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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.