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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Winter National Finals Set for 16s and 18s in Scottsdale

While the rest of us are ringing in the new year, the finalists at the USTA Winter Nationals are going to bed early in preparation for their chance at a gold ball on New Year's Day.

In the boys 16s, it's No. 1 Jack Sock vs. No. 2 Shane Vinsant. Sock has yet to lose a set in his six wins, while Vinsant has needed three sets twice. The girls 16s is the battle of the Ohio high schoolers, No. 1 Lauren Davis vs. No. 25 Kyle McPhillips.

The boys 18s final will feature No. 2 seed JT Sundling against No. 7 seed Connor Smith, while the girls 18s final puts No. 1 Hanna Mar across from No. 11 Kate Fuller.

See the TennisLink site for more results.

The 12s and 14s, being played in Tucson, will also determine finalists today, but they are playing quarterfinals and semifinals today, so results won't be available until much later tonight. I will try to post all the results late on Thursday.

Here's a preview of the Copper Bowl, which begins Friday, from the Explorer. See the TennisLink site for draws and seeds.

2008 Honor Roll

December 2008

Harrison Richmond, Junior Orange Bowl 14s

Denis Kudla, Orange Bowl 16s

Devin Britton & Jarmere Jenkins, ITF Grade A Orange Bowl (dbls)

Alex Domijan, ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr

Raymond Sarmiento, Eddie Herr 16s

Alexios Halebian, Eddie Herr 14s

Devin Britton & Jarmere Jenkins, ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr (dbls)

Terrell Celestine & Tyler Gardiner, Eddie Herr 14s (dbls)

Deiton Baughman, Eddie Herr 12s (dbls)

November 2008

Harry Fowler & Bo Seal ITF Grade 1 Yucatan (dbls)

October 2008

Alex Domijan ITF Grade B1 Tulsa

Jordan Cox & Evan King ITF Grade B1 Tulsa (dbls)

September 2008

Matt Kandath & Ryan Lipman, ITF Grade 1 Kentucky (dbls)

August 2008

Austin Krajicek, 18s National Championship

Jordon Cox, 16s National Championship

Harrison Richmond, 14s National Championship

Spencer Papa, 12s National Championship

July 2008

Evan King, 18s USTA Clay Courts

Nathan Pasha, 16s USTA Clay Courts

Alexios Halebian, 14s USTA Clay Courts

Jack Murray, 12s USTA Clay Courts

June 2008

William Parker & Bob Van Overbeek, ITF Grade 1 Mediterranee Avenir, Morocco (dbls)

May 2008

Chase Buchanan, Pro Circuit 10K, Vero Beach

April 2008

Chase Buchanan, ITF Grade B1 Closed Easter Bowl

Jack Sock, 16s USTA Spring Nationals

Michael Rinaldi, 14s USTA Spring Nationals

Grayson Goldin, 12s USTA Spring Nationals

Bradley Klahn, ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships (singles and doubles)

Christian Harrison, 16s International Spring Championships

March 2008

Dennis Nevolo, 18s USTA Spring Nationals

January 2008

Bradley Klahn, ITF Grade 1 Nottinghill (dbls)

Ryan Harrison, ITF Grade 1 Traralgon (dbls)

Bradley Klahn, 18s USTA Winter Nationals

Sekou Bangoura Jr., 16s USTA Winter Nationals

Bjorn Fratangelo, 14s USTA Winter Nationals

Karim Arem, 12s USTA Winter Nationals

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Casablanca Cup Underway in Mexico; DiGiulio and Lederman Named to European Winter Travel Team

The first ITF Grade A tournament of 2009, the Casablanca Cup, is underway outside Mexico City. Given the time of year, the field is always among the weakest of the Grade A's and this year is no exception, with no boys in the Top 50 competing. There are six Top 50 girls playing, including No. 6 Ana Bogdan of Romania. Bogdan, 16, is no doubt hoping to get off to a good start in her quest for the No. 1 spot in 2009, which was rudely ended this year by Sloane Stephens, who didn't lose a game to the top seed in the quarterfinals at the Dunlop Orange Bowl.

Denis Kudla (ranked 56th) and Harry Fowler (67) are the top two boys seeds. Kudla had no points to defend, losing in the first round last year, but Fowler reached the quarterfinals. Junior Ore (184) is also seeded. All three won their first round matches but Denis Lin, the 13th seed, lost to a Mexican wild card.

The U.S. seeded girls include No. 14 Nicole Gibbs, No. 15 Alexandra Cercone, and No. 16 Noel Scott, and all won their first round matches Monday, as did unseeded Americans Kelsey Sundaram, Madison Keys, Monica Yajima, Nikita Meka and Jessica Pegula. On Wednesday, Keys, the 2007 Junior Orange Bowl 12s champion, will meet Iveta Dapkute of Lithuania, the 2007 Junior Orange Bowl 14s champion.

For complete results, visit copacasablanca.com.mx, the tournament's excellent website. (Spanish preferred, but not necessary).

The four U.S. boys that will travel to England's Teen Tennis tournament and Les Petits As in France late next month have been named. In addition to Luca Corinteli and Nikko Madregallejo, who won the round robin tournament, Joseph DiGiulio and Roy Lederman will also make the trip.

The girls team is likely to include Sachia Vickery, Victoria Duval and Brooke Austin, with Madison Keys competing at Les Petits As only, and therefore not traveling as part of the U.S. team. I will try to get the name of the fourth member of the team next week.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Junior Orange Bowl Wrap and Slide Show

Due to the holidays and my travel, my weekly column for The Tennis Recruiting Network hasn't been in its customary Thursday spot consistently, with today's Junior Orange Bowl wrap just one instance of some of the shifting necessary the past two months. January should put us back on the regular timetable, except for the first installment, which will be the December Aces, and will appear on Friday January 2.

The Junior Orange Bowl slide show is below, and beneath that, the Animoto version, uploaded to YouTube. Due to bandwidth limitations in the hotels in Florida, I wasn't able to do videos of the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl, but I hope to upload some of the short videos I took of the Dunlop Orange Bowl finals in the next couple of weeks.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Winter Nationals Underway; Last Chance to Vote for ZooTennis as Tennis Blog of the Year

The USTA Winter Nationals are one major junior tournament I have never attended due to the location and timing. Coming off a month covering three tournaments in Florida, I need the holiday break to reacquaint myself with my home and work on assignments from the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowls. Even if I had heard glowing reviews of the weather in Arizona this time of year, which I haven't, I still would be unlikely to make the trip.

But for many juniors, it is one of the major tournaments that can be played without missing school, and the field is often full of the best California players in particular. The 16s and 18s divisions are held in Scottsdale, and in the boys 16s, Jack Sock, the No. 1 seed, and Shane Vinsant, the No. 2 seed, have both advanced to the fourth round of the 128-draw. In the girls 16s, National hard court champion Lauren Davis is the No. 1 seed and Nicole Melichar the No. 2 seed.

In the boys 18s, top seed Walker Kehrer was upset by fellow Californian Daniel Kosakowski in the third round, and there have been many upsets, with only No. 2 seed JT Sundling and No. 7 seed Connor Smith representing the top eight seeds in the round of 16.

In the girls 18s, No. 1 seed Hanna Mar and No. 2 seed Lilly Kimbell have advanced to the round of 16, but No. 3 seed Catherine Isip was upset in the first round.

For the 16s and 18s draws and results, see the TennisLink site.

The 12s and 14s are held in Tucson, and from their TennisLink site, it sounds as if the weather has been very wintry. In the boys 12s, top seeds Toshiki Matsuya and Christian Garay, both of whom played the Junior Orange Bowl, are through to the third round. No. 1 Terrell Celestine and No. 2 Jonathan Huang have made the third round in the boys 14s.

In the girls 12s, the top seeda are Katrine Steffensen and Christina Makarova; in the girls 14s, the top seeds are Jacqueline Crawford, and Brooke Austin.

A final reminder: Voting ends on Monday, December 29th in the On The Baseline Annual Awards. If you haven't already done so, please take a moment to vote for ZooTennis for Tennis Blog of the Year by clicking on the graphic in the upper left corner, or go to On The Baseline and select the VOTE TODAY icon. Thank you!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Coaches Q and A: What's a Heavy Ball, and How Do I Hit One?

In this month's session of Coaches Q and A, Andy Brandi and Tom Downs of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida discuss hitting a heavy ball.

One of the most common phrases in tennis today is 'hit a heavy ball'. So what is a heavy ball?

One of the definitions in the dictionary for heavy is of great force. So a heavy ball has great force. Another word that has to be brought into the picture is momentum. A heavy ball has a lot of momentum. The word momentum is defined as force or speed of movement.

A heavy ball can be a serve, a backhand or forehand. For example, Boris Becker has a heavy serve. Rafael Nadal has a heavy forehand. Lisa Raymond has a heavy slice backhand. A heavy ball can be a flat as well, such as Andre Agassi’s heavy hits. They do not have as much spin as those of Rafael Nadal.

To create a heavy ball, the stroke must have acceleration and it must have body weight behind the shot. In today's game, a lot of shots are hit with the player in the air jumping into the ball. The body weight is transferred into the shot.

A heavy ball really takes effect when it bounces. The ball jumps through the court. It has a lot of momentum and if the opponent does not get a clean hit, his or her racket will turn in their hand. Secondly, they must get their feet in position to counter the momentum. If they do not, it will be like a bowling ball hitting a pin in a bowling alley.

In order to hit a heavy forehand, a player must hit up and through the ball. The forearm pronates into contact which gives it topspin. The forehand is a double rotation motion. The hips lead and the racket lags behind and catches up to the torso and shoulders at contact. The torso is what brings the racket through. The swing concept has changed. From the slot, the swing structure is inside out and up and through. The momentum of the swing is what carries players off the ground and this makes the ball heavier. They do not jump intentionally, rather the energy they build up from the ground up causes them to come off the ground.

So to summarize, a heavy ball is a combination of speed, trajectory and spin.

Hope this helps in your search for hitting a heavy ball. Happy Holidays and best of luck!

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

Friday, December 26, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Blackman Joins USTA Player Development; Happy Holidays from ZooTennis!

The USTA announced on Tuesday that Martin Blackman will be joining Player Development as Senior Director for Talent Identification and Development. I spoke to Blackman yesterday by phone for an assignment I have for the next issue of SMASH magazine, and I hope to have a more extended conversatin with him about his role when I return to Florida next month for one of the Futures, and the Plaza Cup. The USTA's full release can be found here.

I'm taking tomorrow off, but I hope to have my Dunlop Orange Bowl slide show ready for Friday and a Coaches Q and A post on hitting a heavy ball this weekend.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Richmond Wins Boys 14s; Korea Takes Two Titles Tuesday at Junior Orange Bowl

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Coral Gables, FL--

Harrison Richmond is no stranger to big tennis occasions, reaching the Easter Bowl final in April and winning the USTA Nationals in San Antonio in August. So when the left-hander from Pawleys Island, South Carolina fell behind 3-1 in the opening set, losing his first two service games, he didn't panic, and less than an hour later, he had won 11 of the next 13 games to defeat Canada's Edward Nguyen 6-4, 6-1.

"I came out a little nervous, making some errors, but I knew I just needed to settle into the match a little more," said Richmond, a No. 9 seed. "Once I did, I was able to get a rhythm and make my shots, not do too much, and do what I needed to do to win."

If Richmond found his rhythm, Nguyen, also a No. 9 seed, never did, looking entirely unlike the player that had dominated his opponents in the quarterfinals and semifinals.

"I wasn't on my game today," Nguyen said. "I just couldn't make the shots I made all week. I was just a bit nervous at the beginning, but after I got into it, I still couldn't get my rhythm."

Nguyen's serve was the most obvious problem, as first serves were scarce and double faults appeared at inopportune times, such as on set point at 4-5 in the opening set.

In the second set, Richmond played much more aggressive and assured tennis, taking a 3-0 lead, and Nguyen's hope of comeback essentially ended when he was broken for a second time to put Richmond up 4-0. The racquet abuse point penalty Nguyen received after losing that game gave Richmond yet another free point, one of the many early Christmas presents Richmond received from Nguyen.

"I didn't have to do that much with the ball," Richmond admitted. "I just let him miss. He missed a lot, and I didn't have to hit that many winners. I thought it would be tougher to break him, but he didn't make many first serves. I thought at one point he might start picking it up, and I was ready, but I really didn't have to do too much."

Richmond joins Clancy Shields (2001) and Rhyne Williams (2005) as U.S. Junior Orange Bowl 14s champions this decade, and he ranks the accomplishment near the top of his tennis achievements.

"It's a great win, probably my best tournament ever," Richmond said. "It's a great feeling, and I'm definitely glad I could pull it off."

Junior Orange Bowl champions aren't unusual for the United States, but Korea isn't accustomed to dominating international junior tennis. On Tuesday, however, they claimed both the girls 14s and boys 12s titles, an accomplishment that delighted the dozen or so "team members" that cheered every point that their compatriots won.

Qualifier So Ra Lee was the first to claim a title for Korea, defeating Vicky Duval of the U.S. 7-5, 6-3.

The match was ultimately decided in two different eight-deuce games, both won by Lee. At 5-5 in the first set, Lee saved five break points to take a 6-5 lead, and after falling short so many times in that game, Duval, a No. 9 seed, couldn't survive the next one, hitting a backhand into the net at 30-40 to give Lee the first set.

"I felt like I was cursed on every break point," the 13-year-old Duval said. "I lost it every time. She played really well, and I thought she deserved it."

The second game of eight deuces came earlier in the second set, when Duval was serving, trying to extend her 3-2 lead. Winners alternated with errors, but again it was Lee who emerged with the game, and she took control after that.

Duval had had some success with short angles against Lee, but the Korean kept herself in every point with pace and precision from the baseline.

After losing in the second round of the Eddie Herr, Lee felt that the four qualifying matches she had to win to make the main draw were actually beneficial.

"She told me yesterday that she actually arrived in the U.S. just a couple of days before the Eddie Herr," said Daniel Yoo, a Korean touring professional based in Florida, who served as an interpreter. "Her confidence and her conditioning wasn't really a hundred percent. But here, she had to play the qualies, and little by little she built up the confidence and it ended up well, very well."

Lee may not have had too many expectations after her performance at the Eddie Herr, but that can't be said for Hyeon Chung, who became the first Korean to win an Eddie Herr title when he took the boys 12s championship without dropping a set earlier in the month.

A No. 1 seed at the Junior Orange Bowl, Chung was a clear favorite, and in Tuesday's final he demonstrated why, taking his second major junior title with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Silas Cerqueira of Brazil, also a No. 1 seed.

"After he won Eddie Herr, he just told himself he was going to try hard," Yoo said, interpreting for Chung after the match. "He wasn't really thinking that he won Eddie Herr so he has to win Orange Bowl. He is very proud to win back to back and to share this day with Lee and our country."

The consolation final and third place matches were also played on Tuesday. Sachia Vickery of the U.S. defeated Christine Kandler of Austria 6-4, 6-2 for third in girls 14s; Jan Abaza of the U.S. took fifth place with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Rosalie Van Der Hoek of the Netherlands. In boys 14s, Liam Broady of Great Britain was awarded third place when Filip Peliwo of Canada was unable to compete due to injury. Fifth place in boys 14s went to Mitchell Krueger of the U.S., who defeated Alex Halebian of the U.S. 6-2, 7-6(3). In boys 12s, Borna Coric of Croatia downed Noah Rubin of the U.S. 7-5, 6-2 for third place. Fifth place in boys 12s went to Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia, a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victor over Andre Biro of Hungary.

For complete results, visit the TennisLink site.

Monday, December 22, 2008

De Vroome Wins Girls 12s Title; Duval and Richmond Play for 14s Junior Orange Bowl Crowns Tuesday

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Coral Gables, FL--

Indy de Vroome of the Netherlands overcame a stiff test administered by Alexandria Stiteler of the U.S. to capture the girls 12s Junior Orange Bowl title Monday morning at Salvadore Park. In the 14s semifinals held at the Biltmore Monday afternoon, South Carolina's Harrison Richmond and Florida's Vicky Duval earned spots in Tuesday's finals.

De Vroome, a No. 1 seed, and the unseeded Stiteler battled for two-and-a-half hours on the green clay, and in the first set, neither girl could find a rhythm or sustain any momentum. After each held serve to open the match, there were six straight breaks of serve, until Stiteler finally held to take a 5-4 lead, although she didn't actually have to win the final two points, as at deuce, de Vroome received a game penalty for racquet abuse. De Vroome had flung her racquet at the end of the previous game, after two doubles faults and an unforced error had given Stiteler that game, and had received a point penalty, but she said after the match that she thought the umpire was unfair in his judgments against her. De Vroome's coach explained that under European rules, that punishment is unknown, but it actually seemed to help his young charge, as she regrouped and won the next three games.

De Vroome's first serve was giving her fits throughout the match, but when she was serving for the first set at 6-5, it became a weapon, not a liability, as she got 4 of 6 first serves in, forcing return errors from Stiteler. After an hour and ten minutes, the first set finally concluded, but nothing had been decided.

Stiteler, from Bradenton, Fla., took a 4-1 lead in the second set, but de Vroome came back to take a 5-4 lead, breaking Stiteler with a rifled backhand down the line winner on break point. When de Vroome took a 40-0 lead serving at 5-4, it looked to be her match, but Stiteler kept fighting, hitting a forehand winner on the first match point and getting several nervous backhand errors from de Vroome and eventually a double fault, to even the set at 5-5.

"I just wanted to keep playing that same way, get to the third set," said Stiteler, who had won her quarterfinal match in three sets on Sunday.

Stiteler did crack several more forehand winners in the next game, but they weren't enough to counteract the errors she made. De Vroome, on the other hand, kept the ball in play with depth and pace and gave Stiteler no free points, and again de Vroome earned an opportunity to serve for the match.

And again, Stiteler refused to go quietly. The left-hander hit two clutch forehand winners to put de Vroome in a 15-40 hole, but the tiebreaker that loomed never materialized. De Vroome saved one break point with another stunning backhand down the line, and three straight errors by Stiteler gave the title to de Vroome.

Asked what she was thinking on that fourth match point, de Vroome answered, "I have to win."

And win she did, with a trip back home to the Netherlands to celebrate both her win and the holidays scheduled for Tuesday.

The gritty Stiteler was disappointed in her level of play in the final--"I missed too much,"--she said, but overall was satisfied with her last two weeks of tennis, winning the Prince Cup and reaching the Junior Orange Bowl final. "I played good these two weeks."

The boys 12s semifinals were played at the Biltmore tennis center at the same time as the girls final was played at Salvadore Park, with No. 1 seeds Hyeon Chung of Korea and Silas Cerqueira of Brazil earning berths in Tuesday's final, and ending the streak of U.S. boys claiming the 12s title at three (Christian Harrison 2005, Reo Asami 2006, Joseph Di Giulio 2007). Chung, who won the Eddie Herr three weeks ago, came back to down Borna Coric of Croatia 4-6, 6-1, 6-4, while Cerqueira subdued unseeded Noah Rubin of the U.S. 6-4, 6-2.

In the girls 14s, 13-year-old Vicky Duval will take on qualifier So Ra Lee of Korea. Lee surprised Sachia Vickery 3-6, 6-4, 6-2, staying with the quick and consistent Vickery thoughout the second set, and maintaining a high level of play in the third, while Vickery began to make unforced errors when she could not control the point.

Duval's 6-4, 6-2 win over the feisty Christine Kandler of Austria was not an easy one, but Duval's superb defense and emotional stability contributed to her victory.

"When she starts screaming that actually motivates me," said Duval, a No. 9 seed, who trains at IMG/Bollettieri's Tennis Academy. "If she gets down, I think I can get her even more mad. I try to show as little emotion as I can myself."

After breaking Kandler at 4-4, Duval served for the set, and after six deuces and four set points, Duval finally took the game, when Kandler couldn't return a second serve. Kandler missed several swinging volleys in that game when she had earned control of the point, and demoralized, she couldn't counteract the practically error-free tennis that Duval played in the second set.

A quarterfinalist in the Junior Orange Bowl 12s last year, Duval was aiming toward the 14s thoughout the year.

"Me getting to the quarterfinals in the 12s gave me motivation to win the 14s," Duval said. "So I've been training really hard, and I'm so excited to be in the finals."

Harrison Richmond also has positive memories of the Junior Orange Bowl, as he was a semifinalist two years ago in the 12s, losing to champion Reo Asami. This year the No. 9 seed from South Carolina has gone a step further, reaching the final with a 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 win over unseeded Filip Peliwo of Canada.

Richmond played lethargically in the first set, staying back and rallying with Peliwo. After taking an early 4-2 lead in the second set, Richmond was broken, and Peliwo briefly led when he held for 5-4, but Richmond broke at 5-5 and came up with some good serves to earn a third set.

In the third, Peliwo was a step slower than he had been, and Richmond played his shots with more conviction, constructing shorter points by closing the net more often. He took a quick 4-1 lead and Peliwo, who showed signs of being in pain in the last three games, never mounted a serious threat to Richmond's lead.

Richmond will face Canada's Edward Nguyen, also a No. 9 seed, after Nguyen beat Liam Broady of Great Britain 6-3, 6-3. Nguyen, who lost to Asami in the 2006 12s final, will be seeking his second major international 14s title of 2008, having won the Les Petits As in February.

Against Broady, whom he defeated for the Les Petits As title, Nguyen displayed his aggressive all-court game, pressuring Broady to come up with passing shots as he moved relentlessly forward. Nguyen also returned Broady's left-handed serves well, practice he no doubt will find pertinent against Richmond, another lefty.

The consolation finals are also set for Tuesday. Americans Alex Halebian, who lost to Richmond, and Mitchell Krueger, who lost to Nguyen, both in exciting third-round matches, will meet for fifth place in the boys 14s.

The girls 14s consolation title will be decided between Jan Abaza of the U.S. and Rosalie Van Der Hoek of the Netherlands. The boys 12s consolation final features Andre Biro of Hungary against Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia.

Brooke Austin of the U.S. won the girls 12s consolation title Monday afternoon.

For complete draws, visit the TennisLink site.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Isner Wins Australian Open Main Draw Wild Card Tournament

©Colette Lewis 2008--

John Isner has won the USTA-sponsored playoff in Boca Raton to determine the recipient of the main draw wild card for next month's Australian Open. Isner defeated Jesse Levine 6-3, 7-5 on Saturday to put his record at 2-0, and because Donald Young beat Wayne Odesnik 7-5, 7-5, there was no need for Isner to play a third match today, as he held the head-to-head tiebreaker over both Young and Levine, who were 1-1, while Odesnik was 0-2.

Stiteler to Play for Junior Orange Bowl Girls 12s Title Monday: Semifinalists in Boys 12s & 14s and Girls 14s Set

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Coral Gables, FL--

Few would have blamed Alexandria Stiteler if she had resigned herself to a loss in the semifinals against No. 1 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia. The 12-year-old left-hander from Bradenton had survived a nearly three-hour quarterfinal match with Valeria Patiuk of Israel, another No. 1 seed, Sunday morning, and under the hot afternoon sun was down 3-0, two-breaks to Vekic to open the match.

The chair umpire had called the score wrong several times early in the match and had missed an out ball by Vekic, depriving Stiteler of a point she had clearly earned, but even that failed to ruffle her.

"I got upset, but then I calmed down when I saw he wasn't going to change it back," Stiteler said. "I just kept playing and came back."

Stiteler, who trains at Sarasota's Celsius Tennis Academy, came all the way back, taking the first set 7-5 and rolling past a demoralized Vekic 6-1 in the second set. Vekic, who had beaten Eddie Herr champion Estelle Cascino of France 7-5, 6-2 in the morning quarterfinal, showed her first sign of cracking when she double faulted on break point at 4-3 in the first set. With Stiteler serving at 5-5, an overrule by the chair umpire against Vekic at 30-30 gave Stiteler a game point, but the game went to four deuces, and Stiteler saved a break point before finally securing a 6-5 lead.

Vekic seemed to lose confidence after the overrule, and serving at 5-6, 15-30, she overruled herself on a baseline call to give Stiteler two set points. A Vekic forehand into the net gave Stiteler the first set, and despite the subsequent bathroom break, Vekic couldn't stall Stiteler's momentum.

Stiteler held in the first game of the second set and had Vekic down 0-40 in the next game, but the Croatian, who trains at Bollettieri's, came back to hold. It was the last game she would win, as the relentlessly positive self-talk coming from Stiteler--several times she could be heard saying let's finish this--propelled her through the next five games.

"I used to be negative," Stiteler admitted. "and I've controlled that, figured out how to work that. I used to lose a lot of matches because of that, because of getting too angry."

The unseeded Stiteler, who won the Prince Cup in Miami last week and was a quarterfinalist at the Eddie Herr earlier in the month, will play Indy de Vroome of the Netherlands for the championship Monday morning. De Vroome, a No. 1 seed, handled two No. 1 seeds on Sunday, taking out Brooke Austin of the U.S. 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals and Eleanor Dean of Great Britain 6-4, 6-1 in the semifinals.

In the girls 14s, unseeded Sachia Vickery and Vicky Duval, a No. 9 seed, advanced to the semifinals with wins over Americans. Vickery had a battle on her hands in the second set against qualifier Jan Abaza of Florida, but Vickery got a break at 4-4 and stayed patient in the final game, waiting for an opening. When she finally got it, often after 20 or 30 balls, Vickery took her shot, and with two forehand winners closed out the match 6-2, 6-4. Duval, who is now the only seed remaining in the main draw, came back from a set down against No. 17 seed Ashley Dai, playing excellent defense in a 2-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory.

No. 3 seed Kyle McPhillips was tripped up by qualifier So Ra Lee of Korea 6-3, 6-3. Lee will play Duval in Monday's semifinals, while Vickery meets Austrian Christine Kandler, who beat No. 4 seed Ganna Poznikhirenko of Ukraine 4-6, 6-1, 7-5.

The U.S. has two boys still vying for titles in the 12s and 14s. Unseeded Noah Rubin of the U.S. outlasted Christian Garin of Chile 1-6, 7-5, 6-4 in one of the 12s quarterfinals at Tropical Park. Rubin plays Brazil's Silas Cerqueira (1) in one semifinal, while Eddie Herr champion Hyeon Chung of Korea (1) takes on Borna Coric (1) of Croatia in the other. Coric, a quarterfinalist last year, continues to roll through the draw; he hasn't lost more than two games in any of his five matches, including today's 6-0, 6-1 rout of Daniel Kerznerman of the U.S.

In the 14s, Harrison Richmond of the U.S. overcame a hiccup in the second set to down fellow No. 9 seed Filip Veger of Croatia 6-3, 5-7, 6-2. Richmond was up 5-2 in the second set, lost five straight games, then completely dominated the third set to earn spot in the semifinal against Filip Peliwo of Canada. The unseeded Peliwo surprised top seed Moos Sporken of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-1. Great Britain's Liam Broady and Canada's Ed Nguyen, both No. 9 seeds, will meet in the other semifinal, which is a rematch of the Les Petits As final back in February, won by Nguyen. Broady beat No. 8 seed Julien Cagnina of Belgium 6-3, 6-1 and Nguyen ended the run of U.S. qualifer Alexander Ritschard 6-2, 6-3.

Except for the girls 12s, which will stay on the Har-Tru of Salvadore Park, the other three divisions will play semifinals and finals at the Biltmore Tennis Center Monday and Tuesday.

For complete results, including consolation draws, see the Tennis Link site.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Quarterfinalists Set at Junior Orange Bowl

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Coral Gables, FL--

Today I split my time between the Biltmore Tennis Center, site of the girls 14s, and Salvadore Park, seven blocks due north, where the girls 12s play on Har-Tru clay.

The day began with overcast skies and temperatures in the low 70s, and virtually no wind, which made for excellent playing conditions. I started with the girls 14s and saw portions of most of the first sets in the eight matches. Ashley Dai, a No. 17 seed, and qualifier Hannah King, both from the U.S., were blasting balls to the corners in the games I saw, with Dai eventually taking a 6-4, 7-6(3) decision. Dai will play another American, Vicky Duval, a No. 9 seed, who eased past Korea's Su Jeong Jang, the 2007 Junior Orange Bowl 12s finalist, 6-2, 7-5.

The second all-American matchup in the 14s puts unseeded Sachia Vickery against qualifier Jan Abaza, also of Florida. Abaza hasn't dropped a set in her seven wins (she got a walkover in the second round), beating No. 2 seed Maria Paul Deheza of Bolivia 7-5, 6-1 yesterday and No. 17 seed Ilona Kremen of Belarus 6-4, 6-3 today. Vickery earned her place in the quarterfinal with a 6-2, 6-0 win over unseeded Anita Husaric of Bosnia.

The fifth U.S. girl to make the final eight is No. 3 seed Kyle McPhillips, who downed qualifier Lou Brouleau of France 6-3, 7-6(3). When I returned to the Biltmore, I was surprised to see that So Ra Lee had won her contest with Anna Mamalat of the U.S. When I left, Mamalat was in complete control, having taken the first set 6-1, with Lee not striking the ball well and making frequent errors. The Korean qualifier, who has beaten three seeds in succession, won the next two sets 6-3, 6-1 to have her chance at McPhillips.

In the only quarterfinal match that doesn't include an American, No. 4 seed Ganna Poznikhirenko of Ukraine will face Christine Kandler of Austria. The unseeded Kandler, who screams loudly every time she strikes the ball, looked on the verge of emotional collapse when she lost the first set to Riko Shimizu of the U.S., but she turned it around in the next two for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win.

At Salvadore Park, I watched two of the three matches featuring U.S. girls. Unseeded Alexandria Stiteler disposed of her opponent Sarah Boevska of Belarus so quickly (6-0, 6-0) that I missed her entirely, but I did watch U.S. No. 1 Brooke Austin and unseeded Taylor Townsend earn quarterfinal spots.

Austin took care of unseeded Katie Boulter of Great Britain 6-4, 6-2, and seemed just as comfortable on the green clay as on the indoor hard courts of Indianapolis, where she lives. Next up for Austin is Indy de Vroome of the Netherlands, who took a tough battle with Eddie Herr semifinalist Domenica Gonzalez of Ecuador, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. De Vroome is rail-thin and has changed very little from last year's Junior Orange Bowl, when I saw her for the first time, but she knows where and how to hit the ball for maximum results.

Townsend didn't play as well as she did when I saw her earlier in the week, but her opponent Dahye Kim of Korea, had something to do with that. In the end, Townsend had too much power for the unseeded Kim, who fell 6-4, 6-3.

The girls 12s will play both quarterfinal and semifinal matches on Sunday, with a Monday final scheduled.

By the time I arrived at the University of Miami, all the boys 14s main draw matches were finished. Reo Asami, a No. 9 seed, battled back from 5-1 down in the final set before falling to No. 8 seed Julien Cagnina of Belgium 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(3). No. 9 seed Ed Nguyen of Canada came from a set down against an American for the second day in a row, this time defeating No. 6 seed Trey Strobel 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Nguyen will play his third straight U.S. opponent in Sunday's quarterfinal when he meets qualifier Alexander Ritschard, who cruised past No. 2 seed Pedro Guimaraes Dumont of Brazil 6-3, 6-1.

Harrison Richmond earned his quarterfinal berth with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over qualifier Jathan Malik of Great Britain, and will face fellow No. 9 seed Filip Veger of Croatia.

Americans Sean Karl and Roy Lederman bowed out in the round of 16 Saturday. Filip Peliwo of Canada beat Karl 6-2, 6-2 and Liam Broady of Great Britain downed Lederman 6-1, 6-3.

Top seed Moos Sporken of the Netherlands lost his first set of the tournament, but came back to beat Martins Podzus of Latvia 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

In the boys 12s, two unseeded Americans remain in contention, with New Yorkers Noah Rubin and Daniel Kerznerman advancing to the quarterfinals with wins Saturday. Rubin rolled past No. 1 seed Andrev Rublev of Russia 6-3, 6-1 and Kerznerman also earned his win over a No. 1 seed, but with more difficulty, defeating Ryotaro Matsumura of Japan 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Qualifier Tommy Paul's run came to an end at the hands of No. 1 seed Borna Coric of Croatia, 6-1, 6-0, Christian Garay lost to Kukeon Kang of Korea 6-1, 6-1 and U.S. No. 1 seed Toshiki Matsuya lost to No. 1 seed Silas Cerqueira of Brazil 6-0, 6-2.

For complete results, including the consolation draws, visit the TennisLink site.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Richmond Beats Halebian and Nguyen Overcomes Krueger in Jr. Orange Bowl 14s Action Friday

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Coral Gables, FL--

In trying to cover four age divisions at four sites, it's easy to miss the best tennis matches. I don't doubt that Sachia Vickery's 7-6, 7-6 win over Tristen Dewar in the 14s was a classic, and I'm sure that Nikki Kallenberg's comeback win over Alina Kuzmenkova of Russia had an exciting ending, given the 1-6, 6-1, 7-5 scoreline. But today I stuck to the boys and was rewarded with two excellent matches in the 14s, first with Harrison Richmond's 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 victory over Alex Halebian in a rematch of their Eddie Herr semifinal, followed by Canada's Ed Nguyen taking a 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-4 decision over Mitchell Krueger of the U.S.

When I arrived at the University of Miami, after watching some of the boys 12s third round at Tropical Park, Halebian, a No. 17 seed, had just taken the second set. Richmond couldn't be blamed for having flashbacks to the Eddie Herr, where he had won the first set against Halebian, then dropped the next two. Today, however, Richmond, a No. 9 seed, didn't make the crucial error during the big points and took a 4-1, two-break lead in the third set. One point in that final set was a spectacular one, with the boys running down lobs and scraping volleys over the net, hitting one miraculous shot after another, showing both speed and athleticism, as well as a tremendous sense of the court's boundaries.

At the Eddie Herr, Richmond was broken serving to send the match to a third set tiebreaker, today, it was Halebian who lost his serve to end the match.

Richmond wasn't surprised that it was another tough three-setter between the two.

"We both knew how each other played, so it just came down to who was making their shots and making less errors," said the left-hander from Pawley's Island, South Carolina. "I thought in the third set, when I needed to, I came up with some good shots and ended up pulling through."

Richmond's backhand overhead was especially effective, and Halebian's usually devastating drop shot wasn't much in evidence, perhaps because the element of surprise was missing.

"I guess you could call it a rivalry," Richmond said. "When we play each other it's always going to be close; it can go either way."

Spectators were fortunate to be able to be within inches of the Richmond - Halebian match, but the Krueger - Nguyen match was on Court 7, which offers no seating and is visible only with a court in between.

Even from that distance, it was obvious that Kreuger, a No. 17 seed, and Nguyen, a No. 9 seed, were playing at a consistently higher level than is customary in the 14s. Neither boy was holding back, both were attacking, moving forward, returning well and taking their chances when presented. I didn't see most of the first two sets, but I watched all of the third, when the match turned with Nguyen serving at 2-3. In a very long game, Kreuger had multiple chances to break Nguyen and played solid, aggressive points, but each time Nguyen, the reigning Les Petits As champion, came up with huge shots, often from defensive positions, and he held for 3-3. Krueger was broken in the next game, and Nguyen had a hard-earned lead.

Nguyen, who was a finalist in the Junior Orange Bowl 12s two years ago, again saved a break point with a difficult overhead winner at 4-3, and after Krueger held for 5-4, Nguyen went down 0-30 when Krueger made an astounding stab volley on a blistering passing shot from the Canadian. At 30-30, Krueger earned another chance to pull even with a forehand winner, but he netted a forehand on the next point, and hit one long to give Nguyen his first match point. Krueger's return error on a Nguyen first serve was a rather anticlimatic end to a very high quality and entertaining third round match.

In Friday's round of 16, there are six U.S. boys remaining. In addition to Richmond, Sean Karl, Reo Asami (9), Roy Lederman, Trey Strobel (6) and qualifier Alexander Ritschard will have a chance to advance to the quarterfinals.

There are five U.S. boys remaining in the boys 12s, including the No. 1 seed from the U.S., Toshiki Matsuya: Noah Rubin, Christian Garay, Dan Kerznerman and qualifier Tommy Paul, who has won six matches in the past six days.

In the girls 12s, four U.S. girls are still competing in the main draw: Kallenberg, Alexandria Stiteler, Brooke Austin (1) and Taylor Townsend.

Continuing a trend set at the Orange Bowl this year, girls from the U.S. make up half the 16 players still vying for a 14s title. They are Vicky Duval (9), Ashley Dai (17) qualifiers Jan Abaza and Hannah King, Riko Shimizu (17), Anna Mamalat (9), Kyle McPhillips (3) and Sachia Vickery. One will definitely be eliminated on Saturday, with King and Dai playing each other.

For complete draws, visit the TennisLink site.

Recent Comment Problems; Australian Wild Card Scores

Thanks to those of you who have pointed out that the recent comments aren't recent. Apparently there is some problem with the comment feed on Blogger's end, as there have been several other users reporting the same malfunction. I know it's not as convenient, but you can click on the comments in the individual posts--they are there.

One such comment asked for the scores for the USTA women's Australian Open wild card, and they are, by day, as follows:
King def. Vandeweghe 7-6(3), 6-1
Brodsky def. Albanese 6-3, 6-3
Brengle def. Muhammad 6-0, 6-3
McHale def. Cecil 6-0, 6-1

Brodsky def. Brengle 6-3, 6-4
Albanese def. Muhammad 7-5, 6-7 (10), 6-3
King def. Cecil 6-1, 6-0
McHale def. Vandeweghe 6-3, 6-2

Albanese def. Bregle 6-4, 6-0
McHale def. King 6-3, 4-6, 6-2
Muhammad def. Brodsky 5-7, 6-3, 6-2
Vandeweghe def. Cecil 6-3, 6-2

Thursday's final:
McHale def. Brodsky 6-1, 6-0.

In today's men's wild card tournament, Levine beat Odesnik in straights and Isner beat Young in a third set tiebreak. Sorry I don't have complete scores.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Top Seeds Advance in Boys 14s; Van Nguyen Upset in Girls 14s Play at Junior Orange Bowl

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Coral Gables, FL--

I concentrated on the 14s today, splitting my time equally between the boys at the University of Miami and the girls at the Biltmore Tennis Center.

Not having seen top seed Moos Sporken of the Netherlands play since the 12s, I was eager to see what he'd added to his game. Sporken finished the year as the European 14-and-under champion, and in today's second round 6-2, 6-3 win over Alp Horoz of Turkey, Sporken had too big a serve and too much power for the qualifier. I watched some of Eddie Herr champion Alex Halebian's match with with Erik Johnsson of Sweden, and Johnsson gave Halebian a test with his strong serving, but Halebian broke late in an extremely close first set and went on to a 7-5, 6-2 victory. Halebian, a 17 seed, and Harrison Richmond, a 9 seed, will meet Friday in a rematch of their extremely competitive Eddie Herr semifinal. Richmond beat Or Ram of Israel 6-2, 6-1 in Thursday's second round.

No. 3 Tyler Gardiner, the highest seed from the U.S., lost to Mateo Martinez of Argentina 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, but there were six other U.S. players in addition to Halebian and Richmond to advance to the round of 32: Sean Karl, Reo Asami (9), Roy Lederman, Mitchell Krueger(17), Trey Strobel(6), and qualifier Alex Ritschard.

I didn't stay to see the No. 2 seed, who, in something of a Brazilian tradition, is known by two different surnames in the Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl. Last year, it was Jose Pereira of Brazil, who was known as Jose Silva when he competed at the Eddie Herr. This year it is Eddie Herr finalist Pedro Guimaraes, who is Pedro Dumont in the Junior Orange Bowl draw. He came back to defeat Conrad Harron of the U.S. 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-2.

By that time I had made my way to the Biltmore Tennis Center specifically to see No. 3 seed Kyle McPhillips take on Eddie Herr 14s finalist Nadia Echeverria Alam. They were running a hour or two behind, however, so I watched most of the match between Orange Bowl 16s champion Chanelle Van Nguyen and qualifier So Ra Lee of Korea.

Just from the warmup I could tell that Lee was going to provide stiff competition for the 17th seeded Van Nguyen. Lee, a left-hander, displayed great power, keeping Van Nguyen on the defensive while she snapped off one forehand winner after another. Van Nguyen started to work her way into the match after trailing 4-1, getting one of the two breaks back, but Lee served out the first set at 6-4. The Korean continued to play brilliantly in the second set, and again she was called on to serve out the set (and match). At 30-30, Lee put away a short ball on the forehand side, and on her first match point, she fittingly rifled a forehand winner down the line to claim the match, 6-4, 6-4.

In the meantime, McPhillips and Echeverria Alam had gotten half way through their first set, but at 3-3 McPhillips took control and won nine of the next ten games for a 6-3, 6-1 win.

It wasn't quite as easy as the score looked however. Echeverria hits hard and deep, but she is less consistent than McPhillips, who can deflect pace and break rhythm. On successive points in the second set, she brought Echeverria Alam to the net with good drop shots, then placed perfect lobs over her head.

At 5-0, McPhillips surrendered her serve after saving four break points, and Echeverria Alam, who stayed positive and upbeat despite the score, came through with some inspired shotmaking to take that game. But the relentless pressure of tracking down the moonballs and the angles and the drop shots finally wore down Echeverria Alam, sending her to the consolation tournament.

The anticipated round of 16 meeting between Sachia Vickery and Eugenie Bouchard will not take place, as Bouchard had an injury to her knee and withdrew before yesterday's first round. Vickery, who rolled past No. 17 seed Joanna Henderson of Great Britain 6-1, 6-4, will play Tristen Dewar in the third round.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

McHale Wins Australian Open Wild Card Tournament in Boca Raton

Sixteen-year-old Christina McHale of New Jersey has won a wild card into the main draw of the Australian Open next month, defeating Gail Brodsky 6-1, 6-0 today in the final match of the round robin competition at the USTA High Performance Center in Boca Raton. The USTA conducts the tournament to decide who will receive the wild card exchanged by the two countries for their respective Grand Slams.

McHale won all three of her matches in the round robin this week, in straight sets over Cecil and Vandeweghe, and in three sets over King yesterday. Thanks to commenter "old pro," who was there and gave us an immediate update and a succinct description of how McHale played in a comment in the post below. McHale has had an outstanding two weeks of tennis as a finalist at the Orange Bowl and now winning the wild card tournament to reach her first Grand Slam main draw.

Orange Bowl Wrap; Brodsky vs. McHale for Australian Open Wild Card; AO Junior Acceptances

My weekly column for The Tennis Recruiting Network is a wrap of the Orange Bowl. Again, if you were unable to follow my daily coverage last week, it is a compilation of the tournament action, with an emphasis on the finals.

Christina McHale and Gail Brodsky will meet this morning in Boca Raton to decide the USTA's reciprocal agreement with Tennis Australia for a main draw women's wild card. Orange Bowl finalist McHale, 16, went undefeated in her three matches. Brodsky, 17, won her first two matches, so her loss to Muhammad in her group on Wednesday didn't have an impact on the final.

The Australian Open Junior Championship acceptances are out at the ITF Junior site. McHale is in, so if she wins the wild card, I expect she'll stick around for the juniors. Brodsky doesn't appear to have entered the juniors, because her WTA ranking of 416 would have automatically gotten her into the junior qualifying, if she had.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Four Sites, More Raindrops, as Junior Orange Bowl Main Draw Begins

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Coral Gables, FL--

I started out the day at the boys 12s, where a few sprinkles appeared on the windshield as I drove into Tropical Park. After yesterday's unpredicted rain, I wasn't about to take Accuweather's 0% chance of rain for today too seriously, but at least this morning, there wasn't enough precipitation to halt play.

There were a couple of players I wanted to see: Noah Rubin of New York, who has been playing 14s nationally all year; and Christian Garay of Georgia, who was a finalist this year in Little Rock at the 12s Nationals, and has been playing a combination of 12s and 14s.

Rubin went on first and had no trouble with his opponent, Florian Krueger of Germany, who was the No. 1 seed from that country. Krueger was clutching his stomach throughout the first set, and at 6-1, 2-1, he retired.

Garay was playing unseeded Tim Portnov of Canada. I saw my share of moonballs in the 12s today (more on that from the girls 12s later), but not in that match, as Garay hit the ball with impressive power. Portnov didn't play badly, but couldn't put any sustained pressure on Garay, resulting in a 6-1, 6-1 loss.

When I arrived at the University of Miami, Robert Livi of the U.S. and Martins Podzus of Latvia were in a heated battle, but without scorekeeping devices, it was difficult to tell where exactly they were in the match. Livi won a game that led to a split, I gathered, and they took a ten-minute break, which Podzus didn't quite comprehend. Podzus, a big, strong player with a lot of power, ended up taking the match 6-3, 2-6, 6-2. Podzus's twin brother Janis also won his opening match.

It wasn't a good day for German seeds, as No. 4 seed Jannis Kahlke of Germany was defeated by Diego Pedraza of Columbia 6-4, 7-6(4). I had watched a few games of Harrison Richmond's 6-3, 6-3 win over Filip Obucina of Canada and a few of Reo Asami's with Rihard Rozac of Slovenia, but it began to rain, so I left hoping for drier courts a few miles to the north.

At the Biltmore Tennis Center, I managed to catch a few games of 16s Orange Bowl champion Chanelle Van Nguyen's first match in her attempt to claim a rare 16s - 14s double, but then the rain caught up with me, and I moved north six blocks to Salvadore Park, site of the girls 12s. The five new clay courts have improved the site immensely and the rain never came, so I spent the rest of the day watching some very, very long points and matches.

Julia O'Loughlin of the U.S. suffered a difficult loss to Irina Lidkovskaya of Russia. After dropping the first set 6-3, O'Loughlin evened the match, taking the second set 6-2, and had a 5-0 lead in the third. She was unable to win that last game, however, and Lidkovskaya, who sobbed regularly after losing a point, even as she was making her comeback, won the last seven games of the match.

I missed Brooke Austin, the U.S. No. 1 seed, who won her match quickly, but I did see Taylor Townsend, who finished second to Austin at both the Clays and Nationals in the 12s. The lefty from Georgia overpowered 10-year-old Mariya Shishkina of Kazakhstan 6-3, 6-1.

See the TennisLink site for draws and results.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Unexpected Rain Halts Jr. Orange Bowl 14s Qualifying; Luca Corinteli & Nikko Madregallejo Win Spots on US Winter Europe Team: USTA's Junior Review

Unpredicted rain showers in the Coral Gables area this morning set back the Junior Orange Bowl boys 14s qualifying, which, like the girls 14s, had two matches scheduled for the final day. Another shower, which again wasn't in the forecast, hit the Biltmore, where the girls 14s are held, and the University of Miami, where the boys 14s matches take place this afternoon. So tomorrow will begin with the final qualifying matches for the 14s. The 12s, at Salvadore Park (girls) and Tropical Park (boys), had only one round to finish today, so they will begin main draw matches at 8 a.m.

For draws, see the TennisLink site.

I haven't received any further results from the wild card tournament for the women's Australian Open berth, but I did learn that Luca Corinteli and Nikko Madregallejo won spots on the boys team the USTA will take to Europe for Les Petits As and Teen Tennis. Two other players will be invited next week.

Sally Milano looks back at the top performances of 2008 in her "Year in Review: Juniors" at usta.com.

2008 Eddie Herr Slide Show

Monday, December 15, 2008

US Women's Australian Open Wild Card Tournament Results; Andy Murray Looks in at the Junior Orange Bowl 12s

Just a quick post tonight. After 17 days of watching tennis, I took a day off today, to work on my Orange Bowl wrap for The Tennis Recruiting Network, coming Thursday, and to organize my photos for the Eddie Herr slide show, which I'll post tomorrow.

But tennis goes on, and at today's 12s Junior Orange Bowl qualifying at Tropical Park, world No. 4 Andy Murray caused quite a stir among the young boys still on site, when the Scot made a brief appearance and signed a few autographs. Murray is training in Florida to acclimate himself to the heat and humidity he'll be facing in Australia next month. It isn't known why Murray was at Tropical Park, but he won the Junior Orange Bowl 12s back in 1999, so maybe it was simply a stroll down memory lane.

The first round robin results are in from the Australian Open women's wild card tournament that began today in Boca Raton. In one group Christina McHale beat Mallory Cecil 6-0, 6-1 and Vania King beat CoCo Vandweghe 7-6, 6-1. In the other group, Madison Brengle, who won the wild card for 2007 and 2008, defeated Asia Muhammad 6-0, 6-3 and Gail Brodsky defeated Lauren Albanese 6-3, 6-3.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Bhambri Prevents U.S. Sweep in Orange Bowl Finals Sunday; Boserup Defeats McHale to Take Girls Title

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Key Biscayne, FL--

The cloudy skies that persisted over Crandon Park on Sunday didn't dispel the sunny mood created by two weeks of American junior success in major tournaments, capped by wins in three of the four titles contested on Sunday at the Dunlop Orange Bowl. In total, six of the eight championships won here went to U.S. players, after the previous week had seen Americans take four of the eight singles titles at the Eddie Herr International.

Sixteen-year-old Yuki Bhambri of India prevented a U.S. singles sweep, handing unseeded Jarmere Jenkins of College Park, Ga. a 6-1, 6-3 defeat. Bhambri, the No. 2 seed, displayed his stylish game from the outset, and Jenkins struggled with his backhand throughout the match.

"Jarmere is an attacking player, he likes to come to the net a lot, get on you very quickly," the Bollettieri-trained Bhambri said. "He was missing at the start, he was a bit nervous, and started to lose confidence."

Jenkins gave Bhambri credit for directing his attack to his backhand, and for his poise.

"He's younger than me, but he handled it better," Jenkins said. "A lot of things didn't go my way. I tried to do (backhand) slices down the line, but my slice wasn't going today. It was good for him, he saw that weakness and kept hammering it."

Bhambri said that it wasn't so much the weakness of the Jenkins backhand as the strength of his forehand that had him searching for errors from that side.

"Every time I went to the forehand I would get passed, he'd hit a winner, so that was the only option I had," Bhambri said.

Not known for his strong serving, Bhambri wasn't broken throughout the match, and rarely faced a break point. He often played behind the ultra-quick Jenkins, who seldom anticipated the Bhambri patterns and found himself regularly on the defensive. Jenkins's first serve percentage was undoubtedly quite low too, and in the match's final game, when he was broken for the fourth time, he could be heard saying "one first serve would help."

With the Orange Bowl championship, Bhambri earned not only a wild card into the qualifying of the Sony Ericsson tournament next spring, but the distinction of being the first Indian player to win a 16s or 18s Orange Bowl singles championship.

"It's a big achievement," said Bhambri, who also won the Grade A Osaka Cup in October. "It's the biggest tournament in the states after the U.S. Open, so I feel very proud of myself."

Back on Friday, it was already a foregone conclusion that a U.S. girl would win the title; on Sunday wild cards Julia Boserup and Christina McHale battled for that honor, with Boserup coming out on top 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.

Boserup and McHale train together often at the USTA's High Performance Center at Boca Raton, so there wasn't much to be figured out in the early stages of match. Instead, both girls, who showed no signs of nervousness, went right to their strengths, and in the opening set, it was Boserup's ground strokes that gave her the edge.

Hitting a extremely deep and penetrating ball, Boserup hit winner after winner, which is difficult to do against a defender as able as McHale. Serving for the first set at 5-3, Boserup was broken after holding three set points, but there was no evidence of any frustration, nor did she get tentative in the next game, when she forced a couple of errors from McHale on her way to securing the set.

Even though McHale won the second set with relative ease, the 16-year-old from New Jersey wasn't happy with her approach.

"I wasn't executing my game plan very well," said McHale, who had beaten Boserup handily in their last meeting, in a July Pro Circuit event. "She loves the ball right in her strike zone, so I was going to try to mix it up, but I wasn't able to do that."

Boserup opened the final set with more controlled aggression, standing near the baseline and ripping forehands and backhands with equal force. Down 3-0, McHale had a chance to get the break back when Boserup committed three errors to open her third service game, but five points later, the lead was 4-1, and McHale's chance was gone.

Knowing McHale's reputation for tenacity, the 17-year-old Boserup didn't let up.

"I knew after I won the first set I just had to throw that away, because it all starts in the second set," said Boserup, who grew up in Los Angeles. "Christina does a great job of fighting back; she does that in all her matches, even if she loses the first set, so I knew I had to buckle down for the third and find a way to win it."

Boserup's body language was positive as she closed out the first ITF win of her junior career, and the celebration was no more than a couple of fist pumps, the racquet staying in her hand.

"I don't think it's even sunk in yet that I've won," Boserup said. "I tried to think every round was the same, preparing for it with my game plan and sticking to my routines. I just tried to think of it as any other match and not get too worked up about it."

One thing Boserup was adamant about was the positive direction of U.S. tennis.

"They've been giving Americans a very hard time about not having up-and-comers, but I think we've all been working very hard and we've proven ourselves this tournament--almost all Americans in the final rounds," said Boserup, who disposed of four of her compatriots in her last four matches. "It's something we should all be very proud of."

The girls doubles final featured four of the U.S. contingent that made such an impression during this Florida junior swing, and it was Lauren Embree and Asia Muhammad that won the battle of unseeded American teams, 6-3, 6-2 over Brooke Bolender and Beatrice Capra.

"I think we played the best we played all tournament," said Embree. "It was pretty windy, so we didn't want to make too many errors, we just wanted to be really aggressive today," said Muhammad, adding, "we play our best when we're really aggressive and not making mistakes."

Bolender and Capra, who are frequent partners and have won an ITF junior event and a Pro Circuit event this year, weren't happy with their play.

"We didn't play as consistent as we have been," said Bolender, 16. "We were more up and down where they were very consistent and at a high level. We weren't able to keep up today."

Embree and Muhammad haven't played together recently but they dominated the Orange Bowl this week, needing only one match tiebreaker to advance in the no-ad, match-tiebreaker-in-lieu-of-a-third-set format played now in ITF Grade A and Grade 1 tournaments.

The boys doubles champions are Devin Britton his partner Jenkins, who avoided a second loss to the singles winner on Sunday when the Americans beat top seeds Bhambri and Ohio's Chase Buchanan 7-6(7), 6-2.

With Buchanan serving for the first set at 5-4, Britton and Jenkins, who also won the Eddie Herr last Sunday, picked up their return games.

"At 30-all Jarmere hit a pretty big backhand return and I followed it up with a big forehand return and we broke back. We picked up a lot of momentum from that," said Britton.

"In the first set I was kind of depressed that I lost to this guy," said Jenkins, gesturing toward Bhambri. "In the second set, I just kind of forgot about it, but I didn't want to lose to another American in the final."

"We couldn't let Yuki take both titles," Britton chimed in.

For complete results, see the Dunlop Orange Bowl page at usta.com.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Kudla and Van Nguyen Win Orange Bowl 16s Championships; Jenkins Meets Bhambri and Boserup Faces McHale for 18s Titles Sunday

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Key Biscayne, FL--

India's Yuki Bhambri must feel as if he's somehow landed in the midst of a USTA National Championship this week at the Dunlop Orange Bowl. In match after match at Crandon Park, American players have dominated, leaving it up to the 16-year-old from India to keep the U.S. from sweeping all four Orange Bowl singles titles.

The No. 2 seeded Bhambri, a 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 winner over No. 4 seed Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany, will play unseeded Jarmere Jenkins of College Park, Ga., who erased some unpleasant memories from the 2007 Orange Bowl with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Eddie Herr champion Alex Domijan.

Jenkins was up 5-2 in the third set against U.S. Open Junior champion Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania last year when severe cramping prevented him from finishing the match. Down a set to Domijan on the same court where his body had failed him last year, Jenkins kept himself focused on the task at hand, ending Domijan's ITF junior winning streak at 16 on a mostly cloudy, cool and breezy day.

"I wasn't really thinking about what happened last year," said the 18-year-old right-hander. "I was just taking this match, and living in the present."

Failing to break Domijan in the first set, Jenkins opened the second with a break of the 6-foot-6 Floridian, but his advantage didn't last. But at 4-4, Jenkins got his second break and finished off the set. In the third, Jenkins again broke Domijan immediately, held twice and broke again, taking a 4-1 lead. Domijan took one break back, but committed a few more unforced errors than he had during his recent run, and Jenkins stepped to the service line with a 5-4 lead. After a service winner, a backhand shank error and a forehand winner, Jenkins led 30-15. Domijan, who rarely reacts to any error, dropped his racquet in disbelief when he hit a wild backhand on the next point, giving Jenkins two match points. Jenkins refused to play it safe, pounding a forehand long on his first opportunity, but a first serve and a perfectly executed forehand volley on the next one put him in the final.

"No matter what the score is you have to play the same," said Jenkins, who has recently begun working with coach Steve Koon. "That volley felt sick, especially when he just didn't go for it, it was a good feeling."

The girls 18s title will be won by an unseeded American wild card, just like the last Grade A ITF junior event held in the United States, the U.S. Open Junior championships, won by CoCo Vandeweghe. Julia Boserup reached her first major junior final by ousting Eddie Herr champion and No. 11 seed Lauren Embree 7-5, 6-1, a result the Californian, who now trains at the USTA High Performance Center in Boca Raton, was very happy with.

"It was a tough match from the start," said Boserup, 17. "Lauren gets so many balls back and she's had some great results lately, so it took a lot of effort on my part. I wasn't feeling too well in the first set--I was down 3-5 and somehow found my range a little bit better with my shots, and I think that made the difference. I stayed with my game plan, to be aggressive and finish off the points."

Embree can retrieve with the best of them, and Boserup felt the pressure of that skill.

"She played amazing, really. I have so much respect for Lauren, she played a great match, and I'm happy to come out with a win."

Across the net from Boserup on Sunday will be 16-year-old Christina McHale, who won a seesaw battle with yet another American wild card, Sloane Stephens, 5-7, 6-1, 7-5. McHale, who splits her training between the High Performance Center in Boca Raton and her home in New Jersey, had a 4-1 lead in the first set, but dropped six of the next seven games.

"I tensed up a bit and she took advantage of that," said McHale, who beat Boserup 6-1, 6-1 in a Allentown, Pa. $50,000 Pro Circuit qualifying match this summer. "We had really close games and I just couldn't seem to get any of them. It was a little frustrating."

McHale came back to dominate the second set, taking a 5-0 lead. She fell behind 3-0 in the third set, but broke Stephens at 3-2. At 5-5, Stephens backhand began to falter and three errors off that side were too much for the 15-year-old Floridian to overcome.

"At the start of the third set she was just blasting forehands, so I tried to go a little bit more to her backhand at the end," McHale said.

Serving for the match at 6-5, McHale admitted she was nervous, but told herself to put everything into it.

"Against her, you're not going to get many chances," McHale said.

McHale needed three, and also saved one break point that would have evened the match. But Stephens was unable to avoid unforced errors, and the last one, a forehand long and wide, gave McHale the match.

While the McHale - Stephens battle raged on court 2, another roller coaster of a contest was being waged on stadium court between girls 16s finalists Madison Keys and Chanelle Van Nguyen. The unseeded Van Nguyen had run out to a 6-3, 5-2 lead over the No. 3 seed, but she was unable to convert two match points in that set, one serving at 5-2 and one with Keys serving at 5-3. Both times Keys crushed a forehand winner, and a seemingly demoralized Van Nguyen lost five straight games, giving Keys new life.

The start of the third set began as the previous two had, with Van Nguyen taking an early lead. But again serving for the match at 5-2, again Van Nguyen faltered, this time not reaching a match point. At 5-3, Keys saved her third match point with an overhead and held to put the pressure on her 14-year-old opponent. Van Nguyen didn't play tentatively this time, and took a 40-30 lead, but Keys brushed off match point No. 4 with a volley winner. Van Nguyen missed a volley, letting out a scream of frustration on match point No. 5, but she stayed aggressive, served well, and hit two forehand winners in addition to one off the backhand side to save two break points and arrive again at match point. On her sixth, Van Nguyen wasn't required to hit another winner, when Keys's forehand caught the net, ending the two-and-a-half-hour match.

"I learned a lot from that," Van Nguyen said of her nervous play as she attempted to close out the match in the second set. "I tried to hit the ball--I couldn't wait for her to miss, and the last match point I had, I just wanted to go for it, be aggressive."

For the 13-year-old Keys, who won the 12s Junior Orange Bowl last year, the loss was a wrenching one.

"It's not really my personality to stop, calm down, try to work the point," said Keys, as a tear rolled down her cheek. "When I get my shot, I like to go for it. Chanelle played really well, and I just started slow, so maybe next time."

In the boys 16s final, No. 1 seed Denis Kudla defeated No. 12 seed Mitchell Frank 6-0, 6-2. Frank had a 2-0 lead in the second set, but Kudla reeled off six straight games for the second time to take the title.

"He was starting to miss a few balls that he wasn't missing in the first set," Frank said of the first two games of the second set. "But then he kind of got his rhythm back and just started hitting those penetrating ground strokes that just gave me a ton of problems. He deserved it, he came up with the shots on the big points."

Kudla, who like Frank, trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., accomplished his objective of winning a tournament when he was expected to.

"The point of playing this was to deal with the pressure, because I knew I would be the No. 1 seed," said the 16-year-old from Virginia. "At first I was almost whining over it, saying I wanted to play 18s, I want to get some points, but I'm glad I decided to play with pressure. I think I handled it pretty well, and it looks like I achieved my goal."

Kudla was also the top seed in the 16s doubles, with another JTCC player, Junior Ore, but they fell to No. 4 seeds Diego Acosta and Robert Quiroz of Ecuador 6-3, 6-2.

The girls 16s doubles final was not played due to the illness of Emi Mutaguchi of Japan. The unseeded team of Lauren Herring and Grace Min received a walkover when Mutaguchi and her partner Marianne Jodoin of Canada, the No. 2 seeds, could not take the court.

The 18s doubles finalists were decided on Saturday, and again the U.S. players were the story. In the girls doubles final, two unseeded U.S. teams will vie for the title. Lauren Embree and Asia Muhammad earned their berth with a 7-5, 6-4 victory over the unseeded Polish team of Paula Kania and Magda Linette, and will face Brooke Bolender and Beatrice Capra, who sent top seeds Ana Bogdan of Romania and Kristina Mladenovic of France packing 6-2, 2-6, 10-7.

The boys 18s finals will feature No. 7 seeds Devin Britton and Jenkins of the U.S. against top seeds Chase Buchanan of the U.S. and Bhambri. Britton and Jenkins prevailed in a bizarre semifinal match with unseeded Pierre-Hughes Herbert of France and Stanislav Poplavskyy of Ukraine 4-6, 7-6(6), 10-3. A broken ball in the second set tiebreaker, a tossed racquet hitting a line umpire that led to a warning which led to an audible obscenity which led to a point penalty against Poplavskyy to start the match tiebreaker, a call for a trainer at 2-1 in the match tiebreaker by Herbert and a return by Poplavskyy accidentally hitting the chair umpire a few points later, made for a strange ending, to say the least.

Bhambri and Buchanan took a 3-6, 6-4 10-8 decision from No. 3 seeds Shuichi Sekiguchi of Japan and Tsung-Hua Yang of Chinese Taipei, hanging on after their 8-1 lead in the match tiebreaker nearly disappeared.

For complete results, visit the Dunlop Orange Bowl page at usta.com.