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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.