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Thursday, December 7, 2023

Eddie Herr 12s, 14s, 16s Recap; Roh Ousts No. 2 Seed Prado Angelo to Reach Orange Bowl J500 Quarterfinals; US Girl Guaranteed to Reach Final; 16s Semifinals, Doubles Finals Friday

©Colette Lewis--
Plantation FL--

Before the Orange Bowl moves into the weekend's last few matches, check out what happened last week in the 12s, 14s, and 16s divisions at the Eddie Herr in my Tennis Recruiting Network recap posted today. Michael Antonius and Kristina Penickova of the United States made history with their second Eddie Herr titles, and Americans Caroline Shao and Jack Secord also claimed titles at the IMG Academy. My review of the Eddie Herr ITF J300 will be posted Friday.

The debate on red clay versus green clay, the latter the surface of the Orange Bowl the past 13 years at the Veltri Tennis Center, isn't likely to end, but Hoyoung Roh of Korea showed Thursday that the surface a match is played on isn't always relevant. The 17-year-old from Korea played first strike tennis against No. 2 seed Juan Carlos Prado Angelo of Bolivia, the 2023 Roland Garros boys finalist, never backing down in his 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3 victory in the third round of the Orange Bowl J500.

Roh was certainly the underdog coming into the match, with his ITF junior ranking at 87, while Prado's is 10. Prado won his second $15,000 ITF men's World Tennis Tour tournament on Sunday on red clay in Bolivia, and is up to 609 in the ATP live rankings, but the 18-year-old was on his heels from the beginning and needed to take a tense tiebreaker to send the match to a third set.

Roh wasn't fazed when he didn't finish Prado off in two sets, holding and breaking to take a 2-0 lead in the third. Leading the entire third set, Roh just kept firing, resisting the tendency to protect his lead by playing more conservatively.

"I tried to be really aggressive from the baseline, tried to dictate on every ball," said Roh, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. "I thought it was going to be a really hard match, of course, didn't expect I'd win today's match, but my forehand was really working a lot. Fortunately I got a great result today, and I'm so happy about it."

Roh knew that keeping a positive frame was necessary, so when it came time to serve out the match at 5-3, he didn't mope even when two double faults--one at 30-0 and the second on his first match point at 40-15--betrayed his nervousness.

"I was kind of tight at 5-3, because it's the biggest win in my career," said Roh, who has reached one other J500 quarterfinal, in Offenbach Germany in April. "I'm kind of excited in the moment, so I think next time I need to calm down a little bit more in that moment."

If the second double fault bothered him, it didn't carry over to the next point, when he hit a huge first serve and a blistering forehand that landed on the line to earn the victory.

Roh will face fellow IMG student Danil Panarin of Russia, who defeated No. 10 seed Charlie Camus of Australia 6-4, 7-5.

Top seed Iliyan Radulov needed just 55 minutes to dispatch No. 15 seed Timofei Derepasko of Russia 6-0, 6-1 to set up a rematch of his Eddie Herr quarterfinal with Sebastian Eriksson of Sweden. Eriksson, the No. 7 seed, defeated Roger Pascual Ferra of Spain 6-2, 7-5 and will look to avenge his 6-3, 6-3 loss to Radulov last week in Bradenton.

Two American boys advanced to the quarterfinals, with No. 5 seed Alex Frusina defeating No. 11 seed Lasse Poertner of Germany 6-4, 6-4 and No. 9 seed Kaylan Bigun rolling past wild card Jack Secord 6-0, 6-0 in forty minutes.

Frusina plays unseeded Luca Preda of Romania, who beat Nikita Filin 6-0, 6-2, while Bigun takes on No. 3 seed Nicolai Budkov Kjaer of Norway, who advanced when No. 16 seed Charlie Robertson retired trailing 6-1.

An American girl will reach the final from the bottom half of the draw after six of them contested third round matches Thursday.

No. 6 seed Tyra Grant defeated No. 12 seed Elizara Yaneva of Bulgaria 6-2, 6-3 and will face 2022 Orange Bowl 16s champion Alexis Nguyen, who won the battle of the wild cards 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 over Elizabeth Inonescu. Nguyen was up 4-3 in the second set over the 15-year-old from Pennsylvania, who won the girls 18s USTA Indoor Championships two weeks ago, but lost her next two service games and the set.

Nguyen went up 4-0 in the third set, countering Ionescu's big forehand by staying in the long rallies and keeping the ball deep. Although Ionescu was vocally frustrated with her own level, she managed to get one of the breaks back when Nguyen served for the match at 5-2, with her backhand doing the damage. After an easy hold it was 5-4, but Nguyen didn't falter in her second opportunity, hitting a forehand winner for her first match point and converting it when Ionescu's forehand went long.

The second wild card in the quarterfinals is Akasha Urhobo, who has had played four tiebreakers and two matches over three hours to reach her first J500 quarterfinal. Today the 16-year-old from Fort Lauderdale took out Victoria Osuigwe 7-6(9), 5-7, 7-5 in three hours and 20 minutes, while her opponent in the quarterfinals, No. 2 seed Kaitlin Quevedo, needed only an hour and 22 minutes to defeated Rositsa Dencheva of Bulgaria 6-1, 6-2.

The only American in the top half of the girls draw is No. 4 seed Iva Jovic, who battled No. 16 seed Monika Stankiewicz of Poland for two hours before coming away with a 6-4, 6-4 victory. Stankiewicz, who had beaten Jovic in the first round of the Eddie Herr in 2022, played at a high level throughout the match, keeping her ball deep and her errors to a minimum. But when she let up just a bit, Jovic took advantage, and closed out both sets.

Jovic's opponent in the quarterfinals is qualifier Jeline Vandromme of Belgium who defeated No. 9 seed Iva Ivanova of Bulgaria 6-1, 6-1. Vandroome won the European 16s championships in September and the Tennis Europe 16s Masters last month. 

After her scare in the second round, top seed Laura Samsonova had no trouble in the round of 16, beating No. 13 seed Gloriana Nahum of Benin 6-0, 6-2. She'll face No. 5 seed Hannah Klugman of Great Britain, after the 14-year-old defeated No. 11 seed Alisa Oktiabreva of Russia 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 in just under three hours. Samsonova defeated Klugman in the quarterfinals of the 2023 US Open Junior Championships, with Klugman retiring trailing 6-0, 3-0.

Friday's boys doubles semifinals feature just one seeded team: No. 3 seeds Poertner and Budkov Kjaer, who defeated Maxwell Exsted and Cooper Woestendick 6-2, 6-4.  They will play Andrew Delgado and Matthew Forbes, who got a walkover from No. 5 seeds Camus and Robertson.

In the bottom half, Kalamazoo 18s champions and No. 2 seeds Adhithya Ganesan and Frusina lost to Eddie Herr finalists Roh and Atakan Karahan of Turkey 6-7(7), 6-1, 10-7. They will play Bernardo Munk Mesa of Spain and Panarin, who beat No. 8 seeds Keegan Rice of Canada and Bigun 6-3, 6-2.

Three of the teams in the girls doubles semifinals are seeded, with the exception Kaitlyn Rolls and Norway's Emily Sartz-Lunde. Rolls and Sartz-Lunde, who beat Valerie Glozman and Aspen Schuman 7-6(5), 7-6(2), will play top seeds Samsonova and Alena Kovackova, who saved two match points in the 6-3, 6-7(4), 11-9 win over Mia Yamakita and Urhobo.

Defending champions Jovic and Grant, the No. 3 seeds, beat Trinetra Vijayakumar and Sophia Webster 6-7(5), 6-2, 10-4. They will play No. 2 seeds Quevedo and Klugman, who defeated No. 7 seeds Wakana Sonobe of Japan and Tatum Evans 6-4, 6-4.

The singles semifinals of the 16s are also on Friday's schedule, along with the doubles finals. The results of today's quarterfinals:

Girls 16s:
Aoife Kuo(USA) d. Eva Oxford[13](USA) 7-5, 6-3 
Thea Frodin[3](USA) d. Nancy Lee[9](USA) 7-5, 6-3

Polina Sleptsova[6](KAZ) d. Avery Nguyen(USA) 6-4, 7-6(2)
Leena Friedman[2](USA) d. Sobee Oak(USA) 6-1, 7-6(4) 

Boys 16s:
Jack Satterfield(USA) d. Madhav Binu(USA) 6-1, 6-2
Ronit Karki[8](USA) d. Roshan Santhosh(USA) 6-3, 6-3

Gavin Goode(USA) d. Nicholas Patrick(USA) 6-3, 6-3
Dominick Mosejczuk[2](USA) d. Jon Gamble[11](USA) 6-4, 6-4

The girls doubles final will feature No. 3 seeds Aleksandra Kyselova of Ukraine and Zhang-Qian Wei of China against the unseeded American team of Anna Bennett and Emerey Gross. Kyselova and Wei defeated Berlie Simmering and Katie Spencer 6-0, 3-6, 10-4 in today's semifinals, while Bennett and Gross defeated Nola Jones and Calla McGill 6-3, 4-6, 10-4.

In the boys doubles final, 2023 14s Easter Bowl champions Ryan Cozad and Yannik Alvarez, the No. 5 seeds, will face No. 6 seeds Simon Caldwell and Zachary Cohen. Cozad and Alvarez defeated No. 8 seeds Mark Krupkin and Ilija Palavestra 6-4, 6-4; Caldwell and Cohen beat Nathan Germino and Jack Satterfield 7-5, 6-2.

See the ustaorangebowl.com website for draws and the order of play for Friday.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Reigning Orange Bowl 16s Champion Nguyen Continues Her Winning Streak, Beating J500 No. 3 Seed Kovackova; Top Seed in B18s Doubles Upset; 16s Quarterfinals Feature 15 Americans

©Colette Lewis 2023--
Plantation FL--

When Alexis Nguyen returned to the Frank Veltri Tennis Center for the first time since winning the 16s Orange Bowl title last year, the 16-year-old from Northern California was all smiles.

"I was excited and happy, all the emotions from the final came back," Nguyen said. "I love these courts, every single time I go here I play well, so hopefully, my first time playing 18s, I could do well here."

Nguyen picked up her first ITF J500 win Monday, beating Natalia Perez of Puerto Rico, nearly 600 points above her in the ITF Junior Circuit rankings, 6-2, 6-1. In her second round match Wednesday Nguyen faced an even more daunting challenge, facing No. 3 seed Alena Kovackova of the Czech Republic, No. 12 in the ITF world junior rankings.

"When I first came out, I thought she's the three seed, I've never seen her play before, and it was kind of cold too," Nguyen said.
"I didn't warm up right and I was kind in my own head."

That led to a quick 6-1 set for Kovackova, before Nguyen honed her tactics to emerge with a 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 victory.

"So after the first set, I said, my shots aren't doing anything to her, but unless I sit it, she can't really kill me off the court, she's more of a grinding player too," Nguyen said. "So I said I'm going to start being really physical and make her not want to play against me. If I'm going to go down, I'm going to go down swinging as hard as I can, fighting, making her play long points."

Nguyen went up 5-2 in the second set, but was unable to serve it out at 5-2 or 5-4. Rather than lament those lost chances, Nguyen focused on the next game, not the past one.

"I don't think I played a bad game, but on important points I got really nervous," Nguyen said. "But I tried to keep very positive. I'm like it's ok, you're 5-all, you've still got this. I don't think I was losing at all in the second set, so I said, you're still in a good position, stay physical. Just go after the ball, then breathe, and you'll be fine."

In the tiebreaker, the server took only two of the first nine points, but at 5-4, Nguyen held when Kovackova made a unforced error on the forehand side, making it 6-4. Nguyen converted her first set point with a good first serve, a rare short point that Nguyen welcomed but was not seeking.

"I was trying to get the points to be longer," Nguyen said. "I needed to move the ball, run her, and I had opportunities. I tried to stay physical, because when I was soft, I knew I was getting tight and that's when she would win it."

In the third set, Nguyen got a quick break to go up 5-3, and was determined not to make the same mistake she made in the second set. 

"The last set you didn't really close it out, so it's this point, right here," said Nguyen, who is coached by Nick Bezzubchenko and Joe Gilbert at the JMG Academy in Sacramento. "Every single point, whether I lost it or won it, I said, this point, go physical and I'm going to run her."

The strategy worked from 0-15, with two long rallies going to Nguyen, the second when Kovackova netted a drop shot attempt. Nguyen missed her first serve at 30-15, but Kovackova missed a forehand return on the second serve to give Nguyen two match points. She missed a forehand wide on the first, but converted the second when Kovackova's forehand landed just long, although Nguyen had to stop play and ask for the mark to be checked.

"I saw the ball land out, I looked at it and seeing he didn't call it out, so I stopped the point and I circled it," Nguyen said. "I felt like if I lose this one, it's going to be a little tight."

Nguyen is one of six American girls in the bottom half of the draw, and she'll play another wild card, recent 18s USTA Indoor champion Elizabeth Ionescu, who beat No. 15 seed Mika Buchnik of Israel 6-4, 6-4.

Nguyen's twin sister Avery is through to the quarterfinals of the girls 16s tournament, with Alexis saying they are drawing inspiration from each other this week.

"If anything, it kind of takes a little pressure off each other," said Alexis, who now has an eight-match winning streak in the Orange Bowl. "If one of us loses, all the pressure is on the other one to stay in tournament. We also feed off each other, 'you played good, I played good too, let's do it again tomorrow, we've got this.'"

Aside from Buchnik and Kovackova, the other girls seeds in action advanced although the top two seeds were definitely tested. No. 1 Laura Samsonova of the Czech Republic dropped the first set to Elena Bertea of Romania out on Court 10, but bounced back for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory. No. 2 seed Kaitlin Quevedo battled Krisha Mahendran of India for 93 minutes before taking the first set 7-6(4), then closed out the California resident 6-3 in the second set.

The boys lost two Top 8 seeds in Wednesday's second round, with Eddie Herr semifinalist Luca Preda of Romania beating No. 4 seed Rei Sakamoto 6-4, 6-3 and Danil Panarin of Russia defeating No. 6 seed Adhithya Ganesan 7-6(1), 6-4. Nikita Filin defeated No. 14 seed Viktor Frydrych of Great Britain 6-4, 1-6, 7-5.

There are four US boys in the round of 16: No. 5 seed Alex Frusina, Filin, No. 6 seed Kaylan Bigun and wild card Jack Secord. Secord, the 16s Eddie Herr champion, beat Jagger Leach 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 and will play Bigun on Thursday for a spot in the quarterfinals. 

Top seed Iliyan Radulov of Bulgaria and No. 2 seed Juan Carlos Prado Angelo of Bolivia lost just five games between them in their second round victories.

Radulov, the reigning Orange Bowl doubles champion, will not repeat, with he and partner Sakamoto, the top seeds, losing to Andrew Delgado and Matthew Forbes 6-7(8), 7-6(9), 10-3. No. 2 seeds and USTA National 18s champions Ganesan and Frusina won their second match in succession after dropping the first set, beating Lucca Guercio and Segundo Goity Zapico of Argentina 4-6, 6-1, 10-5.

Eddie Herr girls doubles champions Alisa Oktiabreva of Russia and Iva Ivanova of Bulgaria, the No. 4 seeds, lost to Kaitlyn Rolls and Norway's Emily Sartz-Lunde 6-3, 3-6, 13-11.

The quarterfinals in singles and the semifinals in doubles are on tap for Thursday in the 16s division, with 15 of the 16 singles quarterfinalists Americans.

16s Singles Quarterfinals:

Eva Oxford[13](USA) v Aoife Kuo(USA)
Thea Frodin[3](USA) v Nancy Lee[9](USA)
Polina Sleptsova[6](KAZ) v Avery Nguyen(USA)
Sobee Oak(USA) v Leena Friedman[2](USA)

Madhav Binu(USA) v Jack Satterfield(USA)
Roshan Santhosh(USA) v Ronit Karki[8](USA)
Gavin Goode(USA) v Nicholas Patrick(USA)
Jon Gamble[11](USA) v Dominick Mosejczuk[2](USA)

16s Doubles Semifinals:

Mark Krupkin and Ilija Palavestra[8](USA) v Yannik Alvarez(PUR and Ryan Cozad[5](USA)

Simon Caldwell and Zachary Cohen[6](USA) v Nathan Germino and Jack Satterfield(USA)

Berklie Simmering and Katie Spencer v Aleksandra Kyselova(UKR) and Zhang-Qian Wei[3](CHN)

Nola Jones and Calla McGill(USA) v Anna Bennett and Emerey Gross(USA)

Draws, order of play and links to live scoring can be found at ustaorangebowl.com.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

ITF J500 Orange Bowl Unkind to Eddie Herr ITF Finalists; Eddie Herr 16s Champion Secord Drops No. 8 Seed; Both 16s Top Seeds Fall in Second Round

©Colette Lewis 2023--
Plantation FL--

Three of the four Eddie Herr finalists made their way from the IMG Academy to the Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation after Sunday's finals in Bradenton, but their success last week did not extend to this week's ITF J500 Orange Bowl, with all suffering first round losses today.

Qualifier Trinetra Vijayakumar defeated Eddie Herr finalist Teodora Kostovic of Serbia, the No. 7 seed this week, 6-4, 2-1 with Kostovic retiring with a foot injury.

Eddie Herr finalist Theo Papamalamis couldn't summon his best tennis in his fourth consecutive week of tournament play, and wild card Noah Johnston took full advantage, earning a 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 victory over the 17-year-old from France.

Johnston is also playing his fourth tournament in succession, but had yet to post a win until today, while Papamalamis went 10-3 in the two J300 and the J500 that preceded the Orange Bowl.

Johnston built a two-break lead in the third set, but was well aware of Papamalamis's comeback credentials, having won from a set down twice to reach the Eddie Herr final.

"The hardest part of the match is finishing," said Johnston, a 16-year-old left-hander from South Carolina. "I knew he had a lot of comebacks, so I just tried to picture it at zero-zero and just kept going."

Serving at 1-5 in the third, Papamalamis was down three match points, but saved them all, including the third with a tricky stop volley. Johnston went up 40-15 serving for the match at 5-2, but again Papamalamis forced a deuce game, with a bullet of a backhand pass on match point No. 5.  But Johnston showed no frustration despite the missed opportunities and landed a forehand on the baseline to give himself match point No. 6. After seeing all of Papamalamis's creativity, Johnston displayed some of his own, hitting a perfect lob winner that Papamalamis could only track with the hope that it would go out. It did not, landing well inside the baseline, with a smiling Johnston celebrating his first singles win in the past four weeks.

"I wasn't counting," Johnston said of the number of match points that Papamalamis fought off. "I was trying to finish, but I didn't really think about the score, but just tried to get the job done in the fastest way possible, because I knew what he could do."

Part of that knowledge came from his hitting sessions with Papamalamis during this junior circuit swing.

"The last few tournaments we've gotten to know each other pretty well," Johnston said. "We've been hitting with each other, practicing with each other a lot. He's a really nice kid. Since those practices I had a little bit of a game plan, but it was still a battle to get through."

Johnston will face No. 15 seed Timofei Derepasko of Russia in Wednesday's second round.

Eddie Herr ITF champion Wakana Sonobe of Japan, seeded No. 8 this week, started her first round match with Nellie Taraba Wallberg by taking a hard-fought first set, but couldn't come up with the shots at big moments that had seen her through last week's title run, falling 5-7, 6-4, 7-6(5) to the 16-year-old from Sweden.

Sonobe fell behind 4-1 in the tiebreaker, but got the two minibreaks back and held for 4-all. But two shaky points gave Taraba Wallberg two match points, and she converted the first when Sonobe's forehand sailed long.

"I know she's a good player; I played her before and I lost," said Taraba Wallberg, who dropped a 6-3, 6-4 decision to Sonobe last month at the Junior Billie Jean King Cup competition in Spain. "I knew it would be a tough match."

Taraba Wallberg was up 5-3 in the third, but was able to halt the Sonobe comeback by holding easily to force the tiebreaker, which she was happy to win.

"I was really nervous, I was shaking, but I knew she felt the same, so I just tried to do my best," Taraba Wallberg said. "Everything and anything can happen in a tiebreaker, you never know, so I just fight for every point."

Taraba Wallberg's second round opponent will be wild card Akasha Urhobo. 

While the Eddie Herr ITF finalists and champion didn't fare well in their first round match, 16s champion Jack Secord picked up the biggest win of his ITF Junior Circuit career after switching surfaces, beating No. 8 seed Maxim Mrva of the Czech Republic 7-5, 6-4.

Mrva led his team to the Junior Davis Cup title last month in Spain, going undefeated during that ITF 16-and-under team competition, but he looked much less formidable in Tuesday's match, with his dubious shot selection and lack of commitment giving Secord opportunities.

"His engagement definitely goes in and out," the 15-year-old left-hander said of Mrva. "I was down a break most of the first set, but I stayed engaged and he lost it a little bit."

Secord, who had never played an ITF Junior Circuit match above the J200 level until today, had heard from a friend that Mrva's level and effort could fluctuate, so he was ready to accept any gifts that Mrva might give him.

Two of those came with Mrva serving at 4-5 in the second set. He double faulted at 30-all and then hit a drop shot early in the rally that went into the net, giving Secord the victory and a second meeting with fellow American Jagger Leach.

Unlike the ITF finalists, Secord played his Eddie Herr final on hard courts and, as a Chicago resident, doesn't have a lot of affinity for Har-Tru. 

"The draw didn't help me a lot, but I'm glad I could get my first big win," Secord said. "I was a little worried about that, green clay was not my favorite surface coming into this match, but it's definitely going up on my list."

Other notable matches today in boys draw saw top seed Iliyan Radulov of Bulgaria defeat lucky loser Santiago Padilla Cote of Mexico 6-3, 7-5, and No. 2 seed Juan Carlos Prado Angelo of Bolivia beat Luis Ferraz Sandoval Carvalho of Brazil 7-5, 6-3 despite being less than 48 hours removed from winning a $15K title in Bolivia.

No. 9 seed Kaylan Bigun won a three-hour and 29-minute first round match with Matthias Kask of Canada, saving five match points in his 7-6(5), 5-7, 7-6(3) win. After brushing aside the first match point at 15-40 with an overhead putaway, Bigun was facing another, which he miraculously saved with a desperation volley two feet from the net, which he hit while falling to court. The volley traveled over the net with so much spin that it bounced sideways when it landed on Kask's side, although Bigun still had to save three more match points before finally holding for 5-5. Bigun broke Kask to serve for the match, but played a shaky game to get broken, although he was the more solid player in the tiebreaker, avenging his loss to fellow left-hander Kask in the first round of the J500 two weeks ago in Merida Mexico.

In the first round of doubles, Jagger Leach and Nikita Filin added to the first round woes of Eddie Herr champions, beating No. 7 seeds Derepasko and Daniil Sarksian of Russia 7-5, 6-1, who took the title in Bradenton. All the seeded girls teams advanced to the second round, including Eddie Herr champions Alisa Oktibreva of Russia and Iva Ivanova of Bulgaria, the No. 4 seeds, who beat the wild card team of Alba Martinez and Athena Posas-Pacifico 6-2, 6-0.

The Orange Bowl 16s championships lost both their top seeds today in singles, with Madhav Binu of the United States defeating Kerem Yilmaz of Turkey 7-6(4), 6-4 and Nicole Weng of the United State beating Zhang-Qian Wei of China 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

The doubles quarterfinals in the 16s championships are Wednesday, with just one seeded girls team and four seed boys teams remaining. Results of all of today's matches and Wednesday's order of play can be found at https://www.ustaorangebowl.com/draws.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Top Girls Seeds Open with Victories at Orange Bowl ITF J500 in Plantation, Top Boys Seeds Debut Tuesday; Team USA WIns Fourth Straight Master’U BNP Paribas World University Championships

©Colette Lewis 2023--
Plantation FL--

The twenty Frank Veltri Tennis Center courts used for competition Monday at the 2023 Orange Bowl were lined with hundreds of college coaches looking for recruits or supporting those players who have already signed to join them next fall.

Keeping tabs on all the action was possible with the help of the live scoring, and with chair umpires on every court, the disputes were generally settled quickly. But with the quality of the fields and the warm and humid conditions, matches were lengthy, even for top players in the first round.

The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the girls draw played on the Veltri Center's two show courts this morning. Laura Samsonova of the Czech Republic, who won the Merida Mexico J500 two weeks ago and lost in the quarterfinals at last week's Eddie Herr, defeated wild card Monika Ekstrand 6-2, 6-2 to begin her third week of competition as the ITF Junior Circuit season draws to a close. 

No. 2 seed Kaitlin Quevedo, who lost to Samsonova in the Merida final but did not play the Eddie Herr, had a tough first round against Jana Hossam Salah of Egypt. Hossam Salah, who had taken Samsonova to three sets in the first round of the Eddie Herr, was matching Quevedo shot for shot in the second set, but serving at 4-5 30-all she blinked, with a double fault giving Quevedo a match point, which she converted after a long rally.

The boys top seeds had the day off, with No. 1 Iliyan Radulov of Bulgaria scheduled to play lucky loser Santiago Padilla Cote of Mexico Tuesday. Padilla received entry when Alexander Razeghi withdrew due to an ab injury.

No. 2 seed Juan Carlos Prado Angelo of Bolivia, the 2023 Roland Garros finalist, received a Tuesday start after he won the $15,000 tournament in Bolivia yesterday. But he signed in for doubles (which can be done by phone), so he is expected to make the trip to Plantation and will play Luis Ferraz Sandoval Carvalho of Brazil in the first round not before 11 a.m.

The only seeds to lose on Monday were boys No. 12 Roy Horovitz and girls No. 10 Luna Maria Cinalli of Argentina. Roger Pascual Ferra of Spain defeated Horovitz 6-2, 6-3 and Victoria Osuigwe beat Cinalli 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

Court 12 was the place to camp if you wanted long dramatic matches, with the three singles matches starting at 8 a.m. and finishing at 5:38 p.m. 

Girls 16s qualifier Maria Navarro defeated Alyson Shannon 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) in a first round match that clocked in at 2 hours and 53 minutes.

Maximo Zeitune of Argentina and wild card Calvin Baird then took the court, with Zeitune winning 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in 3 hours and 1 minute.

The last singles match of the day to go on court featured Gabia Paskauskas of Great Britain and Aspen Schuman, and when Paskauskas had a 6-4, 5-0 lead, it looked as if the string of long matches on Court 12 would end. But as the sun set and the coaches began to make their dinner plans, Schuman won seven straight games to force a third set.

Paskauskas, the sister of NC State freshman Kristina, served for the match at 5-0, 5-2, and 5-4, but couldn't close it out, as Schuman kept her errors to a minimum and the pressure began to take its toll with every lost game. At 5-4, Paskauskas double faulted three straight times to lose the game, then double faulted two more times to start her 5-6 service game, losing that game as well. 

But after a bathroom break, Paskauskas put that nightmare of a finish to the second set behind her, breaking Schuman to open the third set and getting a second break for a 4-1 lead. This time she didn't waver, holding for 5-1 and breaking Schuman to end the 2 hour and 59 minute match.

The first round of 16s doubles was played Monday afternoon and evening, with the second round of 16s singles and doubles and the first round of 18s doubles on Tuesday's schedule, as well as the completion of the first round of 18s singles.

Radulov and Japan's Rei Sakamoto are the top seeds in the boys 18s doubles, with the Czech team of Samsonova and Alena Kovackova, the Wimbledon champions, No. 1 in the girls doubles.

Links to the live scoring and live streaming, plus draws and the order of play can be found at ustaorangebowl.com.

Team USA won its fourth consecutive Master'U BNP Paribas title in France, with the team of Eliot Spizzirri(Texas), Murphy Cassone(Arizona State), Gavin Young(Michigan), Savannah Broadus(Pepperdine), Fiona Crawley(North Carolina) and Mary Stoiana(Texas A&M) beating Great Britain 4-0 in Sunday's final. 

For more on the final, see this article from the ITA website, which includes the news that former Boise State coach Greg Patton, who has captained the team for 12 years, is retiring.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Pacheco Mendez Ends Junior Career with Third Straight Title, Sonobe Wins all-IMG Academy Final at Eddie Herr ITF J300; Orange Bowl J500 Begins Monday with Radulov, Samsonova Top Seeds

©Colette Lewis 2023--
Bradenton Florida--

The ATP and WTA qualifying wild cards now attached to the boys and girls singles titles at the Eddie Herr ITF J300 may prove to be an important carrot for future entrants, but the first recipients, Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez and Wakana Sonobe, did not compete in this week's tournament with that incentive on their minds.

In fact Sonobe wasn't aware of the wild card until after she had claimed the girls title on a steamy Sunday morning at the IMG Academy's Har-Tru Stadium Court.

The left-hander from Japan, seeded No. 6, defeated fellow IMG student Teodora Kostovic of Serbia, the No. 5 seed, 6-3, 6-1, to earn her second J300 title. The final ended in bizarre fashion when Kostovic took a bathroom break after being broken serving at 1-2 in the second set; as she left the court she was informed she had only 25 seconds, the amount allotted between points.
Although the restrooms are nearby, Kostovic was gone long enough hand Sonobe her service game without hitting a serve, by virtue of a time violation for each additional 25-second increment Kostovic was absent from the court. Kostovic protested briefly when she returned to the news that she had lost four points and the game, making the score 4-1, but ITF Supervisor and tournament referee Scotty Moore explained that he had warned her when she left the court that the rules don't allow official toilet breaks unless they are between sets.

After that trip to the restroom, Kostovic won only one point before the end of the match, losing her service game at love with a flurry of errors that continued until Sonobe served for the match at 40-0. Kostovic stayed in the first match point long enough for Sonobe to miss a smash at the net, but lost the next point went her return went just wide, as confirmed by the chair umpire.

Kostovic is an emotional player who vocalizes often, whether in celebration or frustration, but Sonobe is not one to respond to the drama that frequently accompanies a Kostovic match.

"So I was focusing on fixing my strings, looking back at the fence, breathing," Sonobe said through her translator, Ryuji Hirooka, who works with the Japanese Foundation players training at the IMG Academy. "I was trying to control what I can control rather than the opponent, or outside."

Although Sonobe said she wasn't nervous to start the match, the level of the first few games was not what she had displayed in her wins over top seed Laura Samsonova in the quarterfinals and No. 4 seed Tyra Grant in the semifinals. 

"I was not playing my best tennis at the beginning, but I was able to find ways to win points and games, so that was good," said Sonobe, who turns 16 in January.

Unsurprisingly, Sonobe said she had never won a game without hitting a ball, but given that next week's Orange Bowl is her third consecutive tournament and she had several grueling matches this week, she's happy to have claimed the title in less than two hours.

As for the qualifying wild card at the WTA 500 in Abu Dhabi in February, Hirooka expects she'll take advantage of the opportunity to play her first WTA level match once they work out Sonobe's schedule for 2024. 

Kostovic was devastated after the loss, her first in her three ITF J300 finals, and the 16-year-old sobbed at her chair for several minutes after the match. She recovered after a few minutes away from the court and participated in the trophy ceremony, but was overcome with emotion several times during her speech and was unable to talk about the match afterwards. 

Kostovic, who is a member of the ITF Grand Slam Player Development Programme team, did provide me with written remarks a few hours later; it should be noted that she took a medical timeout after the first set, with the trainer attending to her left leg.

"Firstly, I want to express my gratitude to all of you who have been here supporting me throughout this incredible journey. Today didn't go the way I had hoped, and losing in the Eddie Herr final was undoubtedly tough for me. Physically, I couldn't give my absolute best, and my opponent capitalized on that.

"But in defeat, there's a valuable lesson. I've learned so much from this experience, and I'll carry those lessons into the next final. I know now what I can do better, how I can improve, and I am determined to make those adjustments."

Kostovic is also expecting to play the Orange Bowl next week; Eddie Herr finalists always receive Tuesday starts in Plantation.

Top seed Pacheco Mendez of Mexico ended his historic junior career with a third consecutive title, beating unseeded Theo Papamalamis of France 6-2, 6-3 Sunday afternoon. 

Pacheco, who in May became the first player from Mexico to be ranked No. 1, had hoped to finish the year as the ITF World Junior Champion, but he didn't collect the doubles titles he needed at the last two events, in addition to the three singles titles he did claim. With the 2022 Orange Bowl finalist not defending his 350 points next week, he will fall 50 points short of Joao Fonseca of Brazil, but he was happy to finish his junior career on the high note of a 17-match winning streak.

"It was a really good ending for a junior career," said the 18-year-old left-hander, who has a commitment for an exhibition late next week in Mexico. "I would love to play the Orange Bowl, to keep playing like this, to keep winning, but everything is planned from a long time ago, so if I cancel now it would be tough for them and tough for me. I would love to be No. 1, I think I'm playing the way to be No. 1, but I'm not complaining about anything, I'll just keep working."

Papamalamis would not dispute Pacheco's claim to No. 1, having lost to him twice in the past two weeks.

"He's just not missing any ball," said the 17-year-old, who has reached his goal for participating in these North American tournaments of a main draw spot in the Australian Open Junior Championships. "Forehand, he goes with power, with a lot of lift, high on my backhand, so it's very difficult. He serves good, he doesn't miss any balls, he's just too good."

Papamalamis, who beat three Top 8 seeds this week, provided the crowd of 100 or so spectators watching from the shady side of the Stadium Court with plenty of entertainment with his variety and creativity on offense and his speed on defense. He found some success early in the match by bringing Pacheco to the net, but the effectiveness of that strategy declined as the match wore on.

"It was working very well, but in the end, he knew I was going to do that, so it was more easy for him," said Papamalamis, who has official visits to Texas A&M and South Carolina scheduled after the Orange Bowl. "I tried to make the points shorter. In Zapopan(a semifinal loss), I tried to do the same, but it doesn't work."

Pacheco acknowledged that Papamalamis had the skills to make that strategy effective, at least in the short term.

"He won most of those points, because from the baseline, I think I am much better," said Pacheco, who played Davis Cup for Mexico in their September World Group II tie with China. "So he tried to do something different. He had really good volleys, good drop shots, he's pretty fast, but it's pretty tough to play like this all the match."

Papamalamis, who held serve only once in the first set, got off to a better start in the second set, winning his first three service games, saving two break points to take a 3-2 lead. But Pacheco dialed up his A game, winning 16 of the last 17 points to close out his junior career with his 15th ITF Junior Circuit singles title.


Pacheco wasn't aware of the ATP Hong Kong 250 qualifying wild card until this week, and he has already competed in two ATP main draws this year in Mexico, but he is considering making the trip to Hong Kong in four weeks.

"It's really exciting, it's good for play and it's a good opportunity," said Pacheco, who is the first Eddie Herr ITF champion from Mexico since Bruno Echagaray in 2001. "It's in the beginning of January, so we will see how it's going to go."

The first round of Orange Bowl 16s began today at the Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, and 18s qualifying was completed, with J500 18s main draw beginning Monday.

Both top seeds in the 16s, Zhang-Qian Wei of China in the girls draw, and Kerem Yilmaz of Turkey in the boys draw, are through to the second round with straight set victories.

The Americans qualifying in the boys 18s are Maximus Dussault and Mikel Anderson. US girls qualifying are Sophia Webster, Trinetra Vijayakumar and Christasha McNeil.

The seeds for the J500 are below, with girls No. 1 Laura Samsonova taking on wild card Monika not before 11 am Monday.
Boys No. 2 seed Juan Carlos Prado Angelo of Bolivia, who has won two $15Ks in the past month, including one today in his home country, did not play the last three weeks on the junior circuit, but is expected to make the trip to Plantation for a Tuesday first round match.

For live scoring, information on live streaming, draws and order of play, see ustaorangebowl.com.

Orange Bowl ITF J500 Seeds

1. Iliyan Radulov, Bulgaria
2. Juan Carlos Prado Angelo, Bolivia
3. Nicolai Budov Kjaer, Norway
4. Rei Sakamoto, Japan
5. Alexander Frusina, USA
6. Adhithya Ganesan, USA
7. Sebastian Eriksson, Sweden
8. Maxim Mrva, Czech Republic
9. Kaylan Bigun, USA
10. Charlie Camus, Australia
11. Lasse Poertner, Germany
12. Roy Horovitz, USA
13. Reda Bennani, Morocco
14. Viktor Frydrych, Great Britain
15. Timofei Derepasko, Russia
16. Charlie Robertson, Great Britain

1. Laura Samsonova, Czech Republic
2. Kaitlin Quevedo, USA
3. Alena Kovackova, Czech Republic
4. Iva Jovic, USA
5. Hannah Klugman, Great Britain
6. Tyra Grant, USA
7. Teodora Kostovic, Serbia
8. Wakana Sonobe, Japan
9. Iva Ivanova, Bulgaria
10. Luna Cinalli, Argentina
11. Alisa Oktiabreva, Russia
12. Elizara Yaneva, Bulgaria
13. Gloriana Nahum, Benin
14. Rositsa Dencheva, Bulgaia
15. Mika Buchnik, Israel 
16. Monika Stankiewicz, Poland

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Americans Penickova, Secord, Antonius and Shao Claim Eddie Herr Titles; Pacheco and Papamalamis Meet for Boys ITF Championship, Kostovic and Sonobe Reach Girls ITF Final Sunday

©Colette Lewis 2023--
Bradenton Florida--

Heat, humidity and American champions were the order of the day Saturday with four of the six singles titles in the 12s, 14s and 16s divisions at the Eddie Herr International Championships going to junior players from the United States.

Two of the champions crowned Saturday at the IMG Academy know the feeling well, with boys 14s winner Michael Antonius running his Eddie Herr winning streak to 12 after taking the boys 12s title last year, and Kristina Penickova, the girls 16s champion, just two years removed from her 12s title.

Antonius, the top seed, defeated unseeded Matei Victor Chelemen of Romania 6-2, 6-1, with his experience in last year's final providing an advantage.

"I knew what to expect, conditions, going out into another final, being ready for that," said the 13-year-old from Buffalo, who has yet to lose a set at the IMG Academy courts in his two appearances here. "I think the experience from last year helped in getting a good start. I played really good to start, and it was super hot today, so I could tell we were both getting really tired after the long points."

Antonius had the advantage of a shorter semifinal match Friday, although he was relieved to finish the match quickly.

"There were a lot of long games that could have gone either way, but I'm fortunate that those went to me today," Antonius said. "But he played really well, it was a good match."

Antonius began to play on the ITF Junior Circuit this summer and said those six tournaments against older boys provided valuable experience.

"With the older kids, there were bigger serves and more power, but that really helped me coming into this one," said Antonius, who trains both with the USTA in Lake Nona and with his father in Buffalo. "There's a little less power, there are longer rallies, but I was used to the best players here hitting it hard, just like every ITF."

In addition to the title, Antonius also has won a wild card into the main draw of the ITF J300 in 2024, although he is not ruling out playing the 16s instead.

"It's so early to say what I'm going to do," but it's so good to have the option," said Antonius, who is not playing next week's Orange Bowl 16s, but is expecting to play the Junior Orange Bowl in two weeks. 

As for the accomplishment two straight titles, Antonius admits he had doubts about his prospects this year. 

"I'm just super happy to be able to do it back to back," Antonius said. "It's my first year in the 14s, and being the 1 seed again, I was a little nervous. I saw that I had a tough draw, so I wasn't looking to make the final, I was looking just to make the next day, but it paid off in the end."

No. 2 seed Penickova, who had already collected the 16s doubles trophy with twin sister Annika Friday, had her toughest match of the tournament in today's final, beating No. 8 seed Katerina Shabashkevich of Boca Raton Florida, 6-2, 6-4.

"My opponent was really good, but I problem solved really well," said the 14-year-old right-hander from California. "I hadn't played anyone like her before, she had a really interesting game. She was more aggressive and she also chipped and sliced, which I wasn't used to, but I'm happy how I solved that."

With the number of ITF Junior Circuit tournaments she and Annika can play limited to 14 until they turn 15 next September, the 16s competition is where they are setting their sights now.

"We were debating whether to play 16s or 18s, but our parents decided to save it for some other ITFs," said Penickova. "I love this tournament, I love the place, so that also helps, but I feel very comfortable here. Winning it before here really helped and I'm super proud of myself for battling through the matches and winning it again this time."

The boys 16s final was also between two Americans, with No. 2 seed Jack Secord defeating top seed Jack Satterfield 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 in a match moved to court 8 after Stadium Court was too damp for play from the overnight dew.

The two-hour battle came down to a couple of games in the third set, and it was Secord's serve that was the difference. Serving up 4-3 in the third set, Secord fell behind 0-30, but three good first serves from the 15-year-old left-hander gave him a game point. He was unable to convert it, and two points later a forehand error gave Satterfield his chance to even the match, but again Secord served his way out of trouble for 5-3. 

After Satterfield held, Secord was again in a precarious position after a tremendous stop volley winner by Satterfield made it 30-all. But once more Secord took the racquet out of Satterfield's hand, hitting an ace to reach match point and a service winner to seal the championship.

"He definitely got a lot more free points on his serve," said Satterfield, a 16-year-old from Tampa, who is the reigning USTA 16s Clay Courts champion. "Especially on the big points. At 30-all 5-4, him serving for it, he just hits two unreturnable serves. It was definitely a tough one, I'll have nightmares about if for a couple of years for sure."

Secord, the son of former WTA Top 25 player Linda Harvey Wild, didn't put any extra emphasis on the big points that he won.

"I just didn't really think about it," said Secord, who is coached by his grandfather Steve Wild. "I was going to be ok if I got broken, so I just played my game, and it turned out. I felt like I did serve well today, especially under pressure; at 30-all I served an ace and an unreturnable. I just kept persevering and it felt good to win."

Secord will be playing the ITF J500 in Plantation next week, his first ITF Junior Circuit event above J200.

The fourth American to claim an Eddie Herr singles title this year is top seed Caroline Shao, who defeated No. 5 seed Yui Watanabe of California 3-6, 6-0, 10-1.

"It was a really tough match, my opponent was great," said Shao, who trains at the MGT Academy in Doral Florida. "I lost the first set, but in the second set, I motivated myself to play better. I was good at staying solid throughout the match and forcing errors from my opponent."

Shao admitted to feeling nervous before every match she plays, not just a big final, but never lets that affect her on court.

"Usually I get super nervous before a match, but when I start the match, they just go away, and today was the same," said Shao, who is playing the Junior Orange Bowl in two weeks, while training at the USTA in Lake Nona and at her academy in between. "Winning this feels really good, there were a lot of good players and I was happy I could pull through."

The girls 14s final was an all-Canadian affair, with No. 14 seed Joyce Geng defeating No. 4 seed Charlie Celebrini 6-3, 1-6, 6-4.

Although Celebrini has trained at times in the United States, she and Geng have already played 11 times, with Geng taking 10 of those decisions.

"We're from the same place, same club, everything, and it's a nice moment to play someone who knows you as well as you know them," said the 13-year-old left-hander. "I know she's a really good player, it's always three sets and I just got lucky a lot of times. But I knew everything about her, I knew her style, what she would do in a match and I used it to my advantage."

Geng said she found out about the wild card to the 14s winner into next year's Eddie Herr ITF J300 yesterday.

"My mum said, fun fact, you get a wild card, and I was like really? I really didn't know and I wasn't paying attention, I wanted to play well and play my game," said Geng, who has yet to play and ITF Junior Circuit tournament. "But it's a nice surprise."

Geng has trained at several academies, including Rafa Nadal's, but is not certain where she will be next year. 

"We have plans, but I'm not sure about them, that's my parents," said Geng, who will be playing the Junior Orange Bowl 14s before beginning ITF Junior Circuit tournaments in 2024.

The boys 12s title went to No. 4 seed Jang Junseo of Korea, who defeated No. 3 seed Thamma Kosiri of Thailand 6-2, 6-0 in a match that was much longer and of higher quality than the score might indicate.

The finals of the ITF J300 are set for Sunday, with top seed Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez of Mexico playing the final junior match of his career with the ITF World Junior Championship on the line. His opponent in the final will be unseeded Theo Papamalamis of France, who, for the second week in succession, defeated No. 2 seed Iliyan Radulov of Bulgaria 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.

Pacheco had an equally grueling semifinal, defeating unseeded Luca Preda of Romania 7-6(3), 7-5 in two hours and 45 minutes in front of an appreciative crowd watching above the IMG Stadium Court.

"I think I played really well," said Pacheco, who has now won 16 singles matches in the past three weeks, winning the J300 in Zapopan, the J500 in Merida and reaching the final here. "The other guy was playing so good. Both of us were making a lot of winners, a lot of good shots."

Pacheco, who had an uncomplicated quarterfinal win Friday, said he detected fatigue in Preda, who beat Thomas Faurel 4-6, 7-5, 7-6(1) in his quarterfinal.

"I think he got a couple of cramps or something like that, so that was probably the difference," said Pacheco, who trailed 4-1 in the second set. "I knew the guy was starting to feel tired, yesterday he had a really long match as well, so for him the physical and mental strength was a little bit lower. Tomorrow in the finals, I'm going to enjoy the last junior match in my career, so it will be fun."

Among Pacheco's 16 wins in the past three weeks is a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Papamalamis in the semifinals of the Zapopan J300, but Papamalamis has now defeated three seeded players in succession, so is gaining confidence with every win. 

Papamalamis, who defeated Radulov 6-3, 6-3 in the second round of the J500 in Merida last week, knew he would face a motivated Radulov today.

"Last week I played a very aggressive match and hit every ball very strong, and I didn't let him play his game," said the 17-year-old, who lost his first set this week to qualifier Naoya Honda of Japan 6-0. "This week I knew he would know how I play, so this week I tried to change a few things, my serve, or going more to the net, small things like that, and I tried to forget the score last week."

Up a 6-3, 4-2 Papamalamis hit a rough patch, but he credited Radulov with some of that decline.

"He started playing better and I started to miss a little more, put less on my shots," said Papamalamis, who will be taking a visit to Texas A&M after the Orange Bowl. "So at the start of the third set, I tried to put more power on the ball and to be more aggressive and that was good."

Papamalamis won a long deuce game to go up 5-1, and Radulov held for 5-2. Serving for his first ITF J300 final, Papamalamis quickly went up 40-0, but two unforced errors from his forehand wasted those match points. On the third, he hit a good first serve, closing out the match in two hours and 55 minutes.

The girls final will feature two IMG Academy players, with No. 6 seed Wakana Sonobe of Japan facing No. 3 seed Teodora Kostovic of Serbia after both took out their higher-seeded American opponents.

Kostovic defeated No. 2 seed Iva Jovic 6-4, 6-3 to reach her third J300 final, having won two titles this spring on European clay. Sonobe defeated No. 4 seed Tyra Grant 6-2, 0-6, 6-2.

"I played smart, I played good tennis, actually both of us played good tennis," said the 16-year-old Kostovic, who had beaten Jovic in the summer of 2022. "She's an amazing player."

Kostovic thinks her previous success at this level could help her, although Sonobe also won a J300 title this spring on clay. 

"I have a lot of experience, and tomorrow I play with a girl who is also a great player," Kostovic said. "We're both from IMG and it's never happened, two girls from IMG playing in the final, so that's amazing, first time in history. We practice together and know each other very well. She's one of the best tennis players in the world in juniors, so we will see tomorrow."

The girls final is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Sunday, followed by the boys final, not before 11 a.m.

The ITF J300 boys doubles champions are No. 6 seeds Timofei Derepasko and Daniil Sarksian of Russia, who defeated the unseeded team of Atakan Karahan of Turkey and Hoyoung Roh of Korea 6-2, 7-6(8).

Derepasko and Sarksian had not won a title together before, but had enough success as a team to believe they could take a big title, and when they defeated top seeds Pacheco and Radulov in the quarterfinals, they were on their way.

"It was our best match of the tournament, they are so good," said Derepasko, who won the boys 14s single title in 2021. "It was a great win, obviously, because [Pacheco] won Roland Garros and the other guy was a top 10 player who made great wins in doubles," said Sarksian, 17. "That was the best quality match that we had through all the tournament, but today was not that easy I would say."

Serving at 5-6 in the second set with Derepasko serving, they faced a set point on a deciding point. Derepasko missed his first serve, but hit a second serve ace out wide to save the set point.

"He showed me that I should serve to the T," Derepasko said. "But something happened in my head and I closed my eyes and I went for it wide."

In the tiebreaker, Derepasko and Sarksian had match point at 6-5 and saved set points at 7-6 and 8-7, with Sarksian the most active and aggressive of the four players during rallies.

"In doubles, you have to do something more," said Sarksian, who trains at the Rafa Nadal Academy. "If we have opportunities, we like to end the point as soon as possible, that's what we are looking for."

Sarksian and Derepasko are hoping to continue their success together at the Orange Bowl next week.

The girls doubles champions are No. 2 seeds Alisa Oktiabreva of Russia and Iva Ivanova of Bulgaria, who defeated No. 5 seeds Kostovic and Yoana Konstantinova of Bulgaria 6-4, 6-0 in the day's last final.

Oktiabreva and Ivanova had never played together prior to this week, and had no expectations of winning a title.

"I had no idea about that," said Oktiabreva, 15, who had played against Ivanova in doubles, so was familiar with her game when the 17-year-old reached out to her for this tournament. "I just wanted to play and enjoy it."

Although two of their matches went to match tiebreakers, their lack of experience as a team wasn't evident.

"We have positive energy, we talk to each other a lot, we have dinner together," said Ivanova. "That's why we are a good team."

In the final, little separated the two teams, but Oktiabreva and Ivanova sustained their level, while Kostovic and Konstantinova could not.

"First set was so close, and we played very good on important moments and important points," said Ivanova. "I think we were both kind of nervous, but we made it through," said Oktiabreva.

The Eddie Herr champions will be looking for a second title in as many tournaments at the Orange Bowl.