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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.


Samantha luvs tennis said...

I love this blog, what a great job covering the juniors. One complaint....and not really a complaint, more of an observation. I notice every posting is very 'American'. All American final, 3 American boys in the semis, etc. Tennis is a global sport and this blog has international followers. I just think we could chill out a tiny bit on needing to emphasize what players are American over other countries. Simply naming the countries the kids are from in the context of the post would be better in my humble opinion. Keep up the great work!

Colette Lewis said...

Thank for that comment. I do realize my American focus is
not going to be to everyone's taste, but it is where most of my expertise lies. Again, thank you for bringing a more international perspective and I hope you keep reading even if I don't take your advice.

Proud To Be An American said...

Rah Rah USA, American Tennis needs more support and recognition, thanks Colette you are absolutely the best.
Thanks and please don't change anything.