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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.


Anonymous said...

Great to see a US kid picking up the Orange Bowl 12s boys singles title. Does anybody know wether Reo Asami is a product of any USTA program or if not who coaches him? I see in the post below that he trains at the Woodbridge Tennis Club in Irvine, but I live in California and haven't heard anything about any Woodbridge program. Maybe Asami just trains there and gets coached somewhere else. Anybody know?

Congratulations also to Christina McHale for making the girls 14s final. It'd be good to know more about her background as well.

Anonymous said...

Hi Colette,

Thanks again for your e-mail, and for pointing me out to this comment.

As Reo's coach, I'm happy to say that Reo trains here at Woodbridge 5 days a week, where he takes private and group lessons from myself, along with Chris Lewis and Chuck Brymer. More information on our program can be found at our website.


Richard said...

Ever since coming to Woodbridge I have been a fan of the quality staff and the lovely courts of the WTC. This group of pros are doing a marvelous job in developing serious young players. It thrills me.