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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.