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Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Honor Roll

December 2011
Katerina Stewart, 14s Junior Orange Bowl
Claire Liu, 12s Junior Orange Bowl
Jennifer Brady & Kendal Woodard, ITF G1 Eddie Herr International (dbls)
Tornado Ali Black, 16s Eddie Herr International
Mariya Shishkina, 14s Eddie Herr International
Dominique Schaefer, 12s Eddie Herr International

November 2011
Luca Corinteli & Thai Kwiatkowski, ITF G1 Yucatan Cup (dbls)
Chalena Scholl, ITF Women's Circuit 10K, Montego Bay, Jamaica

October 2011
Mitchell Krueger, ITF B1 Pan American Closed
Taylor Townsend, ITF B1 Pan American Closed
Breaunna Addison & Catherine Harrison, ITF B1 Pan American Closed (dbls)
Danielle Collins, Pro Circuit 10K, Williamsburg, Va
Allie Kiick, Pro Circuit 10K, Amelia Island, Fla.
Jennifer Brady & Kendal Woodard, Pro Circuit 10K, Amelia Island, Fla. (dbls)

September 2011
Grace Min, US Open Junior Championships

August 2011
Jack Sock, 18s USTA National Championships
Lauren Davis, 18s USTA National Championships
Ronnie Schneider, 16s USTA National Championships
Peggy Porter, 16s USTA National Championships
Cameron Klinger, 14s USTA National Championships
Lauren Goodman, 14s USTA National Championships
Alex del Corral, 12s USTA National Championships
Catherine Bellis, 12s USTA National Championships

July 2011
Alexios Halebian, 18s USTA Clay Courts
Gabrielle Andrews, 18s USTA Clay Courts
Luca Corinteli, 16s USTA Clay Courts
Peggy Porter, 16s USTA Clay Courts
Reilly Opelka, 14s USTA Clay Courts
Madison Bourguignon, 14s USTA Clay Courts
Connor Hance, 12s USTA Clay Courts
Catherine Bellis, 12s USTA Clay Courts
WIlliam Kwok, ITF Grade 1 Casablanca (dbls)
Grace Min, Wimbledon Junior Championships (dbls)

June 2011
Kyle McPhillips, Pro Circuit 10K, Cleveland, Ohio
Noel Scott, ITF Women's Circuit 10K, Mexico
Stephanie Nauta, ITF Grade 1 Offenbach (dbls)
Bjorn Fratangelo, French Open Junior Championships

May 2011
Robin Anderson, Pro Circuit 10K, Landisville, Pa

April 2011
Marcos Giron, ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl
Kyle McPhillips, ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl
Mitchell Krueger & Shane Vinsant, ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl (dbls)
Gabrielle Andrews & Taylor Townsend, ITF Grade B1 (dbls)
Caroline Doyle, 16s USTA Easter Bowl
Gage Brymer, 16s USTA Easter Bowl
Ernesto Escobedo, 14s USTA Easter Bowl
Mariya Shishkina, 14s USTA Easter Bowl
Alex Del Corral, 12s USTA Spring Nationals
Sofia Kenin, 12s USTA Spring Nationals
Samantha Crawford, ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships
Marcos Giron, ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships
Yuki Chiang, 16s International Spring Championships
Noah Rubin, 16s International Spring Championships
Gabrielle Andrews & Taylor Townsend, ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships (dbls)
Mitchell Krueger & Shane Vinsant, ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships (dbls)
Yuki Chiang & Alexis Pereira, 16s International Spring Championships (dbls)
Robbie Bellamy & Gregory Garcia, 16s International Spring Championships (dbls)

March 2011
Zack McCourt, 18s USTA Spring Nationals
Danielle Collins, 18s USTA Spring Nationals

February 2011
Jack Sock, Pro Circuit Futures, Palm Coast (dbls)

January 2011
Henrik Wiersholm, Les Petits As
Stefan Kozlov, Teen Tennis
Stefan Kozlov & Henrik Wiersholm, Teen Tennis, (dbls)
William Kwok & Michael Rinaldi, ITF Grade 1 Coffee Bowl, (dbls)
William Kwok & Michael Rinaldi, ITF Grade A Casablanca Cup, (dbls)
Eric Johnson, 18s USTA Winter Nationals
Gabrielle Andrews, 18s USTA Winter Nationals
TJ Pura, 16s USTA Winter Nationals
Jamie Loeb, 16s USTA Winter Nationals
Stefan Kozlov, 14s USTA Winter Nationals
Maria Smith, 14s USTA Winter Nationals
William Blumberg, 12s USTA Winter Nationals
Sofia Kenin, 12s USTA Winter Nationals

Putintseva Wins $50K Title in Russia; Puig Through to Final Round of Qualifying in Auckland; Last Days to Vote in OTB Annual Awards

Eddie Herr champion and Orange Bowl finalist Yulia Putintseva of Russia won the $50,000 ITF Women's Circuit event this week in Russia, her fourth title of the year and the second $50K. The 16-year-old from Moscow didn't lose a set in her five wins, and in the final, beat 17-year-old Elina Svitolina of Ukraine, the 2010 Roland Garros girls champion, 6-4, 6-2. When I spoke to Putintseva after her win at the Eddie Herr, she said she played the two major junior events in the US primarily because there weren't many significant tournaments going on during that time, and she was close to her maximum of WTA/ITF events, which are limited due to her age. With her current WTA ranking of 246, she is not currently in the Australian Open qualifying, but she certainly would be a threat if she were to gain entry.

Eighteen-year-old Monica Puig of Puerto Rico is much closer to entry into the Australian Open qualifying, with her WTA ranking of 211, and she is already in the area, playing qualifying for the WTA Auckland event, which begins on Monday. Puig, a wild card, has won two rounds in qualifying, beating Bibiane Schoofs of the Netherlands in the first round, and taking out the fourth seed and No. 78 ranked player in the world, Sofia Arvidsson of Sweden, 6-3, 6-1 in the second round. Puig will play the winner of the match between Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic and wild card Claire Feuerstein of France for a place in the main draw. Americans Jamie Hampton, Irina Falconi, CoCo Vandeweghe, and Alison Riske have reached Sunday's second round of qualifying.

Zootennis has been nominated for Best Tennis Blog again this year by On The Baseline, the women's tennis news website. The voting for this and many other categories closes on January 2nd, so head on over to their site and choose your favorites. I appreciate the recognition and hope it helps spread the word that there's more to tennis than just the professional circuit.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Junior Orange Bowl Recap, Slideshow, Videos

Although the December Aces are still to come, I'm closing out my coverage of 2011 tournaments today, with my recap of the Junior Orange Bowl for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

The slideshow of the top six finishers in each of the four divisions is below, and I'm embedding the brief videos of the four champions, with links to the videos of the finalists, which can be found at the tenniskalamazoo YouTube channel.

Catherine Bellis video
Albert Lim video
Tornado Ali Black video
Stefan Kozlov video

Thursday, December 29, 2011

USTA's Year in Review for Junior and College Tennis; Witten Teaching, Undecided About Return to ATP Tour; Brisbane Qualifying Begins

The USTA has published its annual "year in review" summaries at usta.com, with the junior version coming out last week and the college version this week.

They are in the form of photo slideshows, a format change that I like, as readers of this blog would probably guess. I will be posting my Junior Orange Bowl slideshow and videos on Friday.

The only problem I have with the slideshow for the juniors (other than what I think are incorrect ages and home towns for a couple of players) is that it appears to have been put together prior to this month's tournaments, although Madison Keys' win at the Australian Open wild card tournament was mentioned. Katerina Stewart's and Mariya Shishkina's recent titles weren't mentioned and Tornado Ali Black didn't get any recognition for her Eddie Herr title. The 12s are basically ignored; whether that was due to lack of photos, I couldn't say. Certainly Catherine Bellis deserved mention for her Clay Court and Hard Court titles and Alex del Corral for his two gold balls in singles at the Spring Nationals and Hard Courts.

I was also disappointed that ITA All-American champions Mitchell Frank and Allie Will weren't given recognition for capturing those majors, and that there was no mention of college tennis teams or players outside of Division I. I know however that I am guilty of that bias too, so I understand the difficulties in trying to included everything.

I haven't yet had an opportunity to go back and catch up on what I missed in the tennis world while I was covering the Eddie Herr, Orange Bowl and Junior Orange Bowl, but I did stumble upon this article about Jesse Witten's current situation. Although the Naples News is reporting that the former University of Kentucky All-American has not yet decided whether he is going to retire, he doesn't appear to be training, and is teaching at the Tough Tennis Academy in Naples.

And the ever-so-brief off-season in tennis is coming to a close, with the women's qualifying for Brisbane beginning on Friday. Fifteen-year-old Ashleigh Barty of Australia received a wild card into qualifying and will play Vania King of the US, the top seed, in the first round. Former University of California standout Bojana Bobusic also received a wild card into the qualifying. Sloane Stephens and Chichi Scholl join King as the only Americans in the qualifying draw.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Golding Writes About US Open Junior Title; Ivy League Athletic Admissions Explained

A few days ago, the Telegraph published a first-person account by British 18-year-old Oliver Golding, which is centered around his US Open boys championship in September. Golding did not play a junior event after winning the title in New York, concentrating instead on the Futures circuit, where he has had notable success in doubles, winning four titles in the past four months with four different partners. His ATP ranking is now 643 in singles and 477 in doubles.

Although I don't recall hearing about it at the time, Golding reveals that his coach, Gustavo Perino, was killed in an auto accident in Mexico during Wimbledon, which understandably cost him his concentration during the junior event there. He reveals he had food poisoning early in the tournament in New York--for the second time in three years--but because of the all the rain, had sufficient time to recover. And he had another close call with his orthodontic plate, needing to go to the hospital when his tongue got caught in it, making for a very dramatic couple of weeks for the former child actor.

He doesn't have anything good to say about the trip out to Sound Shore, where two rounds were played on Thursday, calling the organization "shambolic" (a popular British word for chaotic). Golding doesn't quite have all his facts straight however, saying that if he had won at the Grade 1 in Canada the week before the US Open Juniors, he would have had to play consecutive days. The finals are on Saturday there, and although the USO juniors do start on Sunday, the finalists are always given Monday first round matches.

Golding also interpreted the indoor move to his advantage, saying his third round opponent, Bjorn Fratangelo is from Miami and probably had never seen an indoor court before, while Fratangelo, who winters in Naples on the other side of Florida, grew up in Pittsburgh, playing indoors.

He's been playing in Turkey recently, and has little good to say about the conditions there, which probably doesn't come as a surprise to anyone who regularly attends ITF Men's Circuit tournaments, although I think the Pro Circuit Futures here in the United States are likely to be superior to those in less affluent and established tennis countries.

And speaking of affluence, the New York Times published an interesting piece today by Bill Pennington on intercollegiate athletics in the Ivy League (thanks to @ustacollege10s for the heads up on this article). I have heard about the mysterious "AI" before, but this is the first detailed explanation I have ever read, and I probably need to read it again to truly understand it. Because it is very specifically related to the admission standards for athletes, including tennis players of course, as all the Ivies field men's and women's teams, it doesn't delve into the cost. The Ivy League offers no athletic scholarships, but their financial aid packages are often superior to any athletic scholarship, and I've heard Division I men's college coaches say it is often more expensive for a player to go to a public university than to an Ivy League school if the parents are typically middle class.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

First Junior Tournaments of 2012 Underway

Christmastime often revolves around traveling to a tournament for many national and international players, with two big tournaments that start in 2011 and finish in 2012, now underway.

The first ITF Grade A tournament of the 2012, the Abierto Juvenil Mexicano, previously known as the Casablanca Cup, began yesterday in Mexico City. The top boys seed is Nikova Milojevic of Serbia, who did not play the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl, and Yoshito Nishioka of Japan, who did, making the quarterfinals and semifinals respectively before falling to eventual champion Dominic Thiem of Austria.

The top girls seed is Ganna Poznikhirenko of Ukraine, a semifinalist at the Eddie Herr, with Zarah Razafimahatratra of Madagascar the No. 2 seed. Razafimahatratra struggled in the two tournaments last month, winning only one match at the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl, and the change to clay from hard courts, a last-minute switch announced by the ITF last month, probably did not enhance her prospects this week.

Five US boys qualified: Nikko Madregallejo, Luca Corinteli, Dan Kerznerman, Julian Zlobinsky and Martin Redlicki, with Farzin Amiri receiving entry as a lucky loser. Other US boys in the draw include No. 5 seed Connor Farren, Thai Kwiatkowski, Jordan Daigle and Trey Strobel. Daigle lost his first round match 6-4, 5-7 7-6(3) to No. 3 seed Fredrico Silva of Portugal, with Strobel winning his, over No. 6 seed Moos Sporken of the Netherlands, 5-7, 7-5, 7-5. Farren also advanced to the second round with a win on Monday.

There was one US girl who qualified, Lynn Chi, and she advanced to the second round with a win on Monday. Kyle McPhillips, the No. 4 seed, won her first round match in three sets, as did Blair Shankle. Jennifer Brady, the No. 7 seed, moved into the second round, as did Denise Starr and Vitaliya Alkhovik. Katrine Steffensen and June Lee, the other two US girls in the draw, haven't played their first round matches.

For the ITF's preview of the tournament, see the junior website.

The USTA Winter Nationals begin today in Tucson, Arizona for the 12s and 14s, and in Scottsdale, Arizona for the 16s and 18s.

The top two seeds in the boys 18s are Kristofer Yee and Jared Hiltzik, and the top two seeds in the girls 18s are Francis Altick and Mayo Hibi. An exceedingly tough section of the boys draw features No. 4 seed and Kalamazoo champion Ronnie Schneider, unseeded competitiors Jack Murray and Ryan Smith, and No. 17 seed Quentin Monaghan, who had the misfortune to draw Smith in today's first round.

The girls draw features a possible third round encounter between No. 9 seed Kimberly Yee and Julia Elbaba, a No. 17 seed, which would be an unexpectedly early exit for one of them.

The top seeds in the 16s are Gregory Garcia and Paul Oosterbaan in the boys draw, and Dasha Ivanova and Shanon Hudson in the girls draw.

In the 14s, Emma Higuchi and Kenadi Hance, both of whom played the Junior Orange Bowl, are the top two girls seeds, with Francis Tiafoe and Sameer Kumar the top two boys seeds. Tiafoe and Kumar just played in the consolation final of the Junior Orange Bowl on Friday, with Kumar winning 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Noah Makarome, who finished fourth at the Junior Orange Bowl, is the top seed in the boys 12s, with Noah Schachter the No. 2 seed. Ryan Peus and Kayla Day, both of whom played Junior Orange Bowl, are the top seeds in the girls 12s, with Junior Orange Bowl champion Claire Liu seeded No. 6.

The TennisLink site has been revamped recently and while the design change isn't a problem, the loading time is. I estimate that it now takes three to four times longer to load a page, which cannot be construed as an improvement for anyone using it. I hope this frustrating loading time issue is being monitored and addressed.

If you have the time to spare, here is the link to the 12s and 14s site. The 16s and 18s site is here.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays!

After a month of covering international junior tennis in Florida, I'm heading home to Kalamazoo for the holidays. I'll be taking a couple of days off, but I think you'll find plenty of content to review from the three big tournaments. And if you missed it earlier this week, here's the link to the interview with USTA National Lead Coach Mike Sell that I did for Tennis Recruiting Network.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Liu, Stewart and Hong Claim Junior Orange Bowl Titles

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Coral Gables, FL--

Miami’s Katerina Stewart is known as Killer Kat to her friends and family, who wore T-Shirts specially designed by her aunt to announce their allegiance in the girls 14s Junior Orange Bowl championship match.

Stewart, the No. 6 seed, proved the nickname is apt, upsetting top seed and Eddie Herr 16s champion Tornado Black 6-1, 6-3 in an impressive display of ruthless tennis on a warm and sunny morning at the University of Miami’s Schiff Tennis Center.

The 14-year-old Stewart, who trains at her father’s academy in Miami, showed no sign of nerves despite the big occasion, although she admitted after the match that the T-shirts embarrassed her a little.

“I love to have people watch me, so it really helped,” Stewart said of the several dozen supporters, who cheered loudly after her frequent winners. “I was anticipating a harder match, so it was a little surprising, but I stayed in the moment and played my game, and I won.”

Black opened the match with a hold, but Stewart played nearly error-free tennis in the games that followed, and Black could not find any rhythm. Black’s serve is not a weapon, but rather a point-starter, and Stewart was able to keep the rallies neutral, no easy task against the usually rock solid ground strokes of Black. Stewart broke Black in her next three service games, taking the first set with the last break.

In the second set, Black came out firing, holding easily and breaking Stewart to take a 2-0 lead. But rather than signaling a comeback, the lead quickly evaporated, and once again Stewart seized the momentum, winning five games in a row, the fifth a break of Black, who had a 40-0 lead in the game.

Serving for the match at 5-2, Stewart had her only stumble, saving one break point but not the second, as she sent a forehand way long.

“I was getting a little bit tight,” Stewart admitted. “But then I relaxed in the next game.”

Black made a critical error at 30-30, with her slice finding the net, giving Stewart her first championship point. It was the only one she would need, with Black putting a backhand into the net to give Stewart the coveted title, the third straight for an American girl.

“It means everything,” said Stewart, the first Miami girl to win a Junior Orange Bowl 14s title since Mary Joe Fernandez in 1983. “I’ve trained for this for so many years, and I’ve finally won it.”

Black acknowledged that she didn’t play particularly well, but credited Stewart.

“She played really well,” said the 13-year-old from Boca Raton, who admitted to fatigue after her long semifinal match with Ivana Jorovic of Serbia on Thursday. “I didn’t really play my best but I felt I had a really good attitude.”

Black will rest for a few weeks before heading to Teen Tennis and Les Petits As as a member of the USTA’s travel team.

The girls 12s champion, Claire Liu, doesn’t have the luxury of a long rest. The unseeded 11-year-old, who upset fellow Californian Catherine Bellis 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 in Friday morning’s final, is heading to the USTA Winter Nationals in Tucson in just a few days.

Liu, who trains at the USTA’s National Center in Carson, looked nervous and unsure of herself in the opening set against the 12-year-old Bellis, who is the reigning USTA Clay Court and Hard Court champion, but she fought back to take control of the match.

“I wasn’t really that focused and I wasn’t hitting the ball that much, I was just playing her speed, and I needed to play my speed,” Liu said.

That all changed in the second set, when Liu eliminated her unforced errors and began attacking.

“She was being more aggressive,” said Bellis, who will be competing the 14s at the Winter Nationals next week. “Claire played very well.”

Liu agreed that her level rose in the final two sets, and that losing the first set might have actually helped her.

“I just started relaxing a little bit more,” Liu said. “Since I had already lost the first set, I had nothing to lose. I like to hit on the rise and attack, come into the net and I played more aggressively in the second and third set.”

Liu got a late break to take the second set, and in the third maintained her edge, using short angles to Bellis’s backhand to great effect.

With Liu serving for the match at 5-3, she fell behind 30-40, but she didn’t back off or play tentatively. She kept the usually balanced Bellis lunging to her backhand side, forcing errors as she collected the final three points of the match.

“It feels really good,” said Liu, the second consecutive unseeded American to win the girls 12s Junior Orange Bowl title, following Nicole Frenkel's title in 2010. “I don’t know yet how I’m going to celebrate,” she added, although she did indulge in one of the oranges in her winner’s bowl.

Seongchan Hong of Korea collected his second winner’s bowl Friday, beating Stefan Kozlov of the US for the second time in three years in a Junior Orange Bowl final.

In the boys 12s final in 2009, Hong won in straight sets, but Friday’s 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-4 win taxed the physical and mental resources of both players. The pair battled for over three hours in 80-degree temperatures under the midday sun, and it wasn’t until Hong saved two break points at 4-4 in the third set that the match tilted in his favor for good.

The ninth-seeded Hong, with his right knee wrapped, came up with three impressive forehands after Kozlov had hit a perfect lob winner to get a second break point. On the deciding game point, Hong hit a tough forehand angle that Kozlov’s considerable anticipation skills could not detect, and Hong had the lead.

The match often resembled a Davis Cup tie, with several dozen Korean juniors assembled to support Hong, with Korean flags and orchestrated cheers with rhythmic clapping. The fourth-seeded Kozlov, who grew up in South Florida, also had his share of supporters, who waved small American flags while a much larger one countered the Korean flags hanging from the railings.

Kozlov said after the match that the Korean contingent didn’t bother him, but during a tough service game at 3-4 in the third set, he hit a winner and shouted “be quiet” in their direction. Whether they understood him or not is debatable, but they certainly didn’t comply, with their cheers continuing throughout the four-deuce ninth game.

Serving to stay in the match, Kozlov had a lengthy conversation with the chair umpire after he had called a ball long, but continued to play, ultimately losing the point. The chair said he didn’t hear Kozlov’s call, so the point went to Hong, and after a forehand error, Kozlov was suddenly down two match points. Hong missed the first, hitting his finishing volley into the net, but he came up with an overhead winner on the second match point.

With the win, Hong becomes the first 12s winner to take the 14s title since Australia’s Bernard Tomic accomplished that feat in 2004 and 2006, with Tomic also defeating the same opponent—David Souto of Venezuela—in both finals.

After trailing 3-0 in the opening set, down two breaks, Kozlov fought back, winning the tiebreaker, but he lagged in the second set.

“In the second set, I don’t know, I sort of lost all my energy,” said the 13-year-old. “I just wasn’t stable enough and I missed too many free points. Key points, I didn’t play well.”

Hong admitted that he was beginning to cramp, but he didn’t sense any fatigue on Kozlov’s side of the net.

“I didn’t notice that,” said Hong, who trains at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton. “I just focused on my playing.”

Although many points were played in the style of boys 12s, there were many others that displayed the quick reflexes, dazzling court sense and speed of both players. Hong said he had believed he had to be aggressive to win.

“If I approach the match defensive, I lose one hundred percent,” he said. “I was trying to be aggressive today.”

Hong also noted that Kozlov’s style had changed since they last played.

“Two years ago he was really defensive,” said Hong, who led Korea to its first ITF World Junior 14-and-under team championship in August. “Now he can hit the ball hard sometimes and it’s very tough to control that ball.”

Hong reached the Eddie Herr final and won the Nike Masters International the weekend prior to the Junior Orange Bowl, so he is ready for a break from tennis. But although he is tired, he was very pleased with his second Junior Orange Bowl championship.

“It’s better than two years ago,” he said. “I’m really happy.”

Sasha Zverev of Germany finished in third place in the boys 14s when Canadian Alejandro Tabilo did not play. Ivana Jorovic of Serbia took third place in the girls 14s with a 6-0, 3-6, 6-1 win over Chloe Ouellet-Pizer of the US. Fifth place in the boys 14s went to Sameer Kumar of the US, who beat Francis Tiafoe, also of the US, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 Mathilde Armitano of France took fifth place in the girls 14s, beating Shilin Xu of China 6-3, 6-0.

In the girls 12s, Riley McQuaid of the US finished third, with a 6-4, 6-2 win over American Nicole Conard. Anna Bright of the US finished fifth, beating Andreea Bosca of Romania 6-1, 2-6, 6-4.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hong & Kozlov Meet Again in Boys 14s Final; Girls 12s & 14s Feature All-American Finals; Dubrivny Adds Junior Orange Bowl Title in Boys 12s

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Coral Gables, FL--


Thursday's boys 12s final didn't include a United States player, but it's the only Junior Orange Bowl championship match without one. Friday's girls 12s and 14s are all-American affairs, and Stefan Kozlov will attempt to capture the Junior Orange Bowl title that eluded him two years ago against the same opponent, Seongchan Hong.

Hong captured the 2009 boys 12s title, beating Kozlov 6-4, 6-2, a measure of revenge for the Korean, who had lost to Kozlov in the Eddie Herr final just weeks before.

After convincing wins on a partly cloudy and warm day at the Schiff Tennis Center at the University of Miami, the two will meet again for the first time since that final to decide the boys 14s championship.

Kozlov, the No. 4 seed, beat No. 7 seed Sasha Zervev of Germany 6-1, 6-1, while Hong rolled past No. 6 seed Alejandro Tabilo of Canada 6-1, 6-0, avenging his loss to Tabilo in the Eddie Herr final.

After playing a four-hour match against friend and compatriot Henrik Wiersholm Wednesday afternoon, Kozlov was surprised and delighted to have such an easy semifinal.

"I felt sore and tired," said the 13-year-old from Pembroke Pines, Florida, who now lives and trains at the USTA National Center in Boca Raton. "But with just one match a day, it's not that hard for me."

Zverev fell behind early, as Kozlov had no trouble with the German's pace and was able to redirect it to his advantage throughout the match.

"I thought it was going to be a lot closer," Kozlov said. "But I just played for every game and took the match easy."

Kozlov is expecting a more mature style of play now that the pair have two more years of physical growth and game experience.

"Tomorrow is going to be a different game, we're going to be attacking more," he said. "It's not going to be the counterpunching stuff, it's going to be more coming in, and whoever fights harder is going to come through."

Hong denied Kozlov the Eddie Herr - Junior Orange Bowl double two years ago, but this year Artem Dubrivny of Russia claimed both titles, as the top seed defeated unseeded qualifier Albert "AJ" Lim of the Philippines 7-6(3), 6-1 Thursday morning at Salvadore Park.

Dubrivny struggled with Lim's power in the first few games of the match, falling behind 3-1, but he recovered and began to use more strategy. Dubrivny began to use drop shots with regularity, and the much bigger Lim struggled moving forward.

Whether it was his 11 matches in nine days, his nerves or his opponent, Lim also didn't serve as well as he had in his previous wins, and Dubrivny also attacked the second serves well.

The 12-year-old from Moscow played a much steadier tiebreaker, with Lim making several costly unforced errors. Dubrivny discovered short cross court angles to Lim's forehand were especially effective in producing errors, and he built a 5-0 lead in the second set, although all those games were close ones.

"Because he is so big, I have to move him a lot around the court," Dubvriny said, with translation provided by one of his coaches, Katya. "That's the way to beat him."

Dubvriny wasn't familiar with Lim, who did not play the Eddie Herr, watching him play for the first time on Wednesday. But his strategy worked to perfection and he became the first Russian boy to win a Junior Orange Bowl title, although records are incomplete prior to 1998.

"I did not know I was the first," said a smiling Dubrivny. "It feels great."

Another Eddie Herr champion will be going for a Junior Orange Bowl title Friday when 16s winner Tornado Black meets Katerina Stewart in the 14s championship match.

Stewart, the No. 6 seed, set up her first meeting with Black by defeating No. 8 seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer 6-4, 6-0, Stewart's sixth consecutive straight-set win.

"I'm playing very well," admitted Stewart, who is from Miami, and considers the Junior Orange Bowl her home tournament. "I love playing at home and I like the atmosphere."

Stewart started slowly against Ouellet-Pizer, which she attributed to nerves.

"I was a little bit nervous in the beginning, so I wasn't thinking one hundred percent," she said. "But once I got used to her ball, and I started playing my game, it was over after that."

While Stewart's match was less than ninety minutes long, top seed Black got her first real test of the tournament from Ivana Jorovic of Serbia. Black prevailed 6-2, 7-5, but it took her two-and-a-half hours and four match points to do so.

The first set, although long, was relatively straightforward, but Jorovic began to dial in on her backhand and serve more effectively in the second set. Serving at 2-3, Black was facing a break point when she asked for the trainer during the game, which Jorovic and her supporters did not believe was within the rules. Black's request was granted however, and the trainers gave her ice and liquids before she resumed play.

Jorovic won the next point, taking a 4-2 lead, but Black got it back in the very next game and held for 4-4. That was the last hold for a while, as Jorovic was broken, and serving for the match, so was Black.

The 13-year-old from Boca Raton had a match point at 40-30, but netted a backhand, a rare error from her, and Jorovic hung tough taking the next two points to make it 5-5. Jorovic couldn't build on that opportunity however, losing the next game with a costly double fault and two forehand errors.

Although Jorovic's backhand is every bit as solid as Black's, the American had the advantage on the forehand side, and once Black maneuvered the rallies in that direction, she was usually able to force an error.

Serving for the match for the second time, Black took a 40-15 lead, but she missed an easy volley on the first match point, second overall, and netted a forehand on the second. Another forehand to forehand rally ended in Black's favor for match point No. 4, and this time Jorovic framed a backhand, putting Black in her first Junior Orange Bowl final.

Black's older sister Nicole Pitts won the Junior Orange Bowl title back in 2000, and she was in the stands on Thursday, although Black said she kept her advice to a minimum.

"Having my sister's support is really great, I appreciate it," said Black, who is now training at the USTA's Boca Raton Center. "She cheers me on during my match and always tells me to go out and do my best."

Pitts, who will be starting medical school next year, also told Black to finish the large bottle of Pedilyte sitting in front of her, part of the preparation for Friday's meeting with Stewart.

"It doesn't really matter, my opponent," said Black, who is comfortable with the top seeding and the target that makes her. "I'll just go out there and fight. I was seeded three last year, so I kind of know what that feels like, and I don't really feel any pressure, I just ignore it all."


The girls 14s final is an all-Florida contest, while the girls 12s is all-California, with Northern California's Catherine "CC" Bellis against Southern California's Claire Liu.

Liu, from Thousand Oaks, handled another unseeded American, Riley McQuaid, taking a quick 6-0, 6-0 decision Thursday morning at the University of Miami. Bellis, a No. 1 seed, had more difficulty with 11-year-old Texan Nicole Conard, but came through with a 7-5, 6-2 victory.

Conard and Bellis had had a tough semifinal match at the USTA Clay Courts this summer, which Bellis won in three sets.

"I knew it was going to be a hard match, so I knew I had to play really well to win," said the 12-year-old Bellis, who lives in Atherton. "My shots go a little bit further on hard courts, but I think I played well."

Bellis, who won the gold balls at both the Clay Courts and the Nationals, is playing in her first Junior Orange Bowl, and only her second international tournament, but she hasn't found the competition level to be much different from a USTA event. She lost only ten games in her first five matches, and she had an impressive 6-1, 6-0 victory over Eddie Herr finalist Sofya Zhuk of Russia in the quarterfinals.

"It's pretty much the same," Bellis said. "Some are better, some are worse."

Bellis and Liu have never played, but Bellis has a strategy.

"I need to get it deep, get heavy balls to her backhand, and wait for the short ball," Bellis said.

The schedule for Friday is for both girls finals at 9 a.m. and the boys final at 10:30 a.m.

In the boys 12s, third place went to No. 6 seed Ergi Kirkin of Turkey, who beat Noah Makarome of the US, a No. 9 seed, 7-5, 6-4. The consolation title, which is fifth place, went to Sam Riffice of the US, a No. 9 seed, who beat Benjamin Sigouin of Canada 5-7, 7-5, 10-5.

Complete results are available at the TennisLink site.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Qualifier Lim Meets Top Seed Dubrivny for Boys 12s Title: Seven US Girls in 12s & 14s Semis: Kozlov Outlasts Wiersholm in B14s at Junior Orange Bowl

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Coral Gables, FL--

Qualifier Albert Lim of the Philippines has won ten matches in the boys 12s division in the past eight days, but he showed no signs of tiring in his two matches today at Salvadore Park. The 12-year-old from Manila cruised past two the top 12-year-olds in the United States today, beating No. 2 seed Alex del Corral in the quarterfinals and Noah Makarome, a No. 9 seed, in the semifinals, with both wins by 6-2, 6-1 scores.

Makarome had battled fellow American Sam Riffice for more than two-and-a-half hours in the morning before coming away with a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 quarterfinal victory, so his energy reserves for the semifinal were bound to be depleted, while Lim had a much shorter match against del Corral.

Lim, a powerfully built right-hander with serious pace on his serve and forehand, will face top seed and Eddie Herr champion Artem Dubrivny of Russia in the final. Dubrivny was tested in his quarterfinal match with unseeded Juan Otegui of Argentina, pulling out a 7-5, 7-5 win in the morning match, but he needed less than an hour to defeat No. 6 seed Ergi Kirkin of Turkey 6-1, 6-0 in the afternoon's semifinal.

At the girls 12s at the Biltmore Tennis Center, there was much better news for the United States players, as all four Americans in the quarterfinals won their matches and advanced to the semifinals, assuring the US a second straight Junior Orange Bowl Girls 12s champion, after Nicole Frenkel's win in 2010. Like Frenkel was last year, three of the girls are unseeded, with only Catherine Bellis receiving one of the 16 No. 1 seeds.

Bellis disposed of Eddie Herr finalist Sofya Zhuk, also a No. 1 seed, 6-1, 6-0, and will play Nicole Conard in the semifinals. Conard downed Andreea Rosca of Romania 6-4, 7-6(4) in Wednesday's quarterfinals. The other semifinal, which also will be held at the University of Miami's Schiff Tennis Center on Thursday, will feature Claire Liu and Riley McQuaid. Liu beat Ana Biskic of Croatia, the recent Little Mo International 12s champion, 7-5, 6-2, while McQuaid took out Vanessa Wong of Canada, a No. 1 seed, 6-4, 6-3.

The girls 14s quarterfinals, which moved from Key Biscayne to the University of Miami on Wednesday, produced three winner from the United States. Top seed Tornado Ali Black again rolled past her opponent, beating American Marie Norris, a No. 9 seed, 6-0, 6-0. Black will play the only international girl still in the Junior Orange Bowl, No. 7 seed Ivana Jorovic of Serbia, who surprised No. 3 seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia 6-1, 6-4.

Local favorite Katerina Stewart of Miami, the No. 6 seed, also had no difficulty advancing to the semifinals, beating unseeded Ye Qiuyu of China without the loss of a game. She will face No. 8
seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer, who defeated unseeded Ellie Halbauer of the US 6-2, 6-3.

Ouellet-Pizer, a semifinalist at the Easter Bowl this year, wasn't expecting to find herself in the same position at this year's Junior Orange Bowl.

"I was kind of surprised I was seeded eighth," said Ouellet-Pizer, of Chapel Hill, NC. "Last year I only won one round in the back draw and I had to qualify, so this year we just wanted to get into main draw. But I'm doing really good this year."

Ouellet-Pizer knew she had to find a way to counter the heavy hitting of Halbauer.

"Ellie's a really good player, she hits the ball really hard," the left-hander said. "I had to make her hit a lot of balls, because she can miss. When she's on, she can go on fire, so I just had to stay really solid on her loose games."

Ouellet-Pizer enjoyed being on the Sony Ericsson courts at Key Biscayne, but the move to the more intimate University of Miami site provided her with extra incentive.

"Key Biscayne is really pretty, but I like it here, because I like having an audience for my matches," Ouellet-Pizer said. "I think it's cool to play on the same courts as these great college players play."

With most of the matches in the boys and girls 14s brief, the only audience that really gathered was for the all-American boys 14s quarterfinal between No. 5 seed Henrik Wiersholm and No. 4 seed Stefan Kozlov on court 6. Wiersholm and Kozlov battled for just over four hours before Kozlov came away with a 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-4 victory.

Wiersholm had four set points in the opening set, with Kozlov serving at 3-5, but couldn't covert them and Kozlov secured the first set with two straight breaks. After trailing 3-1 in the second set, Wiersholm not only got the break back, but served for the set at 6-5. He was unable to convert two set points in that game however, and in the tiebreaker, let two more set points slip away after taking a 6-3 lead. But with Kozlov serving at 5-6 in the tiebreaker, Wiersholm came up with a big forehand that Kozlov couldn't handle, and two-and-a-half hours after the match started, the two took a 10-minute break before beginning the third.

Part of the reason for the length of the match was the number of deuce games and prolonged points. Each player held his first three service games, with Kozlov getting the first break to take a 4-3 lead. The 13-year-old Floridian gave it right back however, as Wiersholm pounced on a second serve at 30-40 to make it 4-4.

Wiersholm, who had called for a trainer early in the second set, may have been tiring, as he was broken for a second straight time in the next game, with unforced errors the primary culprit.

Serving for the match, Kozlov took a 40-0 lead with a lovely slice lob winner, but was unable to get a first serve in on the next two points, which ended with errors from Kozlov. When he missed a volley to make it deuce, it looked as if the match might make it into its fifth hour, but Kozlov redeemed his previous miss with a volley winner to give himself a fourth match point. A good first serve and a forehand volley winner gave Kozlov the win, an emotional one over a longtime rival and friend.

"It was pretty tough," said Kozlov, who now trains full-time at the USTA National Center in Boca Raton. "On the tennis court you can't really have friends. We're friends after the match, but it's really tough, I don't know how he's going to take the match--negatively or positively."

Kozlov was surprised to hear that he and Wiersholm had been playing for four hours.

"That's how much I've improved physically," Kozlov said. "I used to die at three hours, and now I've played for four hours and I have energy still after the match. I had no idea it was four hours, I thought it was three or two and a half hours."

Next up for Kozlov is No. 7 seed Sasha Zverev of Germany, who beat No. 2 seed Cameron Klinger of the US 6-1, 6-4.

"I've never played him, but we practice sometimes," said Kozlov, who admitted he needed some real rest this evening in preparation for Thursday's semifinal. "I'm looking forward to tomorrow and hope I can succeed again."

The other boys 14s semifinal is a rematch of the Eddie Herr final. No. 6 seed Alejandra Tabilo of Canada beat unseeded Socrates Tsoronis of Australia 6-4, 6-4 to set up another contest with Seongchan Hong of Korea. Hong, a No. 9 seed, defeated No. 16 seed Tommy Paul of the US 6-3, 6-4 and will attempt to avenge his 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 loss to the Canadian left-hander in the Eddie Herr final.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

My Interview with Mike Sell

Before I begin a busy day, which includes both the quarterfinals and semifinals at the Junior Orange Bowl boys 12s, here's a link to the recent interview I did for the Tennis Recruiting Network with USTA Lead National Coach Mike Sell.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Paul Beats Top Seed in B14s at Junior Orange Bowl; Four US Girls and Three US Boys in 12s Quarterfinals

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Coral Gables, FL--

Top seed Bogdan Borza of Romania had been living on the edge in the boys 14s Junior Orange Bowl competition this week at the University of Miami, but he met his match Tuesday afternoon in No. 16 seed Tommy Paul of the US, who came back to defeat the European 14s champion 1-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(5).

Borza had saved five match points in his first round match with lucky loser Kaden Funk of the US, and when Paul was unable to convert either of his two match points with Borza serving at 4-5 in the third set, it looked as if the slender left-hander might once again wriggle free.

On the first match point, Borza came up with a forehand winner that was simply too good, but Paul had reason to regret the second, when he was in control of the point, only to miss a volley.

Paul then faced down a break point of his own, serving at 5-5, when Bogdan badly missed a forehand return of a second serve. Paul went on to hold, as did Borza, and a tiebreaker would decide who would move on to the quarterfinals.

At 4-4 in the tiebreaker, Paul somehow got to a very good drop shot and scooped it back over the net, and a stunned Borza, already mentally depositing the point in his account, netted his forehand reply.

"I didn't think I was going to get to it," admitted Paul.

Borza was so upset by the outcome of the point that he threw his racquet to the other side of the net, but was not penalized by the roving official watching the match. Borza recovered his composure and won the next point to make it 5-5, but it was then that Paul came up with the biggest shot of the match, a down-the-line forehand winner that Borza had no chance to get a racquet on.

"I told myself, I've got to be aggressive here," said Paul, who trains at the USTA's Boca Raton National Center. "If I lose the point, I can still serve my way out of it."

Paul was aware of Borza's Houdini-like escapes, so he knew he couldn't squander his third match point.

Paul got his first serve in, Borza made the return, but with his next shot caught the net with a forehand, giving Paul one of his biggest wins.

"It's probably at the top, with Zverev," said Paul, who had beaten Germany's Sasha Zverev in a third set tiebreaker in the third round of the recent Eddie Herr. "It's one of my best wins, I think, so far."

Paul will play No. 9 seed and Nike International Masters champion Seongchan Hong of Korea in Wednesday's quarterfinals. Hong beat No. 8 seed Francis Tiafoe of the US 6-0, 6-4. Paul and Hong have never played in a tournament, but do have some competitive history.

"I'm at the USTA and he's at Evert, so we do practice matches sometimes," said Paul. "We know each other's games, and the matches are usually pretty close."

The other boys 14s quarterfinal match in the top half has unseeded Socrates Tsoronis of Australia against Eddie Herr champion Alejandro Tabilo of Canada, the No. 6 seed. In an all-American quarterfinal, No. 5 seed Henrik Wiersholm will face No. 4 seed Stefan Kozlov, and in the bottom quarterfinal, No. 7 seed Zverev will play No. 2 seed Cameron Klinger of the US, the USTA National 14s champion. Klinger had his toughest match of the tournament this afternoon, but managed to subdue qualifier Basil Khuma of India 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

The boys 12s quarterfinals and semifinals will be played on Wednesday on the Har-Tru courts of Salvadore Park. Top seed and Eddie Herr champion Artem Dubrivny dropped his first set of the tournament to Camilo Ugo Carabelli of Argentina, a No. 9 seed, but roared back to take a 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-0 decision. He will play another Argentinian, unseeded Juan Otegui in the quarterfinals. No. 3 seed Alexei Popyrin of Australia will meet No. 6 seed Ergi Kirkin of Turkey in the other quarterfinal in the top half.

All three Americans are in the bottom half, with Sam Riffice and Noah Makarome, both No. 9 seeds, playing each other for a spot in the semifinals.

Makarome took out No. 4 seed Patrick Kypson of the US 7-5, 6-4, while Riffice beat Nicolas Mejia of Colombia 6-3, 6-1.

Riffice is from Northern California, where clay courts are few, but he did get an opportunity to practice on the surface before heading to Florida for his first Orange Bowl.

"One of our friends has a clay court in their backyard, so they let us use it a couple of times of week," Riffice said. "So that was pretty helpful."

Riffice has lost only ten games in his four matches, and is pleased with his level of play, rating an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. He and Makarome played at the Winter Nationals a year ago, with Makarome winning 6-4, 6-2.

"I played him on hard court and lost, so I'm happy to play him again," said Riffice.

The fourth quarterfinal will feature qualifier Albert Lim of the Philippines against No. 2 seed Alex del Corral of the US. Del Corral advanced over Great Britain's Dominic West, 6-4, 7-6(5), in a match that was every bit as close as the score would suggest.

In the girls 12s, there are four US girls remaining, all in different quarters of the draw.

Unseeded Riley McQuaid will play Vanessa Wong of Canada, a No. 1 seed and unseeded Claire Liu will play unseeded Ana Biskic of Croatia in the top half. In the bottom half, unseeded Nicole Conard of the US will face unseeded Andreea Rosca of Romania. Two No. 1 seeds will meet in the fourth quarterfinal with USTA 12s champion Catherine Bellis playing Sofya Zhuk of Russia, the Eddie Herr finalist.

In the girls 14s, which will move from Key Biscayne to the University of Miami on Wednesday, five US girls remain in contention for the title.

Top seed Tornado Black will play Marie Norris, a No. 9 seed, in one of the all-American quarterfinals. The other will feature No. 8 seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer and unseeded Ellie Halbauer. American Katerina Stewart, the sixth seed, faces unseeded Ye Qiuyu of China, and Croatia's Ana Konjuh, the No. 3 seed, will meet No. 7 seed Ivana Jorovic of Serbia.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Eddie Herr Champions Shishkina and Schaefer Fall in Junior Orange Bowl Third Round

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Coral Gables, FL--

Both boys Eddie Herr champions are still alive in their quest for back-to-back titles, with 12s winner Artem Dubrivny of Russia and 14s champion Alejandro Tabilo of Canada cruising through in straight sets in their first three matches. But on a breezy Monday in South Florida, both Eddie Herr 14s champion Mariya Shishkina and 12s winner Dominique Schaefer of the US lost three-set battles, ending their dreams of an Orange Bowl title.

The No. 2 seed, Shishkina lost to Emma Higuchi of the US 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. Although I saw only parts of the second set, it was obvious that Higuchi was capable of staying with Shishkina in the long rallies and was able to withstand the pressure of the three or four consecutive well-struck balls that Shishkina relies on to get errors from her opponents. Higuchi, who trains at the USTA National Center in Carson, will play another American in the round of 16 Tuesday, Ellie Halbauer, who beat American Ndindi Ndunda, a No. 9 seed 6-3, 6-1. The whole bottom quarter is made up of Americans, already assuring a semifinalist. Usue Arconada beat Romanian Jacqueline Cristian 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 and will play No. 8 seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Star Makarome.

In addition to those four, there are six other Americans still in the girls 14s draw. Top seed Tornado Ali Black had no trouble with Meredith Xepoleas of the US, taking the match 6-1, 6-0. With her win at the Eddie Herr in the 16s division, the 13-year-old Black is on the must-see list of anyone interested in junior tennis, but today's match simply wasn't close enough to keep the fans attention. Black doesn't make many unforced errors, and Xepoleas, today at least, did which combined to produce the lopsided score.

Black is joined in the round of 16 by Americans Marie Norris and Mia Horvit, No. 9 seeds, qualifier Bridget Forster, No. 6 seed Katerina Stewart and Maria Smith.

One of the favorites in the draw, No. 3 seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia, who just won the Nike Junior International Masters title, struggled in her match with Natalia Vikhlyantseva of Russia, but got through by a 6-7(6), 6-1, 6-4 score. Konjuh failed to convert on four set points in the opening set, and up 6-3 in the tiebreaker, lost five straight points, but still managed to maintain her composure to come back in three sets.

The boys 14s round of 16 doesn't have quite as many Americans as the girls 14s, but still has an impressive number with seven. All six US boys seeded have advanced with No. 2 seed Cameron Klinger, No. 4 seed Stefan Kozlov and No. 5 seed Henrik Wiersholm getting through today's third round in straight sets. No. 8 seed Francis Tiafoe, No. 12 seed Sameer Kumar and No. 16 seed Tommy Paul also reached the fourth round, as did qualifier William Blumberg.

The US could have had exactly half of the boys remaining had 12s Junior Orange Bowl champion Michael Mmoh been able to close out qualifier Basil Khuma of India. Mmoh couldn't convert his set points in the opening set, which Khuma won in a tiebreaker 7-8(8). Khuma served for the second set at 5-4, but Mmoh broke, held and broke to send the match into a third set, and he had a 2-0 lead to start the final set, but Khuma hung tough, despite the disappointment of again failing to serve the match out at 5-4 in the third. Using some deft drop shots and uncannily accurate lobs, Khuma served for the match for a third time after breaking Mmoh for a 6-5 lead. Again Khuma, who trains at the IMG Bollettieri Academy, as does Mmoh, fell behind when attempting to serve it out, but he survived a long rally at 30-40 when he combined a drop shot with a passing shot to bring it to deuce. Mmoh missed a return to give Khuma his first match point, and he converted it with a down the line backhand winner to claim the victory, which ended under the lights, three and a half hours after it began.

In the girls 12s, Schaefer lost to qualifier Shweta Sangwan of India 6-4, 5-7, 6-4. There are only six seeds remaining in the girls 12s, including two Americans: Catherine Bellis and Jaeda Daniel. Other Americans to advance to the round of 16 are Riley McQuaid, qualifier Sofia Sewing, Claire Liu, Nicole Conard and lucky loser Polina Kiseleva.

The boys 12s has the fewest Americans remaining with only five in the round of 16, all of them seeded: No. 2 Alex del Corral, No. 4 Patrick Kypson and No. 9 seeds Alexandre Rotsaert, Sam Riffice and Noah Makarome.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Keys, Levine Earn Main Draw Wild Cards to Australian Open

Madison Keys and Jesse Levine won main draw wild cards in to next month's Australian Open today at the Racquet Club of the South in Norcross, Georgia.

The sixth-seeded Keys, who also won the US Open wild card tournament back in August, beat No. 5 seed Gail Brodsky 6-3, 6-4, while No. 2 seed Levine streaked past No. 4 seed Robby Ginepri 6-0, 6-2, 6-1.

At 16, Keys will not be the youngest player in the draw however, as Australia's Ashleigh Barty, just 15, won a similar tournament last week in Australia.

For a complete review of the final matches, see Steve Pratt's story for the USTA.

Top B14s Seed Borza Survives Another Tough Test; US Girls Continue Strong Showing in Junior Orange Bowl 12s

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Coral Gables, FL--

After boys 14s top seed Bogdan Borza of Romania had saved match points in the first round, the likelihood of more drama from the European champion probably wasn't high, but I wanted to see him play, and I knew American qualifier Aron Pierce would present some problems for him in Sunday afternoon's second round match.

I spent an hour watching the boys 12s at Salvadore Park, with top seed Artem Dubrivny looking very strong again in a 6-0, 6-2 win over Alex Rushin of the US, so I decided to go to the University of Miami to watch Pierce and Borza before heading to Key Biscayne to see some of the girls 14s.

The match, which fortunately was played on court 1, which provides ample seating, great viewing and some shade, was close from the start, with seven straight holds. Pierce got the first real opportunity in the eighth game, with two break points in the three-deuce game but he missed a return and then a forehand and the Romanian lefthander held. Pierce was broken in the next game, giving Bogdan a break point with a double fault, and Bogdan immediately converted, hitting a great return on an excellent first serve that Pierce couldn't handle. Bogdan held to take the first set 6-4.

Pierce's serve was the biggest shot on the court, and he probably averaged two free points a service game when he got it in. With that ability to hold serve Bogdan was immediately in trouble when he lost his first service game of the second set to go down 2-0. Pierce wasn't holding at love in his service games, but he was able to come up with big serves when he needed the, and he hit one running forehand passing shot that brought appreciate applause from the spectators scattered around the court. He held on to take the second set 6-3.

Bogdan showed some good court speed and instincts but didn't have a shot that was as effective as Pierce's serve. In the third set, Bogdan seemed to be increasingly agitated, talking to himself loudly when he missed a shot, and the level of play from both players dropped. Errors began to shorten points, and Pierce's first serve percentage began to drop. When Pierce, a 14-year-old from Houston, was broken serving at 2-3 in the third, it looked like Bogdan would survive, but it wasn't quite that easy.

Bogdan faced two break points at 15-40 serving at 4-2, but Pierce made two forehand errors, and Bogdan won the next two points to claim a 5-2 lead. Pierce couldn't get his first serve working in the final game, and was broken at 15 to give Borza a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 win, in just over two and a half hours.

"His serve is very good, his serve is unbelievable," said Bogdan, who admitted two long matches in consecutive days was not ideal for energy conservation. "When he served his first serve it was very hard for me to return. The second serve, sometimes I knew how to return it."

Bogdan, who trains in Bucharest, was relieved to have survived again.

"It's better to play very short match, so the end of the week I'm okay," he said. "But it's okay. The important thing is that I won."

Due to the length of that match and the storm clouds looming over Key Biscayne, I did not go out to Crandon Park. I missed what I had anticipated would be a very good second round match, and by the looks of the score it was, with American Jessica Ho defeating No. 4 seed Naiktha Bains of Australia 2-6, 6-1, 7-5. Mariya Shishkina, the No. 2 seed, did not have to face Eddie Herr finalist Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine in the second round after all, with Kalinina having withdrawn before the tournament began, but somehow a lucky loser's name was not inserted into the draw in her place until today. Shishkina advanced to the third round, as did top seed Tornado Ali Black.

After watching Henrik Wiersholm, Stefan Kozlov, Reilly Opelka and Michael Mmoh advance to the B14s third round, I returned to the Biltmore Tennis Center, where there were still a few girls 12s matches on under the lights. Kayla Day was in a third set with Inci Ogut of Turkey, and although it was much more difficult than her 6-1, 6-0 win in Saturday's first round, she again came through, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2. The day's last match saw American Madeline Meredith defeat Julia Logtenberg of Spain, a No. 1 seed, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Other US girls advancing to the third round were Riley McQuaid, Kariann Pierre-Louis, Ryan Peus, Rachel Papavasilopoulos, Sofia Sewing, Mallory Gilmer, Claire Liu, Anna Bright, Polina Kiseleva, Danielle Quevedo, Nicole Conard, Jaeda Daniel, Catherine Bellis and Dominique Schaefer. That's exactly half of the 32 girls remaining.

All six of the seeded Americans remaim at the boys 12s, with Alex del Corral(2), Patrick Kypson(4), and Vasil Kirkov, Noah Makarome, Sam Ruffice and Alex Rotsaert (all 9 seeds) advancing today.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Keys vs. Brodsky and Levine vs. Ginepri Play for USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Sunday

Sixteen-year-old Madison Keys, seeded sixth, defeated No. 2 seed Alison Riske 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 in Saturday's semifinals and will play No. 5 seed Gail Brodsky for the USTA's Australian Open wild card. Brodsky beat top seed CoCo Vandeweghe 6-3, 3-6, 9-7. Keys won the US Open wild card tournament last August, which included a victory over Brodsky, and went on to win a round in the main draw.

The men's final will be between No. 2 seed Jesse Levine and No. 4 seed Robby Ginepri. Levine beat Denis Kudla 7-5, 6-2 and Ginepri took out Rhyne Williams by the same score.

For a complete recap of the day's action, see this article from Steve Pratt for the USTA>

Top Seed Borza Saves Match Points in B14s Junior Orange Bowl Opening Round; Day Ousts Japan's No. 1 in Girls 12s

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Coral Gables, FL--

It was a beautiful day in South Florida for the start of the Junior Orange Bowl main draw, and I began my tour of three sites (the girls 14s at Key Biscayne wasn't on Saturday's itinerary) at the boys 12s, which are on the Har-Tru courts of Salvadore Park this year.

Top seed and Eddie Herr champion Artem Dubrivny of Russia was dominating Kyrylo Tsygura of the US when I left to head to the girls 12s at the Biltmore, and he posted a 6-1, 6-1 first round win. Not all the seeds had it quite as easy. No. 3 seed Alexei Popyrin of Australia needed three sets to get past Timur Chelmodeev of Russia 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, while No. 5 seed Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina didn't survive, losing to qualifier Albert Lim of the Philippines 3-6, 6-1, 6-1. Later in the day, No. 2 seed Alex del Corral and No. 4 seed Patrick Kypson of the US advanced in straight sets.

At the Biltmore, I watched several young American girls make quick work of their opponents, with Riley McQuaid taking top honors, defeating Haruka Otaya of Japan in less than forty minutes. Kylie McKenzie and Kariann Pierre-Louis also posted quick wins. There is often a disparity in the level of play between the seeds and those not seeded in the 12s division, but today Kayla Day turned that observation on its head. The left-handed Californian completely dominated Mei Ishimura of Japan, who was one of 16 No. 1 seeds, 6-1, 6-0.

I spent most of the afternoon at the University of Miami, where I watched most of the seeded US boys advance. No. 4 seed Stefan Kozlov, No. 5 seed Henrik Wiersholm and No. 2 seed Cameron Klinger all advanced in routine fashion, as did last year's 12s Junior Orange Bowl champion Michael Mmoh, who beat Filip Grbic of Serbia 6-1, 6-2. The unseeded Mmoh, who is now training full time at the IMG Bollettieri Academy, showed a stronger serve and defended well against his hard-hitting opponent.

I missed the most notable result of the day, with top seed Bogdan Borza of Romania saving match points after trailing lucky loser Kaden Funk of the US 6-4, 5-3 (thanks to @chalkflewup's tweets for that info). Borza survived 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2.

Another dramatic match that finished before I arrived saw Alfredo Perez of the US defeat Marko Osmakcic of Switzerland 6-4, 5-4 def. point penalty. Apparently there were several scoring disputes in the match, and according to the roving umpire, Osmakcic was asked three times to say the score before serving, which he failed to do. He was given a point penalty, and then accused the umpire of cheating him out of the match, which resulted in another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, this one a game penalty that ended the match.

There were several girls 12s matches going on court around 6 p.m., but I expect the complete results will be uploaded soon at the TennisLink site

Friday, December 16, 2011

Williams Upsets Reynolds in USTA's Australian Open WC Tournament; Eddie Herr G14s Final Rematch Possible in Second Round at Junior Orange Bowl

The USTA Australian Open Wild Card tournament began today with No. 6 seed Madison Keys' upset of No. 3 seed Jamie Hampton by a 3-6, 6-4, 9-7 score later overshadowed by No. 8 seed Rhyne Williams' 4-6, 6-4, 10-8 win over top seed Bobby Reynolds. The former Tennessee Volunteer, a finalist at the 2011 NCAAs, was down a set and a break before rallying to take the three-hour-plus contest. Last year Williams lost to eventual champion Ryan Harrison in the semfinals 4-6, 6-2, 9-7. For more on the Williams win, see Amanda Pruitt's article at utsports.com. Williams will play Robby Ginepri in Saturday's semifinal, after Ginepri downed Steve Johnson 7-6(4), 6-0. Denis Kudla advanced with a win 3-6, 7-6(4), 5-4 ret. win over Jack Sock and will take on Jesse Levine in the semifinals. Levine defeated Dan Kosakowski 6-2, 6-4.

Keys, who saved a match point in her win over Hampton, will play No. 2 seed Alison Riske, who beat Grace Min 6-0, 6-0. No. 5 seed Gail Brodsky downed No. 4 seed Melanie Oudin, playing at her home club, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Brodsky will meet top seed CoCo Vandeweghe, who beat Taylor Townsend 6-4, 6-4.

For Steve Pratt's extensive recap of the day's action for the USTA, click here.

The Junior Orange Bowl main draw begins Saturday morning, with the final two rounds of qualifying completed today. The draws are posted, although without the qualifiers placed, and the best two first round match that I noticed were both in the girls 14s, with unseeded Marie Smith of the US playing No. 5 seed Iryna Shymanvich of Belarus, and unseeded Kenadi Hance of the US taking on No. 7 seed Ivana Jorovic of Serbia.

There are a couple of second rounders that I am already anticipating in the girls 14s, with No. 2 seed Maria Shishkina of the US and Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine likely to reprise their exciting Eddie Herr final, in which Shishkina saved six match points. I could have sworn Kalinina was seeded initially, but she is not seeded now and that rematch would probably worth the drive out to Key Biscayne to see. Another dynamite second rounder would put Orange Bowl 16s quarterfinalist Jessica Ho of the US against No. 4 seed Naiktha Bains of Australia.

I will probably stay in Coral Gables on Saturday, where I hope to see a few players I have heard about, but not yet seen play, including Ryan Peus, Michaela Gordon and Catherine Bellis in the girls 12s, and Cameron Klinger and Nathan Ponwith in the boys 14s. Ponwith plays Sumit Nagal of India, which is surely one of the best matches between two unseeded players on the schedule Saturday.

Michelle Kaufman of the Miami Herald provided this preview of the Junior Orange Bowl today.

For the draws, see the TennisLink site.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Orange Bowl Recap, Slideshow, Videos; USA Today Feature on Boca Training Center; AO Wild Card Tournament Starts Friday

My recap of the Orange Bowl is available now at the Tennis Recruiting Network. I have been asked how I feel about the new venue and from my perspective, it is an improvement over Key Biscayne for several reasons.

1. It feels like a junior tournament. Players congregate on the patio, and there is much more intimacy than at the sprawling Crandon Park site.
2. The hotels and restaurants are much closer to the site.
3. Both 16s and 18s are together throughout the tournament.
4. It is more centrally located for the South Florida tennis fan base.

I thought the tournament went well in its first year at a new site, and I expect the few glitches that did occur will be fixed when it returns to the Veltri Tennis Center in 2012, which I understand is a certainty.

And on my Christmas list for this year for every junior tournament I cover is a flat screen display that contains every result of the day. So far, it's unique to the Orange Bowl, and much appreciated, by fans, media and players alike.

Below is the slideshow from last week's Orange Bowl, and videos of the four champions. The finalists videos can be found by clicking on the player's name, which will take you to the tenniskalamazoo YouTube channel.

Dave "the Koz" Kozlowski interviewed Kontaveit after her win at the Orange Bowl, and that audio file can be found at the Tennis Channel. Actually, Kontaveit is still 15, not 16 as the caption says. She will turn 16 on Dec. 24.

Diego Pedraza

Katie Boulter
Yulia Putintseva
Patrick Ofner

I was pleasantly surprised to see, given the general lack of junior tennis coverage in print media, Taylor Townsend's picture on the front page of USA Today this morning when I picked up the paper from outside my hotel door. Townsend is part of a feature story Nicole Auerbach wrote about the USTA's National Training Center in Boca Raton.

For the story on Townsend, click here. For the story on the Player Development Headquarters in Boca Raton, click here. My favorite quote:

"Do any of us have a crystal ball and can see who the next great one is?" USTA national coach Kathy Rinaldi said. "No."

Amen to that Kathy.

The USTA's Australian Open wild card tournament begins Friday at the Racquet Club of the South. Eight men and eight women are competing for the USTA's reciprocal wild card with Tennis Australia. Townsend will kick off the action in a match with No. 1 seed CoCo Vandeweghe. For the draws and schedule, see the tournament website. A livestream will be available here.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Tiafoe, Ponwith Win Playoff for Europe U14 Winter Trip; Ross Wins Nike Junior Tour International 12s Title; Vesely, Khromacheva ITF Junior Champions

A few days ago, the USTA held its annual boys tournament in Boca Raton to decide two of the spots on the 2012 team that will travel to the Teen Tennis tournament in Great Britain and Les Petits As in France.

Francis Tiafoe, who reached the semifinals of both European events this year as a 13-year-old, won one of the round robin groups, and Nathan Ponwith secured the other.

Other participants in the tournament were: Alex del Corral, Michal Kusznerko, William Blumberg, Brenden Volk, Evan Zhu and Mwendwa Mbithi.

The remaining two spots are "captain's picks" and are generally named near the end of the Junior Orange Bowl. Stefan Kozlov would be eligible to return for another year if he wishes, as he will not be 14 until February.

The Nike Junior Tennis Masters International event concluded yesterday at Club Med Sandpiper in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. Rain caused all sorts of delays in the first three days, and the scoring format was changed to match tiebreakers in lieu of the third set in order to complete the tournament on time. It still required three matches yesterday for the 14s, but it didn't keep top seed Seongchan Hong of Korea from taking the title. Hong defeated No. 2 seed Bogdan Borza of Romania, who is the top seed in the upcoming Junior Orange Bowl 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

The girls 14s title went to No. 3 seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia, who defeated unseeded Valentini Grammatikopoulou of Greece 6-1, 6-1 in the final. Konjuh defeated top seed Mariya Shishkina of the US 6-2, 6-1 in the semifinals, while Grammatikopoulou took out No. 2 seed Naiktha Bains of Australia in a match tiebreaker in the semifinals.

Gianni Ross, who won the United States' tournament back in September to qualify for the International, wasn't seeded, but won the boys 12s championship anyway. Ross beat No. 8 seed Matias Soto Carmona of Chile 6-3, 6-1 in the final. Eddie Herr 12s champion Artem Dubrivny of Russia, the top seed, was upset in the third round by unseeded Patrik Rikl of the Czech Republic.

The girls 12s title went to No. 4 seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who defeated No. 2 seed Anastasia Nefedova of Russia 2-6, 6-3, 10-7 in the final. Top seed Sofya Zhuk of Russia, the Eddie Herr finalist, was upset by Xinyu Jiang of China in the third round.

For stories about each final, including quotes from the winners, see the tournament's news section. Complete draws are also available on the home page.

The ITF announced the world junior champions for 2011 today, with Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic and Irina Khromacheva of Russia claiming that prestigious honor. Khromacheva did not win a grand slam singles title, but was still able to hold on to the top ranking, helped in no small part by her double prowess. Vesely won the Australian Open boys singles and doubles titles this year, and although Wimbledon champion Luke Saville of Australia appeared to be trying to catch Vesely this fall, he wasn't able to do it.

The two American junior slam winners this year--Bjorn Fratangelo and Grace Min--finished No. 5 and No. 6 respectively in the year-end rankings.

The ITF article on Vesely and Khromacheva is available here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

November 2011 National Open Results

(1) Josh Mukherjee(1) def. Kyrylo Tsygura(2) 6-1, 6-3
Seth Kim d. Roscoe Bellamy(6) 6-4, 6-2
A.Trice Pickens(1) def. Trent Bryde(3) 6-4, 2-6, 1-0
John Drake(1) def. Mark Wu(5) 6-4, 6-1

Rachel Lim def. Hannah Zhao 3-6, 6-1, 1-0(8)
Danielle Quevedo(1) def. Clarissa Hand(2) 6-2, 6-1
Vivian Glozman(2) def.Claire Liu(1) 7-5, 6-4
Emily Thomas(4) def. Nicole Roc(8) 6-2, 6-1

Alexander Lebedev(2) def. Ryan Dickerson(1) 6-0, 6-4
Jack Barber(6) def. Alexander Jones 6-1, 6-0
Victor Pham(1) def. Grayson Broadus(2) 6-3, 6-2
Abhin Sharma(3) def. Kyle Seelig(1) 6-0, 6-4


Jessica Livianu(2) def. Bridget Forster(7) 5-7, 7-6, 6-4
Emma Higuchi(1) def. Michaela Gordon 6-3, 6-2
Abigail Chiu(1) def. Chuyang Guan(2) 5-7, 6-2, 6-4
Dominique Vasile(4) def. Tiffany Huber(6) 6-3, 6-1

Maximilian Fliegner(3) def. Jasper Koenen(8) 6-3, 6-2
Harrison O'Keefe(3) def. Brent Lett 6-1, 6-4
Matthew Nardella(3) def. Josh Silverstein(1) 6-3, 6-0
Toshiki Matsuya(3) def. William Chiu(2) 6-2, 3-6, 6-4

Melissa Lord(6) def. Joanna Zalewski 6-3, 6-2
Alexandria Chatt(1) def. Alexxis Kiven 6-1, 7-5
Kennedy Shaffer def. (8) Anna Sanford(8) 7-6(1), 6-3
Grace Tapak(2) def. (1) Hadley Berg(1) 6-2, 6-4


Kimberly Yee(1) def. Zoe Katz(6) 6-1, 6-3
Whitney Kay(1) def. Frances Altick(2) 6-1, 6-2
Alanna Wolff(7) vs. Shannon Hudson(8), not played-weather
Jillian Rooney(7) def. Madeline Lipp(2) 6-2, 6-0


Thomas Pura(7) def. Brendan McClain 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
Nolan Paige(1) def. David Hsu(7) 6-2, 6-3
Grant Solomon vs. Marshall Sharp, not played-weather
Ronnie Schneider(2) def. Jared Hiltzik(1) 6-4, 4-6, 6-0

Eddie Herr Slideshow, Videos

Thanks to a cooperative hotel ISP, I was able to upload videos of all the Eddie Herr finalists today. I have embedded the videos of the champions, and the finalist videos can be found on the tenniskalamazoo YouTube channel or by clicking on the player name at the bottom of this post. My Eddie Herr recap for the Tennis Recruiting Network can be found at this link, and the slideshow of all singles semifinalists and doubles finalists is below.

Patrick Ofner
Victoria Kan
Andrew Schafer
Alyssa Smith
Seongchan Hong
Anhelina Kalinina

I posted the videos from the Eddie Herr 12s finals on Friday.