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Friday, December 31, 2010

Junior Orange Bowl Recap, Slideshow, Videos

My last post of 2010 recaps this month's Junior Orange Bowl. Tennis Recruiting Network posted the article I wrote on the four tournaments today, and below is the slideshow and the brief YouTube videos of the champions. I should have the Florida junior swing finalist videos up in the next couple of weeks. More videos, including interviews, can be found on the JrOrangeBowl channel.

2010 Honor Roll

December 2010
Michael Mmoh, Junior Orange Bowl 12s
Roy Lederman, Eddie Herr 16s
Jordan Daigle & Trey Strobel, Eddie Herr 16s (dbls)
Stefan Kozlov, Eddie 14s (dbls)

November 2010
Jack Sock, Pro Circuit Futures, Pensacola (dbls)

October 2010
Ryan Harrison, ATP Challenger, Calabasas (dbls)
Denis Kudla, Pro Circuit Futures, Austin
Emmett Egger & Shane Vinsant, ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed (dbls)
Dennis Novikov, Pro Circuit Futures, Irvine (dbls)

September 2010
Jack Sock, US Open Junior Championships

August 2010
Jack Sock, 18s USTA Nationals
Michael Redlicki, 16s USTA Nationals
Benjamin Tso, 14s USTA Nationals
Robert Levine, 12s USTA Nationals

July 2010
Bjorn Fratangelo, 18s USTA Clay Courts
Michael Redlicki, 16s USTA Clay Courts
Daniel Kerznerman, 14s USTA Clay Courts
Anudeep Kodali, 12s USTA Clay Courts

May 2010
Denis Kudla & Junior Ore, Pro Circuit Futures, Tampa, (dbls)
Andrea Collarini & Denis Kudla, Pro Circuit Futures Orange Park, Fla (dbls)

April 2010
Jordan Cox, ITF Futures, Korea
Bjorn Fratangelo, ITF Easter Bowl
Gordon Watson, Easter Bowl 16s
Jordan Belga, Easter Bowl 14s
Reilly Opelka, 12s USTA Spring Nationals
Jordan Daigle, International Spring 16s
Daniel Kozakowski, ITF Grade 1 International Spring
Raymond Sarmiento, ITF Grade 1 International Spring (dbls)

March 2010
Raymond Sarmiento, ITF Grade 1 Mitsubishi-Lancer International (dbls)
Bjorn Fratangelo, 18s USTA Spring Nationals

January 2010
Stefan Kozlov, Aegon Teen Tennis
Denis Kudla, ITF Grade A Casablanca Cup
Daniel Kosakowski, 18s USTA Winter Nationals
Mackenzie McDonald, 16s USTA Winter Nationals
Gage Brymer, 14s USTA Winter Nationals
Spencer Furman, 12s USTA Winter Nationals

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Chase Curry Update, Fundraiser; Collegiate Tennis Notes

The Wichita Falls, Texas TimesRecordNews has been closely following Chase Curry's progress since he was critically injured in an automobile accident on Thanksgiving Day. This story discusses in detail his injuries, the setbacks and the encouraging parts of his recovery. If you are in the Wichita Falls area, there is a benefit for Curry on Monday at Village Bowl, all proceeds from which will be donated to the Curry family.

There are a number of stories involving college tennis that have surfaced in the past few days. Former LSU All-American Michael Venus, who has recently represented New Zealand in Davis Cup play, has been given a wild card into the main draw of next month's ATP Heineken Open, according to this article.

Several weeks ago, when it was announced that Winston-Salem would become the host of the men's tournament that was in New Haven, the city's Journal spoke with Jeff Zinn, men's tennis coach at Wake Forest. about the impact of the move on the school's programs and the local tennis scene. The article can be found here.

There were also three announcements regarding new recruits, all men, at Rice, Middle Tennessee State and Fresno State. Justin To will be joining the Owls in the fall of 2011, according to this article, but the other four players are expected to compete in the upcoming spring semester. Middle Tennessee's trio includes two from Great Britain--Joseph Cohen and Ben Davis--and one from Australia--Dimitri Pippos. For more on the three players, click here. Francis Alcantara of the Philippines, who won an Australian junior doubles title in 2009 and was ranked as high as 14 in the ITF junior rankings, is joining Fresno State next week, according to this article in the Manila Bulletin.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

LTA Sees Dozens of Top 100 Players in Its Future; Kubler Out with Injury; Bhambri Receives Chennai WC; Nike Masters Recap

Nearly three weeks ago, the LTA announced the players included on its "Team Aegon," which represents the highest funding strata of British tennis. Among the 32 players more than half are juniors: Luke Bambridge, Katie Boulter, Liam Broady, Jack Carpenter, Eleanor Dean, Katy Dunne, Kyle Edmund, Tom Farquharson, Richard Gabb, Oliver Golding, Ashley Hewitt, Pippa Horn, Evan Hoyt, Alice Keddie, James Marsalek, George Morgan, Laura Robson, Joshua Sapwell and Heather Watson. There were a few noticeable absences, Dan Evans, Tara Moore, the Ren sisters, Peter Ashley among them, but there's no possibility a federation can please (and fund) everybody.

The most eyebrow-raising news to come out of the LTA at their annual meeting was identified in this headline from the Daily Mail: LTA promise bright future with 33 teenagers on track to make it to the top 100. Why the LTA would want to make such a prediction, I have no idea, but to even suggest that there is some kind of mathematical certainty to this, to put faith in what the article calls "figures...based on scientific trajectories of current junior performance" indicates a serious lack of understanding of the nature of development. Perhaps if you have ten players in the Top 30 in juniors, there is a 70% likelihood that two will reach the Top 100 in the professional rankings(I'm making all this up for illustration purposes-I don't have access to such numbers), but that would be based on previous data, and, as stock brokers are so fond of reminding us, past performance is not indicative of future results. I hope they are right, that in the next ten years the ATP and WTA have eight or 10 or 15 British players qualifying for Wimbledon on their own rankings. But it sounds wildly optimistic to me, and claiming that there is some kind of scientific basis for this optimism borders on delusion. The Daily Mail also published this article on Orange Bowl champion George Morgan, and five other "ones to watch." Morgan is, of course, 17 years old, not 14.

Australia's hope that one of its young players to make a mark during the Australian summer tournaments was dealt a blow today, when it was announced that Jason Kubler, the 17-year-old former junior No. 1, will not be competing in any of the big ATP tournaments in that country due to a knee injury. The Advertiser is reporting that Kubler's injury will undoubtedly help the cause of 18-year-old Bernard Tomic, who has been widely criticized for not participating in Tennis Australia's wild card tournament, although he did provide the medical documentation required when he withdrew due to illness. Olivia Rogowska and Marinko Matosevic won wild cards to the Australian Open main draw in that tournament.

Another 18-year-old former junior No. 1 who did not have the breakthrough in 2010 that had been hoped is Yuki Bhambri of India. Bhambri's ATP ranking has fallen from 338 at the end of last year to 502 this year, with an assortment of injuries keeping him from competing as much as he would like. He has received a wild card into the ATP tournament in Chennai India next week, according to this article from The Hindu.

And in going through my Google reader for the first time in weeks, I discovered this article from the Bahama Journal about the final matches of the Nike Junior International Masters tournament.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Australian Open Junior Acceptances; USTA's Junior, College Year in Review; Deadline for USTA January Regionals is Thursday

The acceptance lists for the 2011 Australian Open Junior Championships have been published, and as has been the case for many years, there are few American juniors planning to make the trip Down Under. Sean Berman, who won the Australian boys 18s title earlier this month is again listed as USA, so it appears we'll have a simmilar scenario to the one we had last year, where the 2009 Australian Open boys finalist will be considered Australian by the host country and American by the ITF.

Aside from Berman, Dennis Novikov and Mitchell Krueger are the only two American boys listed in the main draw. Alex Petrone, Mac Styslinger, Emmett Egger, Daniel McCall, Trey Strobel, Robert Livi, Morgan Mays, Anthony Delcore and Roberto Cid are in qualifying, although in past years, few players have made the trip if they are not in main draw. Again this year there is a new qualifying site.

The U.S. girls that have received main draw acceptance are Krista Hardebeck, Lauren Herring, Monica Turewicz and Christina Makarova. Monica Puig of Puerto Rico is also in the main draw. Ashley Dai, Gabrielle DeSimone, Stephanie Nauta, Julia Elbaba, Elizaveta Nemchinov, Caroline Price, Denise Starr and Catherine Harrison are U.S. girls accepted into the qualifying. I have heard that Lauren Davis, who did not initially enter, would like get a wild card into the junior tournament, because she is now going to be in Australia for the women's main draw, having won the USTA's wild card tournament. If Davis is granted a wild card, she would be the favorite, as in the past two months, she has beaten nearly all of the other top junior girls entered.

U.S. Open champion Daria Gavrilova of Russia is entered, as are two other highly ranked Russians: Irina Khromacheva and Yulia Putintseva. On the boys side, Eddie Herr champion Dominic Thiem of Austria is entered, as is Orange Bowl champion George Morgan. Somewhat surprisingly, Oliver Golding of Great Britain, who is the top seed at the Casablanca Cup this week, is not.

For the complete list of acceptances, see the ITF junior website.

The Year in Review articles from the USTA have been posted for both the juniors and the collegians. Although the junior piece was completed prior to the Junior Orange Bowl, meaning that Michael Mmoh, Nicole Frenkel and Brooke Austin's championships aren't mentioned, there is a slide show with informative captions about many of the USTA champions of 2010. The college year in review also features a slideshow that includes the major championsship winners from 2010.

Beginning next month, the changes in the USTA's national junior competitions take effect, and one of the biggest moves has seen the regional tournaments shift to four mandated weekend dates. The January 22-24 weekend will see tournaments at 17 different sites around the country, with the deadline for entry Thursday, December 30th at 11:59 a.m. Because this is a new process, there are special instructions for entering more than one tournament. See the USTA junior competition page for more details.

Monday, December 27, 2010

My Interview with Erica Perkins of the USTA; U.S. Collegians Fall in Final of Master'U Event in France

During the Dunlop Orange Bowl, I had an opportunity to sit down with Erica Perkins of the USTA to discuss her role in the organization. Perkins is the Senior Manager of Junior and Collegiate Competition, with most of her efforts focused on college tennis. I've gotten to know her during the two-plus years she has been at the USTA, and have been in regular contact with her both at tournaments and via her social media outreaches. I've admired her passion for tennis and her vast knowledge of the collegiate environment, but I was a bit fuzzy on her background and what exactly the job description required of her. So I thought a Q and A would enlighten not only me, but others, whether in junior or college tennis, who interact with her regularly. My interview with Perkins appears today at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

I was unable to give the Master'U BNP Paribas international collegiate competition in France the coverage I would have liked, because I was reporting from the Dunlop Orange Bowl at the time, but I do want to acknowledge another fine performance from the American collegians. The U.S. team, which consisted of Austin Krajicek, Reid Carleton, Sekou Bangoura Jr., Allie Will, Maria Sanchez and Kristy Frilling, finished second to the host country France in the competition, held Dec. 9-12. France defeated the U.S., on indoor red clay, 5-1, after the U.S. team, the defending champions, had beaten Ireland and Germany to reach the championship match. The always entertaining Greg Patton, head men's coach at Boise State, and Mark Guilbeau, the head women's coach at Virginia, blogged from the competition. The final blog can be found here, and there are six others available at usta.com.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

ITF Grade A Casablanca Cup, USTA Winter Nationals Begin Monday

The last ITF Grade A of 2010, the Dunlop Orange Bowl, was completed just two weeks ago, but it's time for another of the junior majors, the Casablanca Cup in Mexico, which begins on Monday, but is a 2011 tournament.

Great Britain's Oliver Golding, the 2010 Eddie Herr finalist, is the top boys seed, while An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium is the No. 1 seed in the girls draw. The U.S. has three of the top five seeds in Shane Vinsant(2), Alexios Halebian(3) and Dennis Novikov(5), as well as the No. 10 seed, Mitchell Krueger. Other U.S. boys competing in the main draw are Morgan Mays, Roberto Cid, Trey Strobel, Michael Rinaldi and wild cards Richard Del Nunzio and William Kwok.

There are two U.S. girls seeded at the Casablanca Cup, wild card Vicky Duval, who is No. 11, and Ester Goldfeld, No. 13. Others in the main draw are Kelsey Laurente, Julia Elbaba, Tristen Dewar, Denise Starr, Elizaveta Nemchinov and Stephanie Nauta.

For the ITF's preview of the tournament click here. The complete draws are here. The tournament's website is www.copacasablanca.com.mx

The USTA Winter Nationals also begin on Monday with the 12s and 14s in Tucson and the 16s and 18s in the Phoenix area. William Blumberg and Sofia Kenin are the top seeds in the 12s, with Alexis Pereira and Henrik Wiersholm the top seeds in the 14s. Wiersholm, who suffered an Achilles strain in his quarterfinal match at the Junior Orange Bowl 14s, said that he would try to play, while monitoring the injury closely to make sure it doesn't worsen. Complete draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

The top seeds in the 16s are Sean Karl and Jamie Loeb, while Emmett Egger and Gabrielle Andrews are No. 1 in the 18s. Complete draws for the 16s and 18s can be found at this TennisLink site.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Short Break

I'm taking a couple of days off for Christmas with my family, so it's time to wish you all a very happy holiday season. I'll be back on the 26th.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Austin Completes US Girls Sweep of Orange Bowl Titles; Mmoh Takes Boys 12s; Sapwell Crowned Boys 14s Champion

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Coral Gables, FL--

Brooke Austin was determined to win the Junior Orange Bowl girls 14s title after falling in the final as a 13-year-old in 2009. That mission accomplished with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Domenica Gonzalez of Eucador, Austin not only held the winner's bowl of oranges, but also completed a U.S. sweep of the girls Orange Bowl titles this month, joining Lauren Davis, Allie Kiick and Nicole Frenkel as champions.

Saying that she was so nervous that she couldn't hit the ball in the court in 2009, Austin admitted she was still a bit jittery as she took the court at the University of Miami Neil Schiff Tennis Center, but the experience from last year helped her.

"This year I kind of knew what to expect," said the Indianapolis resident, seeded sixth this year. "Last year I was a little overwhelmed."

Austin's style of play, which is hitting balls hard, flat and on-the-rise, robs her opponents of the time they need to get into the point. The fifth-seeded Gonzalez, who had lost 6-2, 6-2 to Austin in last year's semifinals, hung with Austin for the first four games, and although down a break twice, denied Austin when serving for the first set by breaking her at love at 5-4.

But Austin began to find the range at that stage of the match, and breaking Gonzalez at love, she had a second opportunity to secure the first set. It wasn't easy--she needed three set points--but she started putting away the short balls with increasing confidence, and that pattern continued in the second set.

"At the beginning of the second, I was like, okay, let's get off to a good start," said Austin, who broke Gonzalez to open the set. "I was going for my shots more and they were going in, because I wasn't so tight."

Austin got a second break to make it 4-1, but after squandering a 4-1 lead in the second set in her semifinal win over Varvara Flink on Wednesday, Austin was determined not to lose her focus and her lead, as she had done the previous day.

"I thought, we're going to stay focused, we're not going to let up again," said Austin, who promptly lost one of her breaks on a double fault in the next game, but stopped the decline then and there. "I just stayed focused and won the next two games."

Gonzalez double faulted on her game point to make it 5-2, and as the match continued, she struggled with her movement, frequently on the defensive as Austin stood no more than a foot behind the baseline and took aim at the lines.

"Yesterday I played one of the better matches of my life," Gonzalez said of her nearly three-hour 4-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(1) win over top seed Barbara Haas. "I played well today in the first set, but then I was really tired. My legs didn't really respond, and I couldn't move. The first set I gave everything, but she stayed every minute in the match."

Austin closed out the championship she had targeted all year without much drama, punching a backhand winner on her first match point, giving the U.S. its fourth Orange Bowl champion in four tries.

Asked about the future of American women's tennis after the Orange Bowl sweep, Austin was optimistic.

"Obviously we have a lot of talent coming in soon so we'll see what happens. But it's really exciting."

After spending Christmas in Indianapolis, Austin will head to Arizona for the USTA Winter Nationals, where she'll compete in the 18s.

Michael Mmoh of the U.S. will also be heading to the desert shortly. It will not be Arizona, however, but Saudi Arabia, where he now lives.

Mmoh, who had begun the Florida junior swing virtually unknown, changed all that with his appearance in the Eddie Herr final. Three weeks later, having been given a wild card into the main draw of the Junior Orange Bowl and a No. 1 seed, Mmoh claimed one of the most prestigious 12-and-under titles in the world with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over unseeded Oh Chanyeong of Korea.

Mmoh, the son of former ATP professional Tony Mmoh of Nigeria, who reached 105 in the world rankings in 1987, had beaten Chanyeong at the Eddie Herr in the round of 16. But the player he faced today at the University of Miami courts was not one he recognized.

"He really changed his game between this match and the last match," said Mmoh, who credits his coach Tawfiq Moafa for his recent impressive results. "In this match he started hitting very, very flat and attacking a bit more."

Mmoh is difficult to attack however, as he anticipates well and moves quickly despite his size. Able to return nearly every shot, Mmoh didn't seem to fear Chanyeong's new strategy once he adjusted to it in the second set.

As the Korean cheering section supporting Chanyeong began to get less and less boisterous, Mmoh took control in the final set, hitting more winners and making far fewer errors than the Korean.

After securing the Junior Orange Bowl 12s title, Mmoh was heading out to play some golf before taking a Christmas Day flight back to Saudi Arabia.

Asked if his victory would be big news in that country, Mmoh was realistic in his assessment.

"Not around all of Saudi, but in the tennis community, yes. They know the Orange Bowl."

Joshua Sapwell of Great Britain can count on substantially more attention for his victory in the boys 14s final, but like Mmoh, Sapwell was forced to mount a comeback, never an easy task in a major final. The top seed found his "A" game in the next two sets however, defeating unseeded Borna Coric of Croatia 6-7(2), 6-4, 6-3.

Serving down 5-2 in the opening set, Sapwell saved four set points in that game and broke Coric when he was serving for the set. Although there were more errors than winners in the tiebreaker that followed, it was Coric who stayed in the points longer, and he won the final four points to take the set.

Sapwell went down immediately in the second set when he was broken in the first game, but Coric wasn't able to hold that break or the next one, which gave him a 3-2 lead. Sapwell began to play much better midway through the set, and when he got two break points with Coric serving at 4-5 in the second, he took advantage immediately, holding his own in a lengthy forehand to forehand rally that ended when Coric finally hit one long.

In the third set, Sapwell got the first break to take a 3-1 lead, and survived a break point in the next game to take a 4-1 lead. Coric came back, winning the next two games, and Sapwell could have become discouraged when he lost a three-deuce game in which he had three double faults. But Sapwell broke Coric at love and suddenly found himself serving for the championship.

After his previous service game, in which he made almost no first serves, Sapwell's confidence could have been shaken, but it was not. When it most mattered, Sapwell got his first serve in, and on two of the points, he was able to use the one-two punch of big first serve and a third-shot forehand winner, a combination that Coric simply did not have in his repertoire.

"In weather like this you don't really want to be playing a point too long," Sapwell said of the temperatures in the mid-70s, with little breeze. "You obviously only get a certain amount of time between points, and cheap points here and there are always great. I had a bigger advantage with my serve, and I always feel with the players I play, I have a better return than them."

On match point, Sapwell missed his first serve, but made his second, and when Coric sent a backhand wide, Sapwell had his title, and Great Britain its second boys Orange Bowl winner of the month.

Sapwell counts Orange Bowl 18s champion George Morgan among his friends, and the fact that Morgan won the boys 14s title in 2007 wasn't lost on him.

"He's worked so hard, and for me to have the best chance of doing what he's done, I have to work hard as well," the 14-year-old from Bedfordshire said. "He's unbelievable."

Sapwell is returning to England for Christmas with his family, but is already looking forward to 2011.

"Next year, the hard work starts again."

The boys 14s consolation title went to Bogdan Bobrov of Russia, who defeated Ernesto Escobedo of the U.S. 6-2, 6-3. Gabrielle Smith of the U.S. won the girls 14s consolation tournament. Francis Tiafoe of the U.S. won the boys 12s consolation title with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Mark Chepurnoy of Russia. Sofia Kenin of the U.S won the girls 12s consolation title on Wednesday, defeating Aleksandra Pospelova of Russia 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Frenkel Captures Girls 12s Title; Austin and Mmoh Reach Finals in Girls 14s and Boys 12s

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Coral Gables, FL--

Nicole Frenkel was down a set for the first time in the tournament, trailing Yulia Bryzgalova of Russia in the Junior Orange Bowl girls 12s championship match on a clear and calm morning at Salvadore Park. Bryzgalova had hardly missed a ball in the first six games of the match and held on for a 6-3 win in the first set.

But the unseeded Frenkel, facing her fourth No. 1 seed of the tournament, found her way back into the match in the second set, and finished strongly in the third to take a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.

The left-hander from Boston was able to withstand the heat from Bryzgalova's forehand with a strategy she and her coach Celeste Frey had gleaned from watching the Russian the day before.

"Her forehand was really powerful and she hit a lot of winners, and her backhand was not as a powerful, but she was more steady on that side," said Frenkel. "So it was a challenge. I tried going wide to the backhand and opening up the court to her forehand, and I tried to mix up the pace."

After a ten-minute break between the second and third sets, Bryzgalova looked a step slow and dropped the opening game on serve, but that was just the first of four breaks to open the final set. Serving at 3-3 30-30 Bryzgalova missed an overhead and received a penalty for racquet abuse from the chair umpire, which gave Frenkel the game. Bryzgalova looked surprised, but she didn't say a word in protest. Frenkel had an opportunity to take control in the next game, but Bryzgalova hit two jaw-dropping crosscourt angled backhand winners to earn two break points, and Frenkle double faulted on game point to make it 4-4.

But as good as Bryzgalova's backhand was in that game, it was that bad in the next, when three backhand errors and a winner by Frenkel gave the American a 5-4 lead. With all the difficulty Frenkel had experienced with her serve throughout the match, finishing the match in the next game seemed unlikely, but she had the advantage of serving with her back to the sun.

"I was pretty much guessing on that (other) side, because the sun was just exactly where the ball was," said Frenkel. "My coach told me to adjust the toss, and I was telling myself that, but it's really hard. But on this side it was just like night and day."

Frenkel got all but one first serve in during the final game, and Bryzgalova missed three returns, although one was an unlucky net cord. A backhand wide gave Frenkel her first championship point, and another first serve saw Bryzgalova go for a big forehand return. It went long, and after nearly two and a half hours, Frenkel could claim the bowl of oranges she craved.

"I love coming here and playing here," said Frenkel. "My inspiration was the oranges, I really wanted the oranges. And it's so beautiful here."

While most champions view the oranges as an ornament or a nuisance, Frenkel had a completely different appreciation for the tournament's fruit. Asked how she would celebrate, Frenkel replied:

"I'm celebrating by eating an orange. It's so exciting, and I'll definitely remember this forever. It's my last 12s and I finished it really well."

The other three divisions' semifinals were played Wednesday at the University of Miami, and in the boys 12s, Eddie Herr finalist Michael Mmoh reached his second major in three weeks with a 6-1, 7-5 victory over fellow No. 1 seed Mikael Wondwosen of Sweden. Mmoh's opponent in Thursday morning's final is unseeded Oh Chanyeong of Korea, who defeated unseeded Michal Kusznerko of the U.S. 6-1, 6-4.

The boys 14s semifinals were both straight set affairs. Top seed Joshua Sapwell of Great Britain had little trouble with No. 8 seed Christian Garin of Chile, taking a 6-0, 6-3 decision. Clement Geens of Belgium, a No. 9 seed, served for the first set against unseeded Borna Coric of Croatia at 6-5, but lost the game and the subsequent tiebreaker. Coric took control after that, with the 2009 Boys 14s semifinalist posting a 7-6(5), 6-1 victory.

The girls 14s final will be a rematch of one of the semifinals last year, when Brooke Austin of the U.S. beat Dominica Gonzalez of Ecuador 6-2, 6-2. Austin, seeded sixth, reached the final for the second straight year with a 6-0, 7-5 victory over qualifier Varvara Flink of Russia, while No. 5 seed Gonzalez ousted top seed Barbara Haas of Austria 4-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(1).

Haas served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, but Gonzalez stayed alive when Haas hit a forehand long at 30-40. At 3-3 in the tiebreaker, Haas made four consecutive forehand errors to give Gonzalez the set. She desperately needed the ten-minute break to regroup, but having won all her previous five matches so easily, she didn't have a lot of experience in making adjustments.

Gonzalez raised her game in the third set, while Haas continued to have trouble controlling her forehand, and with a break of Haas at 2-2 , Gonzalez stayed in front, serving for the match at 5-4. A very loose game cost her a chance to end it, but she broke Haas again in the next game, and again served for the match, this time at 6-5. Gonzalez didn't get to match point in that game either, with a double fault leading to a break point, which Haas converted with a forehand winner.

In the final tiebreaker, Gonzalez was able to put those disappointments behind her. At 2-0, she anticipated a screaming forehand pass by Haas, improbably massaging the ball over the net for a drop volley winner and a 3-0 lead. A forehand winner and a gorgeous backhand pass gave Gonzalez a 5-1 lead, and a good first serve earned her five match points. She converted the first, putting away a forehand at the net to end the nearly three-hour battle.

"I knew it would be a tough match and I would have to play really, really well to beat her," said Gonzalez, who counts Haas among her group of friends. "In the tiebreaks, I knew I had to give everything, and I played really well in the tiebreaks."

Austin had a much shorted match with Flink, but it could have been even less complicated that she made it. Leading 6-0, 4-1, Austin managed to lose both those breaks and it was suddenly 4-4 in the second. Austin broke Flink to serve for the match at 5-4, but a double fault on match point and unforced error and another double fault and it was 5-5. Another break of Flink gave Austin one more chance to avoid a tiebreaker, and this time she took it, hitting a forehand winner at 40-30 to earn another shot at the title that eluded her in 2009.

"I think I started to think too much about the next match, instead of focusing on my match," said Austin. "Whenever I was ahead I would get tight, but when it was tied I was fine. It was really weird."

Gonzalez is looking forward to another shot at Austin.

"Last year I was 13, I didn't play well," said Gonzalez. "I hope to play well this time. This year is my year, I think."

The finals in the boys 12s and girls 14s begin at 9 a.m. on Thursday at the University of Miami. The boys 14s final will follow at 10:30 a.m.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Frenkel, Bryzgalova Will Decide Girls 12s Junior Orange Bowl Title; Austin, Mmoh and Kusznerko Reach Semis


©Colette Lewis 2010--
Coral Gables, FL--

Nicole Frenkel trains in Manchester, Massachusetts, so it's no surprise that the 12-year-old names fast indoor hard courts as her surface of choice. But at the Junior Orange Bowl tournament at Salvadore Park, she is doing just fine on the Har-Tru green clay, reaching the final with two convincing wins on Tuesday

The unseeded Frenkel convincingly defeated two No. 1 seeds with distinctly different styles, getting past the big-hitting Jasmin Plews of Great Britain 7-5, 6-1 in the morning quarterfinal and the more subtle style of Katarina Jokic of Bosnia 6-1, 6-2 in the afternoon semifinal.

"She started out hitting thirty of more lines," Frenkel said of Plews. "That got me a bit frustrated, but I got through it. Then I tried mixing up the pace so I wouldn't let her play with one rhythm, and it worked. Then I started playing better in the second set."

Against the Eddie Herr 12s champion Jokic, Frenkel didn't have to contend with the pace Plews threw at her, and she had a definite advantage in the composure department. Frenkel took a 5-0 lead in the opening set, and Jokic continued to make errors, which frustrated her to tears. With a game that relies on consistency and court sense, Jokic couldn't afford all the unforced errors against Frenkel, who was able to end points with her forehand if she got an opportunity.

"I went in thinking I just had to make her move, and be patient, but when the time is right, just smack it," said the left-hander. "Mostly, just play smart."

Frenkel didn't get caught up in all the emotion that was Jokic was displaying.

"It was definitely different, compared to other matches," said Frenkel. "I just tried staying focused on my part, my side, and just get through it."

Frenkel was broken serving for the first set, and then again serving for the match, but with Jokic holding serve only once in the match, there was no reason for concern. Frenkel broke a final time when Jokic made another unforced error and was in the final, after losing in the third round in last year's tournament.

"This is definitely an improvement," said Frenkel, who has been playing mostly 14s, as well as 16s and some 18s tournaments. "I think I just got smarter. My whole life, I've been playing really aggressive. Last year I played the same, but went for some ridiculous shots at times when I didn't have to. Now, I still go for them, but in the right times."

Frenkel, who has lost only one set en route to the final, will face her fourth No. 1 seed in the championship match, Yuliana Bryzgalova of Russia. Bryzgalova defeated fellow No. 1 seed Emmanuelle Salas of France 6-2, 7-5 in the quarterfinals and unseeded Julia Payola Sucarrats of Spain 7-6(5), 7-5. Payola Sucarrats served for the first set three separate times--at 5-2, 5-4 and 6-5, but was unable to hold. Perhaps lacking energy after saving a match point in her 0-6, 7-6(5), 6-1 win over Shilin Xu of China in the quarterfinals, Payola Sucarrats didn't have the same bounce or confidence that she had displayed earlier in the tournament, and Bryzgalova took advantage of the Spaniard's inability to finish.

The girls 12s final will be at 9 a.m. on Wednesday at Salvadore Park.

In the boys 12s, there are two U.S. players in the semifinals: Michael Mmoh, a No. 1 seed, and unseeded Michal Kusznerko. Mmoh will play fellow No. 1 seed and Eddie Herr semifinalist Mikael Wondwosen of Sweden, and Kusznerko meets unseeded Oh Chanyeong of Korea. Chanyeong reached the semifinal when Lee Duckhee, the Eddie Herr champion, also from Korea, suffered cramps and had to retire, giving Chanyeong a 0-6, 6-6, ret. victory.

In the girls 14s, 2009 finalist Brooke Austin advanced to the semifinals with two straight-set wins Tuesday, beating unseeded Russian Anastasia Komardina 7-5, 6-2 in the fourth round to set up a much-anticipated meeting with No. 2 seed and 2009 girls 12s Junior Orange Bowl champion Francoise Abanda of Canada.

I had hoped to see some of that match, but I was at the University of Miami watching the Joshua Sapwell - Noah Rubin quarterfinal, and when I arrived at the Biltmore Tennis Center, Austin was just wrapping up her 6-3, 6-4 victory of the Eddie Herr 14s champion. (All four Eddie Herr champions: Lee Duckhee, Katarina Jokic, Francoise Abanda and Peter Ashley, were eliminated today). And that match was the closest of the quarterfinals in girls 14s. Top seed Barbara Haas of Austria beat unseeded Mayar Ahmed of Egypt 6-0, 6-0, and will face No. 5 seed and 2009 semifinalist Domenica Gonzalez of Ecuador. Gonzalez defeated unseeded Mathilde Armitano of France 6-2, 6-0. Austin's opponent in the semifinals is qualifier Varvara Flink of Russia.

There are no Americans still alive in the boys 14s, with both unseeded Henrik Wiersholm and Noah Rubin falling in the quarterfinals. Wiersholm had outlasted Jordan Belga, also of the U.S. 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 in the fourth round, but had to retire to Belgian Clement Geens, a No. 9 seed, trailing 6-2, 2-0. Rubin also had to retire against top seed Joshua Sapwell of Great Britain with the score 1-6, 7-5, 4-1.

Having dominated the first set, Rubin broke Sapwell at 3-4 in a much tighter second set, but was unable to serve out the match. At 15-30, Sapwell showed some impressive net skills when he managed to end a bang-bang exchange with a backspinning touch volley. On the next point, Rubin hit a backhand long, and Sapwell was back on serve. At the changeover, Rubin called for a trainer but aside from some icing, not much more happened. Rubin returned to the court, but his movement hindered by what appeared to be leg cramps or a muscle pull, he lost four straight games, and the set. After the 10-minute break between sets, Rubin tried again, but he was resorting to drop shots and other point-shortening strategies that worked only occasionally. Once Sapwell realized he only needed to move Rubin more than once and he had an open court to hit to, the games went quickly and Rubin retired at the third change of ends.

Sapwell will play Chile's Christian Garin, the No. 8 seed, in the semifinals, while the other semifinal will feature unseeded Borna Coric of Croatia against Geens. Coric had defeated No. 3 seed Peter Ashley of Great Britain 7-5, 6-4 in the fourth round, and has not yet dropped a set in the tournament.

The semifinals of the boys 12s and the boys and girls 14s will be held at the University of Miami Neil Schiff Tennis Center Wednesday beginning at 10:30 a.m.
The girls 12s final will be at Salvadore Park at 9:00 a.m.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wiersholm Upsets Second Seed Malla in Third Round of Junior Orange Bowl 14s

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Coral Gables, FL--

Henrik Wiersholm may have been an underdog coming into his third round match with No. 2 seed Bastian Malla of Chile, but the 13-year-old from Kirkland, Washington didn't exactly surprise himself with his 6-3, 7-5 victory.

"I watched play his match the day before and saw that this guy gets pretty mad, so I said I'll just stay consistent, keep the ball in and see where it goes," said Wiersholm, the 2009 USTA Boys 12s champion. "I thought I could take him going in, and maybe that's why I won."

The atmosphere surrounding the contest was more like a college tennis match, with Malla's many supporters cheering so loudly that they actually drowned out the construction noise from renovation of the University of Miami Wellness Center. Wiersholm also had lots of vocal encouragement and during the first set, which was contested at a very high level, there was plenty for both sides to applaud. The 14-year-old Malla, who was on the Chilean team that captured the ITF World Junior Tennis title in the Czech Republic, was the more volatile emotionally. The stocky left-hander, who is not much taller than Wiersholm, but probably 40 pounds heavier, was hitting some big forehands, but he was also making a lot of errors, and Wiersholm had formulated a plan to create those.

"Yesterday I made a page of notes of how to beat the kid, after I scouted him," said Wiersholm, who referred to these tips on the changeovers. "I was just seeing if I was missing something, and if I was losing, I would go back to that and it would help me get back on track."

The crowd became less animated in the late stages of the match, as the tension began to build. Malla played from behind throughout the second set, falling behind 2-0 and 4-2, although he got the break back both times. But serving at 5-5, he committed two double faults that sealed his fate, as Wiersholm played aggressively in the final game, finishing with a perfectly executed forehand volley on his first match point.

Wiersholm credits his recent training with the USTA at Boca Raton and the European team competition there with helping him prepare for the tournament.

"I think that really helped to get ready," said Wiersholm, who will be traveling to Europe for Teen Tennis and Les Petits As next month with the USTA. "Hitting there this week has really been helping me get my feel."

Wiersholm will play fellow American Jordan Belga in the round of 16 Tuesday morning. Belga also ousted a seed, coming back to take out No. 9 seed Ken Onishi of Japan 3-6, 6-2, 6-3. The final set of the match featured seven breaks of serve, but when Belga went up 5-3 on a double fault by Onishi, who disputed the call, Belga did hold his serve for the second, and most important, time in the final game.

The other U.S. boys to advance to the round of 16 are unseeded Stefan Kozlov, Javier Restrepo and Noah Rubin. Top seed Joshua Sapwell and No. 3 seed Peter Ashley of Great Britain again advanced easily. In the boys 12s and 14s and the girls 14s, two rounds will be played on Tuesday.

In the girls 12s, the finalists will be determined on Tuesday afternoon. Eight girls remain in contention for the title, including unseeded American Nicole Frenkel. Frenkel is one of three unseeded players still in the draw.

In the boys 12s, there are 6 U.S. boys among the final 16, including No. 1 seeds Nathan Ponwith and Michael Mmoh, and unseeded Noah Makarome, Alex Del Corral, Michal Kusznerko and Christopher Ephron.

In the girls 14s, top seeds Barbara Haas of Austria and Francoise Abanda of Canada rolled on with straight set wins, as did 2009 finalist and No. 6 seed Brooke Austin. No. 4 seed Ulyana Ayzatulina of Russia was defaulted via the point penalty system, giving a 6-3, 0-3 win to qualifier Brooke Withrow of the U.S. I was not at the Biltmore when the match ended, but I will try to find out the circumstances on Tuesday.

No. 7 seed Valeria Patiuk of Israel was also eliminated on Monday, losing to Mayar Ahmed of Egypt 7-5, 6-4.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Shishkina, Black Fall in Second Round of Girls 14s at Junior Orange Bowl

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Coral Gables, FL--

I spent the day (and evening), which was partly cloudy and cool, but thankfully dry, watching the second round of the girls 12s at Salvadore Park and second round of the girls 14s at Biltmore Tennis Center.

The girls 12s had actually completed a few of their second round matches on Saturday before the rain washed out play, the only division to do so, and so by 1:00 p.m., the second round was completed. I watched as much as I could, seeing Americans Ryan Peus and Ingrid Neel for the first time. Peus lost, but Neel, fresh off her Little Mo girls 12s win last week in Bradenton, is into the third round following a 6-4, 6-1 win over American Abigail Chiu. Only two No. 1 seeds lost today, Gabriela Rezende of Brazil, who fell to Ha Eun Lim of Korea 6-0, 6-3, and Kimberly Birrell of Australia, who lost to American Nicole Frenkel 6-0, 6-1. One of the highest quality matches I saw featured No. 1 seed Jasmin Plews of Great Britain against Katarina Kopcalic of Canada. Plews took it 6-4, 6-4, showing off a big serve, as both girls pounded the Har-Tru with their ground strokes.

One of the most anticipated matches in the girls 14s had Mariya Shishkina of the U.S., the No. 9 seed, playing Valentini Grammatikopoulou of Greece. The two had battled in the fourth round of the Junior Orange Bowl 12s last year, with Shishkina emerging with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2, and Grammatikopoulou was looking forward to a rematch. Motivated by last year's loss, Grammatikopoulou won their second encounter 6-4, 6-3.

"Coming to this tournament, I wanted to play Shishkina," said the 13-year-old, who is now training at the Juan Carlos Ferrero academy in Spain. "I was ready for it."

Matching Shishkina's power and movement, Grammatikopoulou, who is widely known by her first name by friends and tournament officials alike, kept the pressure on. She took a 4-1 lead in the second set, with Shishkina playing more tentatively and committing more errors, many of them forced by Grammatikopoulou. Although roving umpires were paying particular attention to the match throughout, the controversies continued. Along with several line calls arguments, there was a dispute over the score in a game, and then a dispute a few points later as to the set score. Grammatikopoulou eventually lost the game that was in dispute, but the official did not accept Shishkina's contention that it was 3-2, not 4-3 in favor of Grammatikopoulou, and shortly thereafter, another official sat in the court's umpire chair for the remainder of the match. Shishkina was overruled twice in the final two games, and Grammatikopoulou was grateful for his presence.

"I was nervous because she said again another score," said Grammatikopoulou, who is still working on her English. "I want to say thanks for the referee, because he looked at my match. If he doesn't look, I maybe have third set."

Although she was very happy to have won, Grammatikoupoulou didn't give herself the highest grade for her performance. "It was good, not perfect," she said, adding that she thought Shishkina played "so-so."

The top two seeds, Barbara Haas of Austria and Francoise Abanda of Canada played better than so-so in their second round matches. Haas quickly moved past Polina Yuzefovich of Russia 6-3, 6-1 during the daylight hours, while Abanda, taking the court around 7 p.m., dispatched Madison Bourguignon of the U.S. 6-2, 6-2. 2009 girls 14s finalist Brooke Austin also had a quick second round under the lights, defeating Lena Reichel of Austria 6-1, 6-1.

Eight of the girls 14s matches were played at the University of Miami, so I did not see any of Alecia (Tornado) Black's loss to Rianna Valdes, also of the U.S. Black retired with an injury trailing 7-6(13), 3-0.

The top three seeds in the boys 14s, Joshua Sapwell, Bastian Malla and Peter Ashley advanced in straight sets. Zandrix Acob of the U.S., the No. 7 seed, lost to Alexander Zverev of Germany 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.

For complete results and Monday's schedule, see the TennisLink site.

Lauren Davis and Ryan Harrison Win Australian Open Wild Cards

Lauren Davis's torrid streak of tennis continued today as she defeated No. 1 seed CoCo Vandeweghe 6-2, 6-2 to win the USTA's Australian Open wild card tournament at the Racquet Club of the South in Norcross, Ga. Vandeweghe had won the AO wild card tournament, played at the same club, last year. Ryan Harrison repeated his showing of last year, winning his second Australian Open wild card tournament with a 7-6 (3), 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-4 win over US Open boys champion Jack Sock.

For more, see this article on ustatoday.com. There are also separate articles from Fed Cup captain Mary Joe Fernandez and USTA Player Development head Patrick McEnroe on the weekend's competition.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rain Mars Second Day at Junior Orange Bowl; Sock and Harrison, Vandeweghe and Davis Play for Australian Wild Card Sunday

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Coral Gables, FL--

The heavy dew and humidity kept the courts unplayable this morning at three of the four sites of the Junior Orange Bowl, and the rain that settled over Miami Saturday afternoon complicated scheduling even further, but I managed to see the only main draw matches played today. The Salvadore Park Har-Tru courts were playable, and when I arrived around 8:30 a.m. consolation matches were underway.

As I mentioned in last night's recap, three No. 1 seeds from the top quarter were defeated, and two of them, Usue Arconada and Sofia Kenin of the U.S., won their consolation openers without the loss of the game.

A few sprinkles suspended play for mere minutes mid-morning, with the main draw scheduled to begin at 11:30. Although I didn't know the status of the other three sites, it was unlikely they had moved through their consolation matches, which were first on all schedules, so I stayed put.

Although they were put on the three least viewer-friendly courts, I did get to see three of the players I was hoping to watch, including the two who had defeated Arconada and Kenin on Friday. Describing Arconada as tiny doesn't begin to give a sense of how small she is. Zhanlan Wei of China, the unseeded player who beat Arconada in the first round, is big, and not just for a 12-year-old. Wei, who trains at the Evert Academy, was again on and off the court in a hurry today, beating Caroline Dolehide of the U.S. 6-2, 6-1. Wei moved well on the clay and simply hit with too much pace for Dolehide. Wei will play the winner of the match between Jaeda Daniel and Elizabeth Porter of the U.S. in the third round. Daniel, whom I had first seen at the Eddie Herr this year, where she reached the quarterfinals, won the first set, and Porter the second. There were lots of long rallies, and not a few errors, but both girls were hitting out and going for their shots. There was also none of the score disputes, mark questioning and emotional outbursts that frequently surfaced on several adjacent courts.

I didn't initially recognize the name of the unseeded Spanish girl who had defeated Kenin in the first round, but it may be because she is listed as Julia Payola in the draw, but her full name is Julia Payola Sucarrats. She was the No. 2 seed in the recent Nike International Masters 12s, losing to the eventual champion in the quarterfinals, but her body language said, loudly, that she doesn't lose often. Dressed in all black Fred Perry clothing, Sucarrats looked very comfortable on the green version of the surface I'm sure she grew up on. Sucarrats defeated qualifier Nadia Gizdova of the U.S. 6-1, 6-1 just minutes before the heavy rain moved in for the afternoon.

The other main draw match saw No. 1 seed Anastasia Nefedova of Russia, the Eddie Herr finalist, defeat Hada Chang of the U.S. 6-0, 6-1.

Draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

That was the extent of the tennis I watched today, but I followed the tweets of various spectators at the Racquet Club of the South where the semifinals of the USTA's Australian Open wild card tournament were taking place. The women's matches were fairly straightforward, with No. 1 seed CoCo Vandeweghe beating Beatrice Capra 6-1, 6-4 and Lauren Davis breezing past Krista Hardebeck 6-2, 6-1.

The bulk of the drama came in the men's semifinals. Jack Sock had a comfortable lead over Denis Kudla when he rolled an ankle, but Sock managed to finish out the win 6-2, 7-5. Ryan Harrison, the No. 3 seed, dropped the first set to former junior rival Rhyne Williams, but Harrison came back for a 4-6, 6-2, 9-7 victory. Williams broke Harrison at 6-6 in the final set (because they play out the final set in Australia, no tiebreaker was played), but couldn't serve it out.

For more on today's action, see Steve Pratt's story for the USTA.

The men's final will be best of five sets and will follow the women's final, which begins at 1 p.m. Both Harrison and Vandeweghe won this same tournament in 2009 and competed in the 2010 Australian Open main draw. Sock won a U.S. Open main draw wild card as the USTA 18s champion this year. Lauren Davis has not played in the women's main draw of any of the slams.

Friday, December 17, 2010

2009 Semifinalist Gonzalez Survives Opening Round Test in Junior Orange Bowl Girls 14s

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Coral Gables, FL--

I split my day between the two 14s sites today at the Junior Orange Bowl, starting and ending at the University of Miami, the headquarters for the boys. Although wet courts, from dew and from sprinklers, confined play to just a few courts at 8 a.m., I did seed top seed Joshua Sapwell of Great Britain cruise past Terrell Whitehurst of the U.S. 6-1, 6-1.

Wanting to catch what I had thought would be a good match between girls 14s top seed Barbara Haas of Austria and Ivana Jorovic of Serbia, I headed to the Biltmore Tennis Center. As it turned out, I saw only the last game of the match, a 6-0, 6-1 win for Haas, and it was a long and well-played game. But given that Jorovic took Haas to 6-4 in the third last week in semifinals of the Nike Masters, it was a disappointingly short rematch.

Next up on court 1 was No. 5 seed Domenica Gonzalez of Ecuador, who had reached the semifinals of the Girls 14s last year as a 13-year-old. Playing mostly ITF events this year, Gonzalez earned a Top 200 ranking, winning two Grade 5 tournaments on clay, her favored surface, this fall. Gonzalez's opponent in Friday's first round match was Ching Wen Hsu of Taiwan, a qualifier. Gonzalez got off to a quick start in the first set, but this would be no routine win. It was nearly three hours before Gonzalez advanced with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-2 victory.

"I was 3-0 up, and I get like, yeah, this is easy," said Gonzalez. "Then she picked up and I lost the first set. Then I started to move, play my tennis, and I won."

The stamina developed on the clay definitely helped Gonzalez in the third set, as Hsu, who is very thin, looked to be tiring as the match hit the two-hour mark. Although Hsu could stay with Gonzalez on the ground from the start--neither player ventured to the net unless forced--she began to make more errors as the match progressed.

Gonzalez didn't take Hsu lightly, knowing that a qualifier who had won four matches would likely be a tough opponent.

"She won four matches to get to the main draw, so it's not that easy. I expected a girl that plays," Gonzalez said.

Asked why she decided to go back down to the 14s, after stepping up to the 18s this year, Gonzalez had a patriotic answer.

"I played the Orange Bowl last year, and I play it again this year, because I want to win it," Gonzalez said. "From Ecuador, nobody has won the Orange Bowl, girls."

Despite the scare in the first round, Gonzalez believes she is among those in contention for the title.

"There are four girls, that play very well that I know, maybe there are more," Gonzalez said. "Last year I made semifinals, and I want to win it this year. It's my year."

Not all of the girls 14s first round matches were completed Friday, as evening dew made the courts too slippery for play.

The boys 14s first round was completed, with No. 4 seed Daniel Kerznerman of the U.S. the only seed to lose. Kerznerman cramped after dropping the second set to Bogdan Bobrov of Russia and was unable to continue play.

The girls 12s lost three No. 1 seeds Friday, according to the posted results, all of them in the top quarter, with Usue Arconada and Sofia Kenin of the U.S. falling, along with Patricia Muamba of Canada.

In the boys 12s, Guilherme Scarpelli of Brazil and Semen Lomakin of Russia were the only No. 1 seeds to lose in the first round.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Five of Eight Australian Open Wild Card Matches Go to Underdogs

If I could be two places at once, I'd be in Atlanta, Ga. and Coral Gables, Fla., but I guess if I'm confined to one locale, it might as well be the one with beautiful weather in mid-December.

I missed a big day today at the Racquet Club of the South, however, where Jack Sock beat top seed Donald Young in the USTA men's wild card tournament for the Australian Open 7-6(3,) 3-6, 6-4. Sock will play Denis Kudla in a rematch of their US Open boys final this year after Kudla defeated No. 4 seed Cox 6-4, 6-3. No. 3 seed Ryan Harrison, the only seed to advance in the men's draw, avenged his recent Charlottesville Challenger defeat to Virginia's Michael Shabaz 7-6(3), 6-7(4), 6-4 and will play Tennessee sophomore Rhyne Williams, who downed No. 2 seed Tim Smyczek 6-4, 6-0.

Women's top seed CoCo Vandeweghe avoided Young's fate, but it doesn't look like Madison Keys went quietly, with Vandeweghe, the defending AO wild card tournament champion (as is Harrison), winning 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. No. 4 seed Beatrice Capra got by 18s national champion Shelby Rogers 6-2, 6-3, but there were two "upsets." Red-hot Orange Bowl champion Lauren Davis beat No. 2 seed Jamie Hampton 7-5, 7-5, and Krista Hardebeck, who lost in the first round at the Orange Bowl, surprised No. 3 seed Irina Falconi 6-4, 3-6, 6-1. Vandeweghe will play Capra in the semifinals, and Davis and Hardebeck will meet for the first time since the Easter Bowl final in April, which Hardebeck won 7-5, 6-3.

The women will again lead off the action Saturday, beginning at 1 p.m., followed by the men.

Much thanks to @stephiesport for the scores via twitter.

Dunlop Orange Bowl Recap

Before I start what will be a long opening day of main draw play at the Junior Orange Bowl (matches scheduled to go on at 5 p.m.), here's my recap of the Dunlop Orange Bowl for Tennis Recruiting Network.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Haas, Coric Win Nike Masters Titles; USTA's AO Wild Card Playoffs Friday; Junior Orange Bowl Main Draw Starts Friday Too

The weather warmed up today in Miami, so I ventured out to Tropical Park to watch the last round of qualifying in the boys 12s division of the Junior Orange Bowl. There were several accomplished players in the qualifying, including Korea's Lim Minseob who was a semifinalist at the Eddie Herr this year (as is often the case, there is confusion as to the order of the Chinese and Korean names--the JOB is calling him Minseob Lim, the Eddie Herr had it the other way around) and Mark Chepurnoy of Russia, who was a quarterfinalist last year at the Eddie Herr. Both qualified for the main draw today, with Chepurnoy defeating Fernando Ramirez of Mexico, who is training at T-Bar-M in Dallas, 6-1, 6-3, and Minseob beating Lucas Koelle of Brazil 6-2, 6-4. Both matches were good ones, with few of the loopy, time-consuming rallies that are often prevalent in the 12s.

The draws and seeds are up for the start of the main draw Friday, although there are still a few qualifiers to be determined yet tonight. The Nike Junior Tennis International Masters concluded a couple of days ago (click here for draws), and the 14s champions are both playing in the Junior Orange Bowl. Barbara Haas of Austria, was the top seed in the Nike Masters, winning it over No. 2 seed Valeria Patiuk of Israel 6-2, 7-5. Haas, the ITF's 78th ranked junior, is also the top seed at the Junior Orange Bowl, and she has a tough first-rounder against Ivana Jorovic of Serbia, whom Haas needed three sets to beat in the Nike semifinals. Eddie Herr 14s champion and 2009 12s JOB champion Francoise Abanda of Canada is No. 2. 2009 finalist Brooke Austin is the sixth seed.

Borna Coric of Croatia, the seventh seed at the Nike Masters, won the boys 14s title with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over unseeded Tal Goldengoren of Israel. Neither are seeded at the Junior Orange Bowl, making them dangerous floaters. Also unseeded are Les Petit As finalist Noah Rubin and Stefan Kozlov of the U.S. Great Britain's Joshua Sapwell is the top seed, with Bastian Malla of Chile No. 2, and Eddie Herr champion Peter Ashley of Great Britain No. 3.

It seems odd to have only 16 seeds in a 128 draw--I am so accustomed to the 32 seeds that are selected at the USTA National Championships.

The 12s Nike titles went to Marko Osmakcic of Switzerland and Zainab El Houari of Morocco, neither of whom are entered in the Junior Orange Bowl. Although there are 16 No. 1 seeds in the 12s, there are players at the top and bottom. Hayato Kudo of Japan in at the top of the boys draw, with Maksim Tybar of Belarus on the bottom. Lee Duckhee of Korea, the Eddie Herr champion, is also a No. 1 seed. At the top of the girls 12s draw is Usue Arconada of the U.S., and at the bottom is Eddie Herr champion Katarina Jokic of Bosnia, who lost in the final of the Nike Masters.

For complete draws and qualifying results, see the TennisLink site.

The USTA's Australian Open wild card tournament begins at 11 a.m. on Friday, December 17 at Racquet Club of the South in Norcross, Ga., with the women's quarterfinals, followed by the men's at 3 p.m. CoCo Vandeweghe and Donald Young are the top seeds. For complete draws, see the tournament website. I understand from @stephiesports on twitter, that there will be a livestream of one men's and one women's match tomorrow. Follow her on twitter for more information and updates.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Dunlop Orange Bowl Slideshow, Videos

In a reversal of the Eddie Herr tournament's order, I'm posting the slideshow and videos from this past week's Dunlop Orange Bowl before my recap for Tennis Recruiting Network is published. That will go up on Friday.

Again, I will not be posting the videos of the four finalists at the Orange Bowl until I return to Michigan.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Eddie Herr Slideshow, Videos, Recap

My recap of the Eddie Herr was actually published last Friday at Tennis Recruiting, but I had so much going on at the Dunlop Orange Bowl that I didn't have an opportunity to link to it until now.

The slideshow and videos from the Eddie Herr are never as timely as I would like, but with back-to-back tournaments there is no way around the delay.

Due to the erratic nature of hotel ISPs, all this processing takes me approximately twice as long as it does at home, so I will not be putting up the videos of the finalists of the Eddie Herr and the Dunlop Orange Bowl until I return to Michigan. The 16s and 18s Eddie Herr winners are below. For the videos of the 12s and 14s champions, click on the player's name:
Katarina Jokic
Lee Duckhee
Francoise Abanda
Peter Ashley

Monday, December 13, 2010

Three Spots for USTA's U14 Boys Team Decided; Nike Masters, Little Mo In Progress; Shabaz in College Spotlight

Another cold front has come through South Florida, with the same record low temperatures and stiff wind that accompanied the previous one last week. Fortunately, I didn't have to be outside covering tennis today. After 17 straight days reporting live from the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl, I had the day off.

But just because I was working on my Eddie Herr slideshow, after washing suitcases full of laundry, doesn't mean there wasn't junior tennis being played. The finals of the round robin tournament the USTA holds each year for the 14-and-under trip to Teen Tennis and Les Petits As next month were held today in Boca Raton. Henrik Wiersholm defeated Eduardo Nava 6-4, 7-5 to take one of the two spots reserved for participants in the tournament. Francis Tiafoe defeated Aron Pierce 7-5, 6-1 to secure the other one. The other four players competing this weekend were Reilly Opelka, Robert Levine, Sameer Kumar and Tommy Paul. Stefan Kozlov, who is playing in the Nike Junior Masters tournament in the Bahamas this week (see below) will receive one of the two wild cards. The fourth player will be named during the Junior Orange Bowl, the main draw of which begins on Friday.

The Nike Junior Tennis International Masters tournament for 12s and 14s, boys and girls has completed its third day. Just 12, Kozlov, the 12s champion last year when the tournament was held in October, has reached the quarterfinals of the 14s this year. Nathan Ponwith, who won the U.S. B12s national competition Elizabeth Profit, who won the G14s national and Zandrix Acob, who won the B14s national, have been eliminated in the main draw. Cristina Rovira, the national 12s champion from the U.S., is in the semifinals, where she will face Eddie Herr 12s champion Katarina Jokic of Bosnia. For complete draws, see the tournament website.

The Little Mo International tournament, with divisions for 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 year olds, began today at the IMG/Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, Fla. For draws for that event, click here.

Qualifying for the Junior Orange Bowl 12s and 14s, which I'll be covering beginning Thursday, starts tomorrow morning, when temperatures are expected to be in the 30s. Draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

The USTA's Australian Open wild card tournament begins on Friday, and Michael Shabaz of the University of Virginia will be among the eight participants. This USTA College Spotlight Q and A explores his choice of college over pro tennis, why he selected Virginia and also how he came to be invited to compete for a place in the main draw of the Australian Open.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Davis Needs Three Sets, but Claims Girls 18s Orange Bowl Title; Morgan Wins First Championship for Great Britain

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Key Biscayne, FL--

"I'm so tired."

After three major ITF junior titles in three weeks, 17-year-old Lauren Davis could finally put aside the competitor-speak and admit it. But even after squandering two match points in the second-set tiebreaker against unseeded Grace Min, Davis didn't let discouragement or fatigue derail her quest for an 18th straight junior win, emerging after three hours and fifteen minutes with a 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-1 victory in the Dunlop Orange Bowl girls 18s championship match.

"It's been a long three weeks," said the eighth-seeded Davis, who had only three days off in the past 21. "It went by pretty fast, because I was enjoying myself winning. Now I get to take a two-day break and I have another tournament."

That tournament is for the USTA's Australian Open main draw wild card, and the other seven players invited know they'll face a extremely match-tough competitor in Atlanta this coming weekend.

"I feel prepared, especially going into the tournament with all this confidence; it's good for me," said Davis, who now lives in Boca Raton and trains at the Evert Academy there. "I'm going to take tomorrow off, and then I'll be fine again."

Min had lost to Davis in the semifinals of the Eddie Herr last Saturday, and down 4-1 and two breaks in the opening set, a repeat of that 6-2, 6-4 result seemed likely. Min didn't waiver mentally however, winning two straight games and earning two break points against Davis at 4-3. Nearly scraping her knees on the ground as she got down for backhands, the 5-foot-4 Min couldn't convert either, but had sent a message in the four-deuce game--she was not going away.

Although Davis broke Min in the next game to take the set, the momentum had shifted in Min's direction, and she took a 4-2 lead in the second set, breaking Davis at 2-2 with a preposterous running forehand pass from deep in the court. Davis got the break back in the eighth game, and although lengthy games were the rule, the next four games went to the server. The wind was beginning to be a major factor, not just a nuisance, with the gusts making for more than a few shanks and adventurous ball tosses.

In the tiebreaker, the first ten points went to the server, but with Min serving at 5-5, she was called for a foot fault. Min got her second serve in, but after a brief rally, Davis hit a forehand straight down the middle of the court that landed on the baseline and handcuffed Min, giving Davis her first match point.

Min saved it with a drop shot to bring Davis in and a stealthy forehand pass, but Davis immediately earned another with a forehand winner. On her second match point, Davis hit out, but her forehand missed. Davis hit a backhand wide on the next point, and Min converted her first set point when Davis hit a forehand wide after a long rally. The several hundred fans had seen nearly two and half hours of tennis, and the match was even.

After a bathroom break, Davis returned to break Min in the opening game, then lost her own serve to make it 1-1, but that was the last game Min would win.

"The wind picked up a lot, and I probably didn't notice it until it was too late," said the 16-year-old Min, from Lawrenceville, Ga. "I wasn't moving my feet enough with the amount of wind. I don't really know if I was tired or not, because I was filled with adrenalin, but I didn't really adjust to the conditions well."

Once Davis dug herself out of a 0-40 hole serving at 4-1 in the third set, saving four break points total, she was home free, with Min's forehand producing three straight errors after she had taken a 30-15 lead in her final service game.

Despite the loss, Min could see the strides she has made in her game in the past several weeks.

"I haven't had a bad week in a long time, and I feel I'm improving with each week," said Min, who trains at the USTA's National Center in Boca Raton. "Even since Eddie Herr, I've felt my game has gone to another level, and I hope I can just build on that going into the new year."

Davis, who has been mentored by 18-time Grand Slam singles champion Chris Evert since moving to the academy from Cleveland early this year, said Evert, who won the Orange Bowl 18s in 1969 and 1970, gave her a pep talk prior to the match.

"She told me to go for it all, that I have nothing to lose," said Davis, who shares with Evert a rock-solid two-handed backhand. "I'm playing really well, so just go for it."

Davis followed that advice and now has her first Grade A title and a junior winning streak that is likely to stay at 18 for a while. She is not planning on playing the Australian Open juniors, and will limit her junior play to the other three slams.

While Davis collected her first Orange Bowl title, Great Britain's George Morgan added the 18s title to the Junior Orange Bowl 14s championship he won in 2007, defeating Jannick Lupescu of the Netherlands 6-2, 6-3 Sunday afternoon. Although that title three years ago marked Morgan as a world-class junior, the 17-year-old from Manchester, England, believes this win is even bigger, although his experience helped.

"This means more to me, because obviously, the 18s is a stronger tournament," said Morgan, who is the first British player to win a 16s or 18s Orange Bowl singles title. "And I thought I started really well, because I knew what was coming in the finals of the Orange Bowl, I'd been there before."

Morgan, seeded ninth, jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first set, only to drop his serve in the next game. Lupescu, the No. 12 seed, couldn't work his way back into the set, however, with his serve and his down-the-line backhand, both so reliable all week, most often deserting him.

The second set started as the first had, with three straight holds, but this time when Morgan took a 3-1 lead, he didn't let go. Playing much steadier than Lupescu and cracking serve winners when needed, Morgan took a 5-1 lead and served for the match. A big serve got Morgan to 40-30, but the match wouldn't end there. Lupescu, sensing his last chance to insert himself in the match, played aggressively, forcing Morgan into a defensive position, and his desperation lob went long. The same scenario played out on the next point, and Lupescu won the game when Morgan double faulted, making it 5-2.

"I was nervous at the end, when I was trying to close the match out," said Morgan. "I lost my match point and he held, and I was break points down at 5-3, so I was almost lucky to take that then."

Lupescu's stellar backhand resurfaced in that 5-3 game, with two winners from that side giving him two break points. But that brief prosperity didn't last for the 17-year-old from S'Gravendeel.

"I got the break points, and I think that I have to make one of those," Lupescu said. "But I make a lot of stupid mistakes in the match, and it's good for him."

Two of those mistakes came in the next three points, all won by Morgan, and on his second match point, Morgan delivered an ace. Not inclined to theatrical displays, Morgan raised both arms in the air and allowed himself a smile, having collected one of the most prestigious titles in junior tennis.

Morgan, catching a flight back to England tonight, will no doubt be a celebrity in his tennis-centric country when he returns home, but he wasn't thinking much about that, instead considering how his family would react.

"I'll ring my mom when I get off the court, and she'll be over the moon," said Morgan, who is planning on playing the Australian Open junior championships. "I'm pleased, and hopefully I'll get spoiled for Christmas. I'm looking forward to going back."

The 18s doubles finals were also played on Sunday, with unseeded Lauren Herring and Madison Keys delivering another girls Orange Bowl title for the United States. Herring and Keys, playing together for the first time, defeated No. 5 seeds Margarita Gasparyan of Russia and Ganna Poznikhirenko of Ukraine 6-4, 0-6, 10-8.

Herring and Keys led the match tiebreaker 8-6, but two missed volleys--one by each of them--made it 8-8. Undeterred, Herring poached on the next point, put away the ball, and with Keys serving on match point, did it again. It wasn't the most classic volley, and the return may have been going out anyway, but it did the job.

"She had to go for the shank poach winner," said Keys, laughing. "No matter how far the ball's going out, she just has to go for it."

"I don't care where the ball goes, I'm going," Herring said. "They told me it was going out, but I hit it anyway."

Having lost the first set in their previous three matches, Keys and Herring weren't quite sure how to handle a lead, and in the second set lost four straight deciding deuce points, but they recovered claim the championship.

Herring has now collected two Orange Bowl doubles titles, having won the 16s championship with Grace Min in 2008, but that final was not played due to illness by one of the opponents.

"I'm excited, because when Grace and I won the 16s, we won it by default, so to win it 10-8, that was fun," Herring said.

"It definitely feels good to have the first place trophy again, not the second place trophy," said Keys, the 16s Orange Bowl singles finalist in 2008. "And obviously Lauren did some amazing volleys today that helped me get that trophy."

In the boys doubles championship match, Julien Cagnina and Jeroen Vanneste of Belgium won the battle of the unseeded finalists with a 7-6 (6), 4-6, 10-5 victory over Liam Broady of Great Britain and Nik Razborsek of Slovenia.

For complete results, see dunloporangebowl.com.