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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.


Anonymous said...

Your summary did not capture the true flavor and drama of the Berankis-Jenkins match. Jenkins led 5-2, 30-love in the third set when he hit the wall and called for the trainer. Just 2 points from the Orange bowl final. And, the match up to that point, included some of the best tennis played there the entire week. Side note - Jenkins was taken to the hospital after the match and was kept overnight.

If you are covering American tennis, I don't know how you could miss something like this. Your post makes it seem as if it was a routine match. It was anything but. For all the ink spent on Oudin, Williams, Harrison and Buchannon, from what I saw this week, Jenkins is the closest thing we have to a legitimate US pro prospect.

As an American at this international event, it was awkward to watch and applaud during the Williams, Harrison and Buchanan matches. With code violations due to cursing, racket and ball abuse, it was downright embarrassing that some of our best prospects show so little respect for the game. Perhaps this and temperament have as much to do with the lack of US results lately as do talent and strokes.

Anonymous said...

dewayne, would you be willing to provide a description of Jenkins' game? What do you like about him?

Also, if you could, what did you think of Williams, Harrison, and Buchanan from a talent standpoint?

Anonymous said...

Williams, Harrison, Buchanan Jenkins are all super talented. Harrison just turned Pro by signing with IMG, so they obviously think highly of him. Even at the young age of 15, it is easy to see that he moves very well and has exceptional hands, manifest in a solid net game and solid ground game. He can take the ball early and is an aggressive player who looks to hurt his opponent off the ground and finish at net. Also a good counter puncher. He also will probably be well over 6 feet tall when he finishes growing.

Williams, at 16 is already well over 6 feet tall. What sets him apart is a truly exceptional forehand - versatile, potent and struck with confidence and control. He is also developing a solid serve. Like Harrison, he has grown up in a family of top tennis players, so he knows the game well. He does not move as well as Harrison or Jenkins, seeming to have lost a half step over the last year of growth. But he too is highly regarded in terms of talent and upside. He won a Pro Futures tournament earlier this year.

Buchanan is 16 now I believe and has long been regarded as one of the best US prospects. His game is more physical than Harrison's or Williams'. He has a strong upper body and uses it well to strike a heavy ball off both sides. Moves OK but not as well as Harrison or Jenkins. His strength is in having the smarts to figure out the game of his opponent and to make mid-match adjustments.

Jenkins just turned 17 in November and has a solid, athletic all court game. Viewed as an aggressive baseliner who hits a heavy ball off both sides. He also has great hands at net, though he probably could work on hitting his volleys more crisply. Has improved his backhand tremendously over the past year and it was solid and super smooth this past week. His forehand is a major weapon - compact and hard to read. He changes direction with it well and can open up a point with it suddenly. He has been training at the USTA Boca facility for the past month and apparently to super effect because he looked the best of any of the US players at the Orange bowl. He has two recent wins over Ignatic and had Berankis on the ropes before cramping in the semi's up 5-2 in the third. He also had a full body cramp at Kalamazoo 18's up a set and a break in the round of 16 - he may have some special nutritional needs because he trains hard and has an extremely ripped physique for someone so young? He is not as tall as the others at about 5'11". Interesting to see how he develops this year and how much support he gets from the USTA.

In my opinion, they all have super talent and up-side. The question for Williams, Harrison and Buchanan is whether they can develop the temperament for the next level. Jenkins' game is clearly more advanced right now. He looked like a Pro the last 2 matches. But has to figure out the cramping issue.

Anonymous said...

Dwayne, good rundown on those players. Yes, Jenkens moves amazingly well but needs to shore up his volleying technique. Chase is the slowest of the bunch which detrcts from his potential although he is a smart player. Williams is too happy to stay at the baseline. He frequently gives a free pass to shirt balls rather than atacking and coming in. Harrison has the best all court gme and IMO has the most potential.

Anonymous said...

What a disgustingly cocky comment by Tomic. He wins the Orange Bowl 16s in his first year and then proceeds to say that his tennis level was a "4 out of 10" the two weeks.

This is just one of many examples of why most people aren't big fans of his. He has so much going for him; he doesn't have to ruin it by being so arrogant.

Anonymous said...

With regard to Jarmere Jenkins, he is a very impressive player, but I think everyone should consider his biological maturity when they start predicting his potential. He has been full grown for the past 3 years and that's why he has the bulging muscles to prove it.

This maturity will probably put some limits on how quickly and easily he can improve.

Williams, Harrison and Buchanan are still growing or have just finished growing so they will get bigger and stronger without having to try.

Anonymous said...

What is interesting here is that this blog talks like there are only 4 US prospects in the 92-90 group- Buchanan, Williams, Harrison and Jenkins. If that is the case then the US is in more trouble than it appears.

Anonymous said...

Those four are talked about the most because they appear to be the best out of those years. It's not because there aren't others. The 1991 and 1992 birth years have oustanding depth. I doubt that there is another country in the world that can even approach our depth in those years. Here's a list of other good players:

1991: Alex Domijan (Eddie Herr runner-up), James Seal, Tennys Sandgren, Devin Britton, Frank Carelton, J.T. Sundling, Lawrence Formentera, Denis Lin, Mousheg Hovhannisyan, Kevin King, Sekou Coker Bangoura (Eddie Herr runner-up in 16s), Ryan Noble, Matthew Kandath, Harry Fowler

1992: Bob Van Overbeek, Denis Kudla, Evan King, Junior Ore, Jordan Cox, Raymond Sarmiento, Carlos Bermudez, Nelson Vick, Michael Elortegui

From 1990 we also have Austin Krajicek, who is quite good. He beat Gastao Elias in straight sets not long ago. Then there's Ty Trombetta, Bradley Klahn, and Mateusz Kecki.

From 1989 we have Donald Young, Michael McClune, Ryan Thacher, and Kellen Damico.

Obviously most of these kids won't be successful pros. But when you have this kind of depth, the numbers are in your favor.

Anonymous said...

Tomic and the rest of the guys in the 16s were lucky Filip Krajinovic wasn't in the draw...Maybe even 18s

Anonymous said...

Agree w/ above list, lot of possibilities in 90-92 years. Thought Fowler was a '92. Saw his win over Miccini, #2 seed at OB and playing very well after summer off. Also very impressed with progress of Bangouora, Kudla, OverBeek, Ore at Eddie Herr. Anyone know why Bermudez didn't play OB as had WC and why Frank Carleton pulled out? Is Kecki still injured? The next two years will be interesting with all these kids. Wish them all luck and hopefully a few will pop through. ALso, heard that next year US kids can keep up to $10,000 in winnings a year. ANyone else here that?

Anonymous said...

As a follow up to my earlier post, I think we can make a good argument for having an elite player (within the age group) for most years since 1987:

1987: I believe Querrey is the third highest ranked player after Djokovic and Murray.

In addition: Jesse Levine came on very strong at the end of the year, winning two challengers. He's already up to #174 despite having a short season. Alex Kuznetsov is #180. Ryan Sweeting, the former U.S. Junior Open champ, is also someone to watch.

1988: Okay, this is a weak year for us. No argument. Nate Schnugg may develop into a good player, though.

1989: We have the best player in Donald Young.

In addition: Michael McClune has one of the five or six highest ATP rankings. Many consider him a very good prospect. Kellen Damico is a former top-10 junior, and Ryan Thacher certainly would have been highly ranked if he played ITFs. Dennis Lajola won a Futures title. Adam El Mihdawy was in the semis of a Futures event a few weeks back.

1990: This is somewhat of a down year, but Jenkins is on his way to establishing himself as an elite player in his year. It sounds like he probably would have won the Orange Bowl if not for the cramping. He's beaten ITF #2 (#1 at the time) Uladzimir Ignatic twice recently, both in straight sets (one was 6-1, 6-1). He also beat Eddie Herr winner and much ballyhooed Gastao Elias in straight sets.

Krajicek probably could have done some damage in the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl if he had played them. He has a sub-1000 ATP ranking.

1991: Rhyne Williams is the #2 ranked player in this year, having just been overtaken by Grigor Dimitrov. He's #20 overall. He has a Futures title as well. Most consider him an excellent prospect.

In addition: Chase Buchanan reached the QFs of the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl, plus the semis of the GB1 in Tulsa. He also beat a pro ranked near #300. Alex Domijan was the Eddie Herr runner-up. James Seal reached the semis of the GA Osaka Mayor's Cup.

1992: Ryan Harrison is the second highest ranked player after Tomic. He's #27 overall. He won the GA Osaka Mayor's Cup, reached the QFs of the Nationals in Kalamazoo and the Orange Bowl, and reached the third round at the Eddie Herr.

In addition: Denis Kudla is ranked #6 in his year; Bob Van Overbeek is #8

1993: Emmett Egger is among the best in his year, though maybe not elite at this time.

It will be interesting to see how Spencer Simon does at the Orange Bowl.

1994: Christian Harrison is considered the best. He was the runner-up to Carlos Boluda at Les Petits As. At Teen Tennis, he only lost one game to the highest ranked European born in 1994.

1995: Now we're really getting into an area of great uncertainty, but Joseph Di Giulio has the makings of a good player. He won the Eddie Herr with ease.

Anonymous said...

Agree with list of top us prospects but considering the size of the US not a whole lot of possibilities in the piopline. I would also bet that the USTA does not give much if any support to many of them.