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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Thiem Goes for Second Straight Eddie Herr 18s Title, Putintseva Back in Final; Qualifier Schafer in Boys 16 Championship; Shishkina Reaches 14 Final

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Bradenton, FL--

Defending champion Dominic Thiem of Austria and 2010 finalist Yulia Putintseva of Russia are back in 18s championship matches at the ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr International after contrasting victories Saturday at the IMG/Bollettieri Academy.

The top-seeded Thiem breezed past No. 4 seed Mitchell Krueger of the US 6-0, 6-2, giving him the edge in their five-match junior rivalry. The 18-year-old Austrian has won all three of their matches played on clay, the previous two on red clay, but Thiem has looked just as comfortable this week on the Har-Tru. Last year Thiem won the Grade 1 Yucatan Cup the week prior and the Eddie Herr, and he is now just one match away from duplicating that feat. He will play countryman Patrick Ofner, the No. 6 seed, who upset No. 2 seed Liam Broady of Great Britain 6-2, 6-3.

The second-seeded Putintseva, who lost to American Lauren Davis 6-3, 7-5 in last year's final, will also play a compatriot, No. 9 seed Victoria Kan, who defeated No. 11 seed Ganna Poznikhirenko of Ukraine 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Putintseva lists clay as her favorite surface, but she started out slowly in her semifinal with American Taylor Townsend, the No. 13 seed, but came back to take a 2-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 victory over the 15-year-old after over three hours of play. Townsend, a left-hander who plays a game more suited to faster surfaces, took a 4-0 lead in the opening set, and had the 16-year-old from Moscow engaging in long soliloquies in her native language as her frustration mounted.

Once she lost the first set and was warned by the chair umpire that her father could not continue to talk to her in Russian, Putintseva appeared to calm down a bit and began to eliminate the unforced errors that had plagued her in the opening set. She served for the second set at 5-4, but Townsend played an aggressive game, breaking her with a forehand volley winner at 4-5. Townsend lost her edge in the tiebreaker however, going down 5-0 with sloppy play including a double fault. Putintseva couldn't stand the prosperity however, blowing three set points on unforced errors and putting Townsend back on serve. After she had hit what she thought was an ace to tie the set at 6-6, the chair checked the mark at Putintseva's request and the ball was ruled out. Townsend then double faulted and the Russian was back even.

In the third set, both girls played well as the tension began to mount. With Townsend serving at 2-3, 15-15, she hit a perfect drop shot and celebrated with a "come on," but Putintseva still had a play on the ball, although she was not likely to have tracked it down. The umpire awarded Putintseva the point based on the same hindrance rule that caused Serena Williams' outburst in this year's US Open women's final. Unlike Williams, Townsend protested only briefly, looking more confused than upset, but the call didn't effect the match, as Townsend won the next three points to make it 3-3.

Townsend broke Putintseva in the next game with a couple of impressive forehands, taking a 4-3 lead, but she was immediately broken back, with her first serve, balky all day, deserting her again. Putintseva held at love to make it 5-4, and in the next game Townsend had three game points to make it 5-5, but she didn't convert. After Putintseva had Townsend running from corner to corner and finally forced an error, it was deuce. Townsend missed an overhead to give Putintseva her first match point, the only one she would need. When Townsend's backhand went long, the Russian screamed loud and long, pumping both fists in a celebration so extensive that the spectators watching from the sidelines were left chuckling at its exuberance.

Thiem and Putintseva aren't the only familiar faces in the finals. Mariya Shishkina of the US, who won the 12s in 2009, saved a match point against No. 2 seed Naiktha Bains of Australia to 6-7(4), 6-2, 7-5 victory and a place in the 14s final against No. 6 seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine.

Shishkina was up 3-2 in the final set, but Bains began blasting forehand winners to get the break back. Bains held at love to make it 4-3, and Shishkina began to look discouraged, especially when she went down 15-40 in her next service game. But Bains failed to capitalize and it was 4-4. Bains saved a break point in the next game when Shishkina's forehand was wide, and Bains held for 5-4.

The power advantage that Bains enjoyed was most evident in the next game, when she attacked the Shishkina serve with abandon. At 40-30, Bains cracked a forehand return winner for deuce, then hit another cannon shot forehand return for match point. Shishkina missed her first serve, and Bains had the second serve she wanted. She bashed another forehand return, but this time it caught the top of the tape and bounced wide. Shishkina hit a first serve winner for her ad, and when Bains netted a forehand it was 5-5.

Bains didn't show any signs of discouragement, but her game lost its edge and her forehand, so potent throughout the match, began to produce errors, not winners. When she netted a backhand volley at 15-40, Shishkina had her break. The 13-year-old Bollettieri protege took a 40-0 lead in the last game, but a Bains backhand winner and a Shishkina netted forehand left her with only one more match point. Bains stayed aggressive, but her swinging volley went long and Shishkina was through to her second final in three years.

Wild card Tornado Ali Black is hoping her third final in three years will finally result in an Eddie Herr singles title, Black, who lost to Shishkina in the 2009 12s final and to Francoise Abanda in last year's 14s final, defeated Dasha Ivanova of the US 6-2, 7-5 in Saturday's 16s semifinal. She will play American Alyssa Smith, who beat Caroline Doyle of the US 6-4, 1-6, 6-1.

Andrew Schafer has already won eight matches at the Eddie Herr, but the qualifier will need one more if he is to claim the boys 16s title.

The 16-year-old, who trains at the Smith-Stearns Academy in Hilton Head, beat No. 9 seed Jordi Arconada of Argentina 7-6(3), 6-1 in Saturday's semifinals.

"I'm playing really well right now," said Schafer. "I haven't played any ITF's and that's how you get into this tournament. My school schedule didn't really allow me to miss whole weeks, so I just competed in the USTA, got into qualies and fought my way through."

Schafer attributes his success this week to his serve and his play on big points.

"I've played I think four or five tiebreakers in five matches," said Schafer, who won all four tiebreakers he played in the main draw. "When it's come down to pressure points, I've been pretty straight on. I haven't really missed many shots in tiebreakers."

Schafer will play Tommy Mylnikov of Canada, who trains at Bollettieri's and won his way into the draw via an Academy Wild Card tournament. Mylnikov, who beat No. 15 seed Andrei Apostol of Romania 6-2, 6-2 in Saturday's semifinal, is no stranger to Schafer.

"I've played him two times, I've won once and he's won once, so it'll be a fun match. We played in May in a National Open in Georgia and I won, and we played at Kalamazoo in August and he won."

The boys 14s final will feature No. 9 seed Seongchan Hong of Korea against Alejandro Tabilo of Canada. Hong defeated compatriot Duckhee Lee, the No. 5 seed, 6-1, 6-3 in the semifinals, while Tabilo downed Chan Yeong Oh of Korea 6-4, 6-2.

The doubles champions were all crowned on Saturday, with unseeded Kendal Woodard and Jennifer Brady of the US taking the girls 18s title with a 3-6, 6-2, 11-9 victory over No. 5 seeds Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan and Zuzanna Maciejewska of Poland.

Brady had reached the Eddie Herr doubles final last year with Lauren Herring, but the pair had lost 10-8 in the match tiebreaker to An-Sophie Mestach and Demi Schuurs. That result was on Brady's mind as she and Woodard prepared to play the match tiebreaker Saturday afternoon.

"I told Kendal I didn't want it to be like last year," said Brady. "It feels a lot better to be on this side."

The 6-foot-2 Woodard isn't accustomed to seeing a taller player opposing her on any tennis court, but she was looking up to the 6-foot-3 Maciejewska today. Woodard takes advantage of that size however, serving and coming in, and poaching often.

"I just feel that if I hit two or three forehands, she'll poach," said Brady. "She's pretty tall and covers a lot of court."

In the tiebreaker, the Americans started slowly and trailed 4-2 at the first changeover, but got it to 6-6 and the next change of ends. Woodard put away a volley to give them their first match point at 9-8, but she missed a return on the next point, which meant another change of ends. Woodard pouched after a couple of Brady forehands and put away the volley for another match point, and when Maciejewska went for a forehand winner that found the net, Woodard and Brady had the title.

"I think we mesh really well together," said Woodard, who has reached the National 18s doubles final with Brady this year, and won a $10,000 Pro Circuit title with her as well. "Coaches always tell me to serve and come in, don't stay back, and I like that better than staying back anyway."

The boys 18s doubles final went to the No. 3 seeded Belgian team of Julien Cagnina and Jeroen Vanneste, who defeated the No. 4 seeded British team of Liam Broady and Joshua Ward-Hibbert 6-4, 7-6(5). Broady and Ward-Hibbert had two set points with Vanneste serving at 4-5 in the second set, one of them the deciding deuce point, but they couldn't convert either. In the tiebreaker, Broady and Ward-Hibbert stayed close and tied it at 5-5, but Cagnina hit a backhand volley winner to earn the first match point, and Vanneste finished with an overhead winner for the championship.

The boys 16s doubles title went to No. 2 seeds Aleksandr Spirin of Russia and Julian Zlobinsky of the US, who defeated top seeds Hugo Di Feo and Brayden Schnur of Canada 4-6, 6-3, 10-7.

Canadians did capture the 16s girls title, with No. 8 seeds Joulia Likhanskaia and Erin Routliffe winning over unseeded Dasha Ivanova and Alyssa Smith of the US 6-3, 6-0.

In the boys 14s, No. 2 seeds Andrey Rublev of Russia and Alexander Zverev of Germany won the championship with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over top seeds Sahil Deshmukh and Sumit Nagal of India.

The girls 14s title went to No. 4 seeds Ivana Jorovic of Serbia and Ana Konjuh of Croatia, who beat No. 8 seed Mia Horvit and Rachel Rohrabacher of the US 6-0, 6-1.

For complete draws, see the Tennis Information site. For more photos and stories, plus Sunday's finals schedule, see eddieherr.com.


BarryM said...

Pretty mind boggling to me to have your kids fly internationally for the 12's and 14's divisions! Has any college coach given a scholarship based on 12's and 14's rankings? Are these parents out of their mind or just plain rich?

jo said...

just plain rich. almost always

coach said...

doubt it. credit cards go far.

completely ridiculous