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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.