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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Tennis: Cruel turn of fate lands wildcard in top junior's lap:: New Zealand Herald

Tennis: Cruel turn of fate lands wildcard in top junior's lap:: New Zealand Herald ~~~

World Junior champion Viktoria Azarenka is the top junior in question, and she is replacing another highly ranked junior, Marina Erakovic of New Zealand, in the first WTA event of the year. Certainly the tournament organizers would have preferred the local girl, but Azakenka isn't a hard sell.

And while I'd like to end 2005 without carping, I can't let the errors in this story go uncorrected.

Azarenka was the dominant figure on the junior circuit this year, winning a remarkable 50 of her 53 games. She won the Grand Slam singles crowns at the Australian and French Opens, and the doubles titles in Australia, France and Wimbledon.

Azarenka actually won the Australian and U.S. Open junior singles titles, not the French. And I don't have a clue what that 50 of 53 games bit is about. She has 29 wins and two losses in singles this year on the ITF junior circuit and is 21 and one in doubles. That one doubles loss was, ironically, due to Erakovic. Azarenka was attempting to win all four Junior Grand Slam doubles titles in New York this year, but due to a back problem, her partner Erakovic was forced to withdraw before they took the court in their quarterfinal match. Azarenka was philosophical about it but could hardly have imagined that, just a few months later, she would benefit from another Erakovic injury.
She's determined to make it to the top, and the signs are encouraging. She has won an ITF singles and doubles title and this year made the semifinals of a WTA tournament in China.

I know tennis can be an alphabet soup to those not immersed in it, but Azarenka's Junior Grand Slam wins were ITF titles. I think he's referring to her Osaka Mayor's Cup victory this fall, but I can't be sure.

It's interesting that Liz Robbins of the New York Times, in a column that appeared the day after the U.S. Open, named Azarenka as the Wimbledon singles champion. Although I attempted to get NYT to correct that mistake, to my knowledge they never did.

I know I make mistakes, and I want to hear about it when I do. Please leave a comment or click on View My Complete Profile on the bottom left of the homepage to be directed to my email.

2005 Honor Roll

December 2005

  • Rhyne Williams
    14s Junior Orange Bowl
  • Christian Harrison
    12s Junior Orange Bowl
  • Emmett Egger
    12s Eddie Herr International

    September 2005

  • Alex Clayton & Donald Young (dbls)
    Grade A U.S. Open

    August 2005

  • Donald Young
    18s USTA National
  • Nate Schnugg
    16s USTA National
  • JT Sundling
    14s USTA National
  • Jack Sock
    12s USTA National

    July 2005

  • Alex Clayton
    18s USTA Clay Court
  • Tyler Hochwalt
    16s USTA Clay Court
  • JT Sundling
    14s USTA Clay Court
  • Jack Sock
    12s USTA Clay Court
  • Jesse Levine & Michael Shabaz (dbls)
    Grade A Wimbledon

    May 2005

  • Carsten Ball (dbls)
    (currently playing as Australian)
    ITF Grade 1 Astrid Bowl

    April 2005

  • Sam Querrey
    ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl
  • Dylan Arnould & Marcus Fugate (dbls)
    ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl
  • Will Guzick
    16s USTA Easter Bowl
  • JT Sundling
    14s USTA Easter Bowl
  • Jack Sock
    12s USTA Spring Nationals
  • Sam Querrey
    ITF Grade 1 International Spring
  • Holden Seguso (dbls)
    ITF Grade 1 International Spring
  • Dennis Nevolo
    16s ITF Grade 1 International Spring

    March 2005

  • Marcus Fugate
    Luxilon Cup
  • Clint Bowles
    18s USTA Spring Nationals
  • Kellen Damico
    ITF Grade 1 Genting Malaysian International

    February 2005

  • Chase Buchanan
    European Tennis Association's Les Petits As
  • Chase Buchanan & Lazare Kukhalashvili
    ETA Les Petits As (dbls)

    January 2005

  • Justin Kronauge
    18s USTA Winter Nationals
  • Steve Forman
    16s USTA Winter Nationals
  • Chase Buchanan
    14s USTA Winter Nationals
  • Jack Sock
    12s USTA Winter Nationals
  • Donald Young
    ITF Grade A Casablanca Cup
  • Carsten Ball (currently playing as Australian)
    ITF Grade 1 Loy Yang Victorian
  • Tim Neilly & Tim Smyczek
    ITF Grade 1 Australian Hard Courts (dbls)
  • Chris Chirico
    ITF Grade 1 Copa Aero Republica (dbls)
  • Lazare Kukhalashvili (currently playing as Georgian)
    Teen Tennis International
  • Devin Britton & Ryan Harrison
    Teen Tennis International (dbls)
  • Donald Young
    Grade A Australian Open
  • Friday, December 30, 2005

    Australian Junior Open Field

    Australian Junior Open Field ~~~

    The acceptances for the Australian Junior Open are out, and there is some disappointing recent news. Neither Donald Young nor Marin Cilic, ranked one and two in the world, are playing. I knew late last week that Cilic wasn't going to make the trip; he was at the Junior Orange Bowl for a few hours after getting back from Mexico and before his flight home to Croatia. I asked him if he was finished with juniors, and he said no, he planned on playing Roland Garros and Wimbledon, but he wasn't playing Australia.

    As the reigning champion, Young has lots of points to defend, and he is also not playing the current Grade A in Mexico City, which he won last year, so his time at the top may end. I'm hoping that he plays the Futures swing in Florida next month, which will give him another chance at the level above juniors.

    I've also heard that no USTA High Performance coach will be going to Australia, but John Roddick will be taking his crew, which doesn't include Kellen Damico anymore. Rich Benvin will coach Damico in Australia.

    I presume that any player who has made it into the main draw will make the trip--as of today, that means only six boys from the U.S. On the girls side, only four are currently in the main draw, and that includes Alexa Glatch, who is still recovering from her broken elbow. Although I've been assured that her recovery is on schedule, her recent withdrawal from the Grade 1 the week prior to the AO Junior event isn't good news.

    Thursday, December 29, 2005

    Recipe For Junior Tennis Success:: Tennis Week

    Tennis Week Recipe For Junior Tennis Success ~~~

    I finally found a home for my story on the National Junior Tennis Conference that I attended last month. (The Midwest Section wasn't interested.) Andre Christopher kindly agreed to put it on the Tennis Week website, which I hope helps the conference get the exposure it deserves. Mark Bey, CARE Tennis Academy director and conference organizer, was at the Junior Orange Bowl for a few days last week, and watching a match with him is certainly instructive. I hope to have many more opportunities to do that in 2006.

    Wednesday, December 28, 2005

    SMASH Column, Junior Orange Bowl Edition

    SMASH Column, Junior Orange Bowl Edition ~~~

    My "On The Road with Colette" column's second installment went up today at smashtennismag.com, and the Junior Orange Bowl is the primary topic. I won't be On The Road again until the Australian Open, but I don't think I'll have any trouble coming up with some Aces from the Casablanca Cup in Mexico City and the Winter Nationals in Arizona.

    Tuesday, December 27, 2005

    Pro Tennis Fan: Top Junior Hopes for Spanish Citizenship

    Pro Tennis Fan: Top Junior Hopes for Spanish Citizenship ~~~

    When Lisen at Pro Tennis Fan announced earlier this month that she's scaling back on her blogging, I was dismayed, to understate it. She does such a fantastic job of finding all the tennis stories of interest that I'd probably never run across on my own--like this one--that I already miss her, and she hasn't gone anywhere yet.

    This story is about the quest of Gueorgui Roumenov, the recent winner of the Orange Bowl boys 16s singles title, for Spanish citizenship. Although the ITF junior website does have an entry for him, it shows his country as Bulgaria, and his surname as Roumenov-Payakov, which isn't the surname his father says is correct.

    As confusing as this is, it's quite clear that Roumenov is a very fine junior tennis player (although where and how he became "junior world champion" as the story claims, isn't detailed). He reached the quarterfinals of the 18s at the Eddie Herr prior to winning the Orange Bowl 16s. Spain had only two boys total in both 16s and 18s Orange Bowl draws, so I'd expect the Federation would be happy to oblige his request for citizenship.

    Monday, December 26, 2005

    Juniors: 2005 Year in Review:: usta.com

    Juniors: 2005 Year in Review~~~

    I've watched a lot of tennis the past five weeks and loved every minute of it (well, that's probably an exaggeration--when there are disputes over line calls, being a spectator can be unpleasant), but I haven't had the down time to labor over a year-end review that the professional tennis press indulges in this time of year.

    I do plan on doing another "Most Intriguing Junior Tennis Questions" installment (for my 2005 version, click here,) but I'm happy to have Sally Milano of the USTA do the U.S. junior roundup for 2005. I don't think everybody's year was "amazing,"-- I'd confine that adjective to JT Sundling and Jack Sock-- but there are many notable achievements listed in her story.

    Once I'm back home with more time to devote to web-surfing, I might run across other stories that will prompt me to comment on 2005, but with arguably no off-season for junior tennis (the first ITF Grade A of 2006 started today), time for reflection is scarce.

    Friday, December 23, 2005

    Like Mother, Like Son--Williams Earns Junior Orange Bowl Title

    Like Mother, Like Son--Williams Earns Junior Orange Bowl Title ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Coral Gables FL--

    Twenty-seven years ago Rhyne Williams' mother, the former Michelle DePalmer, won the girls 16 Orange Bowl title. Watching her son's 6-2, 7-5 victory over top seed Grigor Dimitrov on Friday in the Boys 14s brought back a flood of memories for the former University of Tennessee standout.

    "This tournament means a lot to me, since I did win it as a junior," said Michelle Williams, who was standing in for her father Mike DePalmer, Rhyne's coach. "And it's fun watching him and being here with him for it."

    Any fan of great tennis enjoyed watching Williams play all week, and with wins over second seed JT Sundling, third seed Jose Silva and top seed Dimitrov, the unseeded Tennessean took out the best enroute to his championship.

    In Friday's final, Dimitrov started very slowly and failed to hold serve in the first set.

    "The first set he came out a little bit tentative and was missing some," Williams said of the Bulgarian who is now training at the Weil Tennis Academy in Ojai California. "I was just trying to put the ball in play and let him hurt himself."

    Using a variety of topspin on his groundstrokes, Williams occasionally outhit, but frequently outmanuevered his opponent, playing a refined version of clay court tennis on the University of Miami's hard courts.

    As he did in the first set, Williams went up 3-1 in the second, but Dimitrov broke back to get even, where they stayed until Dimitrov served at 5-5. Down 15-40, Dimitrov erased one break point with an ace, but Williams countered with an excellent return on the next one. Dimitrov's reply was just long, giving Williams the opportunity to serve for the match. And when, at match point, his down-the-line backhand clipped the tape but did not change direction, Williams had his winner, and a championship to match his mother's.

    The two will have plenty of time to compare notes on their long drive back home to Knoxville before Michelle leaves for the Winter Nationals with daughter Caitlyn, 12. Pro Circuit Futures tournaments in Florida are next on Rhyne's tennis schedule, but he has a specific celebration in mind first.

    "I'm going to get a Big Mac on the way home," Williams said. "Eat a little junk food. I've been eating healthy the last month and a half."

    Boys 12s

    Christian Harrison saved two match points in a second round win, and in his 6-1, 5-7, 6-2 finals victory over Mika De Coster Friday, he let one get away at 3-5 in the second set. But determined not to waste his opportunity, Harrison took advantage of the ten-minute break between the second and third sets.

    "My dad got me calmed a little bit. He said you have to stay calm if want to have any chance of winning the third set."

    The advice worked well, as Harrison returned to the agressive play that saw him take command of the first set, closing at the net and putting away the volley.

    "I like coming to the net, but I like being at both the net and the baseline," said the eleven-year-old who trains at the Newcombe Academy in Texas.

    Harrison's style left De Coster wondering after the match if he had countered it effectively.

    "He played great in the first set," said De Coster, who like Harrison, was not seeded. "Maybe I could have lobbed him more."

    In the second set De Coster, who was suffering from the flu all week, began to keep Harrison positioned more defensively.

    "I started rallying, to get a rhythm. Cross court, cross court, cross court and it helped me get back in the match."

    But after his brief lapse in the second set, Harrison returned to his more patient and error-free game, showing an uncanny anticipation of De Coster's shot selection. And when De Coster attempted to take control of the net, Harrison produced a perfect lob or passing shot.

    Still De Coster, who took a nasty tumble trying to retrieve a drop shot in the second set, refused to concede he was beaten.

    "You always have hope, I guess," the twelve-year-old from Southern California said. "I was just trying to get through one more match, one more day."

    But on Friday, that day belonged to Harrison.

    Girls 14s

    Viktoriya Kamenskaya of Russia may not be big, but her groundstrokes are. On Friday, she cooled off a redhot Gail Brodsky, capturing a 7-5, 6-2 victory in the Junior Orange Bowl Girls 14s final.

    The unseeded Brodsky served for the first set, but couldn't convert it at 5-4, and Kamenskaya grabbed the momentum.

    "There were certain important points that she just handled better than me," Brodsky said. "She was more consistent than I was and she returned all my best shots."

    With many long games, the second set was far from routine, but the fourteen-year-old top seed didn't flinch at Brodsky's pace, leaving the New Yorker ultimately unsure of how to counter attack.

    "I was hitting with all my power, and she got it back," said Brodsky. "I tried to do more and I missed. I think she has the perfect game style. She's a good counterpuncher and if I had to go out and play her again, I don't think I could tell anyone what to do against her."

    Other Results
    In boys 12s, Jan Kuncik of the Czech Republic lost in the first round of the main draw and came through all ten of his backdraw matches to take fifth place defeating Joey Swaysland of Australia. Jacob Jung of the U.S. finished in third place with his win over Andrew Korinek, also of the U.S.

    In boys 14s, Frank Carleton of the U.S. won the feed-in consolation draw, defeating James Chaudry of Great Britain, and the player who defeated Carleton in the main draw, Alex Domijan, also from the U.S. took third place, with his win over Jose Silva of Brazil.

    Thursday, December 22, 2005

    Williams Faces Dimitrov in Boys Junior Orange Bowl Final; Brodsky Meets Kamenskaya For Girls 14 Title

    Williams Faces Dimitrov in Boys Junior Orange Bowl Final; Brodsky Meets Kamenskaya For Girls 14 Title ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Coral Gables FL--

    Two unseeded Americans hope to topple number one seeds Friday in the 14s finals of the Junior Orange Bowl. Rhyne Williams of Tennessee and Gail Brodsky of New York, accomplished players who compete primarily in 16s and 18s, earned their shots at top seeds Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria and Viktoriya Kamenskaya of Russia with three-set victories Friday at the University of Miami's Neil Schiff Tennis Center.

    Williams, a winner over second seed JT Sundling Wednesday, continued his excellent play, defeating third seed Jose Silva in the semifinals 6-3, 5-7, 6-1. Williams, 14, had two match points when Silva was serving at 2-5, but the muscular Brazilian saved them, and a deflated Williams lost the next five games.

    "I felt like after that (eighth game) I just started going for way too much," said Williams, whose mother Michelle DePalmer reached two Orange Bowl finals, winning one.
    "I was trying to hit lines, rather than work the point."

    During the break between the second and third sets, Williams used the time to listen and to eat.

    "Martin (Van Daalen, USTA High Performance Coach) talked to me and my mom talked to me, and I ate a banana and some Skittles. It was a refocus, and that was all I needed."

    Williams held and broke to start the third set, but when Silva broke back to make it 2-1, the outcome was still in doubt, given Williams' troubles holding the lead in the second set. The big righthander with the backwards Tennessee baseball cap played patiently, however, and his strategy of making Silva hit ball after ball eventually paid off. The Brazilian failed to hold serve the rest of the match and when Williams got his third match point, he converted it with a second serve winner.

    Awaiting Williams in the final is top seed Grigor Dimitrov, who advanced with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Alex Domijan of Florida. Dimitrov and Domijan met in the Eddie Herr 14s final nearly three weeks ago, and the result was a routine win for the Bulgarian. Dimitrov saw a different level from Domijan Thursday and praised his opponent after the match.

    "We both played better than in the Eddie Herr," said the stylish fourteen-year-old. "He pushed me to play good."

    Domijan's forehand gave Dimitrov difficulties, and the court movement and coverage of the tall, thin righthander, who trains at Saddlebrook, forced Dimitrov to hit even harder and deeper. But coming up with a winner when it matters is standard operating procedure for Dimitrov, who survived a third set tiebreak in Wednesday's quarterfinal match with Bernard Tomic of Australia.

    As Dimitrov vacated court one, fellow Weil Tennis Academy student Gail Brodsky strode on to it for her semifinal match with Albina Khabibulina of Uzebekistan, the tenth seed.

    Brodsky took control of the match early but once Khabibulina found her rhythm, the groundstroke battle lines were drawn, and there was nothing simple about the 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 victory.

    "She got a lot more consistent and she started playing a lot better, and it definitely put a lot of pressure on me," Brodsky said.

    Serving for the match at 5-4, Brodsky was unable to put it away, and she admitted that doubt began to creep into her mind.

    "When it gets to 5-all in the third set, you don't know what to think," Brodsky said.

    But when she broke Khabibulina and got a second chance to serve it out, she didn't stumble, scorching a forehand winner at match point.

    "When I went out, my father told me 'don't be afraid--play your own game'," said Brodsky. "So I figured I might as well go for it, might as well make it good."

    Brodsky admitted that she knows nothing of the top seed Kamenskaya, who made short work of fourth seed Indire Akiki of Croatia 6-4, 6-1.

    "I don't know most of these players," Brodsky said. "Maybe that's an advantage for me, maybe it's not, I don't know." Then Brodsky jokingly asked if the reporter interviewing her had a scouting report on Kamenskaya she could use. Because the answer was no, Brodsky will concentrate on playing her game, which has been honed for three years at the Weil Tennis Academy in Ojai California.

    "It'a a great place for practice, for everything, it's amazing," Brodsky said. "When Grigor came there he was already a great player, and I saw him improve tremendously there. And I've improved so much in the past three years. People who see my game now and before just don't recognize me anymore."

    Both girls and boys 14s finals will be played Friday morning at the University of Miami.

    De Coster and Harrison to Vie for Boys 12s Title

    Mika De Coster, the Eddie Herr finalist, and Christian Harrison, an Eddie Herr semifinalist, have worked their way, unseeded, to the final of the Junior Orange Bowl 12s. De Coster, from California, defeated friend and fellow sectional player Jacob Jung 6-1, 7-5 Thursday morning, while Harrison beat fellow Texan Andrew Korinek 6-3, 6-4.

    De Coster and Harrison have split the two matches they have played, but De Coster expressed confidence in his game.

    "He's been having a great tournament," said De Coster of Harrison, "and I'll need to stay patient."

    "If I play good, I think I'll beat him, but I have to play good," De Coster said.

    Suffering from a cold the past several days, De Coster said he felt fine, reluctant to give Harrison an edge in any area. "I'm fine really. I'll just pop an Advil and I'll feel better."

    One player feeling very good is Hanna Orlik who has added the Junior Orange Bowl 12s title to the Eddie Herr championship she won earlier in the month. Orlik, of Belarus, defeated qualifier Blazena Lukac of Croatia 6-0, 7-5 on the clay courts of Salvadore Park Thursday afternoon.

    Wednesday, December 21, 2005

    Williams Defeats Sundling at Junior Orange Bowl; Dimitrov Survives Third Set Tiebreak

    Williams Defeats Sundling; Dimitrov Survives Third Set Tiebreak ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Coral Gables FL--

    It was the Rhyne Williams and JT Sundling match that was expected to be Wednesday's toughest battle. Instead it was Bernard Tomic and Grigor Dimitrov who provided the day's most competitive contest, won by Dimitrov 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(2).

    Williams, of Knoxville Tennessee, played with consistency from start to finish and dealt the second seeded Sundling a 6-1, 6-4 loss on a cool and cloudy day at the University of Miami's Neil Schiff Tennis Center.

    The two fourteen-year-olds have been training and practicing together in Florida for several weeks now, and Williams learned enough about the lefthanded Californian's game to face their first tournament meeting with confidence.

    "I can read his serve pretty well," said Williams, who is unseeded. "I know where he hits his backhand on the run, that sort of thing, so I could anticipate."

    Williams, who was a semifinalist in the 16s at the recent Eddie Herr, doesn't shy away from emotion while on the court; he berates himself often for poor shot selection or execution. But in Wednesday's match, he was more subdued, a result of his respect for Sundling as a player and a friend.

    "I didn't want him to think I was getting too pumped up at his expense," said Williams, "but you've got to forget who is on the other side of the net."

    Sundling, who rolled his ankle early in the second game, put a brace on it at the changeover and continued to play, but he did concede that it hindered him.

    "My recovery step and side to side movement were not good," Sundling, the USTA's top ranked 14-and-under boy. "But he played well. He has a really good return, and I didn't serve too well."

    Nor was Sundling's usually reliable forehand on display. He made numerous unforced errors, and with Williams always a threat to hit a winner, Sundling began pressing when he fell behind.

    In addition to his ankle injury, Sundling was playing with a tender elbow. In Tuesday's win he hit it on a metal post behind the court when retrieving a shot, although Sundling said it only bothered him before Wednesday's match, not during it.

    Both Williams and Sundling viewed this first match as a beginning to what is likely a long and entertaining junior rivalry.

    "Even though the score today might not have indicated it, we're pretty even," said Williams. "We're on the same level," agreed Sundling, who now heads to the backdraw, while Williams faces third seed Jose Silva of Brazil in Thursday's semifinal. Silva defeated 11th seed and 2004 semifinalist Lazare Kukhalashvili 6-4, 6-1.

    Top seed Grigor Dimitrov had all he could handle in his match with thirteen-year-old Bernard Tomic of Australia, the 2004 Junior Orange Bowl 12s champion. Tomic served for the first set at 5-3, but Dimitrov won four straight games to go up a set. Undeterred, the unseeded Tomic took the second set and twice served for the match in the third set, at 5-4 and 6-5. But his serve does not produce many free points and he never held a match point against the European 14-and-under champion, who at 5-6 30-all manufactured two winners to reach the tiebreak.

    Dimitrov showed his maturity in the tiebreak, eliminating unforced errors while putting the smaller and younger Tomic on the defensive. A devious dropshot winner gave the Bulgarian a 5-2 lead and a rattled Tomic made two unforced errors, ending his dream of back-to-back Junior Orange Bowl titles.

    Dimitrov's win set up a rematch of the recent Eddie Herr 14s final, as unseeded Alex Domijan of Florida advanced with a 6-4 6-2 victory over fourth seed Yannick Reuter of Belgium. Domijan, who dropped a straight set decision to Dimitrov in Bradenton, used his forehand to demoralize Reuter, forcing the Belgian to experiment with a net game.
    Domijan never waivered, passing effectively or forcing a volley error on critical points, earning the win that gives him a second shot at Dimitrov in the space of three weeks.


    Three of the four semifinalists in the Eddie Herr boys 12s were from the U.S. and this week the Junior Orange Bowl group has outdone that, sweeping all four semifinal spots. Mika De Coster and Christian Harrison have again arrived at the Final Four, joined by two newcomers, Andrew Korinek of Texas and qualifier Jacob Jung of Southern California. Jung, who has now won eight matches without dropping a set, will face Eddie Herr finalist De Coster, who has gained the semifinals despite being ill the past several days. Harrison also will take on an opponent who has not dropped a set in the tournament in Korinek, who on Wednesday eliminated the only seed remaining, number nine George Tsivadze 6-3, 7-6 (3).

    The boys 12s semifinals and final will be played at the University of Miami Tennis Center.

    Also moving to the University of Miami of Thursday will be the girls 14s seminfinalists. Gail Brodsky of the U.S. will make the trip, as she defeated Eddie Herr 16s champion Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal 6-4, 2-6, 6-1. The unseeded Brodsky meets tenth seed Albina Khabibulina of Uzbekistan, while top seed Viktoriya Kamenskaya of Russia takes on Croatia's Indire Akiki.

    The girls 12s final will stay on the clay courts of Salvadore Park, where Hanna Orlik of Belarus, a one seed, will attempt to duplicate her Eddie Herr championship when she faces qualifier Blazena Lukac of Croatia.

    Tuesday, December 20, 2005

    Top Four Seeds Make Quarterfinals in Boys 14s at Junior Orange Bowl

    Top Four Seeds Make Quarterfinals in Boys 14s at Junior Orange Bowl ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Coral Gables FL--

    I realize I've been focusing more on U.S. players throughout the first three days of the Junior Orange Bowl, primarily because I know them and their games better than I know the international players. It also provides some way of directing my attention--when so many matches are played at the same time, the constant hopping from one court to another is limited a bit if I decide just to check on U.S. players.

    But that's not to say that I have blinders on when it comes to admirable tennis games. Eddie Herr champion and top seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria has a game that not only brings his appreciative peers to his matches, but coaches as well, using the opportunity to point out to their charges how his balance and technique are models they might consider emulating. Tuesday Dimitrov, the European 14-and-under champion, schooled James Chaudry, the 15th seed from Great Britain, 6-2, 6-2.

    Another player's player is Bernard Tomic, the thirteen-year-old from Australia who won both the Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl 12s last year, and has not missed a beat in the 14s. On Tuesday the unseeded Tomic met New York's Shaun Bernstein in a rematch of a second round Jr. Orange Bowl 12s contest last year. Unfortunately for Bernstein, the result was the same, a straight set loss, but making the round of 16 in his first year of 14s demonstrates his game is continuing to develop and improve. Tomic, who did not play the Eddie Herr, is improving with every match, and will test his precocious game against Dimitrov on Wednesday.

    Fourth seed Yannick Reuter of Belgium meets Florida's Alex Domijan in the top half's other quarter. Reuter defeated qualifier Pavel Liska of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-2 and Domijan won the last six games of his match against Devin Britten of Mississippi, to take a 6-3, 6-3 victory. Domijan, who lost in the Eddie Herr final to Dimitrov, is not seeded.

    Eleventh seed Lazare Kukhalashvili of the Republic of Georgia, who was a semifinalist last year in the 14s, advanced to the quarterfinals with a 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 win over Mousheg Hovhannisyan of California. The unseeded Hovhannisyan, who beat eighth seed Martin Trueva Monday, is playing his first Junior Orange Bowl event, and his three wins indicate that Southern California junior tennis remains as strong as ever.

    Kukhalashvili will face third seed Jose Silva of Brazil, who needed over three hours to subdue unseeded James Munro of South Africa 6-7 (5), 7-6 (6), 6-3. The first two sets took over two hours and fifteen minutes to play, and only ten minutes into the third set, Silva requested a trainer for cramping, but he didn’t appear to have any physical problems after the treatment and finished strongly.

    Wednesday’s most intriguing match for fans of U.S. junior tennis has second seed JT Sundling and unseeded Rhyne Williams meeting for the first time in a tournament setting. Having practiced together most of the past two weeks, Sundling and Williams know each other’s games well now and will use that education under the pressure of the quarterfinals of the Junior Orange Bowl. On Tuesday Williams defeated tenth seed Nicolas Pastor of Argentina 6-1, 3-6, 6-2, while Sundling ended the run of qualifier Jadon Phillips 6-2, 6-1, the third straight match he has lost three games or fewer.

    In boys 12s unseeded Mika De Coster of the U.S. rolled into the quarters with a 6-0, 6-0 whitewashing of ninth seed Ben Wagland of Australia and will face Quoc-Daniel Nguyen, also from the U.S. and also unseeded. Qualifier Jacob Jung of California, on a seven-match winning streak, takes on unseeded Diego Hildago of Eucador in the other top half quarterfinal.

    In the bottom half, unseeded Christian Harrison of the U.S. meets unseeded Joey Swaysland of Australia and ninth seed George Tsivadse of Georgia takes on unseeded Andrew Korinek of the U.S. Korinek eliminated the last remaining number one seed, Jan Romih of Slovenia, 6-1, 6-2.

    In girls 12s three number one seeds made the semifinals, with Hanna Orlik and Nicole Gibbs winning three-setters; Jennifer Ren, the third number one seed, will be tested in the other semifinal by qualifier Blazena Lukac.

    I’m sorry to have missed the girls 14s round of 16, because several of their matches (played at exactly the same time as the boys but at the Biltmore rather than the University of Miami) appear to have been very exciting.

    Portugal’s Michelle Larcher de Brito, who cruised to the Eddie Herr 16s title earlier this month, is having a much tougher time of it in the Junior Orange Bowl 14s. Tuesday she escaped with a 7-6 (4), 1-6, 6-3 win over Julia Boserup of the U.S.; on Monday the unseeded de Brito eased past Kurimi Nara of Japan 7-6 in the third. Her next opponent, Gail Brodsky, defeated fellow American Asia Muhammad 6-3, 3-6, 6-3. Unseeded Eddie Herr 14s finalist and 2004 Jr. Orange Bowl 12s champion Valeria Solovieva of Russia came from behind to eliminate U.S. wild card Alexandra Anghelescu 3-6, 6-1, 6-3.

    Monday, December 19, 2005

    U.S. Boys Claim Seven Spots in Round of 16; De Coster Dumps Egger

    U.S. Boys 14s Claim Seven Spots in Round of 16; Half of the Remaining Boys 12s Players from U.S. ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Coral Gables FL --

    Nearly half the players in the Junior Orange Bowl Boys 14s fourth round are from the United States; most were expected to advance, others are finding their best tennis at the prestigious international event.

    Second seed JT Sundling, Rhyne Williams and Devin Britton, all of whom received wild cards into the 16s Orange Bowl last week, were expected to produce solid results when moving back down to the 14s, and they have--none of them dropping a set in their first three wins. Alex Domijan, the Eddie Herr 14s finalist, is playing superb tennis now, and his win over seventh seed Frank Carleton shouldn't be characterized as an upset, even though Domijan wasn't seeded.

    The other three U.S. players advancing are more surprising-- Shaun Bernstein, in his first year in the 14s; Mousheg Hovhannisyan, who has stuck close to his Southern California section; and qualifier Jadon Phillips, winner of seven straight matches.

    Phillips, from Macon Georgia, told me he thinks all the qualifying matches were good for him.

    "Usually I don't play well in my first match," he said, "but I was ready this time after all the qualifying matches. I've been gearing up for my first Orange Bowl for a while--it's nice to be playing well."

    Phillips next faces Sundling, who once again eased past his opponent in straight sets Monday afternoon. Phillips said that although he was aware of Sundling's impressive 14s resume, he had never played him, and hadn't even seen the tall lefthander play.

    "I've got to play my game and do what I do well and not worry about it," Phillips said.

    In boys 12s action Monday, Mika De Coster avenged his Eddie Herr finals defeat by eliminating rival Emmett Egger 6-4, 6-2 in the third round. Egger, a one seed, was not the only favorite to fall; Quoc-Daniel Nguyen of the U.S. took out one seed Jea-Moon Lee of Korea and Floridian Spencer Newman defeated one seed Matheus Costa of Brazil, in a match that completed after a brief afternoon rain delay. Newman was serving for the match in the third set when sprinkles turned to court-dampening showers. When the boys returned to the court, Newman dug himself a 15-40 hole, but he managed to pull even and after several deuces, complete the upset. In addition to De Coster, Nguyen and Newman, the U.S. also has in the Round of 16 qualifier Jacob Jung, Christian Harrison, Robert Livi, Thai Kwiatkowski and Andrew Korinek.

    There are now only three seeds among the 16 players still in the draw--one seed Jan Romih of Slovenia and nine seeds Ben Wagland of Australia and George Tsivadze of Georgia.

    The girls 14s have six seeds still playing in the main draw, including top seed Viktoriya Kamenskaya of Russia and fourth seed Indire Akiki of Croatia. Four girls from the U.S. remain, but three of them are clustered in one quarter, where tomorrow's match of the day will pit Asia Muhammad against Gail Brodsky. Julia Boserup and Alexandra Anghelescu are the other two U.S. players.

    The girls 12s, with a 64 player draw, are now down to eight, with Grace Min, Gabrielle DeSimone and Nicole Gibbs representing the United States. Four of the one seeds are still around and two of them, Hanna Orlik of Belarus and Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia meet in Tuesday's quarterfinal. That is a rematch of the Eddie Herr final, which Orlik won 7-6 (3), 6-3, but maybe Tomljanovic will be as successful turning the tables as De Coster was.

    My new column for Smash Magazine's website

    My new column for Smash Magazine's website~~~

    I'm now writing a weekly column for Smash Magazine's website, called On the Road With Colette. It's still in its formative stages, but I expect to stay with the format of naming ACES, FAULTS and LETS for the week, keeping within my knowledge base of college and junior tennis.

    I've only written one, but it was lots of fun. Hope you enjoy reading it.

    Sunday, December 18, 2005

    Top Two Seeds Take Different Paths to Third Round in Boys 14s

    Top Two Seeds Take Different Paths to Third Round in Boys 14s ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Coral Gables FL--

    Top seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria and second seed JT Sundling of the United States moved into the third round at the Junior Orange Bowl, but they had vastly different tests on the courts Sunday afternoon at the University of Miami tennis center.

    Dimitrov, the 14s champion at the Eddie Herr, was challenged throughout his match by unseeded Josip Mesin of Croatia before eventually prevailing 7-6 (4), 6-4. I heard the quality of match described as that of a late round 16s tournament, and the portions of it that I saw were definitely on that level. Next up for Dimitrov is Jordan Cox of the United States. Cox advanced when Texan Blake Davis, who is recovering from a ribcage muscle problem, retired trailing 4-3 in the first set.

    Sundling was barely on the court an hour in his 6-1, 6-0 drubbing of Hernan Gomez of Columbia. Sundling's size and serve gave the much smaller Gomez very few options and the Californian had no trouble outgunning his opponent from the baseline either.

    If both should win Monday, Jadon Phillips--the qualifier who has now six matches with his straight set victory Sunday afternoon--and Sundling would meet Tuesday in the Round of 16.

    Also in Sundling's quarter is Rhyne Williams, the Eddie Herr 16s semifinalist, who was suprisingly unseeded given his top 20 USTA ranking in 16s. Williams, playing more aggressively against Gabrial Dias of Brazil than he had against U.S. qualifier Kevin McMillen in the first round, came through with a straight set win.

    Shaun Bernstein of New York, in his first year in 14s, also advanced to the third round with a straight set win, as did Pennsylvania's Frank Carleton, the seventh seed, Devin Britton of Mississippi and Mousheg Hovhannisyan of Southern California.

    Sam Wells and Alex Domijan of Florida both need three sets to get through, with Wells taking out 13th seed Ryusei Makiguchi 6-7 (3), 6-4, 7-5, and Domijan, the 14s Eddie Herr finalist, barely getting by thirteen-year-old Ray Sarmiento of California 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

    Another thirteen-year-old and the tenth player from the United States to make the third round, is 16th seed Evan King of Chicago who defeated qualifier Bowen Ouvang of Hong Kong 6-4, 7-6 (3).

    Third seed Jose Silva of Brazil and fourth seed Yannick Reuter of Belgium also advanced, as did last year's Junior Orange Bowl 12s champion Bernard Tomic of Australia, who took out the ninth seed Shuichi Sekiguchi of Japan 7-6 (6), 6-0.

    In the boys 12s, Emmett Egger and Mika DeCoster of the United States will play a rematch of the Eddie Herr final on Monday because the luck of the draw put the unseeded (!) DeCoster and rival Egger on an early collision course. The other Eddie Herr semifinalist from the U.S., Christian Harrison (also unseeded) pulled through in a third set tiebreak to upend a one seed, Semion Branzburg of Israel.

    Saturday, December 17, 2005

    Nearly Half the Seeds Out of Jr. Orange Bowl Boys 12s; In Boys 14s Only Two Seeded Players Fall

    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Nearly Half the Seeds Out of Jr. Orange Bowl Boys 12s; In Boys 14s, Only Two Seeded Players Fall
    Coral Gables FL--

    The rain that the weather forecasters have been predicting for the past two days has not materialized; instead we've had unusually balmy weather for December, while the cold that is gripping the rest of the country hasn't yet made it this far south.

    I split the day between the boys 12s at Tropical Park and the boys 14s at University of Miami, and the younger age division demonstrated once again how difficult it is to make any judgments at that stage of tennis.

    Seeding 12s from all over the world is so difficult that at the Eddie Herr, they don't even attempt it.

    At the Junior Orange Bowl, the committee assigns eight number ones and eight number nines, based primarily on the country's own rankings. The U.S. has only one seeded player, Emmett Egger, who is a one, despite the fact that three of the four semifinalists at the Eddie Herr were from the United States.

    Today Egger won, but the number one seeds--from Russia, Canada and Japan--lost, as did four of the number nine seeds.

    The 14s, who are seeded 1-16, (what happened to the 17-32 that is now standard in 128 draws?) lost only two seeds, number five Juan Vazquez of Argentina and number six Soufiane Azarqui of Canada. The U.S. boys fared very well, with JT Sundling (2), Frank Carleton (7) and Evan King (16) advancing, as did Blake Davis, Jordan Cox, Shaun Bernstein, Sam Wells, Alex Domijan, Devin Britton, Sekou Bangoura, Denis Kudla, Mousheg Hovhannisyan and Rhyne Williams. And that's not all. A very strong group of qualifiers also won their first round contests--Andy Cooper, William Parker, Jadon Phillips and Justin Rossi, and Phillips has already won five matches since Wednesday.

    Although I only saw bits and pieces of the match, I enjoyed watching Devin Britton, the fourteen-year-old from Mississippi, who now trains at IMG Bollettieri in Bradenton. Britton is not afraid to approach the net, making his big first serve even more effective, and Saturday everything was working in his 6-2, 6-0 win. After a few days of watching qualifiers trade groundies, it was certainly refreshing to see some variety.

    Young Captures ITF World Championship at Yucatan

    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Young Captures ITF World Championship at Yucatan.

    All's well that ends well.

    It took a frantic week, but Donald Young finally won the ITF World Championship that he thought was his at the Orange Bowl.

    In last night's semifinals, Marin Cilic of Croatia lost to Petru Luncanu of Romania, while Young easily defeated Roberto Maytin of Venezuela.

    Even though once again we didn't get the head-to-head we wanted, it was an exciting and intriguing couple of weeks for junior tennis. Thanks to both Cilic and Young for giving all junior tennis fans an early Christmas present.

    Friday, December 16, 2005

    Before The Deluge

    Before the Deluge ~~~

    Early post today, because I have a very busy afternoon/evening and tomorrow the main draw matches begin, weather permitting. A brief but torrential rain shower in the afternoon extended yesterday's play into the evening. The girls 12s Junior Orange Bowl is played on clay, which means the sodden courts caused the final round of qualifying to be moved to the morning of the first day of main draw--Saturday. And more rain is in the forecast for today and the weekend. At least hurricane season is over.

    The Yucatan Cup is down to the semifinals, with Young and Cilic both still in it, though Young lost in doubles yesterday, which only matters, if I've got the various point scenarios straight, if Young loses singles today and Cilic makes the singles final and wins the doubles.

    My Orange Bowl story for tennisrecruiting.net was posted today. It features a more in-depth look at the girls 18s doubles champions, Jenni-Lee Heinser and Liz Plotkin.

    Thursday, December 15, 2005

    Acceptances for Australian Jr. Open Announced

    Acceptances for Australian Jr. Open Announced ~~~

    Only 31 days until the Australian Open starts, and since we've just booked our plane reservations, it no longer seems so distant to me. The junior acceptances were released yesterday, with Young and Cilic the top two on the boys side. The girls have a notable absentee in Vania King, but since she's assured of a main draw qualifying with her ranking, maybe she shouldn't try to double up. 2005 AO girls winner Viktoria Azarenka of Belarus went on to become the ITF World Junior Champion after snagging the U.S. Open too, and Donald Young ascended to the number one ranking there and held it all year. It's obviously a big boost to win the first grand slam, perhaps most of all psychologically.

    Wednesday, December 14, 2005

    Down to the Wire, Only Closer:: Peter Bodo's Tennis World Blog

    Down to the Wire, Only Closer:: Peter Bodo's Tennis World Blog ~~~

    You may have gathered from my brief posts of the past two days that I'm taking some time off, which is true. I did not fly to Merida to cover the Yucatan Cup--I may a little off the deep end when it comes to junior tennis, as Peter Bodo implies in the above post, but I'm not that far gone.

    Rather than spend the entire day at a tournament, as I did for a two-week plus span with the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl, I'm working on other assignments--which reminds me, I never posted the link to my Eddie Herr story for tennisrecruiting.net.

    But I am following the Yucatan Cup via the itf junior website, and I'm seeing, that with the rest of tennis on vacation, this race between Cilic and Young is drawing some notice by the mainstream tennis press.

    Young and Cilic are still in and Orange Bowl champion Robin Roshardt is out (props to Chris Racz of the U.S. for that big win). Cilic did get the better of Young in lining up a doubles partner for this week. Cilic got Roshardt , Young is playing with Jamaal Adderley.

    Tuesday, December 13, 2005

    Young not youngest No. 1 ... yet :: espn.com

    ESPN.com. Young not youngest No. 1 ... yet ~~~

    Maybe someone other than junior tennis geeks are interested in this story. Other than saying the Yucatan Cup starts Tuesday (Young won his first round match yesterday), this story explains quite clearly what happened at the Orange Bowl Thursday and Friday leading to the Yucatan deja vu.

    And DeSimone is right--the half of the draw containing Roshardt is the tough one.

    Monday, December 12, 2005

    Cilic and Young in Draw at Yucatan; ITF Boys World Championship Still in Doubt

    Cilic and Young in Draw at Yucatan; ITF Boys World Championship Still in Doubt ~~~

    I'm attending the ITA Conference banquet this evening at the Doral Resort in Miami, looking forward to hearing Brad Gilbert, the keynote speaker, but it looks like the ITF is on the case and is going to great pains to keep everybody informed on the boys year end title race. Here is their update, including pdf files with point totals and an email address to use for questions about the issue.
    Stay tuned.

    Sunday, December 11, 2005

    Wozniacki and Roshardt Win Orange Bowl Titles; Heinser and Plotkin Capture Doubles Championship

    Wozniacki and Roshardt Win Orange Bowl Titles; Heinser and Plotkin Capture Doubles Championship ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Miami FL--

    Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and Robin Roshardt of Switzerland both will board planes and head for the Yucatan Cup, with heavier suitcases and lighter hearts, a result of the Waterford crystal they'll be packing as 2005 Orange Bowl champions.

    Roshardt, 17, made quick work of Paris Gemouchidis Sunday morning, taking a 6-1, 6-0 decision from the battered Greek qualifier, who was playing his ninth match of the tournament.

    "From the first point on, I think I played confidently and didn't miss many balls," said Roshardt, who was the tournament's ninth seed. "I played good."

    Gemouchidis did not, taken out of his retriving game by a sore right calf and a balky left hamstring that required a trainer early in the second set.

    "I woke up in the morning with my right calf feeling a bit tight. I had it wrapped and both my ankles wrapped," said the only qualifier to make the boys final since the tournament moved from clay to hard courts in 1999. "All the tiredness came out today."

    His movement obviously hindered, especially in the second set, Gemouchidis could not counterpunch, and his serve was also affected by his assorted injuries. Roshardt did not let his opponent's problems interrupt his focus, and continued to hit winners with regularity.

    "He plays very aggressive," said Gemouchidis, 17. "He takes the ball very early, putting pressure on his opponent. And he has a better backhand than forehand."

    Gemouchidis, who trains in Spain at the Sergi Bruguera Academy, is also traveling to Mexico for the Yucatan Cup Monday. "I will get off the plane, go on the court and play my match," he said matter-of-factly of his 11 p.m. match time Monday.

    But after what he accomplished at the Orange Bowl--beating both third seed Ryan Sweeting and fifth seed Timothy Neilly, the defending champion--enroute to the final, even that doesn't seem a daunting challenge.

    After a week of tennis that included two main draw singles rounds in one day, three matches of four-game sets for doubles on another, night matches, fog, rain and humidity, Caroline Wozniacki had her own litany of aches and pains.

    Holding a bag of ice to her left thigh, she began pointing to various body parts. "I'm sore here, and here and here, and here I have a blister, and the bug bites, from my night matches," said the fifteen-year-old from Denmark.

    But those injuries were secondary to her elation at taking the Orange Bowl girls 18s championship with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over friend Mihaela Buznarnescu of Romania.

    "I'm so excited. I can't believe I won the whole tournament," said the fifth seed. "It's one of the biggest tournaments and I proved to myself one more time that I'm one of the best players."

    Wozniacki's serve proved an effective weapon and Buzarnescu, the eighth seed, could not get her fearsome forehand in the court with any regularity. Although Buzarnescu was more determined to finish points from the net than Wozniacki, she was too erratic to provide a challenge to her quicker and more consistent foe.

    Asked if she felt sorry for Buzarnescu, whom she described as a "close" friend, Wozniacki thought for a moment and said goodnaturedly, "No, actually not. We're friends off the court, but on the court I don't know who is standing over there."

    And although her Orange Bowl title will immediately cast her in the role of favorite for the upcoming Casablanca Cup and the Australian Junior Open, Wozniacki is avoiding any talk of added pressure.

    "I was also one of the favorites this year," said the ITF's ninth-ranked junior. "But I was thinking more about winning than enjoying the game, and that's not going to work. So now I'm just saying to myself, 'I'll take one step at a time' and go out there and enjoy it."

    Wozniacki could not immediately savor her singles title, as she and partner Anna Tatishvili of Georgia met Jenny-Lee Heinser and Liz Plotkin of the U.S. in the girls 18 doubles Sunday afternoon.

    In a match that made up for the lack of excitement in the preceding singles finals, Heinser and Plotkin, the sixth seeds, won their first Grade A title-- a 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 victory in front of a small but vocal crowd.

    Heinser, from Miami, and Plotkin, from San Francisco, found most of their support coming from Jenni-Lee's father Reiner, who runs Heinser Tennis Academy in Miami, and a few family friends.

    "It was funny because they had this whole side cheering," said Heinser. "It was like Fed Cup," chimed in Plotkin, "except we're in the U.S.A., and we've only got about five people rooting for us."

    Eventually the entire crowd was won over by the feisty pair, who have been playing together as a team for over a year, a significant length of time for a junior team.

    "You have to know each other well," said Heinser, "in order to know what's going to bring you up, what's going to bother you, what not to say. It's good that we're close."

    That spirit was personified by the match's final game, when Plotkin was serving for the championship. On the first point Heinser dug out volley after volley, saving the point at least four times before finally inducing Wozniacki to miss an overhead smash.

    "After that point, I was like, 'you're my hero'," Plotkin said, drawing laughter from the reporters gathered. "I'm the one that says it...she's usually the one who runs around and makes unbelievable gets."

    But Plotkin also rose to the occasion in the final game, getting in all but one of her first serves, although she did admit to some jitters.

    "I was nervous," said Plotkin, "but I had faith in my partner, so I trusted myself to just go for it."

    After match point was secure, the two friends embraced, savoring their last tournament together as juniors. Although Plotkin is only seventeen and has junior events and college in her future, Heinser is eighteen and will graduate to the professional ranks at year end.

    "It's a good way to end my junior career," Heinser said, "winning my last tournament."

    The top two teams in boys doubles met Sunday morning, and it too was a close and well-played match, with the Argentinian team of Emiliano Massa and Leonardo Mayer, seeded one, defeating the Croatian team of Marin Cilic and Nikola Mektic 6-4, 7-6 (3).

    In 16s action on Sunday, unseeded Oksana Kalashnikova of Georgia, playing in her first tournament ever in the United States, defeated ninth seed Mari Luiza Craciun of Romania 6-4, 6-2, to take the girls 16 singles title. In boys 16 singles, another unseeded player also took home the trophy, Gueorgui Roumenov of Spain, who defeated third seed Stephane Piro of France 6-4, 6-3.

    Boys 16s doubles featured two French teams, with Jonathan Eyserric and Jerome Inzerillo getting past Nassim Slilam and Piro 2-6, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3).

    The girls 16s doubles championship, played Saturday evening, saw Cracium and partner Ioana Ivan best Kristy Frilling of the U.S. and Erina Kikuchi of Japan 6-3, 6-3.

    Race for Boys Junior Championship Update

    Race for Boys ITF Junior Championship Update ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Miami FL--

    This morning Tim Curry, the UTSA PR person covering the Orange Bowl, told me that what I had heard yesterday was wrong--not the part about the race still being on, but that the ITF had made a calculation error. He referred me to this story on their website that was published after the Eddie Herr, but before either Marin Cilic or Donald Young had lost at the Orange Bowl. The assumption throughout this story and throughout the tournament was that Young and Cilic would continue to win, which emphatically did not happen.

    Andre Tonejc, the Croatian coach, said after the boys' doubles final (the Croatians lost) that Cilic was still undecided about participating in the Yucatan Cup. Tonejc was heading back to Europe, but that was all he would confirm. Matches start Monday and many are scheduled for the evening; the draws are not up on the ITF site, so it may be Tuesday before results from Merida tell us if Cilic took the court or not.

    I'm told Young is in the draw and has flown to Mexico, whether or not Cilic pursues him, the Croatian's crucial doubles win Saturday changed everything for both players.

    Perhaps we'll still have at the Yucatan what we were all hoping for from the Orange Bowl, a match between the two that would decide the coveted year end title of World Junior Champion.

    Saturday, December 10, 2005

    Qualifier Gemouchidis Reaches Boys Orange Bowl Final; Buzarnescu and Wozniacki Vie for Girls Title

    Qualifier Gemouchidis Reaches Boys Orange Bowl Final; Buzarnescu and Wozniacki Vie for Girls Title ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Miami FL--

    The frustration was growing for eighth seed Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania. Although having an excellent year-- climbing into the ITF top twenty, reaching the semifinals of the U.S. Junior Open in September-- she had failed to reach a tournament final. On Saturday, she finally broke through, upsetting fourth seed and countrywoman Alexandra Dulgheru 6-3, 6-0 to join Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in the Orange Bowl girls final.

    "This year I've played like seven semifinals of Grade 1 and Grade A, and I've always lost," said the voluble lefthander from Bucharest. "This is one of my last tournaments this year and I said, I want to win this semifinal to get into the final, at least now, at the end of the year."

    Across the net on Sunday, Buzarnescu will find the fifth seeded Wozniacki, who defeated seventh seed Alisa Kleybanova of Russia 6-4, 6-0 in Saturday's other semifinal. Wozniacki and Buzarnescu did not expect to meet in the Orange Bowl final but Wozniacki's father had it all worked out in advance.

    "I'm very good friends with her and her parents," said Buzarnescu, "and her dad said, beginning the tournament, 'you two will play in the final.' I was like, yeah, yeah... okay, we'll see, but I don't think so. But now it happens. It's really cool."

    Wozniacki has beaten Buzarnescu the last two times they've played--on clay at Roland Garros and on grass at Roehampton. But Buzarnescu is confident, saying she prefers hard courts to those surfaces.

    Confident too is the fifteen-year-old from Denmark, who survived a scare in the first round when she was down 4-1 in the third set before taking the next five games.

    "I'm playing well right now," said Wozniacki. "and if I continue, I'll have a good chance. But she's playing well too. I'm going to be aggressive and play my game and I hope that's going to be enough."

    Wozniacki will play two finals on Sunday, having reached the doubles championship match with partner Anna Tatishvili of Georgia. Tatishvili and Wozniacki, the fifth seeds, will play Jennie-Lee Heinser and Liz Plotkin of the U.S., who are seeded sixth. Beginning with the semifinals, all doubles matches are being played using standard scoring--best of three sets, twelve-point tiebreak in all sets.

    Qualifier Paris Gemouchidis of Greece stretched his remarkable winning streak to eight in boys 18s action Saturday, upending France's Kevin Botti 7-6 (3), 6-2 to reach the Orange Bowl final, where he'll meet ninth seed Robin Roshardt of Switzerland. Roshardt, who had defeated world number one Donald Young in Friday's quarterfinals, earned his berth in the final with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Ukrainian Ivan Sergeyev.

    Roshardt, 17, avenged his third-set tiebreak loss to Sergeyev last week at the Eddie Herr International, but was unable to pinpoint the reason for the about face.

    "Nothing special," said the quiet righthander. "Today I had a good feeling."

    As Sergeyev did Saturday, on Sunday Roshardt will face a vanquished foe from last week's Grade 1 in Bradenton. Roshardt defeated Gemouchidis in a straight-set second round match there, but gave his Eddie Herr doubles partner credit.

    "He makes no mistakes, and plays everything with his forehand to my backhand, with spin, spin, spin. Last time we had so many rallies and it was a long match for 6-4, 6-2."

    Asked if he'd prepare any differently for the final, Roshardt dismissed that notion. "I'm just going to play my game," said Roshardt, whose mother, Claudia Pasquale, played on the WTA tour. "I won last week, so I don't have to change anything."

    Gemouchidis is not likely to want to change much about his game; his 7-6 (3), 6-2 victory over Botti is one of the few in his run that didn't go three sets, but he is showing no sign of fatigue. The long first set proved his mettle once again.

    "The tiebreak gave me the match, actually," said Gemouchidis, who trains at former French Open champion Sergi Bruguera's tennis academy in Spain. "I was all the time down in the first set, and I tried to give everything in the tiebreak."

    Botti began experiencing shoulder problems and was unable to serve with his usual effectiveness. A trainer was called to the court and Botti continued, but the energy level he sustained in his previous matches flagged.

    Gemouchidis, the ITF's 173rd ranked junior, credited both his recent completion of high school and the heavy training he has done since as the primary reasons for his unexpected run.

    "From October until now I spend many hours on the tennis court and on physical conditioning, and I was waiting for a good result. And it came. Reaching this point is unbelievable for me," he said. "A lot of effort, many hours on the practice court and I am happy for this, very happy."

    In the boys doubles final, Marin Cilic, still with a mathematical chance to win the ITF World Junior Champion's title, and Nikola Mektic, the second seeds, take on the top seeded team of Emiliano Massa and Leonardo Mayer of Argentina.

    In the boys 16 singles, France's Stephane Piro, seeded third, faces unseeded Gueorgui Roumenov of Spain. The boys 16 doubles will be an all-French affair, with Piro and partner Nassim Slilam meeting Jerome Inzerillo and Jonathan Eyserric.

    The girls 16 singles finals features unseeded fifteen-year-old Oksana Kalashnikova of Georgia against ninth seed Maria-Luiza Craciun of Romania. The 16s doubles final finds Japan's Erina Kikuchi and Kristy Frilling of the U.S. taking the court against Craciun and her partner Ioana Ivan, also of Romania.

    Oops! Cilic Still Has Opportunity to Finish Number One

    Oops! Cilic Still Has Opportunity to Finish Number One ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Miami FL --

    As it turns out, Donald Young may not have locked up the ITF's World Junior Championship. Thinking I was watching just a late round doubles match--the boys 18s semifinals featuring Croatia's Marin Cilic and Nikola Mektic against Italy's Daniel Lopez and Thomas Fabbiano--I wasn't aware that it was actually a significant result. Shortly after Cilic and Mektic won, I heard that due to a miscalculation by the ITF, Cilic was not mathematically eliminated from the race when he lost in the round of 16.

    It had been supposed that when the bonus points for winning a third Grade A were not available to him, Cilic could not catch Young. But when Young lost in the quarterfinals and in the first round of doubles, he didn't defend all of his points from 2004, making Cilic's doubles result suddenly of great importance. I do not have enough information, especially about points dropping off on a rolling calender, to make the calculations myself, so I've relied on the ITF's computers and announcements.

    This is the ever-so-brief ITF website story revising the prevous pronouncement of Young as Champion. That previous post is no longer available. I haven't been able to find out who discovered that the math was off, and I know the Yucatan Cup, which begins on Monday, had been holding wild cards in case Cilic and Young wanted to play, but the race may hinge on the state of Cilic's sore back.

    When I learned about this reversal of fortune for Cilic, I spoke to Andre Tonejc, the Croatian Federation coach traveling with the team on this Florida leg. He told me he was aware of the situation, but Cilic's back, which gave him trouble Thursday during his second round match, is still bothering him. The Croatian team is scheduled to return to Europe on Monday, but Tonejc is not ruling out a trip to the Yucatan, depending how Cilic feels after playing in the doubles final on Sunday.

    I will continue to monitor the ITF website for anything further on the year-end race.

    Friday, December 9, 2005

    Top seeds Young and Radwanska Fall; No U.S. Players Advance to Weekend Play

    Top seeds Young and Radwanska Fall; No U.S. Players Advance to Weekend Play ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis
    Miami FL--

    Leaving Miami as the ITF's 2005 world champion, Donald Young has demonstrated a year's worth of tennis excellence. But another loss in the Orange Bowl isn't how he wanted his year to end.

    After clinching the title on Thursday, when Cilic--his only threat--lost, Young said that he wasn't satisfied.

    "I've already been in the final," he said of last year's loss to Timothy Neilly, "so anything less is a disappointment."

    The contest began auspiciously for the sixteen-year-old now living in Atlanta. Unlike earlier in the week, when Young started slowly and worked his way into the match, he came out quickly against ninth seed Robin Roshardt of Switzerland, taking the first set 6-3. But the match began to slip away in the second, and when Roshardt broke held and broke in the third for a 3-0 lead, he felt confident of the win.

    "In the first set, I made too many mistakes," said the seventeen-year-old from Zurich. "In the second set, I began to fight to keep the ball in the court, and the result was good."

    "If you have a chance to beat the number one," said Roshardt, who now holds a 2-0 edge on Young, "you have to do it."

    In Saturday's semifinal, Roshardt will face 14th seed Ivan Sergeyev in a rematch of a Round of 16 encounter at the recent Eddie Herr Grade 1, won by the Ukrainian in an 18 point third set tiebreak.

    Tampa's Timothy Neilly, the defending boys champion and fifth seed, also saw his tournament end early, playing for the first time on Court One, the scene of his triumph last year. Qualifier Paris Gemouchidis, who also shocked third seed Ryan Sweeting, added yet another upset to his string of them, defeating Neilly 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

    Down 4-2 in the third, Gemouchidis leading, Neilly called for a trainer.
    "I knew he did it to break the rhythm. He had a small cut on his knee, that was all," said the seventeen-year-old from Greece, who stopped Neilly's nine game Orange Bowl winning streak and now, including qualifying matches, has put together a seven match streak of his own.

    And though Neilly did hold and break to level the third set at four, he immediately gave back the break, double faulting on game point to give Gemouchidis an opportunity to serve out the match. He promptly did so, but Gemouchidis, ranked 173 by the ITF, didn't count it as his biggest win.

    "The first round match was probably bigger," the Bruguera Tennis Academy student said when asked how his upset of Neilly compared to his win over Sweeting, the U.S. Open Jr. champion. "Because I started getting confident--I have a better feeling every morning."

    On Saturday morning, that confidence will be tested by France's Kevin Botti, who saved eight set points in the first set against wild card Wil Spencer of the U.S. and edged the sixteen-year-old from Florida 7-6 (7), 7-5. Spencer served for both sets at 5-4, but the vocal and emotional Botti, obviously feeling more pressure than he had against world number two Cilic, battled back each time.

    His coach, Alois Beust of the French Tennis Federation, described his pupil's win as a very important one. "He knew he had to back it up," Buest said, speaking of Botti's upset of Cilic. "It was harder to play against someone his same age, and it showed at the beginning of the match."

    Spencer was disappointed to have lost after having so many chances, but did not feel that nerves played any role in his inability to convert the opportunities. "I really didn't think about it during the match" he said. "I didn't feel nervous or anything. But it was in my game plan to win one of those," he joked a few hours later.

    On the girls side, eighth seed Mihaela Buzarnescu took out top seed and Wimbledon Junior Champion Agniezska Radwanska of Poland 6-2, 6-2, but the match was not as brief or decisive as the final score might indicate.

    "At second set, 3-2 for me, my serve, that game lasted like twenty-five minutes," said the seventeen-year-old from Bucharest Romania, who reached the semifinals of the U.S. Junior Open in September. "It was always deuce, and it was very good that I kept focusing and I won that game, because afterwards she was a little stressed."

    Buzarnescu now meets fellow Romanian and fourth seed Alexandra Dulgheru, who dispatched the last girl from the U.S. still in the draw, Missy Clayton, 6-1, 6-0. "It was pretty decisive," Clayton admitted, "but there were a lot of long points. She just won most of them."

    In the other semifinal match in girls 18s, seventh seed Alisa Kleybanova of Russia will meet Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who is seeded fifth. Kleybanova upset third seed and recent Eddie Herr champion Dominika Cibulkova of the Slovak Republic, while Wozniacki squeaked by unseeded Khrystyna Antoniychuk of the Ukraine 7-5, 7-6 (6).

    In the girls 16s competition, the last U.S. girls were eliminated in Friday's quarterfinal round. Nelly Radeva lost to Oksana Kalashnikova of Georgia, and Kristi Frilling was defeated by third seed Charlotte Rodier of France.

    None of the U.S. boys playing in the 16s division made it past the third round.

    Due to the weather delays early in the week, doubles competition has been reduced to four-game sets with no-ad scoring, with a tiebreak in place of a third set if the sets are split. After three rounds of doubles today, the semifinals are scheduled for Saturday.

    Thursday, December 8, 2005

    Botti Upsets Cilic at Orange Bowl, Giving Junior World Title to Young

    Botti Upsets Cilic at Orange Bowl, Giving Junior World Title to Young ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Miami FL--

    Donald Young will finish 2005 just as he started it—on top.

    When unseeded Kevin Botti of France shocked the world’s number two junior Marin Cilic of Croatia 6-3, 7-6 (1) in the Round of 16 at the Orange Bowl Thursday afternoon, Young was assured of the title of ITF Junior World Champion.

    When Young won the 2005 Australian Junior Open at the age of 15, he was the youngest Grand Slam singles winner and youngest player to top the junior rankings. Now 16, the lefthander from Chicago, who currently resides in Atlanta, became the youngest player ever to earn the year-end top spot, surpassing Richard Gasquet’s record by one month.

    "To be the first to do things, that makes me feel good, " Young said in an interview after his doubles match Thursday evening.

    "Now I can just relax and play. The last couple of matches I was tight. It’s like I’ve had a target on my back since Australia."

    Due to the complete rainout on Wednesday, two round of singles were played Thursday, and except for a brief shower that delayed matches for less than an hour, the weather was breezy and warm. Both Cilic and Young dropped the first sets of their morning matches-- Cilic to Peter Polansky of Canada and Young to Alberto Gonzalez of Panama. Cilic, who received treatment for a lower back problem between the first and second sets, came back to take a 3-6. 6-3, 6-2 decision; Young recovered for a 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 win.

    Botti also struggled in his morning match against fellow sixteen-year-old Michael McClune of California. Down a set and a break in the second, McClune made his charge, taking not only the second set but also holding a 3-0 lead in the third. After a medical timeout, however, Botti surged past McClune and set his sites on Cilic.

    While Young was disposing of 16th seed Nikola Mektic of Croatia in straight sets in the afternoon match, Cilic once again put himself in peril, dropping the first set 6-3. Although down a break early in the second set, the six-foot five-inch Croatian immediately got it back and held a 5-4 lead. When Botti served the next game he was quickly down 0-40, but Cilic couldn’t capitalize on any of those three sets points, one of which was a passing shot he let float by him, only to watch in disbelief as it landed in. Cilic had one more set point, but the energetic Botti, showing no sign of fatigue, kept scrambling and attacking, eventually putting away an overhead to get to deuce, then inducing two errors to even the set at 5-all. The usually placid and business-like Cilic resorted to talking to himself and toweling off between points, baffled by his inability to raise his game to counterattack.

    Typical of the drama and athleticism of the lefthander from France was a point at 5-6, Botti serving. Responding to Cilic’s excellent drop shot reply to his initial drop shot, Botti, scurrying forward to reach the ball before the second bounce, slid completely underneath the net, ending up on his back in the service box on Cilic’s side of the court. And although Botti lost the point, Cilic saw, up close, an indication of his opponent’s determination to keep a point alive.

    The tiebreak was anticlimactic, as Botti hit three straight winners and, coupled with several errors from a tired-looking Cilic, jumped out to a 6-0 lead and closing it out on his second match point.

    Botti, a member of France’s victorious 2005 Junior Davis Cup Team, cited the win as his biggest ever. Speaking primarily through one of the French National Federation coaches, Alois Beust, Botti discounted the significance of knocking Cilic from the ITF’s World Champion’s race.

    "The most important thing is beating a player as good as he is. I enjoy playing against such a player, a Grand Slam champion at Roland Garros."

    Sliding, tumbling, squeaking, bouncing and leaping throughout the match, Botti never gave a hint that he had survived a three-set match earlier in that morning.

    “That’s the way he plays,” said Beust. “I think he was more tired waiting around for matches yesterday than he was playing two today.”

    With his recent Eddie Herr semifinal appearance, Botti is actually one of the least surprising quarterfinalists on the boys side. Unseeded Lucky Loser Daniel Lopez of Italy and qualifier Paris Gemouchidis of Greece have advanced as has wild card Wil Spencer of the U.S.

    Spencer, 16, and a member of the U.S. Junior Davis Cup team, quickly disposed of unseeded Miguel Cicenia of Venzuela in the morning match, and received a win in his afternoon match when eleventh seed Javier Garrapiz of Spain retired with cramps, trailing 6-4. Spencer and Botti meet Friday morning.

    Gemouchidis will attempt to halt Tim Neilly’s nine game Orange Bowl win streak. Last year’s champion beat Attila Bucko and Antonio Veic in straight sets Thursday.

    Young will play Robin Roshardt of Switzerland, the ninth seed, and the other quarterfinal match pits Lopez against Ivan Sergeyev of the Ukraine.

    The upset of the day on the girls side saw the Ukraine’s Khrystyna Antoniychuk take out second seed Raluca Olaru of Romania. Another surprise was wild card Missy Clayton’s straight set win over 14th seed Evgeniya Rodina of Russia.

    Due to the weather problems and scheduling decisions, the doubles format has been changed. Four games now constitute a set, and if each team wins such set, a ten-point tiebreak decides the match.

    Wednesday, December 7, 2005

    Rain Delays Continue to Disrupt Orange Bowl Schedule

    UPDATE: All Wednesday's matches have been cancelled.
    As of 3:15 p.m. EST, no matches have been played on Key Biscayne as off-and-on (mostly on) showers have occurred since 8 p.m. Tuesday. The doubles and girls matches for the day have been cancelled, and with a limited number of lighted courts available, the boys are questionable.

    Since I don't have any fresh matches to write about, I'm posting this link to today's Miami Herald, which is primarily preview but contains some first round postmatch comments.

    Tuesday, December 6, 2005

    Sweeting Succumbs to Heat and Qualifier at Orange Bowl

    Sweeting Succumbs to Heat and Qualifier ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Miami FL--

    The unseasonable heat and humidity helped dash U.S. Jr. Open champion Ryan Sweeting's longshot hope for the year-end number one ranking, but a match-tough opponent can take the bulk of the credit for the upset.

    Qualifier Paris Gemouchidis of Greece defeated the future Florida Gator and third seed 4-6, 7-5, 3-1 ret., and although Sweeting left the court under his own power, he was later wheeled via gurney from the trainer's area to an emergency vehicle for a trip to a facility that could monitor his severe cramping.

    Shortly after that drama unfolded, the rains came, disrupting play and forcing girls 16s and all doubles to be postponed until Wednesday. The timing could not have been worse for second seed Marin Cilic of Croatia who led 6-1 in the second set tiebreak in his match with Russian Pavel Chekhov, but had to wait two and a half hours to play the two points that would put him in the second round. Cilic demonstrated that mysterious ability to force and error or hit a winner at every crucial point, a talent he was called on to use regularly against a solid player like Chekhov. Cilic won the match by a 6-4, 7-6 (2) score.

    Obscured by all the speculation about who will be number one is defending champion Timothy Neilly of the United States. Neilly, the fifth seed, is now on a seven match winning streak at the Orange Bowl with his 6-4, 6-4 victory over Christopher Racz, also of the U.S. Neilly will face qualifier Attila Bucko in the second round. Bucko, of the U.S. via Serbia, came from behind to take out fifteen-year-old Mateusz Kecki of California, 6-4, 4-6, 6-0.

    Other U.S. players in boys 18s action on Tuesday were Dennis Lajola, who won his first round match in straight sets over Rasid Winklaar of the Netherland Antilles; Marcus Fugate who dropped his opening match to 10th seed Luka Belic of Croatia and Jean Yves Aubone who fell in three tough sets to Daniel Lopez of Mexico.

    The rain has forced officials to add an additional site on Wednesday, the Sonesta Beach Resort, where most of the 16s singles will be played.

    For further information on draws and results, see usta.com

    Monday, December 5, 2005

    Orange Bowl Underway on Key Biscayne

    Orange Bowl Underway on Key Biscayne ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Miami FL--

    Heading out to Key Biscayne's Crandon Park from Miami, usually one of the most picturesque drives anywhere, there were many signs of the recent visit of hurricane Wilma.

    The tennis center is also full of evidence of the raging winds, with damaged trees and assorted debris marring the usually serene atmosphere that makes the park such a respite from the sensory overload that Miami proper presents.

    The first day of a big tournament is one of the best--so many players and parents and coaches; so full of promise and possibility and suspense. And with the boys ITF World Championship riding on this one, the tension will increase with every match Donald Young, Marin Cilic and Ryan Sweeting play. Young was the only one of the three to take the court today, and after a few hiccups that were probably a result of a lack of recent match play, he advanced to the second round, defeating countryman Dylan Arnould 6-4, 7-6 (5), in a match that began in twilight and ended under the bright lights of the show court.

    In another 18s matchup of two players from the U.S., Wil Spencer upset fellow sixteen-year-old and seventh seed Kellen Damico 7-6 (2), 5-0 ret. Serving for the set at 6-5, the often volatile Damico became unnerved by one of the chair umpire's line calls and never recovered his composure. A large group of players and coaches had gathered to watch the match, which featured several jaw-droppingly good points in the nip-and-tuck first set, but Spencer took all the suspense out of the battle when he played a nearly perfect tiebreak and then sustained that level to begin the second set.

    It hasn't been a good tournament for tennis siblings, as Damico's younger sister Krista was also upset, and Holden and Carling Seguso both lost first round matches as well.

    Sixteen-year-old Christopher Price of Texas fashioned the day's biggest upset, taking out the top seed in the 16s division, Daniel Sanchez of Mexico.

    The first round in the 18s division continues Tuesday.

    Sunday, December 4, 2005

    Croatia Rules Tennis World with wins in Bratislava and Bradenton

    Croatia Rules Tennis World with Wins in Bratislava and Bradenton
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Bradenton FL--

    When Croatians Marin Cilic and Nikola Mektic took the court for the boys 18 final at the Eddie Herr International Championships, their country’s quest for its first Davis Cup still hung in the balance.

    But as the two boys from Zagreb demonstrated all week with their big ---but stylistically different-- games, Croatia is likely to be a tennis power for many years to come.

    Cilic, the top seed, rode his powerful serve to a 6-3, 7-5 win over his much less physically imposing friend and warm-up partner, reversing the tide that had produced wins for Mektic in their last two meetings.

    "We’ve known each other since we were ten," said Cilic, who turned seventeen in September, "so it’s a long friendship. It was a tough match today."

    Mektic managed to break Cilic twice in the second set and was serving for it at 5-4, but lost the next three games, and with them, the chance for the upset.

    "I was serving from the bad side, the worse side," Cilic said, referring to the breezy conditions that seemed more pronounced on Court 15. "When I played with the wind it was easier, so I was able to break him back."

    Mektic, who turns seventeen in a few weeks, showed occasional glimpses of the deceptively effective shotmaking that had baffled his opponents in the quarters and semis and, in one of the tournament’s biggest upsets, second seed and U.S. Open Junior champion Ryan Sweeting in the Round of 16.

    But Mektic needed more consistency than he displayed to dent Cilic’s confidence, which has grown dramatically since his victory at the Osaka Mayor’s Cup in October gave him a opportunity to finish 2005 as the World Junior Champion, a title he can claim by winning the Orange Bowl next week at Key Biscayne.

    "I didn’t play my best game today," said Mektic, who has played only three junior tournaments in the United States. "It was tough to play and the wind was very strong. But I’m not disappointed at all. I’m happy to be here in the final, I didn’t expect that so it’s good to me."

    When told that Ljubicic had lost to Hrbaty and that the Davis Cup would hinge on the fifth rubber, Cilic and Mektic completed their interview requests and headed to cheer on their country, succinctly summed up by Cilic as:

    "Small Country. Big Players."

    Top seeds Ryan Sweeting, from the Bahamas, and partner Dusan Lojda of the Czech Republic, downed Jesse Levine of the United States and Clay Donato of Canada 6-4, 6-4 to claim the the boys 18s doubles title. Levine, who won the 2004 18s doubles title with partner Michael Shabaz, played only doubles this year, entering at the insistence of Nick Bollettieri, who gave the two IMG students a wild card. Levine and Donato, who were unseeded, won a Pro Circuit Futures title together last month in Canada.

    The Slovak Republic may have lost the Davis Cup Sunday, but they can claim the 2005 girls 18 Eddie Herr Champion, as third seed Dominika Cibulkova defeated Sorana Cirstea of Romania 6-3, 4-6, 6-0.

    After grinding through two long three-setters on Friday and Saturday, the latter a third set tiebreak thriller over Evgeniya Rodina of Russia that lasted nearly three hours, the petite Cibulkova admitted to some aches and pains.

    "When I was warming up with my coach, it was like, everything was hurt, but in the match, I didn't think about it."

    Up 4-3 and 40-15 in the second set, Cibulkova let down a bit and the next thing she knew, she was facing another third set, this one for a Grade 1 championship. And having lost in the 2004 Eddie Herr 18s final, Cibulkova, 16, was determined not to squander the opportunity this year.

    "I was a little bit angry, you know," Cibulkova said, "because I was supposed to win the second set. I said I can lose it, so in the third set, in the final I just did everything. I thought to myself 'come on, play your game and you will be okay'".

    But after sending a text message to her mother in the Slovak Republic and congratulating Cilic on his win, Cibulkova collected her trophy and a few T-shirts and headed off for the Orange Bowl. Asked what she would do to celebrate, she answered, "Nothing special--get in the car and head to Miami." Where she can only hope that her first round match is easier than her last three at the Eddie Herr.

    The girls doubles championship proved equally disappointing for Sorana Cirstea, when she and fellow Romanian Raluca Olaru, the second seeded team, dropped a heartbreaking 6-3, 5-7, 7-6 (3) decision to top seeds Aymuni Morita of Japan and Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark. The tournament's final contest, delayed until mid-afternoon due to the length of the Cirstea-Cibulkova singles match, was a hard-fought battle that raged for more than two hours, providing a fitting conclusion to a dramatic ten days of tennis action.

    Twelve-year-old Captures Girls 16s Title at Eddie Herr; Escobar, Dimitrov and Hendler Also Crowned Champions

    Twelve-year-old Captures Girls 16s Title at Eddie Herr; Escobar, Dimitrov and Hendler Also Crowned Champions ~~~
    ©Colette Lewis 2005
    Bradenton FL--

    With Portugal, Belgium, Eucador, Bulgaria, Slovak Republic and Croatia winning Eddie Herr titles on Sunday, the global community of tennis that the tournament's late namesake envisioned was resoundingly affirmed.

    In girls 16 singles, twelve-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal not only beat Nadja Gilchrist 6-3, 6-4 in Sunday morning’s final but surpassed former Bollettieri prodigy Maria Sharapova as well.

    "I tried to beat Sharapova’s record because Sharapova won the 16s when she was 13 (in 2000), and I won it at 12, so I guess I broke her record," de Brito said.

    Down 3-0 and two service breaks at the start of the match, the Bollettieri-trained de Brito shook off her nerves and adjusted to Gilchrist’s power, taking control of the match by winning the next six games.

    "She stepped it up," said the fifteen-year-old Gilchrist, who as a qualifier, was playing her ninth singles match in ten days. "She just played better. I tried different shots, but on some of her shots I just said ‘how does she hit those?'"

    Gilchrist, from Rochester New York, managed to reverse the momentum and get to 4-4 in the second set, but her double fault at game point gave de Brito the opportunity to serve for the match.

    Down 0-30 and then break point in that 10th game, de Brito hit a laser-beam forehand winner at deuce and closed out her first match point by coaxing an error from Gilchrist. Her large Bollettieri-based support group cheered loudly, celebrating de Brito’s second Eddie Herr championship trophy of the weekend. She and Mallory Cecil won the girls 16 doubles title of Saturday.

    "It means a lot," de Brito said of her first major junior singles title. "I’ve been working so hard for this, and I’ve got it."

    Again following in Sharapova’s footsteps, de Brito was named the recipient of the Eddie Herr "Rising Star" award, the same honor bestowed upon Sharapova after her title in 2000.

    In the girls 14s singles final Tamaryn Hendler of Belgium and Valeria Solovieva of Russia met in a rematch of last year’s Junior Orange Bowl 12s championship, which Solovieva won 6-1, 6-2.

    On Sunday morning, Hendler turned the tables, and defeated her doubles partner by the identical score, a result the Bollettieri-trained thirteen-year-old attributed primarily to the difference in surfaces, clay and hard.

    "I'm much more comfy on the hard courts," said Hendler, who speaks excellent English in addition to her native French. "I had a couple butterflies, but I played much better today than yesterday (where she dropped the first set before winning the next two 6-0, 6-1 against the number five seed)."

    Now in her fourth year at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy, Hendler visits her home in Belgium every few months, but admitted that the cloudless skies and mild temperatures of Bradenton this time of year are a definite attraction. "I’d say the weather is a lot better."

    She and Solovieva will both head for the Junior Orange Bowl, where they’ll seek the opportunity to break the tie in major international titles.

    The doubles title was won by twin sisters Lvudmyla and Nadiya Kichenok of the Ukraine, who downed Great Britain’s Tara Moore and Carling Seguso (USA) 8-3.

    In boys 16s, the thirteenth seed was a lucky one for Gonzalo Escobar of Eucador, who defeated Radu Albot of Moldova 6-4, 7-6 (2).

    Escobar, a lefthander with a Nadal-like ability to turn defense into offense, was serving for the match at 5-4, but let that opportunity slip away.

    "I went to the net without a plan," said the sixteen-year-old of his gamble on game point, "and those kind of mistakes are so expensive."

    But he gave Albot credit as well. "He was..." Escobar said and paused, seeking the appropriate English word while making a gesture as to lift something, “elevating his level during the match.”

    "I had to play my best in the tiebreak to win," Escobar said, "and I did."

    The sixth seeded Albot, playing his first tournament in the United States, was not happy with his performance. "He is lefty, which made it uncomfortable for me," said the sixteen-year-old who is the European Tennis Association’s second ranked 16 and under player.

    "But he’s really very good. I thought I was attacking and then he was attacking me."

    Albot will head to the Orange Bowl with one championship trophy, however, as he and partner Alin Constantin, the top seeds, won the doubles title on Saturday, defeating Chris Price and Rhyne Williams of the United States 8-2.

    With Nadja Gilchrist falling earlier in morning, Florida’s Alex Domijan was the last opportunity for the United States to win a second singles title, but he was unable to sustain the level that brought him to the final, and succumbed to the boys 14’s number two seed, Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, 6-1, 6-1.

    A downcast Domijan, who is ranked 18th in the USTA’s 14 and under rankings, was disappointed in this showing. "I just didn’t play well today,” said the fourteen-year-old who trains at Saddlebrook. "He did."

    Dimitrov, the number one ranked player by the ETA in the 14 and under age group, disagreed.

    "I just played my game," said Dimitrov, 14, who has recently made his first trip to the United States to train at Mark Weil’s Academy in Ojai California. "I didn’t play so good, but I’m glad for me to win my match today."

    Dimitrov displayed a rock solid one-handed backhand throughout the match and Domijan’s crosscourt forehand didn’t produce the errors that he forced with that shot in his upset of top seed Borut Puc in the semifinals.

    Asked if he’d always had a one-hander, Dimitrov, who has been playing for over ten years said, "Always. I never had two hands. I just work on the forehand."

    Dimitrov heads for Prince Cup, where he’ll play in the 16s and the Junior Orange Bowl where he’ll attempt to win that prestigious title in the 14s division.

    The doubles championship on Saturday saw top seeds Nicolas Pastor and Juan Vazquez-Valenzuela of Argentina prevail 8-3 over the U.S. team of Adam Bernstein and Harry Fowler.