tension. But Virtanen's excellent first serve saved him, with Lavallen unable to get either of them back in play.

Khan and Virtanen have never met, but Virtanen is excited by the prospect of a new opponent, while conceding that Khan is likely to have the crowd on his side.

"This is the first tournament I've seen him playing," Virtanen said. "I'm looking forward to meet new players."

Gauff's unexpectedly easy win over Parry was a combination of an improved strategy and improved play.

"In Mexico I lost to her like 6-3, 6-2, so going in, I knew what I had to do," said the 14-year-old, who won the French Open girls title this year. "I would say that week I was making a little bit more errors on shots that I shouldn't have. Today, I just wanted to be patient and see if I can out-rally her, and I think I did."

Gauff said that the temptation to go high to Parry's one-handed backhand was something she needed to avoid in the rematch.

"I think two weeks ago I focused too much on her backhand," said Gauff, who two years ago won the Junior Orange Bowl 12s title. "She does have a good one-handed backhand. People are like, it's a one-handed backhand, she's a girl, it's probably her weaker side. But really, she can rip it. Obviously, the high ball on the one-hander works, for any one-hander, but today I was not focusing on that, but play like I would any other match, moving her no matter if it is her forehand or backhand. I think that was a mistake last time, because she knew where I was hitting the ball every time, while this time, I kind of mixed it up a lot more."

Gauff's opponent in the final is Eddie Herr champion and No. 2 seed Qinwen Zheng of China, who beat unseeded Emma Navarro 6-0, 6-4. Zheng, who is looking to be the first Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl champion in the same year since Ana Konjuh of Croatia accomplished that in 2012, had kinesio tape on both of her inner thighs after her second consecutive week of top level competition.

"Of course I'm tired," said the 16-year-old right-hander, who won only one singles match in the two tournaments in Mexico leading up to the Eddie Herr. "And because I played too much, I have injury on my leg. But it is good, I continue to fight and I found a way to win."

Zheng started the match with Navarro as she had in their first round meeting at the Eddie Herr, which Zheng won 6-1, 6-0. But Navarro got her teeth back in the match in the second set, pulling even after being down 4-2. The 17-year-old Duke recruit was broken in the next game however, and Zheng was able to serve out the match.

"Last week was the first round and this week is the semifinals, so everything is different," Zheng said. "It's a new match, so I just keep my game plan and focus. I couldn't run too much, so I try to finish the point and to play more smart."

Zheng is looking forward to a chance to play Gauff after breaking out of her slump last month.

"I saw her play a little bit, but I never play against her," Zheng said. "I know she's an amazing player, so I will fight a lot tomorrow. If you tell me in Mexico that I be in finals here and win Eddie Herr, I say no, no way."
The 16s finals were tense and full of twists and turns, with No. 4 seed Madison Sieg defeating unseeded India Houghton 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 in an all-US contest, and No. 3 seed Pablo Llamas Ruiz of Spain beating top seed Dali Blanch of the United States 6-4, 5-7, 6-3.

Sieg, who lost in the Eddie Herr 16s final last Saturday, didn't look like she would better that showing this week after losing the first set quickly and going down a break at 3-2 in the second set. But the 15-year-old broke right back and kept the pressure on Houghton, who saved two set points at 4-5 in the second set, but couldn't save a third. In a long and entertaining point, both Sieg and Houghton ended up at the net, with Sieg winning the battle to earn a third set.

"She played a really good first set," said Sieg, who beat Eddie Herr champion and fellow Evert Academy student Elaine Chervinsky in the quarterfinals. "I knew I had to get it deeper, but I knew I was playing the right way, hitting the ball good, so I just kept the same way of hitting it."

Sieg again fell behind a break in the third set, but she again immediately got the break back, only to fall behind 4-3. Houghton again couldn't consolidate however, and when Sieg held for 6-5, the pressure mounted on the 16-year-old from Northern California.

When Houghton hit a forehand wide to go down 15-40, but she saved the first match point with a huge forehand, a dangerous shot that Sieg had seen often throughout the match, and saved the second when Sieg hit a backhand wide after a long, tense rally. Sieg stepped into a backhand to force an error to give her a third match point, and after another lengthy rally, it was Houghton who made the error, giving Sieg a coveted Orange Bowl title and a 11-1 singles record over the past 12 days.

"I've just always seen other players win the Orange Bowl, and it's never occurred to me that I could actually win it," said Sieg, who will take a month off before the Central and South American swing in January. "So I'm really happy that I'm able to do it."

Houghton, who had gotten to the final without losing a set, said she didn't feel nervous to start the match, but the possibility of winning did contribute to some jitters later on.

"In the middle of the second set, that's when I got a little nervous," said Houghton, who trains at Tompkins Tennis. "She's a great player, a great fighter and she was getting a lot of balls back. Maybe I got a little impatient, or went for too much on my shots, but she was a really good player."

Houghton has only one ITF Junior Circuit tournament on her resume, a title at the Grade 5 in Canada back in October, but she is looking forward to competing more at that level.

"I definitely would like to start playing more international tournaments," said Houghton, who doesn't consider herself a late bloomer. "I played my first ITF a month ago. These past few years, maybe I've started to train harder, train more and with higher intensity."

Next up for Houghton is the USTA Winter Nationals in Lake Nona Florida, in the 18s. Houghton was aware that last year's 16s runner-up, Fiona Crawley, went on to win the gold ball in the 18s at the Winter Nationals just a few weeks later.

The boys finalists proved just as evenly matched as the girls, with Llamas coming from down an early break down in the first set to breaking to win it, then having a match point in the second set with Blanch serving at 4-5, only to be broken in his next service game, with Blanch taking the second set with a big first serve on his third set point.

Blanch fell behind in the 4-1 in the third set, but his forehand came through for him with Llamas serving at 2-4, and Blanch got back on serve with a winner on his second break point. He couldn't pull even however, with two forehands wide costing him the game and giving Llamas a chance to serve for the match. Blanch earned a 15-40 lead, but Llamas countered with his best serving of the set, hitting four consecutive big first serves to close out the title.

The 15-year-old Blanch, who lives and trains in Argentina, said that the combination of Llamas' style and his quick pace of play wore him down.

"He is a smart player, and he has good hands," said Blanch, who will start his year at the ITF Grade 1 (now called J1) in Costa Rica. "He likes playing long points and he rushes you a lot. There's no rest between points, just another point, another point. He's used to it, but I'm not. I think that I could have played better. I didn't play my best tennis, got very frustrated. I wasn't making the shots I was making in the other matches. I think I could have beaten him, but it wasn't my day."

Llamas, who won the doubles title on Friday, agreed that testing his opponent with his pace of play, and his variety, works for him.

"I try to play quick," Llamas said via an interpreter. "I always try to vary the depth of the ball and make sure that my opponent is never comfortable. I play depending on my opponent."

Llamas acknowledged that countering Blanch's power is not an easy task.

"I've been training very hard for this, trying to get better and better for opponents like this," Llamas said. "I thank everyone, from my team to my teammates to my coaches, everybody in Spain, for their support, for giving me the strength to become an Orange Bowl champion."

The 18s doubles final are scheduled for Sunday, with the girls final between unseeded Kacie Harvey and Natasha Subhash and No. 3 seeds Adrienn Nagy of Hungary and Sohyun Park of Korea.  Harvey and Subhash, finalists at last week's Eddie Herr, defeated top seeds Gauff and Hurricane Tyra Black 6-3, 6-4, with Nagy and Park downing unseeded Savannah Broadus and Kylie Collins 6-0, 6-3.

The boys top seeds also exited in Saturday's semifinals, with No. 4 seeds Sergey Fomin and Gauthier Onclin of Belgium beating Andreev and Great Britain's Anton Matusevich 7-5, 7-6(5). Their opponents in the final will be Justin Schlageter of Germany and Gustaf Strom of Sweden, who beat Tom Leblanc Calverie of France and Mark Mandlik 6-4, 7-5.

For Sunday's order of play, see the tournament website.

Sixteen-year-old Allura Zamarripa swept the titles at the $15,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Bogota Colombia, beating top seed Andrea Villarreal of Mexico 6-3, 6-3 in today's singles final. Allura and twin sister Maribella won their first pro doubles title on Friday.

Friday, December 7, 2018

Eddie Herr Recap; Sieg, Houghton and Blanch Reach Orange Bowl 16s Finals; Gauff, Navarro and Khan Advance to Grade A Semifinals; Zamarripa Makes $15K Final

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Plantation, Florida

Before I get to today's action at the Orange Bowl, here's the link to my recap, for the Tennis Recruiting Network, of last week's Eddie Herr International Championships in Bradenton.  Only two of the eight singles champions were from the United States this year, but the doubles competition was dominated by Americans, with US players winning six of the eight titles.

Saturday's Orange Bowl finals in the 16s age division will feature three Americans, with unseeded India Houghton taking on No. 4 seed Madison Sieg in the all-American girls final, and No. 1 seed Dali Blanch facing No. 3 seed Pablo Llamas Ruiz of Spain for the boys title.

Houghton defeated unseeded wild card Jaleesa Leslie 6-2, 6-4, her fifth consecutive straight-sets win. The 16-year-old left-hander said that although she doesn't play much on clay in her Northern California home, she likes the surface.

"In fifth grade, I spent a few months in Spain, playing on the red clay there, and I really liked it," Houghton said. "I'm definitely getting more used to the clay with each match."

Houghton said that she had to take advantage of Leslie's second serve, because her first serve was such a weapon.

"Her serve was really strong and it got even stronger in the second set, I thought," Houghton said. "I had to focus, especially when she had a second serve. I had to use that opportunity."

Houghton, who reached the Easter Bowl 16s final this spring, thinks that experience will help her on Saturday.

"The Easter Bowl was my first final, so it was a new experience for me," Houghton said. "So hopefully I can use that in this match."

The 15-year-old Sieg, who defeated No. 8 seed Yelizaveta Karlova of Kazakhstan 7-6(2), 6-3, is appearing in her second consecutive final, having lost to Elaine Chervinsky at last week's Eddie Herr.

Houghton and Sieg met in the first round of the Winter Nationals last December, with Houghton winning 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

Blanch defeated No. 4 seed Kokora Isomura of Japan 7-6(3), 6-1, with the 15-year-old able to take control in the second set by adjusting his strategy.

"In the first set I got very frustrated," said Blanch, who trains in Argentina, as his older brother Ulises also did. "I was hitting the ball too flat, so in the second set I changed up. He played on the line, so I had to spin the ball more, push him back, in order to attack more and that worked in the second."

Blanch said being the number one seed feels like an advantage to him, and after a slow to start to the year, he is happy that he's reached that position.

"At the beginning of the year, I didn't know if I would play this tournament," said Blanch, who won two Grade 4s this fall. "My ranking wasn't that good and I had a tough start. But then I won some tournaments, and I'm very happy to be in the final."

Blanch will face No. 3 seed Pablo Llamas Ruiz of Spain, who prevented a second all-US final with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 win over No. 2 seed Alexander Bernard.  Blanch and Llamas will be playing for the first time in Saturday's final.

In the 18s, top seed Coco Gauff defeated unseeded Helene Pellicano of Malta 6-3, 6-2 to set up a rematch with No. 3 seed Diane Parry of France. Parry, who beat wild card Charlotte Chavatipon 6-1, 6-3, defeated Gauff 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the Yucatan Grade A two weeks ago.

The other girls semifinal is also a rematch, an even more recent one, with No. 2 seed Qinwen Zheng of China facing unseeded Emma Navarro. Navarro and Zheng met in the first round of the Eddie Herr last week, with Zheng rolling 6-1, 6-0.

Neither had an easy time getting to that rematch, with Zheng coming back for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 win over No. 6 seed Lea Ma, and Navarro earning a 7-6(1), 6-3 victory over 14-year-old wild card Robin Montgomery.

Montgomery served for the first set at 5-4, but couldn't close it out, and Navarro dominated in the subsequent tiebreaker, with unforced errors by Montgomery also a factor. Navarro was unable to serve out the match at 5-2, but she broke Montgomery for the win.

Only one seed remains in the boys 18s semifinals--No. 13 Otto Virtanen of Finland--after all four boys quarterfinals went to three sets. Virtanen earned his second consecutive Grade A win over No. 7 seed Anton Matusevich of Great Britain. After beating Matusevich from a set down in the first round of  the US Open junior championships, Virtanen duplicated that in today's quarterfinal, posting a  4-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory. He will play unseeded Alejo Lingua Lavallen of Argentina, who beat No. 15 seed Liam Draxl of Canada 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Sixteen-year-old Zane Khan took out his third seed of the week, beating No. 6 seed Jonas Forejtek of the Czech Republic 7-6(1), 2-6, 7-5.  Khan, who has been nursing a shoulder injury that caused him to retire at the Eddie Herr, said it has felt better as the week has progressed, and with his focus and energy at a high level, he doesn't think about it when he's playing.

"Especially in the third set, I started hitting it even harder," said Khan, who won 107 points in the match, while Forejtek won 110.

Khan, who saved three set points in the opening set, had several  tough service games in the third, while Forejtek was holding more easily, but Khan always felt he was dictating the match.

"My energy was high and I felt like that helped me," said Khan, who has begun working with former ATP pro Sebastien Grosjean at Boca West in Boca Raton. "Every single time he would always be further back, just try to make balls. He was really nervous, it looked like, and I kept putting pressure on, even shots that were right to him, I took time away and he was really nervous and kept missing in the net. I felt like I was in control the whole match."

With Forejtek serving to force a third-set tiebreaker, Khan took advantage of a rare break point opportunity and with a good return at 30-40 pressuring Forejtek into a backhand error on the next shot.

Khan will face unseeded Mateus Alves of Brazil, who prevented an all-US semifinal with a 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(5) win over No. 8 seed Cannon Kingsley.

Kingsley led 4-2 in the third set, but Alves played a gem of a game to break with Kingsley serving at 4-3.  Kingsley saved a match point serving at 5-6 in the third with a big serve, and three more match points from 6-2 down in the tiebreaker, but his forehand return of a second serve at 6-5 went long to end a competitive and well-played match.

Alves has now won four consecutive three-setters, while Khan has won three three-set matches this week. Alves and Khan met last year at the Grade 2 in Peru, with Alves winning 6-3, 6-3.

The first 2018 Orange Bowl champions were crowned in 16s doubles Friday afternoon.  Llamas Ruiz and his partner Angel Guerrero Melgar, also of Spain, seeded No. 3, defeated unseeded Bohua Dong and Haoyuan Huang of China 6-1, 6-1 in the boys final.

"We come in here expecting to win, but you never know," said Guerrero, who noted they won a doubles tournament of the best 16 and under players in Spain. "We tried it, and we made it."

"Today we have a good match," said Llamas. "We are very happy for the tournament."  "Yeah, we played really good today," Guerrero added.
The girls doubles final was an all-US contest between unseeded teams, with Carson Tanguilig and Elise Wagle beating Ava Catanzarite and Allie Gretkowski 4-6, 7-6(5), 10-6.

Tanguilig and Wagle got off to a quick start, going up 4-1, but lost the next five games.  As frequent partners, the two 15-year-olds were able to rely on each other to get back on track, although they also lost a 4-1 lead in the second set, losing six of six deciding points before finally taking a big point, at 6-5 in the tiebreaker.

"6-5 in the tiebreaker is a big, big point, especially after we lost the first set," Tanguilig said. "But you just keep moving, being positive, staying loose," Wagle said.

Up 8-4 in the match tiebreaker, they did not let the lead get away, although Gretkowski, the Eddie Herr 16s doubles champion, and Catanzarite won two points, including one on Tanguilig's serve, to get it to 8-6. But Tanguilig came up with her best serve of the match to give them a 9-6 cushion, and they converted their first match point.

As for their strengths as a team, Wagle said she relies on Tanguilig's net skills and mental outlook.

"She has insane hands, you have no idea," said Wagle, who won the ITF Grade 4 in Corpus Christi with Tanguilig in October. "Her hands have saved our butts so many times. And she's positive for me, because I can be a little negative on the court."

Tanguilig said appreciates the strength of Wagle's overall game.

"Her backhand is ten times better than mine could ever be," Tanguilig said. "She can pump me up if I'm being negative and she has a good serve and good volleys, everything."

The 18s doubles semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, with three US teams in the girls draw.  Top seeds Hurricane Tyra Black and Coco Gauff will face unseeded Kacie Harvey and Natasha Subhash, and unseeded Savannah Broadus and Kylie Collins will play No. 3 seeds Adrienn Nagy of Hungary and Sohyun Park of Korea. Black and Gauff beat No. 5 seeds Sada Nahimana of Burundi and Selin Ovunc of Turkey 6-2, 6-2, while Harvey and Subhash beat unseeded Alexa Noel and Nikki Redelijk 6-3, 6-2.  Nagy and Park defeated No. 6 seeds Ana Geller of Argentina and Natsumi Kawaguchi of Japan 6-3, 6-3 and Broadus and Collins outlasted Navarro and Chloe Beck, also unseeded, 1-6, 6-3, 13-11.

The only American boy in the doubles semifinals in Mark Mandlik. Mandlik and his partner Tom Leblanc Claverie of France were the last team to get into the draw, with the alternates replacing Forejtek and Valentin Royer of France. In the quarterfinals, Mandlik and Leblanc Claverie beat Drew Baird and Toby Kodat 6-2, 6-4 and will play unseeded Justin Schlageter of Germany and Gustaf Strom of Sweden, who beat No. 5 seeds Govind Nanda and Tyler Zink 7-5, 4-6, 10-5.  Top seeds Matusevich and Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria defeated No. 6 seeds Draxl and Eliot Spizzirri 6-3, 7-6(5) to advance to a meeting with No. 4 seeds Sergey Fomin of Uzbekistan and Gauthier Onclin of Belgium, who beat No. 7 seeds Emilio Nava and Virtanen 6-1, 6-1.

Saturday's order of play is available at the tournament website.

In notable results by juniors outside of Florida, 16-year-old Allura Zamarripa has advanced to the final of the $15,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit event in Bogota Colombia. The unseeded Californian, who has not dropped a set this week, will play top seed Andrea Villarreal of Mexico in the final.  Allura and her twin sister Maribella won the doubles title, with the No. 2 seeds beating top seeds and twin sisters Maria Perez-Garcia and Paula Perez-Garcia of Colombia 7-5, 6-4 in the final. It is the first Pro Circuit title for the Zamarripas.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Virtanen Beats Top Seed Andreev; Five US Girls, Two US Boys Reach Grade A Orange Bowl Quarterfinals; Sieg Wins Replay of Eddie Herr 16s Final

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Plantation, FL--

Friday's boys quarterfinals at the ITF Grade A Orange Bowl will not feature any of the top five seeds after No. 1 Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria and No. 3 seed Gauthier Onclin of Belgium were ousted Thursday at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center.

Yucatan Grade A finalist Liam Draxl of Canada, the No. 15 seed, defeated Onclin 6-1, 6-2 and No. 13 seed Otto Virtanen overpowered Andreev 6-4, 6-4.

Virtanen has not had the best junior results since he defeated Australian Open boys champion Sebastian Korda in the first round at Wimbledon, but he did reach a Futures final in August and has an ATP ranking of 834.  The 17-year-old from Finland lost in the first round of the Grade 1 Eddie Herr last week, but he has not lost a set in his three wins this week, and was able to use his serve and his forehand to keep Andreev on defense most of the match.

"I had a tough start, I was down 3-0, but I felt good still," said Virtanen, who won the Wimbledon boys doubles title this year. "It was just a few mistakes from me at the beginning, but after that I played really good."

Serving for the match at 5-4 in the second set, Virtanen went down 0-30, and then 30-40, but his serve saved him. He hit an ace on break point, then crushed a forehand winner to get to match point, converting with a big first serve and a forehand winner to earn his first Grade A quarterfinal berth.

"I didn't think about going to 5-all or anything," Virtanen said. "But I was just, next point. I was just thinking now, a good serve, and I got four points just with serve."

Virtanen will play No. 7 seed Anton Matusevich of Great Britain next. They have played in the last two junior slams, with Matusevich winning in the third round at Wimbledon and Virtanen winning in the first round at the US Open.

Draxl will face unseeded Ajeo Lingua Lavallen of Argentina, who beat unseeded Andrew Paulson of the Czech Republic 6-1, 7-6(3).  They met early this year in the first round of the Grade A in Porto Alegre Brazil, with Lavallen winning in three sets.

Both of the Americans are in the bottom half of the draw, with No. 8 seed Cannon Kingsley cruising past No. 10 seed Harold Mayot of France 6-1, 6-2 and unseeded Zane Khan overcoming a crushing second set to beat No. 14 seed Sergey Fomin of Uzbekistan 7-5, 6-7(1), 6-3.

Khan led 5-1 in the second set, yet couldn't close it out, and with a lackluster tiebreaker, momentum wasn't on his side. But he collected himself in the third set, and finished strong, with the 16-year-old advancing to a Grade A quarterfinal for the first time.

Kingsley will play unseeded Mateus Alves of Brazil, who beat the last qualifier in the boys draw, Luciano Tacchi of Argentina 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-1.  Khan's opponent is No. 6 seed Jonas Forejtek of the Czech Republic, who beat unseeded Filip Kolasinski 6-4, 6-0.
The five US girls in the quarterfinals include two wild cards, 14-year-old Robin Montgomery and 16-year-old Charlotte Chavatipon. Montgomery took out fellow wild card Ellie Coleman 6-1, 6-1 and will face unseeded Emma Navarro, who beat Peyton Stearns 6-2, 6-4.

Chavatipon defeated No. 5 seed Hurricane Tyra Black 7-6(4), 6-2, with her rebound from a tough start providing the energy she needed to earn the win.

"I was down 4-1 in the first set and coming back and getting it neck and neck--I haven't really done that a lot," said Chavatipon, who recently has begun training at the USTA's Player Development site in Carson, California. "This was one of like the first tournaments I was able to show up. In the beginning I was overhitting, taking too big of swings and not moving, so I just tried aiming at safer targets. I don't think she was able to outhit me from the ground, but she's a smart player, and that's the reason why she's top 50 in the world."

Chavatipon lost in the second round of qualifying at the Eddie Herr, but she had qualified for the Grade A in Yucatan, and before that, reached the final of a $15,000 ITF Women's Circuit tournament in Mexico City.

"It was actually a surprise to me, but my dad said, oh, you're in this Mexico $15K, and we're going to fly from Tijuana and you're going to play this," Chavatipon said. "I didn't even expect to play that when I marked my calendar. It really boosted me up. From the beginning of the year until then, I was kind of struggling. I changed coaches, I work with the USTA now, and that change in coaching actually helped."

Chavatipon will face No. 3 seed Diane Parry of France, who beat qualifier Hina Inoue 7-5, 6-1. Parry defeated Chavatipon 6-4, 7-5 in the round of 16 en route to the Yucatan title two weeks ago.

Top seed Coco Gauff struggled late in the second set of her match with unseeded Ana Geller, but posted a 6-2, 7-5 victory. Geller served for the second set at 5-4, but didn't get to a set point, and Gauff didn't give her another opportunity after that one slipped away.

Gauff will play unseeded Helene Pellicano of Malta, who beat No. 11 seed Sada Nahimana of Burundi 6-1, 2-6, 6-2.

No. 2 seed Qinwen Zheng of China defeated unseeded Caijsa Hennemann of Sweden 6-4, 6-0 and will play doubles partner and No. 6 seed Lea Ma, who had no trouble in her 6-1, 6-2 rout of Mara Guth of Germany.

The US girls are also having success in doubles, with five US teams reaching the quarterfinals after wins today. Alexa Noel and Nikki Redelijk will face Kacie Harvey and Natasha Subhash in one of the all-US quarterfinals, with both teams unseeded. The other all-US quarterfinal is also between two unseeded teams, with Savannah Broadus and Kylie Collins taking on Navarro and Chloe Beck.  Top seeds Black and Gauff will face No. 5 seeds Nahimana and Selin Ovunc of Turkey.

Two all-US boys teams advanced to the quarterfinals: No. 5 seeds Govind Nanda and Tyler Zink and unseeded Drew Baird and Toby Kodat. Baird and Kodat will face Mark Mandlik and his partner from France, Tom Leblanc Claverie. Emilio Nava, who is playing with Virtanen, and is seeded No. 7, will play No. 4 seeds Fomin and Onclin.

The semifinals are set for the 16s singles with three US girls and two US boys in the final four.
No. 4 seed Madison Sieg defeated No. 7 seed Elaine Chervinsky  6-3, 7-5 in a rematch of last Saturday's Eddie Herr final. Sieg had also lost to Chervinsky back in October, but this time they were playing on Sieg's favorite surface: clay.

"One thing that changed from other matches, I've always played her on hard," said the 15-year-old, who trains with Chervinsky at the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton. "I like how clay's a little slower, so I get to have a little more time. And also I love moving, just sliding."

Trailing 5-2 in the second set, Sieg decided to stop worrying about losing multiple close games in that set.

"I was getting a little frustrated, so I thought, just one point at a time," Sieg said. "I wasn't thinking about coming back to 5-all, I was just thinking about each point."

Sieg will play No. 8 seed Yelizaveta Karlova of Kazakhstan, who beat unseeded Fatma Idrizovic of Serbia 6-4, 6-3.

The other girls 16s semifinal features two unseeded Americans: India Houghton and wild card Jaleesa Leslie. Leslie defeated Lara Schneider 6-2, 6-1 and Houghton took out unseeded wild card Carson Tanguilig 6-3, 6-1.

An all-US boys final is still a possibility, after top seed Dali Blanch and No. 2 seed Alexander Bernard won their quarterfinal matches Thursday. Blanch defeated No. 8 seed Lorenzo Claverie of Venezuela 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 and will face No. 4 seed Kokoro Isomura of Japan, 1 6-4, 6-2 winner over No. 9 seed Marko Stakusic of Canada. Bernard will play No. 3 seed Pablo Llamas Ruiz of Spain, who defeated No. 10 seed Derrick Chen of Great Britain 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.  Bernard downed No. 12 seed Aidan Mayo 6-4, 6-2.

The 16s doubles finals are scheduled for Friday, with three unseeded teams advancing to the finals.

The girls final is an all-US contest between unseeded teams, with Allie Gretkowski and Ava Catanzarite facing Tanguilig and Elise Wagle. Gretkowski and Catanzarite beat No. 8 seeds Leyden Games and Lauren Stein 6-1, 6-3, while Tanguilig and Games beat unseeded Ava Krug and Sophie Williams 6-1, 6-2.

No. 3 seeds Llamas Ruiz and partner Angel Guerrero Melgar defeated top seeds Blanch and Stakusic 6-2, 4-6, 10-3 and will face unseeded Bohua Dong and Haoyan Huang of China. Dong and Huang defeated No. 8 seeds Alan Kam and Diego Navarro of Mexico 3-6, 6-4, 10-6.

For Friday's order of play and a link to live scoring, go to the tournament website.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wild Card Coleman Advances over Fourth Seed Noel, Legendary Slam Champion Watches Navarro Oust No. 8 Seed in Second Round of ITF Grade A Orange Bowl

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Plantation, FL--

The heat and humidity of the first two days gave way to cool and breezy conditions today at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center, with half a dozen girls seeds and four boys seeds failing to survive their second round matches at the ITF Grade Orange Bowl.

No. 4 seed Alexa Noel was beaten by 15-year-old wild card Ellie Coleman, who advanced when Noel retired after calling the trainer down 4-6, 6-3, 4-1.  Coleman, who last year reached the Junior Orange Bowl 14s final, said her transition to the top level of junior competition has had its rocky moments.

"It's definitely different, and it's come with some bad tournaments, obviously," said Coleman, a Midland Michigan resident. "Transitioning to the junior ITFs is a big change, but you kind of have to adjust to playing week after week and having matches day after day."

Coleman knew that Noel's slicing and drop shots can lead to frustration, but after the opening set, she found ways to counteract them.

"I focused on my side of net, doing what I needed to do to win, step in a little more," said Coleman, who was expecting to play qualifying, but was given a wild card into the main draw at the last minute. "I felt like I handled that stuff pretty well. She sliced her backhand a lot, and it was a little tricky, because she changes it up quite a bit, but I kind of got the hang of it after the first set."

Coleman's willingness to come to the net and make a volley or two to win a point is particularly effective against someone with the defensive skills of Noel.

"It's definitely an advantage, because I finish a lot of points at the net, moving forward to attack," said Coleman, who will play another wild card, 14-year-old Robin Montgomery, in Thursday's third round. Montgomery defeated qualifier Abigail Forbes 6-4, 6-3.
Emma Navarro was also facing a seeded player with an unconventional game, and she too figured out how to solve the problem, beating No. 8 seed Kamilla Bartone of Latvia 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 while under the scrutiny of a special spectator, 18-time slam singles champion Martina Navratilova.

"She's coming to work with my dad a little bit in Charleston, at the Volvo Open," Navarro said of her father Ben, who recently purchased the WTA event in their hometown. "She came down to Charleston a few weeks ago and hit with me a little bit, watched me play. She is from here, so she's been watching my matches."

Although having a tennis legend at a match could be intimidating, Navarro sees it differently.

"It's super exciting to have her watching me," said the 17-year-old Duke recruit. "I couldn't ever have imagined that. It's inspiring and exciting."

Against Bartone, who hits dozens of drop shots and an equal number of forehand slices every match, Navarro needed some time to adjust.

"I think it took a whole set for me to not be annoyed with how she played, just accept it and figure out how to beat it," Navarro said. "It was actually tough today, with the wind and with her flat, low shots and drop shots. She's unlike anyone I've ever played, so it took me a set to figure it out, but once I did, I played well."

Navarro's strategy was to keep Bartone back and to anticipate the inevitable.

"I hit a lot of high heavies and gave myself time," Navarro said. "And on pretty much every shot I was ready for the drop shot. I just wanted to take that out of play, be ready for that, and I did. And being patient and playing good defense."

Navarro will face unseeded Peyton Stearns, who defeated No. 10 seed Adrienn Nagy of Hungary 6-2, 6-3.

There is a third all-US girls round of 16 match, with No. 5 seed Hurricane Tyra Black against wild card Charlotte Chavatipon. Black avenged her recent Pan American Closed loss to Kylie Collins 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-0, while Chavatipon defeated No. 9 seed Sohyun Park of Korea 6-3, 6-2.

Top seed Coco Gauff defeated qualifier Fiona Crawley 6-0, 7-5 and will face Ana Geller of Argentina in the third round Thursday. Hina Inoue is the last qualifier remaining in the girls draw, with the 15-year-old defeating No. 14 seed Gabby Price 4-6, 6-4, 6-1. She will face No. 3 seed Diane Parry of France next.

No. 6 seed Lea Ma defeated Charlotte Owensby 7-5, 6-1 and will face Mara Guth of Germany in the third round. Guth defeated No. 12 seed Loudmilla Bencheikh of France 7-5, 5-7, 6-2.

Only two US boys, both in the bottom half, remain after Tuesday's second round of play: No. 8 seed Cannon Kingsley and unseeded Zane Khan. Kingsley beat Matheus Pucinelli de Almeida of Brazil 6-2, 7-6(2) and Khan defeated Mathys Erhard of France 6-3, 6-2.  Kingsley will play No. 10 seed Harold Mayot of France, with Khan taking on No. 14 seed Sergey Fomin of Uzbekistan. Kingsley defeated Mayot 6-1, 6-1 this spring in the semifinals of the Santa Croce Italy Grade 1 on clay.

No. 11 seed Govind Nanda lost to Filip Kolasinski of Poland 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 and No. 12 seed Eliot Spizzirri fell to Lodewijk Westrate of the Netherlands 6-4, 7-6(4).

No. 2 seed Filip Jianu of Romania retired trailing 6-4, 3-1 in the his match with qualifier Luciano Tacchi of Argentina. No. 5 seed Valentin Royer of France went out to Alejo Lingua Lavallen of Argentina  6-2, 6-7(3), 6-3.

Top seed Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria defeated Lilian Marmousez of France 7-5, 6-1.

The first round of doubles was completed this afternoon, and the No. 2 girls seeds, Lea Ma and China's Qinwen Zheng, lost to Navarro and Chloe Beck 6-2, 6-2.

In the 16s, the quarterfinals are scheduled for Thursday, with a rematch of the Eddie Herr girls 16s final on tap. No. 7 seed Elaine Chervinsky and No. 4 seed Madison Sieg, will play for the third time in two months, with Sieg hoping to break Chervinsky's current winning streak against her.

That is one of three all-US quarterfinals, with wild card Carson Tanguilig playing India Houghton and wild card Jaleesa Leslie facing Lara Schneider. Leslie defeated No. 2 seed Jada Bui of Canada 6-4, 6-3.

In fourth quarterfinal, in the top half, Fatma Idrizovic of Serbia will play No. 8 seed Yelizaveta Karlova of Kazakhstan.

Only three Americans remain in the boys 16s singles, with No. 12 seed Aidan Mayo taking on No. 2 seed Alexander Bernard in one quarterfinal.  Top seed Dali Blanch will face No. 8 seed Lorenzo Claverie of Venezuela.

The 16s doubles semifinals are Thursday, with boys top seeds Blanch and Canada's Marko Stakusic facing No. 3 seeds Angel Guerrero Melgar and Pablo Llamas Ruiz of Spain. Unseeded Bohua Dong and Haoyuan Huang of China will play No. 8 seeds Alan Kam and Diego Navarro of Mexico.

The girls doubles semifinals will feature four American teams. Ava Catanzarite and Allie Gretkowski will play No. 8 seeds Lauren Stein and Leyden Games, while unseeded Tanguilig and Elise Wagle will face unseeded Ava Krug and Sophie Williams.

The draws, order of play and live scoring can be found at the tournament website.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Qualifiers Shine as ITF Grade A Orange Bowl First Round Concludes; Top Seed Evans Falls in 16s Second Round

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Plantation, FL--

Qualifying is always a mixed blessing, with the advantage of having recent confidence-building wins counteracted by the reality that it will take six more to claim the title. The fatigue that will become more pronounced later in the week wasn't a factor yet for the five girls and two boys who added first round main draw victories Tuesday to their three qualifying wins at the ITF Grade A Orange Bowl.

Ali Despain, who hadn't played an ITF event since last year's Orange Bowl, was the 63rd alternate when she drove down from Hilton Head to try to get into the tournament last Friday.  She did get in, and after three qualifying wins over the weekend, played her first main draw Grade A Orange Bowl match today, beating Carol Young Suh Lee of Northern Mariana Islands 7-6(2), 6-2.

"I played 16s, but I lost last round of qualies last year in the 18s, so this is my first time in the main draw," said the 18-year-old Despain, who trains at the Smith Stearns Academy. "It was great. I definitely think I've improved a lot since last year and it's definitely been showing. Going through qualies is definitely a grind, winning three tough matches against good level players, then winning today was awesome. Hopefully I can keep it up, because I have a lot of momentum with all the matches before this one."

Despain said the qualifying wins helped sharpen her focus when it mattered.

"When you're playing big points, 40-30 points, deuce points, ad points, big moments, just trusting myself and stepping in," Despain said. "That's been a big thing for me. At this level, everyone's good, qualies, main draw, so you have to go for your shots and play your game, no matter what the score is. That's a big thing I learned going through qualifies."

Despain recently signed with Clemson, a decision that came easily for her.

"I'm really excited about that," said the Georgetown South Carolina native. "I just knew, from the moment that I stepped on campus that it was the right fit for me. [Clemson coaches] Nancy (Harris) and Darrell (Jernigan) are both such positive people and I know they'll bring out the best in me when I go there. It was a great decision for me, so I'm really excited."

Despain is joined in the second round by qualifiers Fiona Crawley, who beat Eddie Herr quarterfinalist Alice Tubello of France 6-3, 6-3; Jenna DeFalco, Hina Inoue and Abigail Forbes, who also qualified and won two rounds at the Eddie Herr last week.

The two qualifiers in the boys draw advancing to the second round are Neel Rajesh, who beat Natan Rodrigues of Brazil 6-3, 6-3, and Luciano  Tacchi of Argentina, who defeated fellow qualifier Filip Krolo of Germany 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

Tuesday wasn't a good day for the American Eddie Herr finalists, with No. 16 seed Emilio Nava losing to Mateus Alves of Brazil 7-5, 2-6, 6-3 and No. 7 seed Elli Mandlik falling to Helene Pellicano of Malta 6-3, 6-2.  Those were the only two seeds to lose in the 18s on Tuesday. Nava had beaten Alves in the Eddie Herr quarterfinals after trailing 4-2 in the third set.

Eddie Herr champion and No. 2 seed Qinwen Zheng of China was playing the last singles match of the day when lightning suspended play. Only a few drops of rain fell from the storm, but it proved difficult timing for Zheng, who led wild card Elvina Kalieva 6-0 when played was stopped. When play resumed, Zheng lost four straight games, but managed to find her form after that, winning the final six games for a 6-0, 6-4 victory.

The top half of the 18s doubles draws played first round matches today, with all four seeds in both the boys and girls draws advancing to the second round.

The second round of 16s produced one major surprise, with top girls seed Kailey Evans falling to Fatma Idrizovic of Serbia 0-6, 6-3, 6-2. No. 2 seed Jada Bui of Canada also had a tough match, but she came through with a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 win over Jordyn McBride.

Boys 16s top seed Dali Blanch defeated wild card Gabrielius Guzauskas 6-3, 6-4 and No. 2 seed Alex Bernard beat wild card Evan Wen 6-3, 6-1.

The 16s doubles quarterfinals are set for Wednesday, but the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the girls draw lost today, with Tomi Main and McBride beating No. 1 seeds Elaine Chervinsky and Madison Sieg 6-4, 6-2 and Ava Krug and Sophie Williams beating No. 2 seeds Bui and Rachel Gailis 6-2, 6-4.

Complete draws and Wednesday's order of play can be found at the tournament website.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Khan Beats No. 4 Seed, Top Seeds Gauff and Andreev Advance as Heat Disrupts First Day at ITF Grade A Orange Bowl

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Plantation, FL--

Monday's opening day of play for the 18s at the ITF Grade A Orange Bowl had an unexpected delay, with matches halted for extreme heat at around 12:30 p.m. at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center, and restarted two hours later, when the humidity had begun to drop.

The temperature was listed at 88, with a "feels like" of 94, but the measurement that is used by tournament officials is more nuanced than that, and the heat index temperature exceeded the required 104 degrees when the decision was made to suspend play. Few players, spectators or college coaches felt conditions warranted a suspension, but the ITF rule, new for 2018, required it.  My Tennis Recruiting Network interview with USTA tournament director Lew Brewer on this new rule, written shortly after the US Open Junior Championships were affected by it in September, explains the process in more detail.

Top seeds Coco Gauff of the US and Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria made it through in straight sets, although Andreev was close to going three, beating Chris Rodesch of Luxembourg 6-4, 7-6(9).  Gauff, who pulled out of the Eddie Herr after winning the doubles title with Hurricane Tyra Black at the Grade in Yucatan two weeks ago, defeated Diana Khodan of Ukraine 6-1, 6-2 in a late afternoon match on Stadium court.

Of the 10 boys seeds playing first round matches Monday, eight won, with No. 9 seed Tyler Zink falling to Andrew Paulson of the Czech Republic 7-6(4), 6-1 and No. 4 seed Deney Wassermann of the Netherlands losing to wild card Zane Khan 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3.

Khan, who reached the quarterfinals of last week's Eddie Herr Grade 1 before retiring with a right shoulder injury, said he was close to withdrawing before the start of today's match.

"I hurt my shoulder warming up in the quarterfinals last week," said the Kalamazoo Nationals 16s finalist. "I was hitting serves and I started to feel so much pain. Since Eddie Herr, I was completely off, I didn't practice at all, and I was really close to retiring before this match. I still felt pain in my shoulder, on hitting serves again and on my forehand and backhand. Tomorrow's a day off, so I'll try to rest, ice, go to the trainer again."

Khan had never played Wassermann before, but the powerfully built right-hander with a one-handed backhand is an intimidating presence on the court.

"I saw him play a little at the US Open, so I knew he was really tall, and played really aggressive," Khan said. "I knew it was going to be tough."

Khan did his best to attack the one-handed backhand on the occasions when he had control of the point.

"Once I got into the match, I felt his backhand was pretty erratic," Khan said. "He would hit a winner, or he was going to miss after a few balls. So I tried my hardest to get every ball back, especially on his service games, try to chunk it up, lob, try to get in the points, and it paid off in the third set in that one break."

Khan double faulted twice serving for the match at 5-3, but down 15-30, he came up with an ace for 30-all. Wassermann shanked a forehand return on the next point, and Khan closed out the win with a good first serve.

"I'm happy with the way I'm playing," Khan said. After dealing with blisters on his feet that inhibited his movement, Khan said he has learned how to deal with that problem now, including orthotics and a taping regimen. "The main thing is I'm able to start moving now, so that's helped out a lot. I've learned how to take care of it now, after Kalamazoo."

Three of the nine girls seeds in action Monday were defeated. No. 16 seed Natsumi Kawaguchi of Japan lost to wild card Emma Jackson 7-6(5), 6-2; No. 15 seed Yasmine Mansouri of France was beaten by wild card Robin Montgomery 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-2; and No. 13 seed Chloe Beck lost to Caijsa Hennemann of Sweden 6-1, 6-3.

Thirty-six of the 64 first round 18s singles matches were played Monday, with 28 more on Tuesday's schedule.

The first round of singles and doubles in the 16s division were completed today, with the top 8 girls seeds all advancing to the second round.  The boys field has lost three of its top 8 seeds, with No. 5 seed Max McKennon, No. 6 seed Juan Dominguez Collado of Guatemala and No. 7 seed Spencer Brachman out in the first round.  Top seed Dali Blanch won his opener in straight sets today. Yesterday, girls top seed Kailey Evans beat Karina Miller 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.

Tuesday's action begins at 8 a.m. with the second round of 16s singles, followed by the remaining first round 18s singles matches. The first round of 18s doubles will be played, with Gauff and Black the No. 1 seeds in the girls draw and Andreev and Anton Matusevich of Great Britain the No. 1 seeds in the boys draw.  The second round of 16s doubles is also scheduled for Tuesday.

For the draws and order of play, see the tournament website. Live scoring is available here.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Mejia and Zheng Earn Eddie Herr International ITF Grade 1 Titles; USA Team Reclaims Master'U Title; Andreev and Gauff Top Seeds as Orange Bowl Begins Monday

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Bradenton FL--

In 2014, Nicolas Mejia won the Eddie Herr International Championships 14s title, the most significant accomplishment of his budding junior career. On Sunday, the 18-year-old Colombian closed out his junior career with the Eddie Herr ITF title, defeating No. 16 seed Emilio Nava of the United States 6-2, 6-4 on a warm and breezy afternoon at the IMG Academy.

Mejia gave an emotional speech after the match, thanking all those at the IMG Academy who have helped him in the years he has lived and trained there. But as happy as he was to have bookended his career with Eddie Herr titles, he missed sharing the second one with his father, who died early last year.

"Four years ago I won it here and my dad was really happy," Mejia said. "He's not here with me anymore; I just get used to it, but it hurts. But I was just happy I was able to play in my home in IMG, and being able to win the tournament means a lot to me."

Meija, seeded No. 2, started both sets with a break of serve, so Nava was always in the position of needing to come up with winners, a tricky position with the gusty winds that strengthened during the afternoon.

"He has a really big game and in these conditions, it's really tough to play that kind of game," Mejia said. "It was really windy and the conditions didn't really favor him at all. They were not helping him, but I don't think he played his best either. He played better during the week, but I can't control that. The conditions, they worked a little bit better on my side than on his side."

Nava agreed, yet didn't feel the wind was the whole story.

"My ball, the wind slows it down a lot, and I don't really like that, plus the clay, but no, it's definitely been tough the last couple of days, and that's tennis, you know?"

Nava said Mejia's all-around game and impressive defense contributed to his subpar performance.

"He's a great player and he makes every ball in, makes you play two more, not even one more," said the Los Angeles resident, who was celebrating his 17th birthday in the Eddie Herr final. "I started rushing a bit, I felt I had to work for every point, make winners on every point, because he wasn't going to miss a shot. I was kind of doubting a bit, but I still wanted to compete, of course. I didn't really step up to the occasion for sure."

After going down a break to open the second set, Nava broke right back, and he could envision another comeback, having dropped the first set in both the quarterfinals and semifinals on Friday and Saturday. But Mejia kept the pressure on in Nava's service games, earning at least one break point in the fifth and seventh games, then breaking Nava at love at 4-4.

"He's a good returner, doesn't miss one, makes you play every single one," Nava said. "[My service games] were pretty tough, I had to fight for every one."

Mejia had to save two break points in the final game of the match, with two big serves and a drop shot winner earning him a first match point. He hit another big serve that was called out by the sideline umpire, but the chair quickly moved to check the mark, and before he could get there, Nava conceded the ace and the match.

After playing four weeks in a row, winning a Futures tournament in the first week and the Eddie Herr in the fourth week, Mejia doesn't regret his failure to enter the Orange Bowl quite as much as he might have.

"Honestly, I didn't sign up and the plan was I was supposed to play [Orange Bowl], but all these four weeks, I've won like 15, 16 matches and I don't remember the last time I did that," Meija said. "I'm tired because I've played a lot of matches and that means I've won a good amount of matches, but I'm hurt a little bit in my back and my Achilles tendon, but I take it as it is now. I won this last junior tournament so I'm very happy and I look forward to whatever's coming."

Nava is moving on to the Orange Bowl in Plantation next week, with his expectations high.

"I'm pretty confident for sure," said Nava, who is coached by his mother Xochitl. "And physically, I feel fine, prepared for this, but it is awfully tough on the body, so I'm just going to go out there and compete."

The girls final was a three-hour marathon, with No. 2 seed Qinwen Zheng of China defeating No. 5 seed Elli Mandlik of the United States 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-2.

Zheng, known as Ana to her English-speaking colleagues, came into the tournament lacking in confidence and reluctant to play the event after losing in the first round of the Grade 1 in Campeche and the second round of the Grade A in Yucatan.

"After I lose second round at Grade A, I don't want to play Eddie Herr, because I lose all my confidence then," said the 16-year-old, who is a client at IMG and will remain at the Academy for off-season training. "My agent from IMG and my team from ITF and my mom, they said, you can do it, keep going, you are a really good player."

Zheng said her own low expectations helped her in the her opening match with USTA Girls 18s Clay Court champion Emma Navarro, a 6-1, 6-0 display of high-level tennis.

"I think, just relax, because you're already so bad, it can't be more worse," Zheng said. "The first match make me so surprised, and the second match, I thought maybe I can do something better. I lose first set, but I fight and I continue and then before the final, all the matches are easy."

Zheng brought something of the same attitude to bear in the final, when she led 5-2 in the tiebreaker, but saw Mandlik streak by her with five straight points, that results a combination of Zheng errors and Mandlik winners.

"After the first set, I think both of us are tired," Zheng said of the 87-minute set. "We started to miss much more than the first set and the rhythm started to go down. But after the first set, I can be more relaxed, because I lose already. So I need to focus and I need to fight much more than her."

Zheng went up 4-1 in the second set, served for it at 5-3, and didn't get to set point, but Mandlik couldn't quite pull even. She was broken at love with Zheng hitting a deft drop shot winner on her first set point, a shot that betrayed no fatigue or doubt.

The third set began with four consecutive breaks of serve, with Zheng getting the first hold and taking the final four games of the match from the tiring Mandlik.

"I couldn't even sit down on the last changeover, my leg would have gave out," said the 17-year-old daughter of Hana Mandlikova, who is coached by Gabriel Trifu. "So I just stood up and went back to the next game. Usually when I get tired, my left leg gives out, and I don't really know why."

Mandlik was expecting the big-hitting Zheng to dictate the points in today's first meeting between the two, but said she was able to hold her own until she tired late in the match.

"I expected harder from her," said Mandlik, who is not going to college, but is concentrating instead on a pro tennis career. "I was at most of the balls, but when it got to the third set, I couldn't get to them anymore, so that's how she took over."

Although Mandlik's fatigue played a role in the third set, Zheng said that was not the only factor in her ability to win the final four games.

"It's about mental," said Zheng. "It's not about tactics or technique anymore. It's about who can fight more to get this match. I knew I can beat her, and it's really good for me, this win."

Both Zheng and Mandlik are heading to the Orange Bowl to close out the year, with Zheng the No. 2 seed and Mandlik seeded No. 7.

The Master'U BNP Paribas International Collegiate event in Grenoble France concluded today, with the team from the United States reclaiming the title with a 4-1 win over Great Britain. Last year the United States lost in the final to Great Britain, but avenged that loss this year, claiming its eighth title in ten years.  The members of the US team are Brandon Holt(USC), Oliver Crawford(Florida), Emil Reinberg(Georgia), Ashley Lahey(Pepperdine), Maria Mateas(Duke) and Jada Hart(UCLA).  Mateas and Hart saved four match points in the first doubles match to clinch the victory, after Lahey, Holt and Crawford had won singles matches.  Greg Patton and Cal's Amanda Augustus were the coaches for the team.  For more on the final, see the Master'U website.  Greg Patton's blog from the event can be found here.

The Orange Bowl main draw is already underway with matches in the 16s division today, and the 18s begin play on Monday at the Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation Florida.  Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria is the top seed in the boys draw, with Coco Gauff the No. 1 seed in the girls draw.

Qualifying was completed today with six US girls and two US boys reaching the main draw: Fiona Crawley(last year's 16s finalist), Ali Despain, Jaedan Brown, Jenna DeFalco, Hina Inoue, Abigail Forbes, Mark Mandlik and Neel Rajesh.  Alexis Blohkin received entry as a lucky loser.

I will be on site in Plantation Monday afternoon and throughout the week. The draws and order of play can be found at the tournament website. Live scoring is also available here.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Nava and Mejia Meet for Eddie Herr ITF Boys Title, Mandlik and Zheng Vie for Girls Championship; Dussault and Chervinsky Capture 12s and 16s Titles

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Bradenton, FL--

Emilio Nava and Elli Mandlik earned spots in Sunday's Eddie Herr International ITF Grade 1 Championships finals, with Nava earning a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over qualifier Matheus Pucinelli de Almeida of Brazil and Mandlik claiming a 6-2, 7-5 decision from Kamilla Bartone of Latvia on a warm and breezy day at the IMG Academy.

The fifth-seeded Mandlik, who won the last junior tournament she played, the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed back in October, admitted her confidence is growing with every win.

"I didn't expect this at all, not at all," said the 17-year-old from Delray Beach Florida. "Before Charlotte[site of the Pan Am Closed], it wasn't that great of results, then Charlotte and now this, so I'm pretty confident."

Against Bartone, who had beaten top seed Alexa Noel in the quarterfinals, Mandlik wasn't able to run down all the No. 6 seed's drop shots early, but Bartone quit going to that shot once Mandlik began to expect it.

"In the first set, she got me on like probably ten drop shots," Mandlik said. "Then I finally got the hang of it, saw her doing it, and I just ran. Then she quit doing it, just started hitting the ball."

Mandlik served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, and let two match points slip away, but she didn't get down mentally.

"I kind of choked a bit, but I got through it," Mandlik said. "It's semifinals, so I got a little nervous, but it was good. I knew that I could break on return and go back on serve and win."

Down 0-30 in that game, Mandlik was facing the prospect of a second set tiebreaker, but she put together four good points to close it out on match point number three.

Mandlik will play No. 2 seed Qinwen Zheng of China, who advanced to the final when No. 16 seed Georgia Drummy of Ireland retired down 4-1 in the first set. Drummy tweaked her back after her quarterfinal win on Friday.

"I've seen her, and I know she's really powerful," Mandlik said of Zheng. "I've never played her. It will be completely different from today. I'll have to hold her power more, rather than running, like today."

For the second day in a row, Nava dropped the first set, but he was not on the edge of defeat against Pucinelli as he had been against another Brazilian, Mateus Alves, in the quarterfinals.

"He's a great player, great backhand, but I was rushing myself a little bit, in the first set," said Nava, who is hoping for a title as a 17th birthday present on Sunday. "In the second set, I just kind of relaxed, stayed calm and did the same in the third set."

Nava wasn't aware that Pucinelli had come through qualifying, playing eight matches in the past eight days, but understood how that could have taken its toll.

"That's tough for sure," said Nava. "It definitely got to him for sure. It gets pretty tough after four matches."

Nava will face No. 2 seed Nico Mejia of Colombia, who defeated No. 3 seed Filip Jianu 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, with Jianu cramping late in the third set.

"He was cramping at the end, but the first set was extremely tough," said the 18-year-old, who trains with Jianu at the IMG Academy. "I knew it was going a very physical match. We played in January or February and it was also very tough. But these conditions were way slower than there, and conditions were very tough today, extremely windy, it was not easy to serve but I am really glad I was able to get the win."

Mejia, who has played four weeks in a row, with the result in the first of those weeks a title at the Niceville Florida Futures, did not feel any fatigue as the match went on.

"I kept my energy high and physically I think I was really stable," said Mejia, who hadn't lost a set in the tournament until today. "He struggled a little bit at the end of the set with some cramps and that was a bit of a shame, but I would have loved to continue to play how we were playing the first set, but it is what it is."

Mejia will not be playing the Orange Bowl, having forgotten to sign up, so Sunday's final will mark the end of his junior career. He hopes to add a second Eddie Herr title to the 14s championship he won in 2014.

"It's really exciting. I was here four years ago in the 14s, and I'm really happy I can be in another Eddie Herr final in my last junior tournament," Mejia said.

Nava hasn't play Mejia in singles, but is familiar with his game, and knows the other IMG players on site will be cheering on Mejia in the final.

"It's going to be a great match," Nava said. "He's a great player, really consistent, great serve, great returns, just great overall. It's going to be a tough atmosphere to play in, but I'm always looking for a challenge. I love these situations. I've got some good adrenaline, I guess you could say."

The Sunday schedule begins at 9 a.m. with the girls final, followed by the boys final.

Regardless of the outcome in Sunday's singles final, Mandlik has already claimed one Eddie Herr ITF title, winning the girls doubles with Anna Hertel of Poland.  The unseeded pair, playing together for the first time, defeated unseeded Kacie Harvey and Natasha Subhash 6-4, 6-3 in the final.

Mandlik said she knew Hertel from previous tournaments, saying "we were kind of friends, but not really," but Hertel didn't hesitate when she received Mandlik's text asking her to play at the Eddie Herr. "It was easy."

Mandlik said she did not expect to win the tournament, at least prior to seeing the draw, while Hertel said she could envision it, "a little bit."

Although they were taken to a match tiebreaker twice during the tournament, including yesterday's semifinal, Hertel said their games meshed very quickly.

"We are a team on the court, and we feel each other," Hertel.

Hertel also had a prediction for the girls singles final Sunday. "She's going to kill it," Hertel said. "Obviously."

Mandlik and Hertel will not be playing the Orange Bowl as a team, with other partners already having been arranged.

The boys doubles title went to unseeded Roko Horvat and Admir Kalender of Croatia, who saved four match points in a 1-6, 7-5, 10-5 win over No. 8 seed Shunsuke Mitsui of Japan and Taha Baadi of Canada.

Down 6-1, 5-4, 40-0, Horvat and Kalender saved three match points, then took the deciding point when Mitsui missed a routine overhead three feet beyond the baseline. Horvat and Kalender could not help but laugh at their good fortune in that game, and relaxed and re-energized, took control of the match after that.

"To be honest, we started really bad," Kalender said. "It was windy so much, we didn't find our games and we were a little bit nervous; we wanted to win. I don't know, one point changed everything, then we started to fight more and more, to be more motivated. We were a little bit lucky then, and we won."

Kalender and Horvat are close friends and have played doubles together throughout this fall swing in North America, but their friendship is not tied to their results on the court.

"Our friendship will keep at the same level, even if we didn't win today, I think it would be pretty much the same," Horvat.

"Unfortunately two weeks ago [at the Campeche Grade 1] we had three match points in the final and we lost," Kalender said. "So this time we save four match points," said Horvat.

The pair, both 17, will go for their second title as a team at the Orange Bowl.

The finals in the younger age division were all played at 9 a.m. Saturday, with Maximus Dussault claiming the boys 12s title and Elaine Chervinsky capturing the girls 16s title in all-American finals.
Dussault, the No. 6 seed, came back to defeat No. 5 seed Quang Duong 1-6, 7-5, 10-6.

The 11-year-old left-hander won five of his six matches this week in match tiebreakers, so today's high pressure final set was nothing new for him.

"The first set I felt I was rushing a little bit too much and he was also making more balls," said Dussault, who trains with Gabe Jaramillo at the Club Med Academies at Sandpiper Bay. "I raised the level in the second set; it was a really good match. He played very well, and so did I."

After beating top seed and overwhelming pre-tournament favorite Rudy Quan, who won all four USTA National Level 1 12s singles titles this year, in Friday's semifinals, Dussault might have been satisfied with his tournament, but he said that's not how he thinks.

"I just think about the next point, the next match," said Dussault, who had an enthusiastic cheering section on Court 1, including his mother, father, grandparents, siblings, friends and coaches. "They are amazing."

Dussault comes to the net often, a game style that he said is second nature for him.

"I like to use my hands, and I like to be the one controlling the point, not being on defense," Dussault said. "I have a way larger percentage of winning the point; that's just naturally my game."

Duong, who travelled from Manhattan Beach California to play this event and the Junior Orange Bowl, was not happy with his performance in the second set.

"I kept pushing the ball, not attacking it as much as usual, like in the first set," Duong said. "He also played even better in the second set, started to be more consistent and stuff."
No. 2 seed Chervinsky defeated top seed Madison Sieg 6-2, 7-6(6), a match that was difficult for both as they are good friends who train together at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton.

"It was really difficult, she's my best friend," said Chervinsky, 15. "We've played each other a couple of times before but this was one of the hardest times, our first time in a final. It was a pretty big deal."

Chervinsky said the nearly two-and-a-half hour match was grueling for two reasons.

"It was physically and mentally hard," Chervinsky said. "I think we are both mentally exhausted, especially in the second set. We both got nervous a lot and we both played really well at times, it was just my day."

Sieg looked as if she was going to force a third set when she went up 3-0 in the tiebreaker, but Chervinsky won the next six points, only to see Sieg save three consecutive match points.

"When I was down 3-0 it was just like, ok, just play, it's fine," Chervinsky said. "Up 6-3, I think I got caught up in the moment, thinking that ok, this is my chance to win. I just needed to calm down and when I got up 7-6 I was pretty calm."

Chervinsky, who had double faulted on her first match point, got a first serve in on her fourth and when Sieg's forehand return found the net, she had her title, although without much celebration. The pair embraced and the net, and both were subdued when talking about the match a few minutes later.

"It's always hard playing one my friends," the 15-year-old Sieg said, who lost to Chervinsky in the third round of the Pan American Closed in October. "She is a really aggressive player, which is sometimes hard for me, but it was a great opportunity and it was really nice that both people from Evert were in the final."

Both Chervinsky and Sieg and scheduled to begin play at the Orange Bowl 16s on Monday.
Unseeded Haoyuan Huang won the boys 16s title, beating unseeded Jacobi Bain of the Bahamas 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

"He plays so intense, I just had to play with a lot of focus," the 16-year-old Huang said of the big 15-year-old left-hander. "I had to get used to his shots, but I wasn't nervous. I don't think of it as a big final. It's just a match, I don't try to think oh, it's a huge tournament and then I'd get nervous for sure. I just focus on every point."

Huang, who spent four years in the United States until eighth grade and was showing as being from the USA in the draws, is actually back living in China again, although he remains interested in playing college tennis in the United States.

"I'm not completely going professional or something," said Huang, who was known as Tony when he lived in the US. "I want to leave a way for college."
The boys 14s title went to No. 7 seed Togan Tokac of Turkey, who defeated No. 2 seed Fnu Nidunjianzan 6-2, 6-2.

The girls 14s champion is last year's girls 12s champion: 11-year-old Brenda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic.

Fruhvirtova, the No. 5 seed, defeated No. 6 seed Clervie Ngounoue 6-2, 6-4, having also beaten Ngounoue last year in the quarterfinals of the 12s.

"I played my game," said Fruhvirtova, who joins Russia's Anastasia Potapova and Great Britain's Laura Robson as girls who won the 12s and 14s titles back to back. "And I think she played the best she could do. But I played better than her. I did less mistakes than her, and I ran better than her and I played smarter I think."

Fruhvirtova is hoping for a wild card into Les Petits As in January, but is not sure whether she will return next year to try for a third straight Eddie Herr title in the 16s. "I don't know, probably, but I'm not sure, it's hard to say."

The girls 12s champion is unseeded Alexandra Azarko of Belarus, who defeated No. 14 seed Sasha Situe of New Zealand 7-6(3), 6-4. Azarko trains at recently retired Max Mirnyi's club in Belarus, and Mirnyi could be seen observing her matches during the week.

Below are the results of the doubles finals, with photos of the winning teams. For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

B12s: Quang Duong and Thomas Faurel[3](USA) d. Fadi Bidan(LBN) and Jinpeng Tang[4](CHN) 6-2, 7-5

B14s: Aidan Kim and James Rico[8](USA) d. Gonzalo Bueno Rodriguez(PER) and Nicolas Nino(COL)[7] 7-5, 6-4

B16s: Hugo Hashimoto and Benjamin Kittay[6](USA) d. Jack Anthrop and Max Fardanesh[2](USA) 3-6, 7-6(2), 10-8

G12s: Brooklyn Olson and Natalia Perez[1](USA) d. Sarah L'Allier(CAN) and Mia Slama(USA)[3] 6-1, 6-2

G14s: Melisa Ercan and Ozlem Uslu[1](TUR) d. Katerina Dimitrova(BUL) and Angella Okutdyi[2](KEN) 3-6, 6-2, 10-5

G16s: Allie Gretkowski and Lara Schneider[2](USA) d. Mary Grace Armistead and DJ Bennett[6](USA) 6-1, 6-1