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Friday, December 1, 2006

No. 2 Seed Cirstea Survives in Girls 18s; Britton and Domijan to Meet in 16s Semifinal Saturday

©Colette Lewis 2006--
Bradenton FL--

In the 14s, 16s, and 18s, the semifinalists were determined on Friday and it was difficult to settle on just one of the 24 quarterfinal matches played throughout the day.

In the 18s, the match of the day featured girls No. 2 seed and 2005 Eddie Herr finalist Sorana-Mihaela Cirstea of Romania and 13-year-old phenom Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal. Unlike her previous two matches, Larcher de Brito wasn't playing from a set down, taking the first 6-4. The 6-2 second set went to Cirstea, who is as placid on the court as Larcher de Brito is intense. At 5-5 in the third set, when the crowd surrounding Court 8 was three or four rows deep, Larcher de Brito was broken, giving Cirstea her opportunity to serve out the match. But with a competitor as determined as Larcher de Brito, there was no assuming the match was over, even when Cirstea went up 40-15 thanks to a couple of the 2005 16s champion's backhand errors.

Those two match points were saved and a break point earned on a Larcher de Brito winner and two Cirstea errors. But Larcher de Brito's chance for a third set tiebreak evaporated when she caught the net on a forehand, and a wide return on the next point gave the Romanian her third match point.

After a rally, Cirstea struck a crosscourt forehand that landed close to the line. Larcher de Brito, who had no chance to return it, called it out, much to the dismay of Cirstea and several spectators. A roving umpire was observing the match from the opposite side of the court, and was blocked from viewing it by Larcher de Brito, so the score was deuce.

"I saw it on the line," said Cirstea, who questioned the umpire only briefly. "I just kept thinking, 'next point'. I knew that if I complain about it, nothing would change."

When Larcher de Brito's backhand hit the tape, giving Cirstea her fourth match point, the 16-year-old right hander was all concentration. Pushing Larcher de Brito deep, she played a delicate, unreachable drop shot for the victory.

"It was the only drop shot I hit in the match," Cirstea said. "I think now I could have hit more, but I said to myself 'I'm going to go for it, I just don't care anymore.'"

Cirstea now meets another young Bollettieri prodigy, unseeded Tammy Hendler of Belgium, who eliminated No. 13 seed Kim Couts, the last U.S. girl remaining, 6-2, 6-2. Hendler won the 14s Eddie Herr title last year. The other girls 18s semifinal will pit No. 8 seed Anastasia Pivovarova of Russia against No. 4 seed Urszula Radwanska of Poland.

Qualifier Jeff Dadamo saw his streak of victories end at six in the boys 18s, when he lost to unseeded Rasid Winklaar of Curacao 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Winklaar faces top seed Nicolas Santos of Brazil, who defeated Roman Jebavy of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-2. Wild card Philip Bester had another straight set win, his fourth, and will take on fourth seed and fellow Bollettieri student Pavel Chekhov of Russia in the other semifinal on Saturday.

In the 16s, Americans Alex Domijan and Devin Britton will meet for a berth in the finals. Britton, seeded tenth, defeated Italy's Giorgio Portaluri 6-3, 6-3, while the unseeded Domijan overcame 14th seed Gilad Ben Zvi of Israel 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3. Domijan has won the last two meetings between the 15-year-olds--in the finals of the 16s Clay Courts backdraw, and in the second round of the recent Grade 4 in Boca Raton.

The other boys 16s semifinal features third seed Ilija Vucic of Serbia and Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov, the 2005 Eddie Herr 14s winner.

In the girls 16s, the U.S. also has two representatives. Unseeded wild card and Bollettieri student Nicole Bartnik ended lucky loser Marianna Milchutske's run 6-2, 6-1 and will face No. 14 seed Yasmin Clarke of Great Britain. Unseeded 13-year-old New Yorker Ester Goldfeld disposed of wild card Mary Clayton of Florida 6-3, 6-4, earning a chance at No. 1 seed Tanya Raykova of Bulgaria. Raykova blew past unseeded Naomi Broady of Great Britain 6-1, 6-1.

No U.S. juniors remain in singles in the 14s. All four U.S. girls lost in Friday's quarterfinals. JoJo Sanford had the toughest battle, nearly upending top seed Katarena Paliivets of Canada, eventually falling 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. No. 2 seed Dennis Kudla, the only U.S. boy still alive, fell to No. 9 seed Federico Gaio of Italy 6-2, 6-2.

For full draws, including doubles, see eddieherr.com.