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Monday, December 31, 2007

The End of Anonymous Comments; First Grade A of 2008 in the Books

Only a tiny percentage of visitors to this site comment, so my decision to quit accepting anonymous posts in 2008 will affect only a few of you. For nearly three years now I've resisted the registration of commenters, and I have decided not to require that, but I will no longer approve any comments that do not include at least a nickname. Blogger recently changed the comment page to add the "nickname" box and it is easy to use. Simply adopt a unique name for your posts (the url box is optional) and leave a comment; it will not be tracked or identified, it will merely make the ensuing discussion easier to follow. I hope this doesn't deter anyone from speaking his or her mind, but I believe that it is appropriate to ask for at least this simple form of identification for those who would like to contribute. Those of you who have left anonymous comments the past weeks and have not seen them posted should try again with a nickname. As I've said many times before, the chances that your comment will be published are much greater if you adopt a nickname, although the younger the player discussed, the less likely I am to publish critical comments about them.

I will continue to publish reminders of this new policy in the next few weeks.

The ball hasn't dropped in Time Square, but the first major ITF tournament of 2008 is already over. Cesar Ramirez of Mexico and Tanya Raykova of Bulgaria are the singles champions of the Grade A Casablanca Cup near Mexico City.

Krista Damico and Nadja Gilchrist of the U.S. won the girls doubles title, while Evan King and Ray Sarmiento reached the finals of the boys doubles competition. The ITF junior website has the Casablanca story here, and also has published the first rankings of 2008. In what I'm hoping is an aberration, but suspect is an unannounced format change for 2008, the doubles matches in Mexico that split sets were decided by a match tiebreaker (and I suspect were no-ad, although since I wasn't there, I can't be sure). It seems ironic that the ITF led the charge to a combined ranking for juniors to ensure participation in doubles, but is now devaluing it by dropping the traditional scoring. I've sent an email to the ITF requesting clarification of whether this is optional by tournament or an ITF decision that will affect all events in 2008.

Happy New Year everyone!

2007 Honor Roll

December 2007

Joe Di Giulio, 12s Junior Orange Bowl

Rhyne WIlliams, ITF Grade 1 Yucatan Cup (dbls)

November 2007

Joe Di Giulio, 12s Eddie Herr International

Dennis Lajola, Pro Circuit 15K Honolulu

October 2007

Michael McClune, Pro Circuit 15K Mansfield

Ryan Harrison, ITF Grade A Osaka Mayors Cup

Wil Spencer, ITF Grade B1 Tulsa

Bradley Klahn & Bob Van Overbeek, ITF Grade B1 Tulsa (dbls)

September 2007

Michael McClune, Pro Circuit 10K Costa Mesa

August 2007

Michael McClune, 18s USTA National Championship

Tennys Sandgren, 16s USTA National Championship

Spencer Simon, 14s USTA National Championship

Tyler Gardiner, 12s USTA National Championship

July 2007

Clint Bowles, 18s USTA Clay Courts

Tennys Sandgren, 16s USTA Clay Courts

Mitchell Frank, 14s USTA Clay Courts

Tyler Gardiner, 12s USTA Clay Courts

Donald Young Pro Circuit 75K Aptos

Rhyne Williams, Pro Circuit 10K Pittsburgh

Donald Young, ITF Grade A, Wimbledon

April 2007

Rhyne Williams, ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl

Devin Britton & Bradley Cox, ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl (dbls)

Lawrence Formentera, 16s USTA Easter Bowl

Emmett Egger, 14s USTA Easter Bowl

Nick Wood, 12s USTA Spring Nationals

Donald Young, Pro Circuit 15K Little Rock

Ryan Thacher, ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships

Jarmere Jenkins & Austin Krajicek, ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships (dbls)

Tennys Sandgren, 16s International Spring Championships

March 2007

Brennan Boyajian, 18s USTA Spring Nationals

January 2007

Jarmere Jenkins & Bradley Klahn, ITF Grade 1 Coffee Bowl (dbls)

Reo Asami, 12s USTA Winter Nationals

Nathan Pasha, 14s USTA Winter Nationals

Evan King, 16s USTA Winter Nationals

Ryan Thacher, 18s USTA Winter Nationals

Kellen Damico, ITF Grade A Casablanca Cup (dbls)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Coaches Q and A: The Need for Independent Thinking

While I was in Florida, I had an opportunity to stop by the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and to meet Andy Brandi and Harold Solomon, who are now regular contributors to zootennis in this Coaches Q and A forum. There may be a finite number of issues to address when it comes to junior and collegiate tennis, but I don't think we've even begun to scratch the surface.
Today's issue: Independent thinking and its role in grooming great players.
Andy Brandi explains:

At the age of 18, Arthur Ashe explained to me what a good tennis player was. In his words, ”a good player is a player who, on a bad day, finds a way to win”.

As coaches, how do we teach our students to give themselves the best chance to compete for each match? How do we make our students good thinkers and problem solvers? How do we teach them that they do not have to play their best at all times?

One thing that we must do is to make them independent thinkers. Too many times we incapacitate them by doing the dirty work for them. Let them take care of getting the rackets strung. They can arrange for warm ups in tournaments. They can carry their own racket bag! We need to be helpful yet give them room to grow, develop and mature as players and as individuals.

Often parents ask what we can do as coaches to help players reach their full potential. It is not so much what we can do for them but what they can do for themselves. First, we must give them good information and support. Second, we must make them understand that they are responsible and accountable for what happens out there. Third, they must make their own decisions and lastly, that they play for themselves and we must be positive with them.

Many times we are concerned about results too early. Tennis is like a marathon. Players struggle before they succeed. We have to give them chances to fail and learn for the future. Many players who are successful at 12 cannot compete at 18. The first meaningful benchmark is around ages 16-17-18. They will learn more from a loss!

My brother Joe, who traveled with Pete Sampras in his younger days, would give him a plan A or B for matches. He would tell him not to look over after every point. He wanted Pete to learn to be out there on his own and make the decisions he felt were right. This gave him confidence as a person and player. He also took him to Europe to play on clay where he took his lumps, but that September, he won the US Open!

By teaching them to compete and love the battle, they will feel comfortable and confident that they can compete under any circumstances and give themselves a good chance to win.

All this will happen if they become self sufficient and independent thinkers.
Do you have a question for Andy or Harold? If so, please send it to clewis[at]zootennis[dot]com with the phrase Coaches' Q and A in the subject line.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Georgia's New Recruit, Another Skupski to LSU, ITA Men's Team Indoor Field

Once the Early Signing Period ended last month, there hasn't been a great deal of college news to report. In the past, I've been able to keep in touch with what's going on in recruiting during my Florida junior trip by attending the ITA Coaches convention, but this year it was moved from Miami to Naples, and I wasn't able to go.

Bulldog coaching legend Dan Magill announced last week in the Athens Banner-Herald that Javier Garapiz of Spain would be joining the men's team in January for the dual season. The ITF junior website has his name as Javier Garrapiz-Borderias, but it is undoubtedly the same player, and although I haven't seen his name in the juniors much since 2005, he was ranked in the top 20 by the ITF early in 2006. It's always interesting to hear how a foreign player ends up in a U.S. college, and according to this article, it was Gonzalo "Talito" Corrales, the co-captain of the 1999 Georgia NCAA championship team, who comes from the same town as Garrapiz-Borderias, who made the connection.

The connection is even closer for the Skupskis of Liverpool, who are profiled in this feature by Neil Harman of the Times. Ken Skupski, who graduated from LSU this spring, was one of the Tigers' greatest players, and his younger brother Neal is now hoping to reach the All-American heights that Ken did. The LSU announcement is here.

Penn State will be making its first appearance in the ITA National Team Indoors, and in the school's release, the other 14 teams are named (one is TBD). There are five teams invited to Chicago in February of 2007 who will not be going to Seattle in six weeks: Duke, Miami, Penn, Pepperdine and Stanford. In addition to Penn State, newcomers are Alabama, North Carolina, Southern Cal and Washington (host school).

The women's field for the Team Indoor in Madison, Wisc. Feb. 7-10 is:
Fresno State
Georgia Tech
North Carolina
Notre Dame
Southern California
William & Mary

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Price of Prodigy

The January/February 2008 issue of TENNIS Magazine contains this feature by senior editor Tom Perrotta about six-year-old Jan Silva and other single-digit-age players. He visits Mouratoglou Tennis Academy in France, describes Silva's daily regimen and the decision his parents made to move there for Jan's tennis. Perrotta also talks with Nick Bollettieri about predicting future success (not possible at that age, especially for boys) and with Tracy Austin about how things have changed since she was an adolescent phenom (no support staff and no website back then).

When the first widely read Silva story was published some months back in USA Today, I didn't link to it, because I am uncomfortable contributing to what can only be called hype. Tiger Woods survived the burden of precocious talent that was demonstrated on national TV, Michelle Wie has been less successful at negotiating the dangerous rapids of fame before accomplishment. There is no question that an abundance of talent has its perils, and developing the mental skills to accompany the physical ones is best done over time and out of the spotlight.

Publisher Chris Evert weighed in on the subject on her page in the magazine, and drawing on her own experience, she questions the wisdom of the prodigy approach.

"When parents stop their lives and pin the family's future on a 5-year-old becoming the breadwinner, it puts tremendous demands on the child. And when you publicize it with personal websites and videos on YouTube, you're only compounding the pressure."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Junior Orange Bowl Wrap; No Break for Junior Tennis Players

My Tennis Recruiting Network weekly article is the Junior Orange Bowl roundup, which borrows heavily from the final story I wrote last Sunday for zootennis and the Junior Orange Bowl media report. Although my daily JOB updates were used by the Miami Herald during the week, Josh Rey, who did the 16s and 18s Orange Bowl media job for usta.com, was hired to cover the finals, and his story is here.

I may be taking a few days off, but not many junior players have a break this time of year. The USTA Winter Nationals have begun in Arizona, with the 12s and 14s in Tucson and the 16s and 18s in the Scottsdale area. Michael Rinaldi and Bjorn Fratangelo are the top two seeds in boys 14s; Lauren Davis and Kyle McPhillips in the girls 14s. Grayson Goldin and Mackenzie McDonald are Nos. 1 and 2 in the boys 12s and Brooke Austin and Vicky Duval are the top two seeds in the girls 12s. All except Austin played deep into the Junior Orange bowl draws. The TennisLink site for the 12s and 14s is here.

Sekou Bangoura Jr. and Clay Thompson are the boys 16s top seeds; Kate Fuller and Hanna Mar are Nos. 1 and 2 in the girls 16s. Bradley Klahn and Luke Marchese lead the field in the boys 18s and the top two seeds in the girls 18s are Keri Wong and Stephany Chang. The TennisLink site for the 16s and 18s is here.

The first ITF Grade A of the year, the Casablanca Cup, has progressed to the quarterfinals, where the only two Americans remaining in singles, Harry Fowler and Ty Trombetta, meet each other Friday. The ITF Junior website scores aren't being updated regularly, but the tournament's own website has draws and results.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Junior Orange Bowl Slide Show

I'll be taking a break for a couple of days, but please enjoy the photos of the top five Junior Orange Bowl finishers in all four age divisions and if you haven't already, check out all the coverage I provided last week. Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Junior Orange Bowl Finals: Keys and Di Giulio Win Again in 12s: Dapkute and Morgan Take 14s Championships

Coral Gables, FL--

Madison Keys and Joe Di Giulio now have silver bowls of oranges to go with their Eddie Herr crystal globes as the two Americans once again conquered an international field of 128 to take the prestigious junior 12s titles back-to-back.

The 14s winners beat back challenges from local players, as Iveta Dapkute of Lithuania defeated Miami's Monica Puig 6-0, 6-4 and George Morgan of Great Britain outlasted Spencer Newman of Miami 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

Keys, of Boca Raton, Fla., won the first 11 games of her match with Korean Sujeoung Jang Sunday morning at Salvadore Park. She then dropped serve, but broke Jang for the sixth time to earn the title 6-0, 6-1, in less than an hour.

The unseeded Keys faced her most challenging matches early in the tournament; in the first round she drew No. 1 seed Louise Kwong of Canada, whom Keys had needed a third set tiebreaker to defeat in the Eddie Herr quarterfinals and in the third round, it was unseeded Eddie Herr finalist and Florida rival Sachia Vickery who took the only set from Keys in the Junior Orange Bowl.

"I think at the beginning, since I had tougher matches, it really helped pay off toward the end," said Keys, who turns 13 in February. "I was more prepared for the last few matches. I think the hard draw really helped me in the end."

After a long first game, Keys dominated the unseeded Jang, and even she was surprised at the effectiveness of her serve on the clay courts.

"I don't know what happened there," said Keys, who is 5-foot-7 and 1/2. "My serve was really working for me today."

The strong serving helped Keys set up her aggressive ground strokes, which often overpowered the Korean, and Jang began to make errors she had avoided in her previous matches. Keys struck her signature down-the-line backhand on match point, and as has often been the case the past few weeks, it was a winner.

"It felt really good when I saw it went in," said Keys, who will plays the 14s at the USTA Winter Nationals later this week. "That was cool."

Newport Beach Calif.'s Di Giulio was facing the same opponent, Roy Lederman of Miami, whom he had beaten in the Eddie Herr final 6-0, 6-0, but despite the score, Sunday's 6-1, 6-2 victory was a much longer and more competitive battle.

"There were a lot of tough points," said Di Giulio, a No. 1 seed. "I just had to work hard and not get discouraged if I got down in a game, fight for every point."

Lederman had vowed to be more consistent in this final, and he was, but despite all the deuce games and the 20-ball rallies, the outcome was the same.

"He's a terrific player," said the unseeded Lederman. "I'd have to play amazing to beat him. I played pretty good, and he just didn't miss. I was attacking more than him and I was missing a couple of balls, and that's the difference."

For Lithuania's Dapkute, the girls 14s championship was won not only with a powerful forehand and superb focus, but with the recent inspiring performance of friend and countryman Ricardas Berankis, who won the Orange Bowl and the Yucatan to finish the year as the ITF World Junior Champion.

"I watched his last point (when he clinched the title in Mexico) and I wanted to do the same (here)," said Dapkute, who received a wild card into the girls 18 draw in Mexico. "He also gave me advice for this tournament: to play some points active and aggressive, some deep balls, some slices, and it worked I think."

The variety may have helped, but it was Dapkute's forehand that propelled the No. 9 seed to what she called "her best tennis."

"I'm very confident on my forehand, and I use it very much in my game," said Dapkute. "Also, I think my serve is quite good and I go to the net sometimes to finish the point."

After the first set went quickly her way, Dapkute fell behind in the second, with Puig holding on to an early break for 4-2. But the errors that had been rare during Puig's previous matches began to multiply, and the Eddie Herr finalist had to be content with a runner-up finish once again.

"I think she handled herself very well under pressure," Puig said. "And I don't think I learned that much from the Eddie Herr final. I made this match way bigger than it should have been. I should have thought of it as just another match, but I have to learn. You can't make the finals larger than life."

Manchester, England's George Morgan admitted to some nerves in the boys 14s finals, with local favorite Spencer Newman quickly taking the first set from the tall right-hander.

"I was quite nervous to start, because I'm not used to these kinds of crowds," said Morgan of the scores of spectators lining the courts and perching in the bleachers at the Biltmore Tennis Center. But down a break in the second set, Morgan found a strategy to help him cope.

"I took some deep breaths, thought about what I needed to do and concentrated really hard," Morgan, a No. 17 seed, said. "I was waiting for the right ball instead of attacking the wrong ball, and I was making a lot more balls than him."

After Morgan took the lead in the second set, capturing four straight games to go up 5-3, the nerves again took hold, and he committed two double faults at 30-30, giving Newman a chance to take the momentum back. But at 4-5, Newman fell behind 15-40, and Morgan smoked a forehand on the baseline on the third set point to level the match.

"When I was up a break, I just started thinking about too many things," said Newman, a No. 9 seed. "I got myself too nervous and I just couldn't play. My feet would not move. I should have put more balls in play like him."

Morgan joins Andy Murray, who won the 12s in 1999, as a Junior Orange Bowl champion from Great Britain. After hoping merely to reach the quarterfinals, he admitted to some satisfaction at his performance.

"I'm pleased with myself after that win," he said, offering that it meant "loads" to take an Orange Bowl title in his first attempt. "It's like a dream really. I think I've made a name for myself back in England now, as well."

The third place matches were also played on Sunday morning. Denise Starr of Miami defeated New Zealand's Emily Fanning 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 in the girls 12s. Third place in the boys 12s went to China's Yifan Dang when Matteo Donati of Italy was unable to compete due to illness. The girls 14s third place winner was Breaunna Addison of Boca Raton, Fla., in a walkover over Natalija Kostic of Serbia. Shane Vinsant of Keller, Tex. finished third in the boys 14s, defeating Yaroslav Shyla of Belarus 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.

The consolation winners were also determined on Sunday. The girls 12s, which has a consolation draw for first and second round losers, saw Carla Avella Bruzzesi of Argentina take a 6-3, 6-1 decision from Canada's Louise Kwong. In the boys 12s, as with the 14s a full feed-in consolation, Italy's Gianluigi Quinzi defeated Miami Beach's Justin Butsch 6-2, 6-2. The girls 14s consolation winner was Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, a 6-2, 6-3 winner over Ellen Tsay of Pleasanton, Calif. Christian Harrison of New Braunfels, Tex., won the boys 14s consolation with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Irvine, Calif.'s Sean Berman.

For complete draws, visit the Junior Orange Bowl TennisLink site.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Junior Orange Bowl Day 6: Miami's Lederman, Puig and Newman Reach Sunday Morning Finals at Biltmore Tennis Center

Coral Gables, FL--
Roy Lederman, Monica Puig and Spencer Newman may be sleeping in their own beds, but Saturday night will not be a normal one for the three Miami residents. On Sunday morning, the local trio will take the Biltmore Tennis Center courts to compete for one of the most prestigious titles in junior tennis--Orange Bowl champion.

All three also reached their age division finals at the Eddie Herr in Bradenton, Fla. a few weeks ago, and are determined to bring home the winner's trophy this time.

"I'm ready to go out there," said Puig, who defeated No. 9 seed Natalija Kostic of Serbia in Saturday's semifinal 6-2, 6-4. "I've been in the Eddie Herr final, and I know how that feels like, so I'm not nervous at all."

"Spencer and I were pretty disappointed in losing in the Eddie Herr finals," said Puig, a No. 17 seed. "We knew we could have done better in our tactics. Hopefully we can grab the title this time--we want Miami kids to finally win the finals."

Puig, who was up a set and 5-1 against Kostic, saw that lead melt away. It took Puig six match points to finally subdue the Serb, who stepped up her game when losing the point meant losing the match.

"I thought she played a little tentative before, and wasn't hitting the ball," said Puig. "But during that period of time she was cranking some very good shots, and I was surprised."

Puig's opponent in Sunday's final is No. 9 seed Iveta Dapkute of Lithuania, who defeated unseeded Breaunna Addison of New Braunfels, Tex., 6-4, 6-1.

The boys 14s final, scheduled to follow the girls' championship match, pits Newman, who is under five feet tall, against George Morgan of Great Britain, who is over six-foot-one. Newman is hoping to use the same skills he demonstrated in Saturday's 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 semifinal win against fellow No. 9 seed Yaroslav Shyla of Belarus: superior quickness, excellent finishes at the net and a solid return game.

"I just kind of took charge after the first set," said Newman, who had scores of sun-soaked local fans supporting him from the courtside bleachers. "I think I had more energy and I definitely wanted it more. The first game of the third set I went down 40-0, but brought it back and won that game, and that was huge. If I hadn't done that, where would the match be now?"

Morgan, a No. 17 seed, downed unseeded Shane Vinsant of Keller, Tex. 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, coming from 4-1 down in the third set to earn the finals berth against Newman. Morgan, who is making his first Orange Bowl appearance, has never played Newman, but is impressed by what he's seen this week from the diminutive dynamo.

"I know he's small and really quick," said Morgan, from Manchester, England. "So I'd better expect every ball back. And he can also attack as well, so it's going to be tough."

Lederman, the youngest Miami-based finalist, has a score to settle with No. 1 seed Joe Di Giulio of Newport Beach, California. Lederman lost to Di Giulio 6-0, 6-0 in the finals of the Eddie Herr 12s late last month, and is intent on changing his game style in the Orange Bowl final.

"I'm going to be way more consistent," said Lederman, who defeated Yifan Dang of China 6-4, 6-3 in Saturday's semifinal. "He played really good (at the Eddie Herr), he didn't miss and I was just going for everything and wasn't playing smart tennis. I'm going to be as consistent as he is."

It was a strategy the unseeded Lederman employed against Dang, a big hitter who takes a lot of risk.

"I was being consistent and he was doing all the missing," said Lederman. "I didn't go for all my shots; I just hit high to his forehand and backhand. I played him in doubles, and he just hits so hard, I thought that if he hits that hard, he's going to miss sometimes."

Di Giulio also needed to blunt his opponent's force, as qualifier Matteo Donati of Italy employed a powerful forehand during his nine straight-set wins in the previous eight days.

"I was trying to hit a deep, pretty aggressive ball, so he couldn't get me on the run," said Di Giulio, who emerged with a 6-3, 6-4 victory. "I executed it pretty well. In the second set I got down 4-1, then I started playing a little more aggressive, starting moving him more."

At 4-4, Donati called for the trainer, saying that he was feeling sick, but he retook the court and finished the match, although his usual energy was absent.

Di Giulio is guarding against overconfidence when he faces Lederman again.

"I'm not going to be thinking about that," said Di Giulio. "I'm just going to go out there and play a smart, steady game, and hopefully come out on top."

Di Giulio is not the only American player going for the rare Eddie Herr/Junior Orange Bowl double. Madison Keys, from Boca Raton, Fla., who defeated Hollywood Fla.'s Sachia Vickery in the Eddie Herr final, will meet a different opponent in the Junior Orange Bowl final however, as Sujeoung Jang of Korea earned her spot with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Miami's Denise Starr. The unseeded Keys, who has lost only one set in the tournament--to Vickery in the third round--broke New Zealand's Emily Fanning in the fifth game of Saturday's semifinal on a point that displayed her impressive combination of power and speed, and rolled on to a 6-2, 6-2 victory.

The girls 12s final will be played at 8:00 a.m. at Salvadore Park. The boys 12s and girls 14s finals are scheduled for 9:00 a.m. at the Biltmore Tennis Center, with the boys 14s final to follow.

The 14s finals will be televised on Coral Gables TV, and can be viewed via the website at coralgables.com.

For complete results, including consolation draws, see the Junior Orange Bowl TennisLink site.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Junior Orange Bowl Day 5: Vinsant Topples No. 1 seed Fernandes in Boys 14s; Eight Americans Reach Semifinals

Coral Gables, FL--

Unseeded Shane Vinsant of Keller, Tex. shocked top seed Tiago Fernandes of Brazil 7-5, 6-4 in the boys 14s quarterfinals at the University of Miami Neil Schiff Tennis Center, joining Miami's Spencer Newman in Saturday's semifinals. Newman, a No. 9 seed, defeated Emmett Egger of Issaquah, Wash., also a No. 9 seed, 7-5, 6-3.

Vinsant started slowly, falling behind 3-0 in the first set to the rangy Brazilian, who hadn't lost more than four games in a match all week. But at 4-4 in the first set, Vinsant started to realize he was capable of winning the match.

"I think I really started to believe I could win then. When it started getting close and I had chances to go up 5-4, I lost that game, but won the next three," said Vinsant. "I thought deep down inside that I could win the match, but I wasn't really that confident," said Vinsant. "But as the match went on, I gained confidence and just went for my shots."

Vinsant served well throughout the match, while Fernandes got very few first serves in, giving Vinsant an opportunity to tee off on the frequent second serves he saw. The 14-year-old right-hander also served and volleyed on occasion, including match point, cracked several forehand winners and kept the ball in the court long enough to elicit errors from the Brazilian.

At 4-4 in the second set, Fernandes got down 15-40, saved one break point, and thought he had saved a second with a forehand that landed just wide, "three inches or so," according to Vinsant. The usually laid-back Fernandes was in the midst of a "c'mon" after he struck the ball, but when Vinsant's call came, he gulped back the word, glanced up at his coach and then headed for the bench.

"I think he got a little disappointed after that point," said Vinsant, who faced the task of serving out the match against the No. 1 seed and Eddie Herr champion. "It was tough, but it was even tougher in my last match," Vinsant said of the 5-2 lead he'd let get away in the third set of his round of 16 victory Thursday. "I think this is one of the best players I've beaten, but I don't think it was his best day."

Vinsant's opponent in the semifinal is Great Britain's George Morgan, a 17th seed, who downed No. 8 seed Matias Sborowitz of Chile 6-3, 6-0.

Unlike Vinsant, Newman, this year's Eddie Herr finalist, started quickly, taking a 3-0 lead in the first set, but lost the next five games. Saving a set point at 5-3, Newman reeled off six games in a row to take a 2-0 lead in the second set, lost the next three games, then won the next three and the match, winning most of the big points in the seesaw battle.

"It was a great match and a really good win for me," said Newman. "He was No. 1 in the 12s and No. 1 in the 14s, and I'd never beaten him in a tournament before, a set in practice, but never in a tournament."

Newman will face another No. 9 seed, Yaroslav Shyla of Belarus, who outlasted No. 5 seed Diego Hidalgo of Ecuador 2-6, 6-4, 7-5.

The other three divisions will also feature two U.S. players in opposite brackets in the semifinals. Monica Puig of Miami, like Newman, an Eddie Herr finalist, advanced with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over fellow No. 17 seed Yulia Putintseva of Russia in girls 14s action at Biltmore Tennis Center. Puig meets No. 9 seed Natalija Kostic of Serbia, who eliminated No. 5 seed Ellen Tsay of Pleasanton, Calif., 1-6, 6-1, 6-0. In the top half of the girls 14s, No. 9 seed Iveta Dapkute of Lithuania takes on unseeded Breaunna Addison of New Braunfels, Tex. Addison scored a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 17 seed Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in the quarterfinals.

The boys 12s quarterfinals, also played at the Biltmore Tennis Center Friday afternoon, saw two of three Americans earn semifinal berths. No. 1 seed Joe Di Giulio of Newport Beach, Calif. defeated the only remaining No. 1 seed, Borna Coric of Croatia, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3. Roy Lederman of Miami, who reached the Eddie Herr final, losing to Di Giulio, outlasted Frederico Silva of Portugal 6-3, 4-6, 6-4. Di Giulio meets qualifier Matteo Donati of Italy in one semifinal, while Lederman will square off against Yifan Dang of China.

The girls 12s semifinals also feature two Americans: Madison Keys of Boca Raton, Fla., who won her third round and quarterfinal round matches Friday in straight sets, and Miami's Denise Starr, who came back from down a set and 5-2 to beat Ayaka Okuno of Santa Clara, Calif., 2-6; 7-6 (2); 6-3,
earning a semifinal meeting with Sujeoung Jang of Korea.

Keys will take on unseeded Emily Fanning of New Zealand, who disposed of two No. 1 seeds in straight sets on Friday. In her third round match, Fanning bounced Barbara Rodriquez of Venezuela 6-1, 6-2, and in Friday evening's quarterfinal, eliminated Viktoriya Lavrentiera of Russia 7-6 (4), 6-2.

Fanning, who is playing the U.S. for the first time, is having great success with her one-handed backhand, which debuted only three months ago, and on the clay, which is an alien surface for her.

"We don't have green clay in New Zealand or Australia, so it's different," said Fanning. "But I like it because it's a lot slower and with my spin, it's hard for my opponent because it gets up high."

As for the backhand, Fanning has high hopes for it as her game develops.

"It's going to be very good once I get stronger," said Fanning, who has yet to lose a set on the Salvadore Park courts.

The semifinals in the girls 12s begin at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, with Sunday's final scheduled for 8:00 a.m., all at Salvadore Park.

The semifinals in the other three divisions will be played at the Biltmore Tennis Center beginning with the boys 12s at 10:30 a.m., followed by the 14s at approximately noon.

For complete results, schedules and draws, see the Junior Orange Bowl TennisLink site.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Junior Orange Bowl Day 4: Competition Heats Up in Round of 16

Coral Gables, FL--

Three set matches were plentiful Thursday in the boys and girls 14s, with half of the contests in each division going the distance.

Unseeded Shane Vinsant of Keller, Tex., who had already disposed of a seed in the second round, notched another upset with a 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 win over No. 9 seed Ivan Conejero of Chile. Vinsant squandered a 5-2 lead in the third set, but broke and held to book his place in Friday's quarterfinal against top seed Tiago Fernandes of Brazil. Fernandes cruised past No. 9 seed Michael Rinaldi of Palm City, Fla. 6-1, 6-0.

George Morgan of Great Britain staged an impressive comeback in his encounter with fellow No. 17 seed Dennis Novikov of Redwood City, California. Down a set, with Novikov serving for the match at 5-4, Morgan, a tall right-hander, used his variety and his focus to turn the match in his favor.

"He mentally got off, when he lost that game, and I took advantage of it," said Morgan, who can slice his backhand or pound a two-hander with equal success. "I'm usually quite a slow starter, it takes a half a set or a set to adjust; I need to work on that a bit more."

Morgan has now reached his goal for the tournament.

"My aim was to make the quarterfinals, so I'm happy with that."

Next for Morgan is Matias Sborowitz of Chile, who also won a long three-setter Thursday afternoon.

All four players who won three setters did so after dropping the opening set, including Emmett Egger of Issaquah, Wash., a No. 9 seed, who defeated Spencer Simon of Santa Barbara, Calif. 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. Egger faces another American, Eddie Herr finalist Spencer Newman of Miami, in Friday's quarterfinals. Newman, also a No. 9 seed, dropped Luis Patino of Mexico 6-0, 6-2. The other quarterfinal has No. 5 seed Diego Hidalgo of Ecuador facing No. 9 seed Yaroslav Shyla of Belarus.
In the girls 14s, the top U.S. seeds remaining, No. 4 Lauren Herring of Greenville, N.C., and No. 5 Ellen Tsay of Pleasanton, Calif., had opposite outcomes in their three-setters.

Herring fell to No. 17 seed Yulia Putintseva of Russia 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in a marathon that had many swings in momentum. Herring was down 3-0 in the second set, won six straight games to earn the split, then fell behind 4-1 in the third. She fought back to 4-4, but dropped her serve in the next game, giving the emotional and vocal Russian a opportunity to serve out the match, which she did.

Tsay stopped Great Britain's Laura Robson's Florida winning streak at nine, defeating the Eddie Herr champion 6-4, 0-6, 6-4, and thoroughly frustrating the 13-year-old Londoner with her defense.

No. 17 seed Monica Puig of Miami advanced to the quarterfinals, as did Breaunna Addison of New Braunfels, Tex., with straight-set victories.

The boys 12s quarterfinals, which move from Tropical Park to Biltmore Tennis Center on Friday, will feature three Americans.

No. 1 seed Joe Di Giulio, of Newport Beach, Calif. was a 6-3, 6-3 winner over Billy Harris of Great Britain, a deceptively routine score for a very long, grueling match. Di Giulio meets No. 1 seed Borna Coric of Croatia, who hasn't lost more than three games in his first four matches. Unseeded Justin Butsch of Miami Beach, Fla. downed another unseeded American, Mackenzie McDonald of Piedmont, Calif., 7-5, 6-2, and Miami's Roy Lederman, the Eddie Herr finalist, blew past Grant Solomon of Dallas, Tex. 6-0, 6-0.

The girls 12s have completed their third round, with Sachia Vickery of Hollywood, Fla. and Madison Keys of Boca Raton, Fla. closing out the evening with a reprise of their meeting in the Eddie Herr final last month. Once again Keys emerged with the victory, this time under the lights on the Salvadore Park clay, with a 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-2 decision. Keys was down 5-2 in the second set, won four straight games, but couldn't close it out when she was serving for it at 6-5/ Vickery took advantage of the lapse to force a tiebreaker and then a third set, but Keys prevailed.

Next for Keys is Deerfield Beach Fla.'s Jan Abaza, a qualifier, who defeated No. 1 seed Kanami Tsuji of Japan Thursday afternoon 7-5, 6-3. Ayaka Okuno of Santa Clara, Calif. and Denise Starr of Miami, both unseeded, advanced to the round of 16 in straight sets, but U.S. No. 1 seed Jerricka Boone of Chicago, Ill., was bounced by Darya Lebeshava of Belarus 6-3, 6-0. Unseeded Alexandra Kiick of Davie, Fla. fought back to oust qualifier Jennifer Brady of Boca Raton, Fla. 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, and will face unseeded Victoria Duval of Boca Raton on Friday. Duval, who has lost only four games in three matches, defeated Ines Fontanarosa of France 6-1, 6-2, and said her opponent's No. 1 seeding helped her play well.

"I was really motivated because I knew she was No. 1 and it wasn't going to be an easy match," Duval said. "I was motivated to hit the ball; the other matches were a little easy, so I didn't really focus on what I had to do."

Duval had no trouble outlasting her much larger opponent, who with ponytail and one-handed backhand, resembled her compatriot Amelie Mauresmo.

"I've been working on my consistency, because in previous matches I've been missing a lot," said Duval. "I've been working with my coach on my consistency, and I see the results in this match."

The girls 12s will play two rounds on Friday, with the semifinals scheduled for Saturday and the finals for Sunday, all at Salvadore Park.

For complete results and draws, see the Junior Orange Bowl TennisLink site.

Melanie Oudin Profile; Roddick Foundation's New Tennis Center

My weekly article for The Tennis Recruiting Network is a profile of Melanie Oudin, the Eddie Herr champion and Orange Bowl finalist.

Although I've had no time to look at what's going on in tennis outside South Florida, I did get word of this new Texas tennis center being planned by the Andy Roddick Foundation.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Junior Orange Bowl Day 3: A Score of U.S. Players Reach Round of 16

Coral Gables, FL--

Perfect weather conditions greeted Junior Orange Bowl participants in Wednesday's third round of boys 12s and boys and girls 14s action and U.S. players took advantage, with a total of twenty reaching the round of 16 in the three divisions.

Joe Di Giulio of Newport Beach, Calif., the No. 1 seed from the U.S., leads a group of six U.S. boys into Thursday's round of 16. He is joined by unseeded countrymen Justin Butsch, of Miami Beach, Fla., Roy Lederman of Miami, Fla., Mackenzie McDonald of Piedmont, Calif., Grant Solomon of Dallas, Tex., and Benjamin Donovan of Germantown, Tenn. Di Giulio and Croatian Borna Coric are the two seeds remaining in the draw, and they will face each other in the quarterfinals if they win Thursday at Tropical Park.

The girls 14s third round at the Biltmore Tennis Center will feature seven U.S. girls, with Lauren Herring, the No. 4 seed and Ellen Tsay, the No. 5 seed advancing Wednesday with straight set wins. Herring, of Greenville, N.C., broke her opponent, Kim-Alena Twelker of Germany, as she served for the first set at 5-4, and rolled on from there, winning nine of the next 11 games for a 7-5, 6-2 win.

"She played pretty well," said the Easter Bowl champion, who reached the quarterfinals of the 16s Orange Bowl earlier this month. "But I think she lost it there mentally, at the end." Both girls displayed impressive power, but during the course of the match Herring detected a pattern she could exploit.

"Her backhand was much stronger than her forehand," Herring said. "Her forehand seemed to crack under pressure, during tight points. I tried to base my point structure around her forehand--hitting more to it and opening up the backhand, and then going to the backhand. It was a weird match, I had to use more of my speed rather than my shots. She liked to dictate, and I found if I was going for my shots, I made a lot of first strike errors."

Joining Herring and Tsay in the third round are unseeded Megan Kurey of Alpharetta, Ga., Nicole Melichar of Stuart, Fla. and Breaunna Addison of New Braunfels, Texas. No. 17 seeds Caitlyn Williams of Knoxville, Tenn. and Monica Puig of Miami, Fla. have also reach the final 16.

Seven U.S. boys reached the round of 16 in the 14s at the University of Miami, and one of them, Michael Rinaldi, a No. 9 seed, has the unenviable task of trying to derail top seed Tiago Fernandes of Brazil. For the second consecutive day, Fernandes faced an internationally experienced American, and the result was exactly the same, a 6-3, 6-0 win for the Brazilian, this one over Sean Berman of Irvine, California. Unseeded Shane Vinsant of Keller, Tex., No. 17 seed Dennis Novikov, of Redwood City, Calif., No. 9 seeds Bjorn Fratangelo of Pittsburgh, Pa. and Spencer Newman of Miami, Fla., will face opponents from other nations on Thursday, but No. 9 seed Emmett Egger of Issaquah, Wash., and No. 7 seed Spencer Simon of Santa Barbara, Calif. go head-to-head for a place in the quarterfinals. Both have cruised througt their first three matches without dropping a set.

That certainly has not been the case for unseeded Johann Skattum of Norway, who dropped the first set of his win on Tuesday and then again on Wednesday against unseeded Connor Glennon of Great Britain. Skattum, a semifinalist last year in the 12s, came back for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory, but he was obviously weary after the two strenuous contests.

"This one today was definitely tougher, because I was more tired from yesterday, and my game was a little bit shaky--I couldn't play my best," said Skattum, for whom outdoor tennis is something of a novelty. "But I got through it."

The jump from the 12s to the 14s is often a difficult one, but Skattum notes gains in both experience and skills that have led to continued success.

"Last year, this was like one of my first big tournaments to play and even though every one of these players has improved, my game has gotten a lot better. My serve was really weak last year."

Skattum lives and trains in Norway, and plays the European junior circuit, but he has significant U.S. heritage, with both his mother and grandmother originally from the United States.

The girls 12s completed second round action on the clay of Salvadore Park on Wednesday. Unseeded Floridians Alexandra Kiick of Davie, Sachia Vickery of Hollywood and Madison Keys and Jennifer Brady, both of Boca Raton, all recorded straight set wins and will play each other on Thursday. Brady, a qualifier, meets Kiick, while Vickery and Keys will square off in a rematch of the Eddie Herr final, won by Keys in three sets. Jerricka Boone, of Chicago, Ill., the No. 1 U.S. seed, also advanced in straight sets.

For complete draws, visit the TennisLink site.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Junior Orange Bowl Day 2--Seeds Continue to Drop; Eddie Herr Champions Roll On

Coral Gables, Fla.--

The four 2007 Eddie Herr 12s and 14s champions are still in the running to add Junior Orange Bowl titles to their Florida triumphs after the second full day of tennis at the four sites hosting the international competition.

Boca Raton's Madison Keys, the Eddie Herr girls' 12s champion, was not seeded in the Junior Orange Bowl, and an unlucky draw put her up against No. 1 seed Louise Kwong of Canada, whom she'd beaten 7-6 in the third in the Eddie Herr quarterfinals.

"When I saw the draw, I thought, 'what are the odds of that?'," said Kwong, who fell to Keys 6-2, 6-4 in Tuesday's first round. "Of 127 people, it had to be Madison Keys. I thought she'd be seeded, but she's not. I don't know why."

The Eddie Herr was on hard courts, while the Junior Orange Bowl girls' event is held on the green clay at Salvadore Park, and both girls pointed to the surface as a factor.

"The clay was not as slidable as what I train on," Kwong said. "And her type of game style fits better on clay, so it was harder for me."

Keys agreed.

"I think I was a little bit more used to it than she was," said Keys, who trains at the IMG/Evert Academy. "It gave me an advantage."

Keys rarely trailed in the match, but when Kwon broke her to even the second set at 4, an element of suspense was introduced. In the next game however, the Canadian left-hander let a 30-0 lead evaporate and three points later Keys got a break point and pounced. The 5-foot-7-and-a-half-inch right-hander stepped into the court and blistered a backhand winner, a shot she relies on when she needs a big point.

"I like going for that shot," said Keys. "It's one of my better shots I like to hit."

Eddie Herr boys 12s champion Joe Di Giulio of Newport Beach, Calif., did receive a No. 1 seed, and he is one of the few remaining in the boys 12s draw after a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Franko Miocic of Croatia. The top half has five of its eight No. 1 seeds through to the third round, but the bottom half has only one No. 1 seed left, Jonathan O'Mara of Great Britain. Nearly as many qualifiers (5, including one lucky loser) as seeds (6) still have hopes of a Junior Orange Bowl title, including Thai Kwiatkowski of Charlotte, NC and Mac Roy of Clute, Tex.

The top seed in the girls 14s, Carol Lizarazo of Columbia, was ousted by Elizabeth Abanda of Canada 6-3, 6-3, and No. 3 seed Silvia Njiric of Croatia was also eliminated, losing 6-4, 6-2 to Breaunna Addison of New Braunfels, Texas. Great Britain's Laura Robson, this year's Eddie Herr 14s champion, is seeded 17th at the Junior Orange Bowl, but in her two matches, the 13-year-old from London has lost only one game and looks to be in top form on the hard courts of the Biltmore Tennis Center.

Brazilian Tiago Fernandes, the boys 14s Eddie Herr champion, did receive the top seeding at the Junior Orange Bowl, and despite a difficult draw, is the favorite for Sunday's final. On Tuesday, he met Christian Harrison, the 13-year-old American who was a finalist at Les Petits As, the indoor equivalent of the Junior Orange Bowl 14s, which is held in France in early February.

Harrison jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the early morning match played at the University of Miami Neil Schiff Tennis Center, as Fernandes made several nerve-induced errors at the start. But once the tall and lean right-hander began finding the court, the much smaller Texan couldn't locate the aggressive all-court game he needed to challenge. Fernandes's depth kept Harrison scrambling, and the Brazilian rarely took a risk he didn't need or made an error he couldn't afford on his way to winning the next 11 games in his 6-3, 6-1 victory.

His next opponent will be another American, Sean Berman, who saved two match points in his 4-6, 6-1, 7-5 win over No. 17 seed Leonard Stakhovsky of the Ukraine. With No. 3 seed Alexandru Ciprian Porumb of Romania losing on Monday and No. 2 seed Vitor Galvao of Brazil falling Tuesday, the top half of the draw is looking more formidable, with No. 4 seed Marcos Giron of the U.S. still in the mix.

Giron, of Thousand Oaks, Calif., scraped by Winston Lin of Williamsville, N.Y. 7-6 (2), 7-6 (6) to set up an encounter with another American, Dennis Novikov of Redwood City, Calif.

"I've played him like four times," said Giron. "I've never lost to him, so I feel I have a good shot against him."

Giron's confidence has been buoyed by his recent visit to Portland as part of the USTA High Performance camp held in conjunction with the Davis Cup.

"For a set, every player got to sit right on the bench," said Giron. "It was a lot of fun."

But it wasn't just rubbing shoulders with Roddick, Blake and the Bryan brothers that made it such a memorable experience.

"It also helped because I was playing really well while I was there, so it helped my confidence."

Second round action in girls 12s begins Wednesday morning. The other three divisions will play third round matches on Wednesday.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Junior Orange Bowl Day 1: No. 1 Seeds Struggle in 12s; Kiick, like Dolphins, Gets a Win

Coral Gables, FL--

Winter arrived in south Florida on Monday, with temperatures holding in the 60s all day, but the Junior Orange Bowl competitors hardly noticed, so intent were they on their opening round matches.

Four of the 16 seeds in the boys' 12s (all seeds in the 12s are No. 1 seeds), failed to get by their first round opponents at Tropical Park, and U.S. players were responsible for the demise of all of them. Qualifier Thai Kwiatkowski of Charlotte, NC had no trouble with No. 1 seed Haru Inoue of Japan, with his 6-0, 6-1 decision and Dan Weiner of Houston, Tex., also a qualifier, posted precisely the same score in his win over No. 1 seed Vasily Kichigin of Russia. No. 1 seed Georgi Mirchev of Bulgaria was no match for Karim Arem of the U.S., losing 6-0, 6-0 and No. 1 seed Igor Smilansky of Israel couldn't hold off Mackenzie McDonald of the U.S., falling 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.

The sole No. 1 seed from the U.S., Joe Di Giulio of Newport Beach, Calif., faced a dangerous qualifier in Stefano Napolitano of Italy, who had lost only one game in his three qualifying round wins, but Di Giulio came through 6-1, 6-4.

"He had a pretty big forehand," said Di Giulio, who won the Eddie Herr last month. "I just wanted to keep it solid and deep because if I hit the ball short, he would run around it. So I wanted to keep it mostly to his backhand."

Di Giulio also lobbed effectively, causing Napolitano to think twice about stepping forward, but up a set and 3-0, Di Giulio admitted that he took his foot off the accelerator.

"He started playing better and I sort of let my footwork down, thought it was over." said Di Giulo, who broke the Italian to close out the match. "I should have kept on him the whole time."

On the clay courts of Salvadore Park, the top half of the girls 12s draws was played Monday, and four No. 1 seeds were sent packing there, including three from South American countries where the surface should have favored them. Erin Routliffe of Canada dispatched No. 1 seed Laura Ucros of Columbia 6-3, 6-0; Estelle Cascino of France took down No. 1 seed Alejandra De Lasa of Peru 7-6 (1), 6-1 and Gabriele Sinskaite of Lithuania, a quarterfinalist at the Eddie Herr, defeated No. 1 seed Carla Bruzzesi Aveliva of Argentina. Julia Shupenia of Belarus eliminated No. 1 seed Carina Chen of Hong Kong 6-2, 6-0.

Alexandra Kiick, of Davie, Fla., a semifinalist in the Eddie Herr 12s, was again facing Laura Gulbe of Latvia, whom she'd beaten in the second round in Bradenton last month. Kiick, who prefers hard courts to clay, knew she needed to change her strategy if she wanted to repeat that result.

"I definitely needed to be more patient," said Kiick, the daughter of former Miami Dolphin running back Jim Kiick. "Last time she made a lot of mistakes."

Kiick, who began playing tournament tennis three years ago, excelled at soccer, baseball, even flag football, according to her father.

"She was the best one out there," said Kiick. "I remember one time she ran, and this kid had an angle, but she's got a lot of speed. And the coach came up to the kid and the kid says 'that kid's fast' and the coach said sarcastically, 'yeah, well, it's a girl', and the kid responded, 'well, I don't care, he or she, fast is fast.'

Kiick, who still plays on her grade school basketball team, decided to pursue tennis when her best friend took up diving.

"I wanted to play a single sport like her, so I can get credit when I do something," Kiick said.

Her father sees some obvious differences between the sport he played and the one his daughter has chosen.

"Tennis is so much mental," says Kiick, a member of the undefeated Dolphins team of 1972, who was in attendance Sunday when the team notched its first victory of the season. "And the concentration is so much on the individual. In football, if you get angry, you can hit somebody harder; in tennis, if you get angry, you end up hitting into the net, so you've got to learn to control yourself."

And that goes for the position of tennis parent that he is now assuming.

"It's difficult being a tennis fan or spectator because obviously I'm used to people yelling and screaming and throwing hot dogs and beer," said Kiick who can be found sweating through all his daughter's matches, cell phone in hand. "There's obviously more manners in tennis."

In the girls' 14s at the Biltmore Tennis Center, No. 2 seed Grace Min of Lawrenceville, Ga. was the last match on the court and as the chill descended and the lights came on, she was unable to counteract the positive energy of Christine Kandler of Austria, losing 2-6, 6-2, 6-2. Kandler, who hits both forehand and backhand two-handed, was outplayed in the first set, as Min used all her net skills and her superior variety to establish control of the match. But Kandler, who never once wavered in thinking positively, talked to herself after every point, bounced and focused relentlessly and eventually wore Min down with the pace and disguise on her ground strokes.

For complete results, visit the Junior Orange Bowl Tennis Link site.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Rain Disrupts Boys 14s Qualifying at Junior Orange Bowl; Berankis Finishes No. 1

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Coral Gables, FL--
The rain predicted for the weekend finally arrived on Sunday, and the Boys 14s qualifying will not be completed until Monday morning. Many of the round of 64 matches were unfinished when the late morning rain arrived, and even with late afternoon clearing, heavy humidity made for slow-drying courts, with many matches finished under the lights at the University of Miami.

The boys 12s qualifying was completed by early afternoon, and eight players from the U.S. made the main draw, which begins Monday at 8 a.m. EST at Tropical Park: Sebastian Beltrame, Thai Kwiatkowski, Carter Lin, Juan Padilla, Tommy Paul, Mac Roy, Thomas Tenreiro and Daniel Weiner. The other eight boys 12s qualifiers are: Alexis Gervais and Antoine Mailloux of Canada, Matteo Donati and Stefano Napolitano of Italy, Elliot Carnello of Sweden, Mert Dinc of Turkey, Chanwhi Shin of Korea and Milen Ianakiev of Germany.

Seven U.S. girls have advanced to Monday's 12s main draw at Salvadore Park: Jan Abaza, Marie Babayan, Jennifer Brady, Liz Jeukeng, Courtney Meredith, Evgenia Rostarchuk and Alanna Wolff. India Hart of the Bahamas, Jaspreet Johl of Great Britain, Joy Yaich and Estelle Cascino of France, Mijeong Kwon of Korea, Jasmin Jebawy of Germany, Tatiana Guskova of Russia, Verleria Salazar of Mexico and Marika Akkerman of Canada also earned spots in the main draw.

The girls 14s has nine U.S. players from the weekend's qualifying: Tristan Dewar, Sophia Dzulynsky, Kourtney Keegan, Kelsey Laurente, Riqui McCoy, Sarah Means, Leeza Nemchinov, Manuela Velasquez and Holly Verner. Canada had four qualifiers: Elizabeth Bolpois, Maja Jovic, Rokia Sacko and Chanel Steben. Violetta Tosmuk of Russia, Viktoryia Kisialeva of Belarus and Natalie Beazant of Great Britain fill the remaining spots.

For complete draws, visit the Junior Orange Bowl TennisLink site.

I have signed on to do the media reporting for the Junior Orange Bowl, so I will be writing a daily release that may double as my zootennis post.

Early today, I received a brief email from Ben Crandell of IMG, who represents Ricardas Berankis, saying that the Lithuanian had won both the singles and doubles titles at the Yucatan World Cup, sealing his spot atop the ITF World rankings for 2007.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Junior Orange Bowl Qualifying; Oudin and Tomic Make News

I spent the day at the University of Miami, watching the second round of boys 14 qualifying. The rain predicted for the past two days has thankfully not materialized, because with a 256 qualifying draw, there isn't much leeway. I was most interested in seeing the matches of the boys who played in the Boca wild card tournament for European travel, but for two of them, Nick Wood and Alexios Halebian, their 6-0, 6-0 wins allowed very little time for viewing. Tyler Gardiner had a more competitive encounter, defeating Terence Celestine 7-5, 6-2, but the match I watched most of was Robert Livi's 6-3, 7-5 loss to Alexandru Pasareanu of Canada.

I am not exaggerating when I say that I thought Livi had gotten a walkover and was practicing with a U of M player. Pasareanu, whose ITF birthdate is listed as May 1, 1993, is the most mature looking 14-year-old I have ever seen. Those who remember him from the 12s (I don't) say he was remarkably bigger and stronger in that age group too.

He lost in the first round of the 14s last year, and is in the qualifying this year, so his results haven't followed his physical development, but he had too much strength and size for Livi today.

Tomorrow there will be two rounds of play to determine the 16 qualifiers for Monday's main draw.

(The seeds are available by clicking here and under the "Show Players For" box, selecting the Main for each division. I'm sure you'll be surprised, I know I was.)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution profiled Melanie Oudin yesterday, in advance of her exhibition match with Ashley Harkleroad tonight in a benefit that features Andy Roddick and Robby Ginepri.

And Bernard Tomic has been the subject of several U.S. features (Tennis Week here, ESPN here, with an Orange Bowl photo of mine accompanying). And the Australian press is of course giddy to have him in the forefront of junior news. (One story started by calling him the "world's leading junior," which may come as a surprise to Berankis, Ignatic and the 20 other players ranked ahead of him by the ITF). This is one local story focusing on his Gold Coast home, and it also mentions rumors that he is older than 15, which I have heard and do not give any credence to. He looked 12 when I saw first saw him in 2004 and since he didn't start playing tennis until after he had immigrated to Australia, it's hard to figure where those years would have gotten lost, and why.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Coaches Q and A: Dealing with Nerves

This is the fourth installment of a new feature on zootennis that taps the professional expertise of Andy Brandi and Harold Solomon of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Today's question from a zootennis reader: Our son is a junior tournament player. Whenever he plays National level tournaments, or a player he knows is ranked higher than him, his “nerves” get to him; he will get up in a set, and then end up losing the match. What advice could you give him to help get though these situations, and to help him win? Thanks.

Harold Solomon responds:

Your son's problem is quite a common one from the juniors up to and including the top professionals in the world. Most players think that they get into trouble when they get ahead in a match because they start to think too much. The truth is that they fail to think effectively. Many players, if they are honest, will tell you that when up in a big match or serving for the match, they have thoughts such as: "what will this win will do for my ranking?" or "who will I be playing in the next round?" In other words, they are totally getting out of the moment. Up until the point in the match when they think victory is in their grasp, they have probably been doing a pretty good job of thinking strategically and have been totally engaged in what's working and what's not working on the court.

It takes a great deal of discipline to be an effective regulator of your thoughts. I would say that everybody has thoughts during crucial times in matches that are off track; I think that the champions have trained themselves to chose thinking that supports being successful. For many players, it helps them to make sure that they continue to use their on-court rituals before and after every point. I used to tell myself to "hit the ball" at big moments in matches because I knew that most of the time players that were ranked above me were not going to give me the match, I was going to have to earn it. We tell our players at big moments in matches to focus on what has been working and to play the ball and focus their attention on the ball. I found in my matches that if I totally focused on the ball almost to the point that I was trying to read the writing on it, it helped me stay in the present.

There are no secrets that we know of to avoid choking. Everyone gets nervous; we think that the players who are successful are able to deal with their nerves knowing that nervousness comes from the way we think about things. We have the ability at any time to choose the thoughts that work or don't work for us, it's our choice.

Do you have a question for Andy or Harold? If so, please send it to clewis[at]zootennis[dot]com with the phrase Coaches' Q and A in the subject line.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl Wraps; AO Wild Card, Two Les Petit As Boys Determined

For those of you who didn't read my daily reports from the Eddie Herr and The Orange Bowl these past two weeks, I wrote a synopsis of the events for my weekly Tennis Recruiting Network contribution.

Kent Kinnear notified me that Reo Asami and Robert Livi were the winners of the Boca Raton round robin tournament earlier this week to determine two of the boys who will travel overseas to represent the U.S. at Teen Tennis and Les Petit As. There is one selection to be made, and I'm told that it will be announced after the Junior Orange Bowl.

And, for the second year in a row, Madison Brengle has earned the Australian Open main draw wild card. She defeated Alexa Glatch 6-3, 6-4 in the final today, according to usta.com.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

ITF Boys' World Championship Still Undecided; Brengle vs. Glatch for Australian Open Wild card

I checked with the ITF on Monday about the "what-if" scenarios for Ricardas Berankis and Vladimir Ignatic in their race for the year-end junior championship. It's simple enough in one respect--if either wins the Yucatan Grade 1 being played right now, he is the champion. Two years ago, when Donald Young and Marin Cilic of Croatia were fighting it out for the top spot, neither won in the Yucatan, although both played, and Young, who was ahead at time, retained the top spot.

The ITF sent me this spreadsheet detailing the current points and points available for each. Both have advanced to the third round, although the doubles draws are not yet posted. For the singles results, click here. Junior tennis fans everywhere are hoping that they play each other in the finals, with the winner earning his world championship in a head-to-head encounter.

Usta.com has the results from today's matches at Boca Raton, which put Brengle and Glatch in Thursday's final.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Australian Wild Card Women's Tournament; US Team for Les Petit As

I took the trip up to Boca Raton today for two reasons--to see the completed National Training Center and to have a look at the wild card round robin that the USTA is conducting to determine who will receive the spot in the Australian Open main draw. I discovered a bonus tournament, but more about that later.

Last year Madison Brengle, who was a last-minute replacement, won the Australian Open wild card, which the USTA receives in trade for a U.S. Open main draw wild card. Since she fit the criteria--1985 birth year or later, WTA Top 300--she was invited back again this year. Bethanie Mattek, Ahsha Rolle and Alexa Glatch also received invitations due to their birth dates and rankings. The other four are wild cards: Gail Brodsky, Asia Muhammad, Coco Vandeweghe and Ashley Weinhold (Melanie Oudin was initially in the field but dropped out when she reached the Orange Bowl final). The format has two groups of four and the top finisher in each group plays Thursday to decide the winner. After two days, this is how the results look:
Group 1:
Brengle 2-0
Mattek 1-1
Vandeweghe 1-1
Muhammad 0-2

Group 2:
Glatch 2-0
Brodsky 1-1
Rolle 1-1
Weinhold 0-2

Wednesday's matches will see Vandeweghe play Muhammad and Brengle play Mattek. If Brengle wins, she makes the final. If Mattek and Vandeweghe win, it gets a lot more complicated, as there will be three players who are 2-1.

In group 2 matches on Wednesday, Glatch plays Rolle, and Brodsky plays Weinhold. The same scenario holds as in group 1; if Glatch wins, she's in, but if Rolle beats her and Brodsky wins, there will be three players at 2-1.

Tuesday's matches were all completed in straight sets, and other than plenty of complaints about chair umpires calling all the lines, there wasn't much to indicate that a lot was riding on the outcome. The two US Open blue courts, in the photo above, were used, with two sets of two matches. Mattek beat Muhammad in straight sets and Brengle beat Vandeweghe on one court. On the other, Rolle defeated Weinhold and Glatch beat Brodsky. Usta.com has the results from Monday's competition here. Bonnie Ford of espn.com also is following the story.

I took a brief tour of the new training facility, and ran into Jarmere Jenkins, who was only just released from the hospital following his admittance on Saturday, when he was forced to retire from his semifinal Orange Bowl match. He said that his heart and kidneys had been affected, requiring more monitoring than the standard overnight IV that suffices for most cases, but that he was fine now.

The wild card tournament wasn't the only chaired event being held at the Evert Academy site. The round robin to determine which players will travel to Europe this winter for Teen Tennis and Les Petit As started Monday, under the direction of USTA High Performance coach Kent Kinnear. Participants are (by USTA ranking of 1994 birth years): Harrison Richmond, Mitchell Krueger, Reo Asami, Alexois Halebian and Robert Livi. Wild cards were given to: Tyler Gardiner, Nick Wood and Joe Di Giulio, the only 1995 birth year player in the group. The top two finishers in the round robin plus one wild card will go to Europe this winter. Christian Harrison is also likely to make the trip. Once I receive the final results from Kinnear, I'll pass them along.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Berankis and Larcher de Brito Win Dunlop Orange Bowl Titles

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Key Biscayne, FL--

It was a two-ring circus at Crandon Park Sunday, although no tent obscured the partly cloudy skies and the swaying palm trees. But with the singles finals for both girls and boys played simultaneously, a ringmaster would have come in handy to direct attention to the key points. Fans would hover around the edges of Stadium Court, where Ricardas Berankis defeated Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 6-2, until an odd game changeover sent them scurrying to Court 2 to catch a glimpse of the slugfest between Michelle Larcher de Brito and Melanie Oudin, won by Larcher de Brito 7-5, 6-3.

Both Berankis and Oudin had quick 3-0 leads, but only the Lithuanian got it to 4-0 in the first set. Oudin, the 16-year-old from Marietta, Ga. who had won 27 straight ITF junior matches, had three points to take a 4-0 lead, but Larcher de Brito hung on to that game and got a break in the next to start her comeback.

"In the beginning she was making a few errors and I wasn't missing," said Oudin, who has played 22 singles and doubles matches in the past 14 days. "And then she started playing better, and I started making some errors, but all in all it was a good match. I've played a lot of matches lately, so I'm a little tired, but I've got to give her credit."

Larcher de Brito didn't shy away from Oudin's forehand, which she thought slightly superior to the backhand, primarily because she was focusing on her own game.

"If I worry about too much, well, I like my head clear and I try not to think about anyone else's play," said Larcher de Brito, who will turn 15 next month. "Melanie is playing unbelievably; she's improved a lot, and we played one great match."

Oudin had success when she got her first serve in, but Larcher de Brito was stepping into the court to attack the second serve, taking control of the point with her deep and heavy groundstrokes. With a sizeable cheering section, including her grandparents from South Africa, calling out encouragement, Larcher de Brito was poised to run away with the match when she broke Oudin to start the second set, but Oudin dug in and held in the third game to keep within shouting distance. She wouldn't hold again, however. Larcher de Brito's celebration was delayed slightly when she was broken serving for the match at 5-2, but in the next game she converted on her first match point, when an Oudin approach caught the tape.

Falling to the ground behind the baseline, Larcher de Brito stayed on her back for a few seconds, knees bent, savoring her first tournament victory this year. Then she shook Oudin's hand and surged toward the side fence to embrace her grandparents.

"It means a lot," said Larcher de Brito, when asked about winning the Orange Bowl, the first Portuguese player to do so. "It's been a great tournament, it's been a great week. My family's been here supporting me, my grandparents, and I've felt a lot of support and felt really good throughout the whole week."

Berankis was dealing with more than just Dimitrov in Sunday morning's final. After a Houdini-like escape trailing Jarmere Jenkins 5-2 in the third in Saturday's semifinal, the Lithuanian still has hopes of winning the year-end ITF Junior World Championship, and with his finals victory he will take over the top spot with one tournament left to play, The Yucatan World Cup, where he is defending champion.

As is often the case with the Orange Bowl, the limited direct flights to the Yucatan for a Monday start are a factor, and Berankis could not afford to play a long three-setter. Fortunately for him, Dimitrov complied, with the 16-year-old from Bulgaria playing from behind the entire match.

"I knew I couldn't play well today," said Dimitrov, the 16s Orange Bowl champion last year. "I didn't sleep well last night, I was pretty tired already. I knew I couldn't play good today, so my only chance was to get in the court and finish the match."

At the 3-2 changeover in the second set, after he had broken Berankis, Dimitrov called for a trainer, but it didn't help.

"I don't think he was injured, I think he was cramping," Berankis said, and thinking back to the Jenkins match added, "Unbelievable."

Dimitrov was broken the last two times he served, and in a flash, Berankis had done his photo duties, backed up his racquet bag and sprinted to the parking lot, with no time to savor the Orange Bowl Championship or his climb to No. 1.

"I'm going right now," said Berankis, the first Lithuanian to win the Orange Bowl. "I'm late for my plane, but we'll see how it goes, I'm going to try my best."

The doubles finals were played Sunday afternoon, and Oudin didn't leave Key Biscayne without a winner's trophy. She and partner Mallory Cecil, the No. 4 seeds, defeated the unseeded U.S. tandem of Coco Vandeweghe and Allie Will 6-2, 6-4.

"I definitely wanted to win a final today after losing in singles," said Oudin, who was a doubles finalist at the Eddie Herr with Cecil last week. "Mallory was ready, and she helped me a little bit more in the doubles match. I'm very happy."

The boys 18 Orange Bowl doubles champions were also finalists at the Eddie Herr last week. Roman Jebavy of the Czech Republic and Vasek Pospisil of Canada lost a third set tiebreaker in Bradenton, but Sunday the No. 2 seeds came out the winners, defeating No. 7 seeds Matt Reid and John Patrick Smith of Australia 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

For complete draws, see usta.com.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Tomic, Kimbell Win Orange Bowl 16s; Oudin Meets Larcher de Brito for 18s title Sunday

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Key Biscayne FL--

Australia's Bernard Tomic added another crystal bowl of oranges to his collection on Saturday when the top seed defeated unseeded Jose Pereira of Brazil 6-2, 7-5. Wild card Lilly Kimbell of New Braunfels, Tex. may be new to international tournaments, but she caught her flight home Saturday night with two bowls in tow, taking the singles title from Katarina Palivets of Canada 6-2, 6-3 and the doubles title with partner Zoe DeBruycker of California.

The 15-year-old Tomic, the 12s Junior Orange Bowl winner in 2004 and the 14s Junior Orange Bowl winner last year, would have been seeded in the 18s, but elected to play the 16s instead.

"I would have loved to play the 18s in a Grade A, but I wanted to make three titles," Tomic said. "I was sure I could have made good results in the 16s, and now I've got three, and I'd like to get one more next year."

Tomic's two-handed backhand has many admirers, but it was slice that gave him the edge on the hard-hitting Brazilian. After a routine first set, Tomic looked to be cruising to a victory, taking a 5-2 lead in the second set, but the 16-year-old Brazilian brought it back to 5-5, primarily with forehand winners, saving two match points when serving at 4-5. At 5-6, however, Tomic brought out his devastating backhand slice on a second serve return and Pereira ran it down but couldn't control it, giving the point, and the Orange Bowl championship, to Tomic.

"My slice is more consistent, but I like my backhand too," said Tomic, who has spent most of the past year working on his serve and forehand. "But I've still got to work on lots of things. I would put my level about four out of 10 these past few weeks."

Kimbell took down the hard-hitting Palivets with slice, volleys and placement, not with power, and Palivets was impressed.

"She's a very good player; she knows what she's doing," said Palivets, the No. 5 seed. "She makes you feel like you have no time. She comes in right away. She plays like a guy."

Kimbell, the USTA Girls 16s Hard Court champion this year, took that as a compliment.

"I try to attack the net a lot, because a lot of the girls just stay back and grind it out," said Kimbell. "But I try to finish off the points with my volleys."

Returning to Texas, where she attends New Braunfels High and plays on the team, Kimbell wasn't expecting to parlay her wild card into such resounding success, and had to be encouraged to take on the world by her coaches at John Newcombe's Tennis Ranch. But she's happy she took the leap.

"It's probably the biggest tournament I've ever won," said Kimbell, who with De Bruycker took the doubles title from top seeds Olivia Bennett of Trinidad and Victoria Lozano of Mexico 6-3, 6-4 Saturday afternoon, and who will celebrate on the flight home Saturday night by eating a few more oranges.

In the 18s semifinals on Saturday, No. 8 seed Melanie Oudin extended her winning streak to 27 on a warm and sunny morning by defeating doubles partner Mallory Cecil 6-0, 6-0. After zipping by Urszula Radwanska in the quarterfinals with a 6-0 third set, Oudin has won 18 straight games. And although the score was ultimately lopsided, the first few games were lengthy affairs--the first set took nearly forty minutes to play.

"At 2-0 me in the first, we both had game points," Oudin recalled. "I got two let cords, not on game points but on deuce points, to make it 2-1 or 3-0."

It was after that game that Oudin took control.

"I was definitely ready for anything, and she made a lot more errors than she usually does," said Oudin. "But then again, I didn't make any errors. I was playing really well."

Oudin's opponent in Sunday's final is No. 9 seed Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal, who lost her first set of the tournament Saturday, but rebounded for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory over unseeded Aranxta Rus of the Netherlands. Rus, a tall left-hander, gave Larcher de Brito trouble with her defense, varying the pace, tracking down deep shots and occasionally cracking a forehand down-the-line winner.

"At first I was pretty nervous because I lost to her before in Mexico in a $25,000 (Women's ITF Event)," Larcher de Brito said. "But I said, Mexico is in the past now. In the third set, she was missing a little more, but I was also getting to my shots a lot more, just going for everything all out."

Larcher de Brito admitted she was aware of Oudin's streak.

"She's been doing really well. I've heard of her winning a lot of matches," Larcher de Brito said, although she has not seen Oudin play this year, but holds a 2-0 record head-to-head in matches played last year.

The boys' 18s semifinals both were extended to three sets, but both ended quickly, for different reasons.

Ricardas Berankis's hope for the year-end No. 1 junior ranking looked to be dashed when Jarmere Jenkins took a 5-2 lead in the third set, with the Lithuanian having lost the first 4-6 and won the second 7-5. But Jenkins, 17, began cramping during that seventh game, and although he won it, a trainer was called to court at the changeover to treat him for cramping. Berankis held for 5-3, although he too showed symptoms of problems; he did not run for a Jenkins winner in that game, and was grimacing and bouncing during it. Serving for the match at 5-3, Jenkins double-faulted, just missed two forehands wide, and was broken at love. When Berankis held for 5-5, Jenkins' stress was obvious: he was limping, stutter-stepping and unable to bend his knees for a serve. He threw his wrist band off his cramping hand, and after one point, retired, putting Berankis in the final.

"It's not the best way to win," said Berankis, who estimated his first serve percentage in the match at 1%. "But a win is a win."

Vlad Ignatic of Belarus, whom Berankis is chasing for the year-end top ranking, was in the stands, knowing that if Berankis lost, the 17-year-old from Vilnius has no chance of catching him. When told of Ignatic's attendance, Berankis laughed.

"Was he like 'c'mon, c'mon, keep winning,' was he like that?" Berankis asked, knowing that Ignatic was so quiet that he wasn't even aware the French Open Junior champion was in the crowd. "For sure he is interested," Berankis said.

Berankis must prevail in Sunday's matchup with No. 16 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria, the 16s Orange Bowl champion last year. Dimitrov prevented a U.S. Open Junior final rematch when he defeated No. 9 seed Jerzy Janowicz of Poland 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

Dimitrov was down a break early in the third set, but he expressed no concern.

"I was pretty confident because, I know the guy, how he plays, I saw his final at the U.S. Open," Grigorov, 16, said. "I knew he was going to miss in the third set, somewhere, somehow and I just got in the right spot to break him back."

At 3-3 in the third, Dimitrov held, and the match was decided in the next game. At 30-40, Janowicz crushed a first serve up the T, but Dimitrov got it back. Janowicz attempted to hit a drop shot off the return, but it went into the net, and suddenly, Dimitrov was serving for the match.

He had no trouble doing so, with big first serves giving him the final two points.

Dimitrov is now under instructions from his doubles partner Ignatic, to deliver the year-end No. 1 spot to him as an early Christmas present.

"He said, 'please Grigor, please, do your best,'" Dimitrov said. "I told him I'd do my best to beat that guy."

The girls 18s doubles will be an all-American contest again this week, with Allie Will and Coco Vandeweghe taking on Cecil and Oudin. Vandeweghe and Will took their semifinal match from the Dutch pair of Richel Hogenkamp and Lesley Kerkhove 3-6, 6-1, 6-4; Cecil and Oudin avenged their loss in the Eddie Herr final to Kristy Frilling and Asia Muhammad, 6-2, 3-6, 6-2, giving Oudin the same opportunity that Kimbell sezied to take two Orange Bowl titles.

The boys 18s doubles features No. 2 seeds Roman Jebavy of the Czech Republic and Vasek Pospisil of Canada against No. 7 seeds Matt Reid and John-Patrick Smith of Australia.

The boys 16s doubles title went to the unseeded Italian pair of Alessandro Colella and Fredrico Gaio, who defeated No. 3 seed Jordan Cox and Evan King, 6-3, 6-3.

For complete draws, see usta.com.