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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Inside Junior Tennis Podcast; USTA's Junior Year in Review

The most recent Inside Junior Tennis podcast is now available. Kevin McClure and I discuss the Junior Orange Bowl winners and use the Miami Herald story on Evan King as a jumping off point for delving into the issue of balance in a gifted junior's life.

A few weeks ago, usta.com wrapped up the 2006 tennis year from the American junior perspective; Sally Milano's article is here.

I have just converted to the new and improved Blogger, and in the next few days you'll notice a different look for zootennis. Bear with me, it may take a while to get it organized.

2006 Honor Roll

December 2006

  • Reo Asami

    12s Junior Orange Bowl

  • Mateusz Kecki

    ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr (dbls)

  • Mitchell Krueger

    12s Eddie Herr International

  • Thai Kwiatkowski & Joseph DiGiulio (dbls)

    12s Eddie Herr International

    October 2006

  • Mateusz Kecki

    ITF Grade B1 Tulsa

  • Kellen Damico & Johnny Hamui

    ITF Grade B1 Tulsa (dbls)

    September 2006

  • Jamie Hunt & Nate Schnugg (dbls)

    U.S. Open Junior Championships

    August 2006

  • Donald Young

    18s USTA Nationals

  • Brennan Boyajian

    16s USTA Nationals

  • Junior Ore

    14s USTA Nationals

  • Gordon Watson

    12s USTA Nationals

  • July 2006

  • Michael Venus

    18s USTA Clay Courts

  • Brennan Boyajian

    16s USTA Clay Courts

  • Dennis Kudla

    14s USTA Clay Courts

  • Gordon Watson

    12s USTA Clay Courts

  • Kellen Damico & Nate Schnugg (dbls)

    Wimbledon Junior Championships

    April 2006

  • Jamie Hunt & Donald Young (dbls)

    ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl

  • Donald Young

    ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl

  • Brennan Boyajian

    16s USTA Easter Bowl

  • Evan King

    14s USTA Easter Bowl

  • Mika DeCoster

    12s USTA Spring Nationals

  • Kyle McMorrow

    16s International Spring

    March 2006

  • Nate Schnugg (dbls)

    ITF Grade 1 Gerdau Cup

  • Houston Barrick

    18s USTA Spring Nationals

  • Jamie Hunt and Nate Schnugg (dbls)

    ITF Grade A Banana Bowl

    January 2006

  • Ray Sarmiento

    Teen Tennis International

  • Shaun Bernstein and Ray Sarmiento

    Teen Tennis International (dbls)

  • Dennis Lajola (dbls)

    ITF Grade 1 Loy Yang

  • Kallim Stewart

    18s USTA Winter Nationals

  • Ryan Thacher

    16s USTA Winter Nationals

  • Jordan Cox

    14s USTA Winter Nationals

  • Emmett Egger

    12s USTA Winter Nationals

    For 2005 Honor Roll,

    click here

  • Saturday, December 30, 2006

    Game, set, touchdown: USC's success is hardly by the book: CBSsportsline.com (AP)

    A Rose Bowl preview featuring Pete Carroll and the USC Trojans wouldn't normally make my daily reading list, even if the Michigan Wolverines are their opponent on Monday. (I guess I'm still in denial that U of M didn't get their rematch with the Buckeyes in the BCS title game).

    But it turns out that Carroll has been a fan of a tennis book for many years, and has passed along copies of it to many of his players. Lawrence Jackson, a defensive lineman, is the player most recently influenced by W. Timothy Gallwey's The Inner Game of Tennis. I checked out the reviews on Amazon, and although it doesn't sound as revolutionary as it probably was back in the 70s, I'm guessing much of the zen-type advice continues to resonate with athletes not yet born when the book was published.

    Friday, December 29, 2006

    To Academy or Not To Academy

    While I was in Florida, Peter Bodo was too, and even though he was at IMG/Bollettieri's for only a day, he gathered plenty of material for an interesting TennisWorld post. He reveals an offer Bollettieri made to the USTA, who apparently declined it, although no reasons were given. Bodo's remarks regarding a six-year-old Bollettieri student produced many perceptive comments from his readers, and many interesting issues were raised including the special needs of gifted children, the boarding school option, how young is too young, etc.

    I know many juniors who go to academies, including Bollettieri's, and many who do not. Some do not because they aren't interested in leaving their homes and families. Some do not because they can not afford it and they have not been offered scholarships. Some do not because they are happy with the progress of their game with their local coach. And yes, some do not because they are not interested in pursuing tennis that seriously.

    But if you have a child who loves tennis and excels at it, and you are from say, Nebraska or Minnesota, how do you choose between giving that child the opportunity to develop against top competition and a "normal" family life? Do you move the entire family to Florida or Southern California? And does this only increase the pressure on the child, who now feels responsible for prompting such a major change?

    These are dilemmas that no one can presume to resolve for someone else. It turns out that the six-year-old's parents felt the commenters were jumping to conclusions, and they sparked another interesting batch of comments when they took the opportunity to weigh in with the particulars of their daughter's situation. That comment (12/22 12:50 p.m.) is in this post.

    Thursday, December 28, 2006

    SMASH Column, Final Edition

    My last On The Road with Colette column for SMASH magazine's website was posted today. Although I will continue to write for the print edition of the magazine, I've decided to discontinue the regular aces, faults and lets compilation I've been doing.

    Fifty columns, the total I've written in the past year, is a nice round number to bow out on. The discipline a weekly deadline demands and the research, especially when I wasn't at a tournament, were just a couple of the many positives that accrued from the past year's experiment. A writing job that provides a small but steady income to help offset my travel expenses is not to be abandoned without serious thought. Fortunately, I've been asked by The Tennis Recruiting Network--www.tennisrecruiting.net--to increase my number of articles for them from one or two per month to four, beginning in January.

    I'd like to ask the readers of zootennis what kinds of articles you would like me to write for that site. I have been doing mostly tournament wraps and recruiting profiles and am considering perhaps a monthly Smash-like column rather than the weekly one, but I am open to suggestions, as is my editor at tr.net. Please leave a comment or email me via the "Contact" section on my profile page with ideas or formats for 2007.

    And thank you for reading zootennis and following the links from it to Smash and Tennis Recruiting over the past year. It's been an important part of the evolution of this blog.

    Wednesday, December 27, 2006

    Winter Nationals Underway

    Eric Boal of the LA Daily News wrote a feature on Ryan Thacher in advance of the Winter Nationals in Phoenix, which began with two rounds of singles today. Since his very tough loss in the 16s finals in Kalamazoo, Thacher has played almost exclusively in Southern California and is seeded No. 4 in the 18s in Phoenix. Next up for Thacher is 15-year-old Floridian Alex Domijan, who is, of course, unseeded in the 18s, but finished fourth in Kalamazoo behind only Brennan Boyajian, Thacher and Adam El Mihdawy.

    I've never been to the Winter Nationals, because I devote so much time to the Florida junior swing and need a break, but I'll be following the results closely. The draws for the 16s & 18s are here. The draws for the 12s & 14s are here.

    Tuesday, December 26, 2006

    Inside Junior Tennis Podcast; Bonnie DeSimone on Rutgers Cutting Tennis

    The most recent podcast of Inside Junior Tennis is now available. Kevin McClure and I discuss the ITA Coaches Convention, the halfway point of the Junior Orange Bowl and the new USTA publication Guide to Tennis On College Campuses.

    My friend and colleague Bonnie DeSimone recently examined the decision to eliminate the Rutgers men's tennis program for Tennis.com. If you have an interest in intercollegiate tennis, please take a few minutes to read her article. The politics of big-time college athletics are always interesting.

    Sunday, December 24, 2006

    Happy Holidays!

    I won't be posting for a couple of days, but the Miami Herald did a feature on Chicago's Evan King that I wanted to link to while it is still fresh. The regular high school vs. home/online school debate isn't likely to be resolved any time soon, but the Kings certainly have a compelling argument for their son's current path.

    The Herald also had a reporter at the University of Miami for a few hours on Saturday, and his report is here. One correction--Tomic lost in the 14s quarterfinals last year to Grigor Dimitrov, not the semifinals.

    Enjoy your holidays!

    Saturday, December 23, 2006

    Asami, Ren, Tomic and Orlik Take Junior Orange Bowl Crowns Saturday

    ©Colette Lewis 2006--
    Coral Gables, FL--

    Bernard Tomic of Australia and Hanna Orlik of Belarus each added another silver bowl of oranges to their trophy cases Saturday in the Junior Orange Bowl 14s, while Reo Asami gave the U.S. its second straight boys' 12s winner. Jessica Ren of Great Britain took the girls' 12s title on clay at Salvadore Park.

    Tomic, the 12th seed, saved a match point to defeat No. 8 seed David Souto of Venezuela 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, in a rematch of the 2004 Junior Orange Bowl 12s finals.

    Serving at 4-5 30-40 in the third set, Tomic played a very aggressive series of shots, and although Souto parried one blistering backhand, he couldn't handle the second and Tomic didn't give him another opportunity.

    "I just thought as if it was 3-0 in the first," said Tomic of his precarious position in that game. "I played like that, and I didn't have any pressure. I hit a good shot at deuce, a good serve and he missed, so it went to 5-5."

    Even with the vocal encouragement of several dozen Latin supporters throughout the nearly three-hour match, Souto couldn't quite hang on to his own serve in the next game. But he kept battling in the final game, getting Tomic in a 15-30 hole before the 14-year-old Australian took the final three points, the last on a cross-court backhand winner. After bouncing the ball out of the stadium in celebration, Tomic reflected on the two years since he and Souto had met.

    "He's much stronger now," said Tomic, of the physically imposing left-hander. "I knew it would be a hard match and I'd have to concentrate.

    Souto was also heartened to have closed the gap from 2004, when he lost 6-4, 6-1 to Tomic.

    "Before the match, everyone thinks he will win easily," said Souto, "but I think I've done a good job these two years, and I am happy for that."

    If Tomic was considered a favorite for the boys' 14s, expectations for Hanna Orlik, who won the 12s last year, were even greater. Impervious to the pressure, the 13-year-old from Belarus won her fourth consecutive international event in Florida, defeating unseeded Christina McHale of New Jersey 6-2, 7-5.

    After a brief rain shower that made the warm and humid air even steamier, Orlik and McHale put on an impressive display of power ground strokes. When McHale failed to convert on two break points early in the first set, Orlik took control, but she could not steamroll McHale in the second set, as she had done to her previous opponents.

    "She is good player," said the top-seeded Orlik, who won the Eddie Herr the past two years, along with her Junior Orange Bowl titles. "And I had problems because I didn't play volleys. I stay on baseline and try to play."

    Serving for the match at 5-4, the No. 1 seed couldn't put McHale away, which was something of a moral victory for the American, even though she couldn't force the second set tiebreak she needed.

    "I had a lot of chances, but she would play well, or I just wouldn't convert it," said McHale. "Sometimes I let her control the point a little bit more than I did."

    Reo Asami of California did a whole lot of controlling of points during the week, and Saturday was no exception, as he handled the power of Edward Nguyen of Canada to take a 6-3, 6-3 victory.

    Unseeded, Asami did not lose a set in during the tournament, and after the match, Nguyen summed up the right-hander's strength.

    "He just outsmarted me," said Nguyen, a No. 1 seed. "I was playing my perfect game and he was just a wall, getting everything back. And when he needed the big shots, he got the big shots."

    "I was trying to hit it as deep as I could, so he would just miss more," said Asami, a placid 12-year-old playing in his first major international junior event. "I was putting it back deep and trying to make him miss."

    Another player who doesn't miss is Great Britain's Jessica Ren, who used the clay at Salvadore Park to her advantage. Ren, a semifinalist in 2005 who lost to Orlik, won her bowl of oranges with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Christina Shakovets of Germany.

    The consolation winners were also decided on Saturday. In the boys' 12s, Korea's Jaehwan Kim defeated Justin Butsch of the U.S. 6-1, 7-6(2); in the girls' 12s (for those losing in the first and second rounds only) Ilona Kremen of Belarus beat Great Britain's Joanna Henderson 7-5, 6-1. In the 14s, Denis Kudla finished fifth with a 6-4, 7-6(6) decision over fellow American Bob Van Overbeek and Ellen Tsay of the U.S. beat Santa Shumilina of Russia 6-1, 6-1.

    Friday, December 22, 2006

    McHale, Asami Play for Junior Orange Bowl Titles Saturday

    ©Colette Lewis 2006--
    Coral Gables, FL

    Christina McHale of New Jersey and Reo Asami of California earned a chance at Junior Orange Bowl titles with victories Friday at the University of Miami Neil Schiff Tennis Center.

    McHale defeated Floridian Sloane Stevens 6-0, 6-3 and now gets her chance to derail the locomotive that is top seed Hanna Orlik of Belarus. Orlik defeated Chloe Babet of France 7-5, 6-0. Asami eliminated John Richmond of South Carolina 7-6 (4), 6-4 and will face Edward Nguyen of Canada in the final.

    The unseeded McHale, 14, hasn't played a 14s tournament since April, and has had success at the 16s level, winning the USTA clay courts this summer. In the quarterfinals at the Biltmore Tennis Center Thursday, she upset No. 2 seed and Eddie Herr finalist Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia 1-6, 6-2, 6-3.

    "She played really well in the first set," McHale said. "In the second set, I started going for my shots more, got more aggressive."

    On Friday she changed tactics against Stephens.

    "I was mixing it up, hitting heavy and then attacking, but not just power," McHale said. "Sloane is very powerful, but inconsistent. I just kept the ball in play and let her miss."

    Orlik, 13, won the 2005 Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl 12s titles and earlier this month captured the Eddie Herr 14s. She had lost only nine games in her five matches prior to Friday, but Babet took a 5-3 lead in the first set.

    "My game is to attack," Orlik said. "I just wait for her errors, and I'm down 3-5. But then I play better."

    Winning the next ten games with a combination of pace, consistency and competitive zeal, Orlik showed her best tennis when she got behind. Instead of Tomljanovic, whom she defeated in the past two Eddie Herr finals, Orlik now gets a new opponent, one that she has little history against.

    "We only played in doubles," said Orlik, "in Europe, and my partner and I win. My coach talks with me later about how to play tomorrow."

    Asami, like McHale, is unseeded, but he took hope from the 2005 Junior Orange Bowl results.

    "Last year no one in the semifinals was seeded," said Asami, who trains at the Woodbridge Tennis Club in Irvine, California. "It feels great to be in the final."

    Asami and Richmond struggled holding serve in the first set of their match, with Asami twice serving for the set, at 5-4 and 6-5. With no free points from the serve from either player it was difficult to read any advantage at any time, so even when down 3-1 in the first set tiebreak, Asami was far from out.

    At 4-3 in the tiebreak, Asami stepped up his play, hitting two winners to deflate the left-hander from Pawley's Island and take control of the match.

    "The unforced errors were the difference," said Asami, who has yet to lose a set in the tournament. "I made just a few less than he did."

    Nguyen, his opponent in the finals, had been equally impressive all week at Tropical Park, using his power to breeze through match after match. But on Friday, he found himself in an unusual position against Norway's Johan Skattum--playing from behind. Skattum took the first set 6-4, Nguyen the second 6-1. After the ten minute break, Skattum came out with the momentum and took a 5-2 lead. Serving for the match at 5-3, Skattum couldn't finish it, and at 5-5 Nguyen broke him at love to give himself the opportunity that Skattum had wasted.

    Nguyen never faltered, smashing overheads and drilling ground strokes in the final game.

    "I believed in myself," said Nguyen, who trains indoors in Canada, but came to Florida a week before the Eddie Herr to get accustomed to the wind and heat. "Anything can happen as long as you just try. My approach shots, putaway volleys and overall net game was good today."

    Nguyen and Skattum have played doubles together and Nguyen admitted that his slow start had something to do with that.

    "I was kind of nervous and tight. He's my close friend, and at the beginning I couldn't execute my shots."

    Asami did his own scouting of his opponent and acknowledged that he "hits really big." But the Californian then mentioned his own strength. "I'm good at passing shots."

    The boys 14s final is between No. 12 seed Bernard Tomic of Australia and No. 8 David Souto of Venezuela. Souto outmuscled unseeded Giacomo Miccini of Italy 6-1, 6-3, while Tomic sliced through Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 7-5, 6-1.

    At 1-1 in the first set, Souto won the next five games, and Miccini was unable to find any rhythm for his usually effective first serve and forehand. Souto rarely missed and kept the ball deep, but played more aggressively than that sounds, with Miccini making plenty of errors, but many of them forced.

    The second set also started 1-1, but serving at 30-40, Miccini was given a point penalty for audible obscenity (in Italian) and he was behind again, and again unable to recover.

    Basilashvili was up a break at 4-3 in his first set with Tomic, but the Australian immediately broke back and held his next two service games to take a 6-5 lead. The Georgian couldn't handle the pressure of serving to reach a tiebreak, double faulting at set point, and when he was broken in the fourth game of the second set, the match was decided.

    Tomic seemed content to hit slices and off-pace shots, even when his money shot, the backhand down the line, was available. Basilashvili used his drop shot effectively, but not often enough to truly worry Tomic, who remained composed throughout a very tense first set.

    The girls 12s final will be contested Saturday morning on the clay courts at Salvadore Park, with No. 1 seed Jessica Ren of Great Britain meeting No. 1 seed Christina Shakovets of Germany. Ren, a semifinalist last year, defeated Laura Robson of Great Britain 4-6, 6-1, 7-5, while Shakovets overcame Michelle Dandik of Canada 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.

    For complete results, including consolation draws, see TennisLink.

    Thursday, December 21, 2006

    Players Double Up Thursday at Junior Orange Bowl

    ©Colette Lewis 2006--
    Coral Gables, FL--

    The weather cooperated long enough on Thursday to allow the Junior Orange Bowl to get back on schedule, and the semifinalists are set for Friday's action at the University of Miami (for boys 12s & 14s and girls 14s) and Salvadore Park (girls 12s).

    The U.S. is assured a finalist in both the boys 12s and the girls 14s, but there are no Americans remaining in either the girls 12s or the boys 14s.

    John Richmond of South Carolina and Reo Asami of California will meet in one of the boys 12s semifinals, while the second semifinal will feature Eddie Herr semifinalists Johan Skattum of Norway and Edward Nguyen of Canada. Richmond put an end to Florida qualifier Justin Butsch's seven-match winning streak 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 and Asami, who has yet to lose a set in his first five matches, again had no difficulty, taking out No. 1 seed Ivan Levar of Croatia 6-4, 6-1. Of the four remaining players, only Nguyen is seeded.

    The girls 14s will find Floridian Sloane Stephens facing New Jersey's Christina McHale for a spot in the final. Stephens outlasted No. 3 seed Nicole Gibbs of Ohio 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, while McHale, like Stephens unseeded, upset No. 2 seed and Eddie Herr finalist Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia 1-6; 6-2; 6-3. Eddie Herr champion Hanna Orlik continues to roll through the draw and will meet Chloe Babet of France in the other semifinal.

    One of the semis in the girls 12s is a rematch of the Eddie Herr final, with Laura Robson hoping to repeat her victory over her fellow Brit Jessica Ren. Canada's Michelle Dandik and Germany's Christina Shakovets vie for the other place in the finals.

    I spent the day as usual at the University of Miami, watching the boys 14s draw get whittled down from 16 to four. Bob Van Overbeek of Florida was the only U.S. boy to reach the quarterfinals, where he fell 6-3, 6-1 to No. 12 seed Bernard Tomic of Australia. Tomic, the 2004 Junior Orange Bowl 12s champion, will meet Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia. Basilashvili upset No. 3 seed Joao Vitor Fernandes of Brazil in the round of 16, then easily dispatched unseeded Miguel Almeida of Portugal 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.

    The highest seed remaining in the draw is No. 8 David Souto of Venezuela, who had two straight-set victories over seeded players on Thursday. Next up for Souto is unseeded Giacomo Miccini of Italy, who had two equally routine victories, a 6-2, 6-2 win over Alessandro Colella and a 6-1, 6-0 thrashing of Bowen Ouyang of Hong Kong.

    Ouyang had battled No. 16 seed Junior Ore for nearly three hours before emerging with a 7-6 (10), 4-6, 6-4 victory over his fellow left-hander, and had no energy to fight a much fresher Miccini.

    The rains returned a couple of hours after the last match was completed Thursday, and with three consolation rounds to be played on Friday, if the courts are dry, action will begin at 8 a.m.

    For full draws see Tennis Link.

    SMASH Column, Damp Miami Edition

    Rain is in the forecast for the next three days, so it's fitting that this week's online column features lots of wet weather too.

    Wednesday, December 20, 2006

    Miccini's Win Over King Highlights Wednesday's Boys 14s Action

    ©Colette Lewis 2006--
    Coral Gables, FL--

    To a casual observer looking at the draws, Giacomo Miccini's 7-6 (0), 5-7, 6-4 victory over No. 6 seed Evan King in the Junior Orange Bowl boys' 14s would be an upset. But Italy's Miccini had to be considered one of the favorites in the 14s, despite being unseeded, when he won the 18s Eddie Herr wild card tournament for those training at IMG/Bollettieri's and then gave finalist Philip Bester all he could handle in a first round match there.

    King has been going to high school in the Chicago area, training indoors, and did not play the Eddie Herr. But although he may lack Miccini's international experience, in their third round match Wednesday there was no hint that King was at a disadvantage.

    The 14-year-old left-hander had an early break over Miccini in the first set, but wasn't able to hold it, and the Italian played excellent tennis in the tiebreak. King fought back to earn a third set, playing aggressive all-court tennis and not shying away from the net on big points.

    With King serving at 4-4 in the third, however, it was Miccini who feathered a drop volley winner so perfect that it brought a racquet clap and "good shot" from King, who a few points later lost his serve, and when Miccini held, the match.

    Miccini will face another unseeded Italian in the round of 16, Alessandro Colella, who also took out a King on Wednesday--Sebastien King of Canada.

    Top seed Ashot Khacharyan of Russia retired with back problems trailing 4-6 to Argentina's Andrea Collarini. Collarini was down 4-0, but Khacharyan, who is usually very quick around the court, was noticeably hampered by his injury, and lost six games in succession. The unseeded Collarini's next opponent will be Florida's Bob Van Overbeek, who continued his impressive play with a 6-0, 6-3 win over No. 14 seed Kyohhei Kamono of Japan. Van Overbeek's serve and forehand have put pressure on all three of his opponents this week, and none have found an answer for them.

    With Dante Terenzio losing 6-1, 6-0 to Bernard Tomic and Campbell Johnson and Ridley Seguso eliminated, only three U.S. boys remain. Joining Van Overbeek in the round of 16 are No. 16 seed Junior Ore, who defeated Samuel Barry of Ireland 6-3, 6-3 and Emmett Egger, who scored a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Sebastian Lavie of New Zealand. The 13-year-old from Washington has yet to drop a set in the tournament and managed to thoroughly frustrate Lavie, who held a 2-0 first set lead but couldn't play consistently enough to regain his early momentum. Egger's next opponent is No. 9 seed Kevin Krawietz of Germany.

    The boys' 12s quarterfinalists were determined on Wednesday at Tropical Park, and half of them are from the U.S.

    Qualifier Justin Butsch of Florida ousted No. 1 seed and Eddie Herr finalist Liam Broady of Great Britain 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, while John Richmond of South Carolina took out No. 1 seed Luke Saville of Australia 7-6 (5), 7-5. Reo Asami of California got past fellow American Robert Livi 6-3, 6-3 and Sam Bloom of Illinois dropped Trey Strobel of Florida 6-4, 6-1. Three of the eight remaining are No. 1 seeds, Jaehwan Kim of Korea, Edward Nguyen of Canada and Ivan Levar of Croatia.

    Early on Wednesday morning I stopped by the Biltmore and watched a few of the second round matches held over from Tuesday in the girls 14s, and then paid a visit to the eight clay courts at Salvadore Park, where the girls 12s are headquartered. I don't have any up-to-date information on those results however, so I'll be waiting for the scores to be posted on the TennisLink site.

    Tuesday, December 19, 2006

    Rain-free Tuesday at Junior Orange Bowl

    ©Colette Lewis 2006--
    Coral Gables, FL--
    Although wet courts caused delays at the boys' 12s at Tropical Park, matches were on schedule on Tuesday, where I spent the day watching as many second round matches as I could.

    I missed the big upset at Tropical Park, where Robert Livi ousted No. 1 seed and Eddie Herr winner Mitchell Krueger in the third round 6-2, 6-4 (boys 12s are a round ahead), and somehow I also missed New Zealand's Sebastian Lavie's win over No. 2 seed Frederico Gaio in the 14s. As I mentioned in Monday's post, Lavie and Gaio were in a first set tiebreak when the rains came, and Lavie, surprisingly unseeded even though he was a finalist at Les Petit As this year, finished that and the second set 6-4 early this morning. Lavie then had a much easier second round, defeating Tyler Leung of Hong Kong 6-2, 6-0, to set up a third round contest with Emmett Egger, who also was midway through his first round match when rain interrupted it Monday evening. Egger finished off Federico Coria of Argentina 6-4, 7-6 (5), and then defeated Nicholas Jones of Great Britain 6-4, 6-4, to join six other U.S. players in the round of 32.

    Evan King, seeded sixth, and Junior Ore, seeded 16th, had straight set wins, as did Bob Van Overbeek. In the 32 main draw matches played Tuesday, only four went three sets, and U.S. players won three of them. Campbell Johnson of California beat Agustin Portis of Argentina 1-6, 6-3, 6-2, and Connecticut's Dante Terenzio also reversed his early fortunes, defeating Gabriel Flores of Puerto Rico by the same score. But the match of the day was lucky loser Ridley Seguso's 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4 victory over Alexander Robles of Spain, a match that began at 1 p.m. and didn't end until nearly 4:30 p.m. Seguso isn't the only lucky loser still around however. Murilo Oliverira of Brazil has also won two matches, including a 7-6 (4) 6-2 win over Rodrigo Ferraez of Mexico Tuesday.

    In the boys' 12s, there are six U.S. boys still left, none of course seeded, since there is only one per country and Krueger received the U.S. seed. In Wednesday's round of 16, Livi meets Reo Asami of California, and Trey Strobel of Florida faces Sam Bloom of Illinois. Qualifier Justin Butsch of Florida will play Great Britain's No. 1 Liam Broady, while South Carolina's John Richmond takes on Luke Saville, Australia's No. 1.

    I haven't been following the girls closely, have just been checking the draws, but for those results, see Tennis Link.

    Monday, December 18, 2006

    Junior Orange Bowl Boys' 14s Get Started

    The day started with rain, and ended with it, making it the fifth straight day with rain here in the Miami area, but it was early and late enough to keep disruptions to a minimum.

    I hadn't seen Bob Van Overbeek play since the Easter Bowl, so he was first on my list of players to watch. David Roditi, the USTA High Performance coach for the 1992s, stopped by and I ended up chatting with Chris Brandi, who works with Bob at The Harold Solomon Tennis Institute when he is not taking masters classes at the University of Florida. Van Overbeek won easily, 6-1, 6-0, and his all-court game and big serve are impressive, as is his recent improvement, according to Brandi.

    First round matches are often one-sided, and I saw many of those Monday, leaving me in search of a match to capture my attention. I found one mid-afternoon, when Miami's Spencer Newman took on Rodney Carey of the Bahamas and emerged with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 victory. Carey was the top seed in the 14s at the Eddie Herr, but lost in the third round and was not seeded in the Orange Bowl. Newman also lost in the third round at the Eddie Herr, so the tiny 13-year-old didn't go into the match without hope.

    "The guy that beat him lost 1 and 0 in the next round (at the Eddie Herr), so I knew he was beatable," Newman said. "I kept moving him side to side and then hit the closing volley."

    After the first set, when Carey appeared to be caught off-guard by both the pace and the outright winners off the racquet of his much smaller opponent, the quality of his play rose, which led to many excellent sustained rallies. Often the points ended with a winner or a forced error, and several times Carey simply looked incredulous when Newman would crack a forehand winner.

    "I stayed positive," said Newman, "even after the second set. I wanted it really bad."

    Newman, who lives only ten minutes from the University of Miami courts, had quite a cheering section, including his coach Liz Petrine, wife of Don Petrine Jr. of the Royal Palm club. Also in attendance were fellow Royal Palm players Jenny Stevens and Bradley Mixson, who just completed their first semesters at University of Virginia and Florida State University respectively.

    "Bradley hit with me yesterday and Jenny warmed me up today," said Newman. "It's neat they just got back from school and they've come out to support me."

    Two matches were unfinished when the rains came about 5:30 p.m.: Emmett Egger versus Guillermo Coria's younger brother Federico, and the much anticipated encounter between Sebastian Lavie, the unseeded player from New Zealand who was a finalist at Les Petits As, and No. 2 seed Federico Gaio of Italy, who was a semifinalist at the Eddie Herr. They were in a first set tiebreak when the unpredicted deluge swamped the courts.

    Several of the U.S. players expected to make an impact at the Junior Orange Bowl were felled by injury. Raymond Sarmiento is still suffering from a pulled stomach muscle and withdrew. Shaun Bernstein was ill and did not make the trip from New York and Justin Rossi's back kept him from his place in the draw.

    Sunday, December 17, 2006

    Finally Tennis!

    Although it was still damp this morning in Miami, the skies cleared around 10 a.m. and I spent the day at Tropical Park, where the boys' 12s were scheduled to complete their first round of the main draw.

    The first order of business was to finish the qualifying round, which was completely washed out on Saturday. Jay Berger, a USTA High Performance coach working with some of the 12s was there to follow the progress of Justin Butsch who did make it through qualifying, and later in the day, through his first round match, without any difficulty.

    I asked Jay if he thought that the 12s were better than ever, and although he declined to agree unequivocally, he did say that he thought they were able to play games with more shot variety. I certainly saw my share of volleying and drop shots, even a few offensive lobs, but in the first round, it's not unusual to see top players working on their games.

    Eddie Herr champion Mitchell Krueger got off to a flying start, as the No. 1 seed from the U.S.,(all seeds are No. 1s) Krueger defeated Ondre Cargill of the Bahamas 6-0, 6-0. Next up for Krueger is Danny Mack of Florida, currently 17th in the USTA rankings.

    There were a couple of surprise losses for boys from the U.S. Mitchell Polnet, who reached the round of 16 at the Eddie Herr, lost a tough three-setter to Vasco Mensurado of Portugal, and Thai Kwiatkowski, a quarterfinalist at the Eddie Herr, was eliminated by qualifier Michael Cohen of Great Britain.

    I intend to spend most of my time at the University of Miami, site of the boys' 14s, so this may have been my last opportunity to see the boys' 12s until the semifinals, when they move to the University courts. Miami traffic simply doesn't permit me the luxury of moving efficiently between sites, but I'll be following the results closely for all four divisions this week.

    Saturday, December 16, 2006

    And the rain continues......

    It rained virtually all day Saturday, the fourth day of the past five to feature precipitation, and none of the Jr. Orange Bowl qualifying was completed. Jodi Steinbauer, the tournament director, said at tonight's player party that this is the most rain they've ever had at the JOB.

    The weather forecast is better for later tomorrow and next week, but there is a serious backlog, especially in the girls' 12s, which are played on clay and have only eight courts available to them.

    The rain disrupted the ITA Coaches Convention too, causing cancellation of the afternoon's One-on-One Doubles Tournament and requiring those planning to do on-court presentations to improvise.

    Since I had missed Mark Bey's National Junior Tennis Conference last month, I was particularly interested in attending his presentation "Keys to Converting Junior Baseliners To Collegiate All-Courters." With several of his CARE Academy students (and Junior Orange Bowl participants) demonstrating, Bey spoke of his belief in finishing at the net, and his commitment to teaching that style early, so that college coaches have more than power baseliners and counterpunchers to choose from.

    Here is Bey's list of ten characteristics of an all-court player:

  • Desire to finish point at net
  • Creating, recognizing and reacting to short ball opportunities
  • Point of contact on attaching shots
  • Ability to make the passer uncomfortable
  • Athletic movement forward + split step timing
  • Volley accurancy and decision making
  • Overhead execution and finishing statements
  • Serve and volley mechanics
  • Doubles positioning + poaching ability
  • Continental grip versatility

  • I much prefer that style of tennis myself, as a spectator, although my highest admiration is reserved for those who serve and volley, because it is so unusual and so seldom taught. If the Junior Orange ever gets started, I'll be looking for any players, especially girls, who don't fear the net.

    The draws have been posted, minus the qualifiers, and I can't say I'm impressed with the seeding. Eddie Herr girls 12 champion Laura Robson isn't seeded, nor is Giacomo Miccini of Italy, who won the Bollettieri wild card tournament for the 18s main draw slot at the Eddie Herr. Australia's Bernard Tomic, who would have been seeded no. 2 at the Orange Bowl in the 16s, is seeded 12th in the 14s. The No. 1 seed in the girls 16s at the Orange Bowl, Russia's Valerie Solovieva, isn't seeded in the girls 14s. I could go on, but this post is running long as it is.

    The most recent edition of Inside Junior Tennis has been posted. Kevin and I discuss the Orange Bowl, athleticism and technique, and foreign players in U.S. college tennis.

    Friday, December 15, 2006

    Brengle Wins Australian Open Wild Card

    ©Colette Lewis 2006--
    Doral, FL--

    My head is still spinning from all that I heard and learned at this morning's ITA Coaches Convention, but the word from the USTA's Paul Roetert that 16-year-old Madison Brengle had won the wild card tournament held this week for an Australian Open main draw berth is the most time sensitive.

    I'm not even certain who all was invited to compete, but Roetert told me that Brengle was a last-minute addition, and that she didn't lose a match in the round robin format. She defeated Jessica Kirkland, the 2004 Orange Bowl champion, 6-4, 7-5, if I heard him correctly, coming back from 5-1 down in the second set.

    At Eddie Herr and at the Orange Bowl, Brengle's losses were to Austria's Nikola Hofmanova, this year's Orange Bowl champion. She had a match point at the Eddie Herr and a set point in the first set in the semifinals at the Orange Bowl, but she obviously didn't suffer any crisis of confidence from losing this way, and now will have an opportunity to experience Australia in the first week, instead of just the second (junior) week.

    The first speaker this morning was Nick Bollettieri, and he was introducing a DVD he and David Bailey have created about footwork. But Nick being Nick, there was much talk of many other topics and players. He spoke of David Wheaton, Jim Courier, Monica Seles and Andre Agassi, taking pains to explain how different they all were.
    Seles' commitment to working on a shot until she got it right, often late into the evening cost him, he joked, "three wives." She was not a great athlete, he said, but she did work and compete and strive.

    Bollettieri also said that he's turned around 100% on the question of college. He believes it's the right choice for enhancing the development of nearly every player, which segues nicely into one of the topics of Paul Roetert, the USTA Managing Director of High Performance. Roetert spoke of players turning pro who should have gone to college, adding that there were just two in 2006 who had a viable reason to forego college--Sam Querrey and Vania King. The increased cooperation between the USTA and the ITA can only enhance the view that for most, college is the best way to mature, as a tennis player and a person, before embarking on the "job" of tennis.

    Roetert also spoke of the USTA's plan to take over the ITF Junior events in the U.S., perhaps adding more tournaments and having a way to earn USTA ranking points as well as ITF ranking points during the same tournament. The emphasis on doubles and the combined ranking coming in 2008 was mentioned. The points-per-round system adopted several years ago has, as I've heard often, and Roetert alluded to, given those with money to travel a big advantage over those without. He said he hopes to dampen the "point chasing" by emphasizing the sectional and regional aspect of junior tennis, and make sure that there are opportunities for high-level players who want to attend regular high school to do that. In addition, he spoke of the 36'- 60' tennis initiative to start younger children playing and competing with altered racquets, balls and court sizes; and of expanding qualifying draw sizes of ITF Men's Pro Circuit events to allow more college and junior players an opportunity to play at that level.

    I'm sure I'll remember other things from the 45 minute talk, but that's a brief synopsis.

    The third session I attended featured Dr. Jim Loehr, the famous sports psychologist, discussing "Storytelling and Mental Toughness." I'll save those insights for another post, but I'm already working on my own "good storytelling" which he defines as:

    Reflects the Truth
    Is On-Purpose (takes you where you want to go as a person)
    Spawns Hope-Filled Action

    There's definitely some New Year's Resolution material there.

    Thursday, December 14, 2006

    Orange Bowl 2006 final wrap; soggy start to Junior Orange Bowl

    My final words on the Orange Bowl appear today at The Tennis Recruiting Network, and for those who weren't able to follow my daily reports, it's a synopsis of the final weekend at Crandon Park.

    Thursday marks the beginning of the qualifying for the Junior Orange Bowl--12s and 14s, boys and girls. It rained off and on all morning, at times heavily, and unfortunately, Friday is expected to be just as wet. Even the weekend's forecast has a chance of rain each day, so it could be a very frustrating few days for the tournament staff, including my husband, who is director of the boys' 12s site at Tropical Park.

    My plans for Friday include the ITA Coaches Convention at the Doral and maybe some Christmas shopping, neither of which demands dry weather.

    Speaking of which, I want to thank those that are using the link to Amazon (scroll to bottom) that appears on zootennis. You don't have to buy the featured books--anything purchased through this link generates a small percentage for me, which I will use to offset my travel expenses.

    Wednesday, December 13, 2006

    SMASH Column, Orange Bowl Edition

    My current SMASH column was posted today, and despite its length, I'm sure I've left players out who should be included.

    Also wanted to pass along Charlie Bricker's recent observations from his day at the Orange Bowl last week. I had heard at the Eddie Herr that Sam Querrey was being given the Australian Open wild card--that there would be no tournament to decide its recipient as there was last year, for the men anyway. I confirmed that with Rodney Harmon, the USTA's Director of High Performance at the Orange Bowl, and mentioned it to Bricker.

    Bricker also catches up with Alex Bogomolov, the two-time Kalamazoo champion, who was often seen hitting on the clay courts at Crandon Park with Devin Britton, the 16s Eddie Herr finalist, under the direction of USTA High Performance coach Francisco Montana.

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006

    College News

    I'm only now getting caught up on the official college tennis releases, although I heard quite a few rumors during the Eddie Herr and the early stages of the Orange Bowl.

    This one I missed; Matt Brewer, who I knew had left Memphis, will be joining the Tennessee Volunteers in January. Baylor's release on Attila Bucko's January start is here, and Stanford's announcment on Alex Clayton's September 2007 commitment can be found here.

    Brian Wilson, an NCAA doubles champion for Illinois in 2003, has signed on as volunteer assistant at UNLV according to this release.

    And speaking of retired NCAA champions, Jeff Morrison, the singles champion in 1999 for Florida, has indeed put away the racquets, but was much in evidence at the Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl, exploring the possibility of pursuing a career as an agent.

    The ITA coaches convention begins tomorrow evening at the Doral, and I'm hoping to get over there for a few sessions. The National Team Indoor bids have been released, and the men's are listed here and the women's are here. The only schools sending both men's and women's teams (not to the same venue) are Baylor, Miami, Notre Dame, Pepperdine, Stanford and UCLA.

    Monday, December 11, 2006


    Monday was my first day off, after 16 straight days of junior tennis coverage. I did laundry, wrote my SMASH column and unpacked for the eighth time since leaving Michigan.

    It was decidedly strange to have an unscheduled day, but it won't be long before the Junior Orange Bowl begins!

    I ran across this story by Linda Pearce at The Age, who is keeping close tabs on the player development changes in Australia. I'm still not convinced that athleticism and technique are paramount, but at least Craig Tiley and Steve Wood have a plan and criteria.

    The most recent Inside Junior Tennis podcast centered on the Eddie Herr, is now available through this link. You do not need an iPod to listen to it, just a computer connected to the internet. Kevin McClure has also recently posted an interview with Intercollegiate Tennis Association Executive Director David Benjamin.

    Sunday, December 10, 2006

    Hofmanova and Luncanu Make History at the Orange Bowl

    ©Colette Lewis 2006--
    Key Biscayne, FL--

    Austria's Nikola Hofmanova and Petru Alexandru Luncanu of Romania claimed upset wins at the Orange Bowl Sunday morning, getting historic victories for their countries in the prestigious Grade A ITF event.

    The Czech-born Hofmanova, seeded ninth, defeated No. 2 seed Ksenia Milevskaya of Belarus 7-5, 6-3 in a topsy-turvy match at the Crandon Park courts on Key Biscayne, to become the first Austrian girl to win a title in the tournament's sixty years.

    Hofmanova ran out to a 5-2 lead in the first set, but Milevskaya countered, winning the next three games. Serving at 5-6, however, the 16-year-old from Minsk played a loose game, and unforced errors cost her the set.

    "I wasn't confident today at all, I don't know why," said Milevskaya, who lost to Hofmanova in the first round of Wimbledon this year. "After the first set, I was getting mad at myself, and didn't play well."

    Hofmanova gave Milevskaya an opening, losing her serve at love in the first game, after Milevskaya had returned from a trip to the restroom, and twice more down a break, at 2-1 and 3-2, But as Milevskaya observed after the match, being down a break isn't unusual.

    "Girls tennis is not about serves, it's about how you're playing," she said. "If you serve good it helps you a lot, but not too many girls can do it."

    "In the beginning (of the second set), I only looked at how she's playing," said the 15-year-old Hofmanova, who has been playing tennis for 11 years. "But then I started to play my game again."

    Asked to describe her game, Hofmanova, whose family moved to Austria when she was two, was quick to respond. "I'm playing aggressive, taking the balls early, and try to make the point, not waiting for the opponent to make the mistake. Normally I try to play more from the net, but that didn't work so much today."

    Hofmanova managed to win the Orange Bowl without playing her best tennis in the final, and she spoke with amazement at how far she had come in a year's time, when she was seeded second in the 16s and lost in the quarterfinals.

    "Last year I was looking at the 18s girls that were playing, thinking, 'oh my god, they are so good', so it's a great feeling."

    When asked how she would celebrate, she spoke of waiting until she returns to Austria on Sunday to celebrate with her family, but after thinking a moment, another idea came to her.

    "I'm going to the Dolphin Mall shopping this afternoon," she said. "If I see something and I like it, I'm going to get it, no matter what."

    Luncanu had no time for shopping, or anything else, as Romania's first Orange Bowl boys' Champion had a plane to catch for the Yucatan Cup immediately after his 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 upset of top seed Nicolas Santos of Brazil. Had the No. 4 seed known he would be in the finals of the Orange Bowl, he may have skipped the final Grade 1 on the ITF calendar, but his results in 2006 gave little indication that a Grade A title was in the offing.

    But after an early round loss at the Eddie Herr, Luncanu had time to prepare for the Orange Bowl, and it showed in his five straight-set victories, leading to the final clash with the 2006 Eddie Herr champion. On a warm and sunny Sunday, for more than two and a half hours, the 17-year-old from Bucharest attacked, attacked and attacked again, knowing it was his only chance to beat the ultra-consistent Brazilian.

    "I have to try to do this because it was the key that I could beat him," said Luncanu, who is known as Alex to both his friends and the Romanian fans in the Miami area who came to cheer him on. "He doesn't make many mistakes, so I had to try to go to the net and finish the points."

    In the first set, Luncanu did just that, and also hit his share of forehand winners from the baseline, which made his delicate drop volleys all the more effective. Although Santos, serving down 2-5, saved the first set point with a spectacular running backhand down-the-line winner, he succumbed to a perfect Luncanu drop shot, and then just missed the sideline during a rally. Giving Luncanu the chance to start the second set serving first didn't hurt Santos however, as he broke immediately and hung on to take the set.

    "I didn't think about too much, because I knew there was one more set coming," said Luncanu. "I tried to forget it and tried to play again like the first set--to be more aggressive."

    After Luncanu took a 1-2 deficit and turned it into a 5-2 lead in the third set, the voluble Santos talked to himself incessantly in Portuguese, often ending the soliloquy only a moment before Luncanu was ready to serve. What might have unnerved a less experienced player didn't bother the Romanian.

    "He always does like this," said Luncanu. "He always screams, making those things he does on the court," Luncanu said, referring to the many fist pumps and vamoses. "I wasn't thinking too much about what he was doing, just be focused on my game."

    Santos acknowledged that Luncanu was the better player on Sunday, although he expressed no disappointment that his 11-match winning streak was at an end.

    "I played my best tennis in these two weeks," said Santos through his coach and interpreter Luis Faria. "And today Luncanu really deserved the win. He played very aggressive, winner shots all the time and he changed the direction of the ball very often."

    Santos, who never looked anything but energetic during his run through the Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl, wasn't even interested in taking a break before he played in the final match of the day, the boys doubles finals. After the ceremony, the photographs, interviews and an Orange Bowl T-shirt launching by both players, Santos was right back on the court, with partner Fernando Romboli, also of Brazil. But the day didn't end any better than it started for him, as the fourth seeds were defeated by Roman Jebavy of the Czech Republic and Daniil Arsenov of Russia, the third seeds, 6-2, 6-4.

    The girls doubles title, played concurrently with the two singles finals, went to the No. 2 seeded team of Sorana-Mihaela Cirstea of Romania and Urszula Radwanska of Poland. They downed the top-seeded team of Canadian Sharon Fichman and Czech Katerina Vankova 6-3, 6-1.

    Saturday, December 9, 2006

    Will Wins Girls 16s Orange Bowl Title; Dimitrov Takes Rare Double; Young, Brengle Fall in Semis

    ©Colette Lewis 2006--
    Key Biscayne, FL--

    Allie Will hasn't been playing tennis for long, but on Saturday she grabbed one of the most prestigious titles in junior tennis, that of Orange Bowl champion, defeating Lauren Embree 6-4, 6-1.

    While growing up in California, Will played all the major sports and was good enough to win the shortstop position as the only girl on a boys' baseball team. But once she got a tennis racquet in her hand, at age 10 1/2, she'd found the perfect sport for her.

    In Saturday's match, the gusty winds gave both players trouble. Will, the No. 14 seed, chose to receive and broke Embree, but then lost the next four games.

    "In the wind it was hard to hit my flat first serve," said Will, 15. "I was spinning in a lot of second serves."

    Embree took advantage of that early, aggressively returning any second serves, but when Will got accustomed to conditions, she began taking control of the match.

    "At first I was a little nervous, and I had trouble closing out the points," said Will, who missed several overheads and volleys early.

    "But toward the end of the first and the whole second set, I started closing out the points better and putting away the volley. If I sat back and waited for her to make an error, we'd still be playing."

    The unseeded Embree, also 15, has a reputation for comebacks, but on Saturday, Will had no difficulty closing out the quick counterpuncher.

    "I know that she's a fighter and that's she never going to give up," said Will, who has a 4-1 record against Embree with Saturday's victory. "She's got a very good game, so you've got to close it out, and I'm happy I did."

    Will, who is coached by Andy Brandi and Harold Solomon at their recently formed academy in Lauderdale, has plans for a big celebration.

    "I don't get to have desserts and stuff very often," she said. "Fitness is hard, and even harder if you don't eat properly. But I'm going to let my fitness instructor know that I'm having some ice cream tonight."

    The flavor? Cake Batter from Cold Stone Creamery.

    Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov swept his second consecutive major junior title in as many weeks, following his Eddie Herr 16s championship with one from the Orange Bowl, defeating Germany's David Thurner 6-3, 7-6 (0). Dimitrov is believed to be the only player to have won both the 16s championships, and is certainly the only to have done it on hard courts, as the Orange Bowl was played on clay until 1998.

    Playing in his second consecutive Orange Bowl final, Dimitrov, the only seeded player in the semifinals at No. 5, didn't care for the blustery conditions.

    "The weather was bad, really bad, unbelievable," the 15-year-old said. "I dropped my serve, but you have to play, to forget about it."

    Dimitrov didn't falter when he had his chance to close out Thurner.

    "I was pretty motivated," said Dimitrov, who will begin playing 18s in 2007. "I knew I was going to win the tiebreak. I was just sure."

    After winning twelve straight matches, Dimitrov admitted to being tired, but looks at it as training for the future.

    "Anyone who wants to be an ATP player, there's a lot of tournaments in a row, so you have to be prepared every single week."

    Dimitrov also mentioned that he is looking for a coach to replace his father, one with ATP experience, who will travel with him and help with the transition from the junior game.

    But right now Dimitrov will rest, returning to Bulgaria for the holidays before he starts 2007 with an ITF Grade 3 in Sweden.

    "It sounds really good," he said with a smile.

    The semifinals in the 18s were not kind to U.S. players, as Delaware's Madison Brengle, the 12th seed, dropped a 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-2 decision to No. 9 seed Nikola Hofmanova of Austria.

    The crafty right-hander fought off a set point serving at 4-5 in the first set, and played flawlessly in the tiebreak.

    "I missed an easy backhand," said Brengle of that set point, perhaps also remembering a match point in their previous meeting, which Hofmanova also won. "I'll remember that one for a while. It will only mildly haunt me."

    "In the first set, we both played very good," said Hofmanova. "In the second set I made too much mistakes, and she played good, more aggressive than me. In the third set, I was the one who did not make so much mistakes, and she put every third ball out, made a mistake."

    When asked what makes the rail-thin 15-year-old so tough, Brengle summed it up quickly.

    "Her ball is really hard to read off her racquet," Brengle said. "Normally I get a good first step, but I'm a step slower when I play her."

    Hofmanova will face No. 2 seed Ksenia Milevskaya of Belarus in the final. Milevskaya defeated No. 3 seed Sharon Fichman of Canada 6-4, 4-6, 6-0.

    "I was up 4-3 in the second set," said the 16-year-old from Minsk, who has won five ITF Grade 1s in 2006, and led her team to the Junior Federation Cup. "But I got a little tight to finish the match, because it's semifinals and she's a good player."

    But after a bathroom break, Milevskaya returned with renewed focus.

    "I was confident and concentrating, and I was lucky. She didn't play so well in the third set."

    Hofmanova is approaching her meeting with Milevskaya with optimism.

    "I played against her many times, and I lost every time," said Hofmanova. But that changed this year at Wimbledon, when she upset Milevskaya in the first round. "To beat her was good for me."

    Top seed Nicolas Santos of Brazil will attempt to duplicate the feat of Dimitrov, winning back-to-back titles at the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl in 2006. Santos earned the chance to become the first player since Andy Roddick in 1999 to win both in the 18s with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over unseeded Peter Polansky of Canada.

    "Yes, I'm tired," said Santos, via his coach and interpreter Luis Faria. "But on the other hand, it's a lot of motivation for the finals."

    Santos was serving for the match at 5-3, and had three match points, but couldn't shake Polansky. When Polansky, a 2006 U.S. Open junior finalist, finally got the break to get back on serve, there was an opportunity to turn the match around. But Polansky was unable to hold, and Santos converted on his fifth match point.

    "I think the wind bothered him more than me," Santos, 18, said. "He takes all the risks, and I start to play very solid."

    The anticipated final between No. 1 seed Santos and the No. 2 seed Donald Young was derailed on Saturday by Petru Alexandru Luncanu of Romania, who beat his fellow left-hander 7-6 (6), 6-2.

    "The first set was tough because I had to get in a rhythm with him," said Luncanu, who has beaten Young in their only two meetings. "But I found the key, to go over the ball, attack every time, push him to make unforced errors."

    Young often is able to ramp his game up at crucial stages of a match, but the tiebreak slipped away from him when he committed a double fault and two forehand errors.

    "I think after the first set he quit a little bit in games, he did not try as much," said Luncanu, 17.

    "He played well, I didn't play so well," said Young. "When you have wind you have to play it all different. He played it better today than I did."

    The 17-year-old from Atlanta admitted that he wasn't as aggressive as he needed to be.

    "I should have come in a lot more," said Young. "The times I came in, I won the point. That's what I've been doing all tournament, coming in and putting pressure on people, but I didn't put any pressure on him today."

    The doubles schedule had to be reworked due to rain on Friday and players still in singles. The boys' 16s doubles title went to No. 5 seeds Xander Spong of the Netherlands and Ilija Vucic of Serbia 7-5, 6-0 over Nikolaus Moser of Austria and Gilad Ben Zui of Israel.

    In the girls 16s doubles final played Saturday evening, Embree and partner Jessica Alexander, downed the Canadian team of Gabriela Dabrowski and Brittany Wowchuk 6-3, 6-2/

    For complete draws, see usta.com.

    Friday, December 8, 2006

    Young, Brengle Represent U.S. in 18s Semis; Girls 16s Final is All-Florida

    ©Colette Lewis 2006--
    Key Biscayne FL--

    On a chilly, damp and breezy day at Crandon Park, Donald Young and Madison Brengle advanced to the semifinals at the Orange Bowl, while the girls 16s finalists, Allie Will and Lauren Embree, will play for Florida bragging rights.

    Young, the second seed, has not lost a set in the tournament and was at his best in the second set of his quarterfinal match with No. 10 seed Daniil Arsenov of Russia.

    "His game, when it's on, is amazing, and it was on in the first set," said Young, the 2003 16s Orange Bowl Champion. "It was on in the second set but I got a couple of them back and was moving him around, making him hit shots in places he didn't want to hit them."

    Arsenov, 17, can pound the forehand and serve big, but like most tennis players, he's not comfortable adjusting on his backhand.

    "He didn't like it high to his backhand, or low," said Young. "The two extremes he didn't like. He wanted it right there in the pocket. I tried not to give it to him."

    Next up for Young is No. 3 seed Petru Alexandru Luncanu of Romania, who defeated Lebanon's Bassam Beidas 6-3, 6-4, and Young has revenge on his mind.

    "He beat me last year in the finals of the Yucatan," said the 17-year-old from Atlanta. "It should be a good match, two lefties. He's been playing well this tournament."

    Also playing well is Eddie Herr champion and top seed Nicolas Santos of Brazil, who blew through his quarterfinal match with unseeded qualifier Brennan Boyajian 6-0, 6-1. Santos played nearly error-free tennis, and a quick match was welcome, as he has now played ten singles matches and nearly as many doubles matches in the past two weeks.

    Santos will take on unseeded Peter Polansky of Canada, who outlasted No. 5 seed Pavel Chekhov of Russia, 6-7 (7), 6-1, 6-4. The first set took over an hour and a half to play, making the brevity of the second set surprising. Polansky served for the match at 5-2 and was broken, but he had the luxury of a second break. After a brief rain delay at 5-4, when the sprinkles finally accumulated on the lines, Polansky tried again to finish it off.

    "After that I just went out there and tried to slap a couple of serves, and the first one went in," he said with a smile. "So I won the point and was able to hold that game."

    Santos and Polansky have never played, but the 18-year-old from Thornhill knows that the Brazilian is solid from the baseline and is showing no signs of fatigue. "Hopefully I can win tomorrow; it should be a good match," he said.

    Polansky is not the only Canadian in the semifinals as No. 3 seed Sharon Fichman also prevailed in three sets in her quarterfinal match with No. 10 seed Reka Zsilinszka of the U.S. As she did on Thursday, the 16-year-old from Toronto lost the first set, but roared back for the victory.

    "I thought I played pretty well today," said Fichman. "Reka was playing the way I didn't expect her to play, and it was frustrating, but I hung in there. I kept saying to myself, 'I'm going to win this, I'm going to win this,' and I did."

    Fichman will play No. 2 seed Ksenia Milevskaya of Belarus, who came back from a 5-1 deficit in the second set to eliminate No. 11 seed Anastasia Pivovarova of Russia 6-3, 7-6 (6). Pivovarova took two medical timeouts, one after dropping the first game of the second set, and one after Milevskaya had mounted her comeback.

    "I'm not sure if she really needed it," said the 16-year-old from Minsk. "Some girls do it even if they don't need it."

    In the tiebreak, Pivovarova jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but both girls returned much better than they served, so it wasn't the advantage it appeared to be. Pivovarova saved two match points, but Milevskaya's willingness to close the net paid off with a volley winner to end the match.

    Fichman and Milevskaya have played three times in 2006, with Milevskaya holding a 2-1 advantage, including a straight set victory in the final of the Canadian Grade 1 prior to the U.S. Open.

    In the other half of the girls draw, Madison Brengle, the No. 12 seed, and unseeded Petra Martic of Croatia were engaged in a tight battle, having split sets. The first went to Brengle 6-3, the second to Martic 6-4, and with Martic leading 2-1 in the third set, disaster struck the 15-year-old from Split. On her way to the chair on the changeover, she rolled her ankle and was unable to continue playing, suffering a sprain that is expected to take several weeks to heal.

    "The first two sets we were fighting hard and everything," said Brengle, 16. "It was a good match, and I don't like ending matches like that--ever. That's not how I wanted it to end."

    Brengle now gets an opportunity to avenge her recent three-set loss at the Eddie Herr to Nikola Hofmanova of Austria, a loss in which Brengle held a match point.

    "I was up 5-2, 40-30 in the third set and I lost," said Brengle of that round of 16 defeat. "She fights hard."

    No. 4 seed Julia Cohen won't argue with that. She was on the wrong end of a three-hour match that required several visits from the trainer. No. 9 seed Hofmanova, playing with a heavily taped right leg, managed to eke out a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 win.

    The girls 16s saw one short match and one long one.

    No. 14 seed and wild card Allie Will from Boca Raton had no trouble with unseeded Kristie Ahn of New Jersey, earning her place in the finals with a 6-3, 6-0 win.

    "I served very well," said the athletic 15-year-old who has been playing tennis for only five years. "Overall it was probably the best match I've played all tournament. I didn't let up when I got up--I kept going."

    In Saturday's final, it will be Marco Island's Lauren Embree across the net. The unseeded Embree has lost the first set in her past three matches, and against Cristina Mitu of Romania, she was down 4-2, 40-15 in the third set before pulling it out 7-6 (6).

    "I just kept fighting and it worked out my way," said Embree, 15. "She is really good," Embree said of the hard-hitting, go-for-broke 15-year-old from Bucharest, "but I just tried to play my best and kept fighting."

    Will holds a 3-1 edge in their matches, and both are anticipating a close contest in the final.

    "They're always back-and-forth. We're evenly matched," said Embree. "The times that we've played, it's always a battle," said Will. "Always great matches. It'll be a fun one to watch that's for sure."

    In the boys 16s, Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria has reached his fourth final in the past two years in Florida. In 2005, he won the Eddie Herr 14s and was a finalist at the Junior Orange Bowl 14s. Last week he won the Eddie Herr 16s and will now face unseeded David Thurner of Germany for the Orange Bowl 16s championship.

    The late afternoon rain has forced some juggling of the schedule. Please see usta.com for more information.

    Thursday, December 7, 2006

    Boyajian Rolls On in Orange Bowl 18s; Will Survives Three-Hour Marathon in Girls 16s

    ©Colette Lewis 2006--
    Key Biscayne FL--

    Qualifier Brennan Boyajian of Weston, Fla. joins Donald Young as the only Americans remaining in the boys 18s singles at the Orange Bowl, while three U.S. girls advanced to the quarterfinals with straight set wins on Thursday.

    Boyajian, who turned 17 in September, made quick work of fellow qualifier Pedro Zerbini of Brazil, needing just over an hour to put a 6-2, 6-2 win in the books.

    "I just played really well; kept every ball deep, and converted my chances when I had them," said Boyajian, who won the Easter Bowl, Clay Courts and Kalamazoo in the 16s this year. "I love these courts--they're so slow and the balls get so fluffy and dead by the third game. It helps me a lot."

    Boyajian's game doesn't have the raw power of some of his opponents, but he has figured out how to use his other talents to frustrate them.

    "After the first four games, he just started trying to hit winners," Boyajian said of Zerbini, a finalist at the ITF Grade 2 in South Carolina last month. "I like when they get impatient, because if I just keep the ball deep, they are going for shots that are low percentage."

    Boyajian's next opponent is top seed Nicolas Santos of Brazil, who advanced with a 6-2, 6-4 decision over Russian Vladimir Zinyakov. The other top half quarterfinal pits U.S. Open Junior finalist Peter Polansky of Canada against Russian Pavel Chekhov. The unseeded Polansky defeated No. 14 seed Rupesh Roy 5-7, 6-2, 6-0.

    Young, seeded second, crafted his third consecutive straight-set victory, downing 16-year-old and No. 16 seed Gastao Elias of Portugal 6-3, 6-2. Young faces No. 10 Daniil Arsenov of Russia, who eliminated Mateusz Kecki 6-3, 7-6 (4). The fourth match features No. 9 seed Bassam Beidas of Lebanon against No. 4 seed Petru Alexandru Luncanu of Romania. Beidas earned a 6-4, 6-7(0), 6-1 victory over wild card Wil Spencer, while Luncanu, who has lost only seven games in three matches, continued rolling with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Fernando Romboli of Brazil.

    The girls 18s quarterfinals features only one unseeded player, 15-year-old Petra Martic of Croatia, who easily defeated No. 16 seed and 2005 Orange Bowl 16s winner Oksana Kalashnikova 6-1, 6-2. Next up for Martic is Delaware's Madison Brengle, the No. 12 seed, who defeated Ksenia Pervak of Russia 6-2, 6-1 on Thursday. No. 4 seed Julia Cohen survived a stiff challenge from fellow American Melanie Oudin, taking the match 6-4, 6-4, and next faces the No. 9 seed Nikola Hofmanova of Austria. Hofmanova upset No. 5 seed and recent Eddie Herr finalist Sorana-Mihaela Cirstea of Romania 7-5, 7-5.

    The third American remaining is Reka Zsilinszka, the no. 10 seed, who deflated No. 6 seed Katerina Vankova of the Czech Republic, 6-2, 6-1.

    "The first set was tough, she was really trying" said Zsilinszka, who has committed to attend Duke next fall. "I was hitting really good passing shots, doing my thing, my serve was on. The second set, she did really not play well. I think I broke her down and she got really frustrated."

    With her moonballs, change of pace, slices and defensive lobs, even Zsilinszka's easy wins take time. But she finished in plenty of time to watch the end of match that would decide her opponent, as No. 13 seed Tereza Mrdeza of Croatia and No. 3 seed Sharon Fichman fought through three sets before the Canadian won, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. Serving at 4-4 in the third set, Fichman won a long difficult game that featured rain-making moonballs and crisp volleys and everything in between. Exhausted by that effort, Mrdeza crumbled serving at 4-5, double faulting at 15-30 and approaching the net for volleys on the next two points. She won one of them, but netted the second, giving Fichman the victory.

    "I don't know how it is to play against me," said Zsilinszka, who was pleased just to have won a round at the Orange Bowl, after falling in the first round or in qualifying in her previous four appearances. "I guess I'll find out tomorrow. Sharon plays a lot like me. You might want to schedule about five hours for that match," she said with a laugh.

    The fourth match will feature No. 2 seed Ksenia Milevskaya of Belarus and No. 11 seed Anastasia Pivovarova of Russia. Milevskaya had no difficulty with U.S. wild card Mallory Burdette, winning 6-1, 6-1, while Pivovarova ousted No. 7 seed and Eddie Herr champion Urszula Radwanska 6-2, 6-2. Pivovarova was soundly beaten by Radwanska at the Eddie Herr last week, winning only three games against the Pole, but she made Radwanska's 16th birthday a less than happy one by dominating Thursday's match.

    In the 16s, three U.S. girls have reached the semifinals, and only Kristie Ahn of New Jersey did so quickly. The unseeded Ahn took out Brooke Bolender 6-2, 6-2, but Lauren Embree and Allie Will's victories were of the three-set, three-hour variety.
    As she had on Wednesday, the unseeded Embree dropped the first set, but turned it around against No. 6 seed Sarah Guzick, taking a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 decision.

    Allie Will, who on Wednesday defeated top seed Valeriya Solovieva in straight sets, again was booked for stadium court, but her 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 victory over No. 7 Charlotte Rodier of France was a struggle. Playing in the hottest part of an unseasonably warm and windless day, the 15-year-old from Boca Raton gave credit to her coaches for preparing her for such a battle.

    "My training at the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute has gotten me into the best shape I can be," said Will the 14th seed. "I couldn't have lasted this long without that. I think it was an advantage to me playing in these conditions, because she doesn't live here, but she did a great job of holding up during the rallies."

    Will mentioned her serve and inside-out forehand as keys to taking the first set, but was pleased with all her shots during the three hours she spent on the court.

    "Overall, everything today was a positive thing," she said.

    While the Ahn-Will semifinal guarantees an American finalist, the other semifinal winner is guaranteed to be unseeded. Embree will meet Cristina Andreea Mitu of Romania, who has not dropped a set in the tournament, and on Thursday defeated No. 5 seed Adeline Goncalves of France 6-1, 6-0.

    On of the most compelling matches of the day was in boys 16s singles, when top seed Cesar Ramirez of Mexico met No. 5 seed and Eddie Herr champion Grigor Dimitrov. During the latter stages of the two tiebreak sets, both won by Dimitrov, dozens of fans gathered to watch the very high quality tennis. Dimitrov is the only seeded player to reach the semifinals. He will face unseeded Lorenzo Papasidero of Italy, a 6-1, 6-1 winner over Rafael Camilo of Brazil. David Thurner of Germany meets Guido Pella of Argentina for the other berth in the final.

    For complete draws, including doubles, see usta.com.