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Friday, November 30, 2012

Ymer Downs Top Seed Rubin to Reach Eddie Herr ITF Semis; US Champion Guaranteed in Girls 16s

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Bradenton, FL--

Another beautiful day at the Eddie Herr International turned gloomy for the prospect of an American 18s champion, with the last four US players going out in the quarterfinals Friday.

No. 1 seed Noah Rubin, No. 4 seed Mackenzie McDonald, No. 5 Spencer Papa all exited, while the only US girl remaining, No. 14 seed Jennifer Brady, also fell, losing to No. 5 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland 6-1, 6-4.

Papa couldn't solve unseeded Mazen Osama of Egypt, who won 6-4, 6-3 and will next face No. 8 seed Christian Garin of Chile, a 6-1, 6-2 winner over McDonald.

Rubin's encounter with No. 9 seed Elias Ymer of Sweden didn't begin as the American's previous three matches had, with the 16-year-old New Yorker posting a dominating 6-1 set. It was the first time in four matches that Rubin didn't lose the opening set, yet he was again unable to avoid three sets. This time the well of energy ran dry, with Ymer taking recording a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory.

Ymer admitted that he wasn't in the match in the opening set, saying afterward that he thought he was still sleeping, until the second set when his game started to improve.

At 2-2 in the second set, Ymer broke and held for 4-2, but Rubin won the next two games. At 4-4, Rubin was broken again, with Ymer starting to find his targets with his powerful and flowing forehand. Rubin saved one break point with an ace, but Ymer earned another by putting away a forehand. When Rubin's tired-looking forehand found the middle of the net to give Ymer the 5-4 lead, it was up to the 16-year-old Swede to serve it out.  At 30-30, Rubin had a chance, but he couldn't get his return of a Ymer second serve in play, and on the next point, Ymer cranked yet another forehand winner to force a third set.

The veranda of the IMG Bollettieri adult activity center serves as the main viewing area for Court 1, and as on Thursday, all seats were taken, with dozens of spectators standing as the third set began.

Rubin began serving in the final set, and when he lost that six-deuce game, it looked as if he might have run out of energy. Ymer, however, didn't notice that his opponent might have been struggling physically.

"I saw that he had three tough matches, but all matches are tough now in a Grade 1," said Ymer, who trains with Magnus Norman at the Good to Great Tennis Academy in Stockholm. "I wasn't noticing him so much, I was focusing on my own game."

Ymer's focus waivered a bit up 2-0 in the third set, with Rubin taking the next three games, but serving down 2-3, 0-30, Ymer collected it again, hitting a forehand volley winner and another massive forehand winner. After he missed a forehand, Rubin had an opportunity to seize the momentum, but Ymer came up with a good first serve to save the break point, and two Rubin errors, one by the smallest of margins on game point, made it 3-3.

Rubin's fatigue was evident in the next game, when he was broken after four errors, and Ymer held for 5-3. Rubin held to force Ymer to serve it out, but Ymer came up with his best service game of the match, hitting a service winner and an ace for 30-0. Rubin netted a backhand to give Ymer three match points, but he only needed one, hitting an ace, which the chair umpire initially called out but corrected himself, and Rubin conceded the point without an argument.

"My coach tells me if I practice the serve twenty minutes each day, I will succeed," Ymer said. "I was serving very good today, that was the key for me."

"And my forehand," he added.

Ymer will play No. 6 seed Laslo Djere of Serbia for a place in the final.

"I've never played him, but he's a steady player," Ymer said. "Good all round, a really good backhand. I'll have to work on the tactical in that match."

The girls semifinal in the top half of the draw features Austria's Barbara Haas, the No. 16 seed, against Bencic. Haas won the only three-setter in the girls quarterfinals, coming back to defeat No. 6 seed Carol Zhao of Canada 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. The bottom half semifinal has No. 7 seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia playing No. 2 seed Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic. Konjuh beat unseeded Rebecca Peterson of Sweden 6-1, 6-2 and Siniakova downed unseeded Fiona Ferro of France 6-3, 6-4.

Australian Open and US Open girls doubles champions Gabby Andrews and Taylor Townsend, the No. 6 seeds, have reached the final of the girls doubles, and will play Haas and Siniakova for the title Saturday afternoon. Andrews and Townsend beat No. 4 seeds Bencic and Anastasiya Komardina of Russia 7-5, 7-6(10), while No. 3 seeds Haas and Siniakova defeated No. 5 seeds Katy Dunne of Great Britain and Christina Makarova of the United States 7-5, 6-4.

The boys doubles final will feature unseeded Osama and Skander Mansouri, also of Egypt, against unseeded Garin and Nicolas Jarry of the United States. Osama and Mansouri defeated Siyu Liu and Weiqiang Zheng of China 5-7, 6-4, 11-9, with Garin and Jarry ousting top seeds Ymer and Borna Coric of Croatia 2-6, 7-6(4), 10-1. There was a lot on the line for Jarry, who now will receive a special exemption into next week's Orange Bowl's main draw because he reached the doubles final.

As in 2011, all four girls 16s semifinalists are from the United States.

Terri Fleming will play Carolyn Xie in a semifinal between two unseeded players, with the other semifinal between No. 4 seed Marie Norris and No. 14 seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer.

In girls 14s, Dominique Schaefer is still contending for back-to-back Eddie Herr titles. The 2011 12s champion, seeded ninth in the 14s this year, reached the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Madeline Meredith of the US and will play No. 7 seed Fanni Stollar of Hungary Saturday. Stollar upset top seed Usue Arconada of the US 7-6(3), 6-3. In the other 14s semifinal, No. 3 seed Sofia Kenin of the US will play Zhanian Wei of China. Kenin beat No. 8 seed Siqi Cao of China 6-3, 6-0.

The girls 12s top seed Abigail Desiatnikov of the US will play No. 8 seed Ellie Douglas, also of the US in one semifinal, with No. 12 seed Jiaqi Ren of China facing No. 10 seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia in the other.

In the boys 16s, the top two seeds advanced to the semifinals. No. 1 Ku Keon Kang of Korea will play unseeded Walker Duncan of the US and No. 2 seed Jordi Arconada of Argentina meets unseeded Soon Woo Kwon of Korea.

IMG Academy student Gianni Ross, the No. 13 seed, reached the boys 14s semifinals, where he will play No. 4 seed Evan Zhu, assuring a US finalist in that division.  Top seed Orlando Luz of Brazil will face No. 3 seed Chanyeong Oh of Korea in the other semifinal.

The boys 12s is the only younger age division without a semifinalist from the US.  Top seed Yshai Oliel of Israel plays No. 3 seed Nikolay Vylegzhanin of Russia and No. 16 seed Rudolf Molleker of Germany faces unseeded Alen Avidzba of Russia.

Singles Quarterfinals Results:

Boys 18s Singles
Elias Ymer (9), Sweden, def. Noah Rubin (1), United States, 1-6, 6-4, 6-4
Christian Garin (8), Chile, def. Mackenzie McDonald (4), United States, 6-1, 6-2
Mazen Osama, Egypt, def. Spencer Papa (5), United States, 6-4, 6-3
Laslo Djere (6), Serbia, def. Brayden Schnur, Canada, 7-6(1), 6-1

Boys 16s Singles
Jordi Arconada, Argentina, def. Alexandru Gozun, United States, 7-6(4), 7-5
Soon Woo Kwon, Korea, def. Nicolas Alvarez (7), Peru, 7-6(3), 6-4
Walker Duncan, United States, def. Carter Lin (3), United States, 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-4
Ku Keon Kang (1), Korea, def. Francis Tiafoe (9), United States, 6-3, 6-1

Boys 14s Singles
Gianni Ross (13), United States, def. Connor Hance (12), United States, 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-4
Evan Zhu (4), United States, def. Chengze Lu, China, 6-2, 6-1
Chanyeong Oh, Korea (3), def. Liam Caruana, United States, 6-1, 6-1
Orlando Luz (1), Brazil, def. Mbithi Mwendwa (9), United States, 6-3, 6-3

Boys 12s Singles
Rudolf Molleker (16), Germany, def. Boris Kozlov (10), United States, 6-7(7), 6-2, 6-4
Alen Avidzba, Russia, def. Jenson Brooksby, United States, 6-0, 6-3
Nikolay Vylegzhanin (3), Russia, def. Keenan Mayo (6), United States, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4
Yshai Oliel (1), Israel, def. Andrew Fenty (9), United States, 6-3, 6-0

Girls 18 Singles
Barbara Haas (16), Austria, def. Carol Zhao, Canada, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1
Belinda Bencic (5), Switzerland, def. Jennifer Brady (14), United States, 6-1, 6-4
Ana Konjuh (7), Croatia, def. Rebecca Peterson, Sweden, 6-1, 6-2
Katerina Siniakova (2), Czech Republic, def. Fiona Ferro, France, 6-3, 6-4

Girls 16 Singles
Chloe Ouellet-Pizer, United States, def. Camila Wesbrooks, United States, 7-5, 6-3
Marie Norris (4), United States, def. Ndindi Ndunda, United States, 7-6(4), 6-0
Carolyn Xie, United States, def. Maddie Pothoff (12), United States, 6-0, 6-2
Terri Fleming, United States, def. Shiyu Xu, China, 6-3, 6-1

Girls 14s Singles
Zhanian Wei, China, def. Ingrid Neel, United States, 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-3
Sofia Kenin (3), United States, def. Siqi Cao (8), China, 6-3, 6-0
Dominique Schaefer (9), United States, def. Madeline Meredith, United States, 6-3, 6-2
Fanni Stollar (7), Hungary, def. Usue Arconada (1), United States, 7-6(3), 6-3

Girls 12s Singles
Anastasia Potapova (10), Russia, def. Nicole Conrad, United States, 7-5, 4-6, 6-0
Jiaqi Ren (12), China, def. Katarina Zavatska, Ukraine, 6-2, 6-2
Ellie Douglas (8), United States, def. Anzhelika Isaeva, Ukraine, 3-6, 6-0, 6-1
Abigail Desiatnikov (1), United States, def. Dayana Yastremska (5), Ukraine, 6-2, 6-4

November Aces

Before the quarterfinals of the Eddie Herr International begin today, here's my look back at the November aces, posted this morning at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Haas Upsets Top Seed Townsend, Boys No. 1 Rubin Survives Third Set Tiebreaker to Reach Quarterfinals at Eddie Herr International

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Bradenton, FL--

Nearly six hours of intense competition took place on the IMG Bollettieri Academy Clay Court 1 Thursday, with one top seed surviving and another eliminated in third round action at the ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr International.

No. 16 seed Barbara Haas of Austria picked up the biggest win of her junior career, defeating top seed and world No. 1 Taylor Townsend 7-6(6), 7-5 in the day's first match. Top boys seed Noah Rubin brought the drama to its peak in the afternoon, clawing past Yucatan Cup champion Filippo Baldi of Italy 3-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(5).

Haas kept Townsend away from the net with the pace and depth of her shot, and when Townsend did approach, Haas was ready with her passing shots.

"She started (coming in) in the first set, but I made all the points when she went to the net," said the 16-year-old right-hander. "So she didn't go to the net anymore because I made good shots, and that was important."

Townsend had a 3-1 lead in the first set tiebreaker, but began making errors, and also had a double fault. She saved one set point with a good first serve but Haas earned another with a backhand winner. Leading 7-6, Haas missed her first serve, but Townsend couldn't take advantage of the second, hitting a forehand way long to give Haas the set.

Looking determined to play more focused and aggressive tennis, Townsend took a 3-0 lead, breaking Haas twice and holding once. But when Haas got one of the breaks back to make it 3-1, Townsend began to lose that edge, and didn't hold serve the rest of the match. 

Townsend broke Haas enough to maintain her lead, and served for the set at 5-2, but was broken at love. Haas finally got her first hold of the set to make it 5-4, and Townsend was unable to get any closer than 30-30 in her second attempt to serve it out.

Haas held again for 6-5, with Townsend's errors alternately angering and baffling her. Serving to force a second tiebreaker, Townsend again reached 30-30, but again it was Haas who held her nerve, staying patient and waiting for the errors. Two points later, after a backhand and a forehand error by Townsend, Haas had her first ITF junior win over a Top 10 player.

"I've played against a lot of top ten players in the ITF and I've always lost the close matches," Haas said. "Now I'm really happy that I won my first match against the No. 1 in the world. It's such a great feeling. I'm so happy."

Rubin had already played two three-setters to open the tournament, so to see him in another wasn't a surprise, although in Baldi, Rubin had an opponent with momentum and confidence.

Baldi, who, like Rubin, is 16, took advantage of Rubin's errors to take the first set, and continued to keep his level high in the second set, when Rubin began to find his rhythm. 

Rubin says he likes tiebreakers, and he certainly enjoyed the second set tiebreaker. He eliminated his unforced errors entirely while Baldi made several key ones as Rubin took it seven points to two.

In the third set, after nearly two hours of play, Rubin finally took the lead in the match, serving at 2-1, only to give it back in a long game. Rubin recovered immediately, breaking Baldi again and with the help of two aces held for a 4-2 lead.  That lead didn't last however, as Baldi held and broke for 4-4, then held for 5-4, to put the pressure squarely on Rubin.

Down 0-30 after a couple of errors, Rubin got an early Christmas gift from Baldi. After sending Rubin scrambling from side to side, Baldi had an easy putaway of a floater while standing at the net. Casually aiming it into the service box, Baldi somehow put it in the net, inducing a groan from the large crowd that had gathered on the nearby porch. Instead of 0-40 and three match points, it was 15-30, and Baldi netted a backhand on the next point, possibly still shaken from his miss on the previous point. Rubin hit a good serve to earn a game point and he converted it when Baldi netted a forehand.

"Basically that was the match," Rubin said of Baldi's gaffe at the net. "You get lucky every once in a while and you gotta use it. I used it, got back out there. I just think I got in his head after a while. I was moving pretty well, tried to keep the pressure on him, and I hit some really big serves at big times."

Baldi recovered to hold for a 6-5 lead, and Rubin again was serving to stay in the match. He got up 30-15 with a clutch backhand winner down the line and earned two game points when Baldi hit a backhand wide. Rubin thought he had reached the tiebreaker on the next point, when Baldi broke a string on Rubin's serve and the return went out. Rubin went to the bench, but Baldi, after getting a new racquet, said that he had called a let on the serve. Rubin said he didn't hear it and wasn't going to serve again, but after a consultation with the official, who said another official nearby had heard Baldi call a let, Rubin did drop the argument and served again.

"Apparently he said let and I was really confused about that," Rubin said. "I came up with a tremendous out wide serve that hit the line and slid. Tennis is a tough sport like that. You shouldn't get upset to begin with, which I did, but you've got to not worry about it."

Because he won the game on that serve Rubin could be philosophical about the let call, but he admitted he would have a different perspective had he lost.

"I can talk about it now, because I won the match, but if I didn't, it would be a different story."

In the final tiebreaker, Rubin never trailed, but he had a few anxious moments when he netted forehands on the seventh and ninth points. With Rubin serving with a 5-4, Baldi hit a massive forehand winner into the corner to make it 5-5, but he couldn't get a Rubin second serve in play on the next point, and under the pressure of a match point, he netted a backhand to end the three-hour contest.

After three long matches to start the tournament, Rubin had only rest on his mind after Thursday's win.

"I'll just relax, do some Spanish homework and get ready for tomorrow."

Rubin will play No. 9 seed Elias Ymer of Sweden in Friday's quarterfinals. 

The United States has two other boys in the quarterfinals--No. 4 seed Mackenzie McDonald and No. 5 seed Spencer Papa.  McDonald came back from a break down in the third set against No. 13 seed Weiqiang Zheng of China to post a 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 victory, while Papa eliminated the tournament's last qualifier, Poland's Jan Zielinski, 6-3, 6-4.

No. 14 seed Jennifer Brady is the sole US girl in the quarterfinals. Brady picked up the best win of her junior career, avenging two losses this year to No. 3 seed Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia with a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

One of the younger age divisions also lost its top seed, with girls 16s No. 1 Ye Qiuyu of China retiring with an injury to Terri Fleming of the US, 3-6, 2-1. 

Top seeds Abigail Desniatnikov and Ysahi Oliel in the 12s, Usue Arconada and Orlando Luz in the 14s and Ku Keon Kang in the 16s all picked up straight-set victories to reach Friday's quarterfinals.

Today's singles results:

Boys 18s Singles
Noah Rubin (1), United States, def. Filippo Baldi, Italy, 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(5)
Elias Ymer (9), Sweden, def. Luca Corinteli, United States, 6-7(2), 6-3, 6-4
Brayden Schnur, Canada, def. Pedro Cachin (14), Argentina, 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-3
Laslo Djere (6), Serbia, def. Alexander Zverev, Germany, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0
Christian Garin (8), Chile, Luke Bambridge (11), Great Britain, 7-6(3), 6-1
Mackenzie McDonald (4), United States. def. Weiqiang Zheng(13), China,  6-2, 4-6, 6-4
Spencer Papa (5), United States, def. Jan Zielinski, Poland, 6-3, 6-4
Mazen Osama, Egypt, def. Henrik Wiersholm, United States, 6-2, 6-4

Boys 16s Singles
Jordi Arconada, Argentina, def. Mark Epshteyn-Losev, United States, 2-6, 6-3, 7-5
Alexandru Gozun, United States, def. Artur Dubinski, Belarus, 2-6, 6-2, 6-1
Soon Woo Kwon, Korea, def. Aleksandre Bakshi (16), Georgia, 1-6, 7-6(7), 6-4
Nicolas Alvarez (7), Peru, def. Eucleydes Marcondes Neto, Brazil, 6-1, 6-1
Walker Duncan, United States, def. Aswin Lizen (5), Great Britain, 6-2, 6-0
Carter Lin (3), United States, def. Alexander Knight, United States, 6-2, 6-3
Francis Tiafoe (9), United States, def. Dennis Uspensky (8), United States, 6-4, 6-3
Ku Keon Kang (1), Korea, def. Petar Conkic (15), Serbia, 6-0, 6-3

Boys 14s Singles
Gianni Ross (13), United States, def. Patrick Kypson, United States, 6-3, 6-7(9), 7-5
Connor Hance (12), United States, Jay Clarke (6), Great Britain, 6-1, 2-6, 6-4
Evan Zhu (4), United States, def. Louis Tessa (16), France, 6-4, 6-1
Chengze Lu, China, def. Genaro Olivieri , Argentina, 2-6, 6-4, 6-1
Liam Caruana, United States, def. Jose Carvajal (11), Colombia, 6-1, 6-1
Chanyeong Oh, Korea (3), def. Victor Krustef, Canada, 6-0, 6-1
Mbithi Mwendwa (9), United States, def. Chien Hsun Lo (5), China, 7-5, 6-3
Orlando Luz (1), Brazil, def. Pietro Rimondini, United States, 6-0, 6-4

Boys 12s Singles
Rudolf Molleker (16), Germany, def. Roscoe Bellamy (2), United States, 6-4, 6-2
Boris Kozlov (10), United States, def. Matthew Fenty, 6-3, 6-3
Alen Avidzba, Russia, def. Garrett Johns, United States, 6-1, 6-0
Jenson Brooksby, United States, def. Robert Hammond, United States, 6-7(6), 7-5, 6-1
Keenan Mayo (6), United States, def. Tomas Machac (12), Czech Republic, 6-4, 6-3
Nikolay Vylegzhanin (3), Russia, def. Nicolas Mejia (14), Colombia, 6-3, 7-6(1)
Andrew Fenty (9), United States, def. Brian Shi, United States, 7-6(2), 7-5
Yshai Oliel (1), Israel, def. Seonyong Han, Korea, 6-3, 6-2

Girls 18 Singles
Barbara Haas (16), Austria, def. Taylor Townsend (1), United States, 7-6(6), 7-5
Carol Zhao(6), Canada def. Elise Mertens (10), Belgium, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(5)
Jennifer Brady (14), United States, def. Elizaveta Kulichkova (3), Russia, 6-4, 6-4
Belinda Bencic (5), Switzerland, def. Sandra Samir, Egypt, 6-3, 6-2
Ana Konjuh (7), Croatia, def. Aldila Sutjiadi, Indonesia, 6-3, 6-1
Rebecca Peterson, Sweden, def. Jamie Loeb, United States, 6-4, 6-4
Fiona Ferro, France, def. Louisa Chirico, United States, 6-3, 7-6(6)
Katerina Siniakova (2), Czech Republic, def. Anastasiya Komardina (13), Russia, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4

Girls 16 Singles
Chloe Ouellet-Pizer, United States, def. Rebecca Weissmann, United States, 6-3, 6-2
Camila Wesbrooks, United States, def.  Jessica Golovin, United States, 7-6(7), 6-3
Marie Norris (4), United States, def. Jena Cheng, Canada, 6-2, 7-5
Ndindi Ndunda, United States, def. Raquel Pedraza, United States, 6-3, 1-6, 6-4
Maddie Pothoff (12), United States, def. Bianca Moldovan, United States, 6-3, 6-1
Carolyn Xie, United States, def. Amanda Atanasson, United States, 6-1, 6-2
Shiyu Xu, China, def. Teona Velehorschi, Canada, 6-2, 6-4
Terri Fleming, United States, def. Ye Qiuyu (1), China, 3-6, 2-1 Ret(inj)

Girls 14s Singles
Ingrid Neel, United States, def. Anjana Suresh , Canada, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2
Zhanian Wei, China, def. Rosie Cheng (10), New Zealand, 7-6(4), 6-3
Sofia Kenin (3), United States, def. Theo Gravouil, France, 6-2, 6-2
Siqi Cao (8), China, def. Aleksandra Pospelova (12), Russia, 7-5, 7-5
Dominique Schaefer (9), United States, def. Tereza Mihalikova, Slovak Republic, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3
Madeline Meredith, United States, def. Inci Ogut, Turkey, 6-0, 6-2
Fanni Stollar (7), Hungary, def. Hanna Chang, China, 2-6, 6-0, 6-3
Usue Arconada (1), United States, def. Natasha Irani, Canada, 6-4, 6-2

Girls 12s Singles
Nicole Conrad(2), United States, def. Vasilisa Belonog, Russia, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
Anastasia Potapova (10), Russia, def. Melissa Plambeck, United States, 3-6, 6-3, 6-1
Katarina Zavatska, Ukraine, def. Emiliana Arango (3), Colombia, 6-1, 6-3
Jiaqi Ren (12), China, def. Alina Mazepova, Russia, 6-1, 6-4
Ellie Douglas (8), United States, def. Natalia Boltinskaya (11), Russia, 3-6, 6-3, 6-0
Anzhelika Isaeva, Ukraine, def. En-Shuo Liang, China, 1-6, 6-1, 6-2
Dayana Yastremska (5), Ukraine, def. Maria Carle (9), Argentina, 6-3, 6-2
Abigail Desiatnikov (1), United States, def. Mihaela Marculescu (14), Romania, 6-4, 6-2

Complete results can be found at the TennisLink site.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wiersholm Ousts No. 2 Seed Nishioka; Top Seeds Townsend and Rubin Take Contrasting Routes to Third Round at Eddie Herr International Grade 1

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Bradenton, FL--

Fifteen-year-old wild card Henrik Wiersholm posted the biggest win of his brief ITF junior career in the second round of the Grade 1 Eddie Herr International Wednesday, defeating No. 2 seed and US Open Junior semifinalist Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan 7-6(5), 6-2.

If you found yourself at arriving at Court 1 at 5-5 in the first set, as I did, you had no reason to expect it would be another 30 minutes until the 90-minute set was completed. Nishioka, a 17-year-old left-hander, who trains at the IMG Bollettieri Academy, needed multiple deuces to hold for 6-5, but it was nothing compared to the game that followed.

Thinking I would just watch the end of the set before returning to Taylor Townsend's match with Vavara Flink, I didn't get out my pen and notebook, so I can't tell you exactly how many deuces they played or how many set points Wiersholm saved, although he put the number at six.

Finally managing to win three points in a row to force a tiebreaker, Wiersholm did it with his serve, hitting two good first serves to get to ad-in, then cracking an ace to finally end the 20-minute game.

Nishioka appeared a bit deflated by his failure to convert any of the set points and trailed 5-1 in the tiebreaker before finding his form to bring it back to 5-5. Nishioka got no closer however, with Wiersholm taking the next two points and the set.

"I was serving very well today, I don't think I got broken once," said Wiersholm, the reigning Kalamazoo 16s champion. "I knew he was a very consistent player--he hits the ball--and I knew I would have to grind him out in a really long match. He just doesn't miss, and he's very fast. So I just kept working the points and managed to get it done."

The second set went by considerably faster than the first, with Wiersholm going up 4-2, then saving two break points in the next game to shut the door.

In the final game, an increasingly frustrated Nishioka made three straight errors to give Wiersholm three matches points, but he only needed one, hitting a forehand winner for the victory.

As Wiersholm gathered his racquets and prepared to leave the court to report his score, Nishioka quickly walked into the pathway away from the court. Soon the distinctive sound of racquets meeting asphalt could be heard, with none of them surviving the encounter.

Wiersholm, who is training at the USTA National Center in Boca Raton, enjoys playing on clay.

"I've been training on the clay, and I really like clay," Wiersholm said. "I haven't had the best results on clay, but I've always really liked it.  I was hoping I could do this--you can't know you're going to win--but I knew I had a legitimate shot to take him out, so I went into the match thinking I could take it."

Wiersholm, the only wild card remaining in the boys draw, will play unseeded Mazen Osama of Egypt in Thursday's third round.

Other US boys to advance to the round of 16 are No. 4 seed Mackenzie McDonald, No. 5 seed Spencer Papa, unseeded Luca Corinteli and top seed Noah Rubin.

For the second straight match Rubin dropped the opening set, but came back to win, defeating 16-year-old Rishab Agarwal of India Wednesday afternoon 6-7(3), 6-1, 6-3. Rubin found another gear in the second set and began to swing more freely, getting more depth on his shots, but Agarwal didn't go away, even after being broken for the second time in the third set with a stunning lob winner by Rubin, followed by a double fault.

Rubin served for the match at 5-2, but Agarwal made one last push with his forehand, hitting two winners from that side that Rubin could only applaud.

Agarwal couldn't force Rubin to serve for it again however, with a double fault, a forced error and a return winner giving Rubin two match points. He missed a backhand on the first, but when Agarwal's backhand went wide on the second Rubin had survived another test.

Girls top seed Townsend continued to look in fine form, defeating Flink 6-3, 6-2 with her usual assortment of touch shots and overheads clicking against the Russian. Townsend, who received a wild card into next week's Orange Bowl, will play No. 16 seed Barbara Haas of Austria in the third round.

No. 4 seed Francoise Abanda of Canada will not be adding another Eddie Herr title to her 14s title in 2010, as she was defeated by Rebecca Peterson of Sweden 6-3, 6-4.

In addition to Townsend, the US has three others in the round of 16: wild card Louisa Chirico, Jamie Loeb, and No. 14 seed Jennifer Brady.

All the No. 1 seeds in the younger division have advanced to the third round with 12s No. 1s Abigail Desiatnikov of the US and Yshai Oliel of Israel though in straight sets.  14s top seeds Usue Arconada of the US and Orlando Luz of Brazil posted wins, but the No. 2 seeds were both eliminated.  European champion Mikael Ymer of Sweden lost to Patrick Kypson of the US 6-4, 7-5, and Ingrid Neel upset Dalma Galfi of Hungary 6-2, 6-3 to open the bottom half of those draws.

In the 16s girls top seed Ye Qiuyu of China moved through to the round of 16, as did boys top seed Ku Keon Kang of Korea. No. 2 seed Charlotte Petrick of Canada was beaten by Rebecca Weissmann of the US 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.

See the TennisLink site for complete draws and results.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Qualifiers and Wild Cards Find Success in Eddie Herr ITF; Prince Exhibition Featuring Malisse and Isner Draws Huge Crowd

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Bradenton, FL--

The first round was completed in all divisions Tuesday, with another day of perfect weather keeping the Eddie Herr International on schedule.

In the 18s division, only 21 singles matches were played, so the opportunity for surprises was limited, but the qualifiers, with three wins under their belts, had notable success.

Qualifiers Gabriella De Santis of Venezuela, Olga Ianchuk and Olga Fridman of Ukraine and Alexandra Morozova of the US all picked up first round wins, while on the boys side five qualifiers advanced to the second round: Henry Craig and Dan Kerznerman of the US, Vadym Kalyuzhnyy of Ukraine, Gustav Hansson of Sweden and Jan Zielinksi of Poland.

Morozova defeated Klaartje Liebens of Belgium 6-2, 6-3, a win she called one of her best.

"I was playing a girl that was like 100 in the world, so this was actually one of my biggest wins so far," said the 17-year-old from Florida, who is now training with Frank Salazar at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park Maryland. "It's a really good confidence booster, and I hit the ball really well today, made a lot of balls in, and waited for her to miss. She's kind of streaky, and I always stayed positive."

Morozova lost in the first round at the Yucatan Cup in singles, but reached the quarterfinals in doubles, so she didn't have much time to make the adjustment from hard courts to clay courts.

"Honestly, it's pretty difficult," said Morozova. "But it only took me two days to get used to it. I got here really late on Friday and had to go through my qualies matches. But two of my matches I won 0 and 0, so I guess the adjustment was pretty easy."

Morozova said she had been able to keep the ball in play more consistently this tournament.

"A lot of times I make a lot of errors," Morozova said. "It's a problem I have. And I just being really positive as well, looking for the next point and paying attention to every point."

Morozova's second round opponent on Tuesday No. 14 seed Jennifer Brady.

"Jenny's like one of my best friends, so it's going to be a tough one," Morozova said.

Wild cards who have advanced to the second round are boys Henrik Wiersholm, Deiton Baughman, Ronnie Schneider and girls Naiktha Bains  and Louisa Chirico.

The only seeds losing in singles today were girls No. 12 seed Katy Dunne of Great Britain and boys No. 10 seed Seong Chan Hong of Korea, but in doubles, top girls seeds Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia and Carol Zhao of Canada lost to Ilze Hattingh of South Africa and Katrine Steffensen of the US 1-6, 6-3, 12-10.

In the younger age divisions, top seeds in the 14s--Usue Arconada of the US and Orlando Luz of Brazil--moved into the second round with straight set wins.

The No. 2 seed in boys 12s, Roscoe Bellamy of the US, cruised to a 6-0, 6-0 win over Jose Garmendia of Chile, while the No. 2 seed in the girls 12s, Nicole Conard, had more of a challenge, recording a 7-6(8), 6-3 win over Russia's Kamilla Kokeladze.

Two of the day's longest matches took place on courts 11 and 12, and both ended in third set tiebreakers. In boys 12s, qualifier Robert Hammond of the US defeated Joaquin Lejarza of Argentina 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(2) in a match that started at 9 a.m. and finished after noon.  In the boys 14s, John Jorgeson of the US saved three match points to defeat No. 15 seed Dylan Bednrczyk of Canada 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(6).  After more than three hours, trailing 5-1 in the tiebreaker, Jorgeson, known as Jack to his friends, was still receiving encouragement from his fellow Bollettieri students, and they continued to shout his name even as he faced a 6-3 deficit. Bednrczyk, feeling the pressure, began to miss, while Jorgeson waited him out, and when the Canadians backhand went wide on Jorgeson's first match point, the cheer from his friends two courts away was so loud the roving umpire had to quiet them down, so as not to disrupt the match in progress on the court closest to them.

With doubles for the 12s, 14s and 16s not beginning until Wednesday, the only tennis under the lights on Tuesday was the Prince exhibition on Stadium court featuring John Isner and Xavier Malisse. Isner, who visiting the Bolliettieri Academy for the first time from his training home in Saddlebrook, was testing shoes, racquets and strings during the afternoon. Malisse, who trained at the Academy as a teenager, lives nearby and is often seen watching matches during the Eddie Herr tournament.

A free meal, a beautiful mild evening, and no admission fee for the exhibition brought out a couple of thousand people, with even windows in the dormitory rooms overlooking Stadium court serving as a vantage points.

Both players started at half speed, understandable since both had not picked up a racquet in several weeks, but by the third game, Isner was hitting his monstrously big serves and Malisse was showing off his all-court game, including a clean winner off a tweener that had Isner grinning and the crowd roaring.

Malisse broke Isner and held for a 4-2 lead, but serving for the six-game pro set at 5-4, he fell behind 0-40. Malisse saved all three break points, but Isner earned another and converted it, sending the match into a deciding tiebreaker. Not unexpectedly, Isner won it, 7 points to 3, although few in the stands would have been disappointed with a tie.

For the complete draws and results for Tuesday matches, see eddieherr.com

USTA Announces Field for Australian Open Playoff Tournament in December

Below is the official press release from the USTA on the participants for the Australian Open wild card tournament:

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., November 27, 2012 – The USTA today announced that former Top 30 player Bethanie Mattek-Sands (Rochester, Minn.), former US Open junior champion Jack Sock (Lincoln, Neb.) and two-time reigning NCAA singles champion Steve Johnson (Orange, Calif.) are among the players competing in the 2012 Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs, held December 14-16, at Life Time Athletic & Tennis at Peachtree Corners in Norcross, Ga., a certified USTA Regional Training Center.

Eight men and eight women will compete in the fourth annual Wild Card Playoffs on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with each winner earning a singles main draw wild card into the 2013 Australian Open. The USTA secured the opportunity through a reciprocal agreement with Tennis Australia, where the two national tennis federations exchanged wild cards for the 2012 US Open and 2013 Australian Open.

Sock, the 20-year old who reached the third round of the 2012 US Open and claimed the 2011 US Open mixed doubles title with Melanie Oudin, headlines the men’s field at his career-high rank of No. 150. Since winning the 2010 US Open junior championship, becoming the first American to do so since Andy Roddick in 2000, Sock has won three USTA Pro Circuit titles, including a Challenger this October, to rise nearly 500 spots in the rankings in the last two years. The 22-year old Johnson, who won back-to-back NCAA singles titles at Southern California in 2011 and 2012, also headlines the men’s field after advancing to the third round of the US Open and winning a USTA Pro Circuit Challenger title this summer.

Leading the women’s field is Mattek-Sands, who was ranked a career-high No. 30 in the world in July 2011 before being sidelined with a shoulder injury. The 27-year old Fed Cup veteran has played in 12 straight US Opens and reached the fourth round at Wimbledon (2008) and the third round of the French Open (2011).

The men’s field also includes Bradley Klahn (22, Poway, Calif.), the 2010 NCAA singles champion at Stanford who reached the second round of the 2012 US Open; Rhyne Williams (21, Knoxville, Tenn.), a former All-American at Tennessee who qualified for the 2012 US Open; Denis Kudla (20, Arlington, Va.), a one-time US Open junior finalist who, in 2012, qualified and reached the first round of the Australian Open and won two USTA Pro Circuit Challenger events; Tennys Sandgren (21, Gallatin, Tenn.), a former Tennessee standout who has won three USTA Pro Circuit Futures titles this year; Daniel Kosakowski (20, Huntington Park, Calif.), a former UCLA star who won back-to-back USTA Pro Circuit Futures championships in September; and Christian Harrison (18, Shreveport, La.), who, with older brother Ryan Harrison, advanced to the quarterfinals of the US Open doubles main draw in 2012.

Also competing in the women’s field are former top-ranked Georgia Tech singles star Irina Falconi (22, Jupiter, Fla.), the one-time world No. 73 and Pan American Games gold medalist who reached the third round of the 2011 US Open;  Mallory Burdette (21, Jackson, Ga.), the former Stanford standout who reached the third round of the 2012 US Open after winning a USTA Wild Card; Madison Keys (17, Rock Island, Ill.), last year’s Australian Open Wild Card Playoff winner who is the second-youngest player ranked in the WTA Top 140 after winning a $75,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Phoenix this November; Maria Sanchez (23, Modesto, Calif.), once the top-ranked college singles player at Southern California who won a $50,000 and a $75,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in 2012 to boost her ranking more than 560 places since 2011; Alexa Glatch (21, Newport Beach, Calif.), who was the runner-up to current World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the 2005 US Open junior championship; Julia Cohen (23, Philadelphia), who broke through to the WTA Top 100 in (No. 97) in July; and Alison Riske (22, Pittsburgh), who has played in the main draw of the Australian Open (2011-12) and Wimbledon (2010-11) twice.

Keys, at 16 years old, and Jesse Levine won last year’s events, while current Top 100 players Ryan Harrison and Lauren Davis are among previous champions.

To help kick off the fourth annual Australian Open Wild Card Playoff, 2012 Olympic men’s doubles gold medal winners and 12-time Grand Slam doubles champions Bob and Mike Bryan will play a unique exhibition, the “Battle of Georgia,” taking on five select doubles teams from the state each in a first-to-four-games exhibition match on Friday, Dec. 14, at Life Time.

The competing teams are: Danie Van Den Heever and Henry Darko of Winward Tennis Academy in Alpharetta, Ga.; Grant Stafford and Allen Simmons of Life Time Tennis & Athletic at Peachtree Corners; Jason Parker and Julius Robberts of Olde Town Athletic Club in Marietta, Ga.; Cameron Mistr and Jordan Delass of Universal Tennis Academy in Marietta, Ga.; and a team pairing a player each to be named from the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech.

Tickets for the Battle of Georgia exhibition and each day of the 2012 Australian Open Wild Card Playoffs are on sale at http://www.australianwildcard.com, giving fans the opportunity to purchase reserved seats for the first time. Groups of 10 or more receive a 20 percent discount on all tickets, while children age 15 and under can attend a full day of the wild card playoffs for just $10. Additional discounts are available for purchasing three-day passes and for being a USTA member or for being a Life Time member. Fans also will have the chance to win prizes by voting for which doubles team they think will do the best against the Bryans, while Life Time will showcase several new upgrades at its suburban Atlanta facility.

Additionally, the winners will receive engraved, luxury watches from Brera Orologi, while official tournament artist Stephen Gamson will be donating several pieces to the winners and for auction.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bencic Outlasts Shishkina in First Round at Eddie Herr; Top Seeds in 12s and 16s Breeze into Second Round

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Bradenton, FL--

Of the 148 matches played Monday in the Eddie Herr International at the IMG Bollettieri Academy, one stood out.  

Two-time Eddie Herr champion Maria Shishkina, now 14 and a wild card entry into the ITF 18-and-under tournament, was drawn to play No. 5 seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, and just a few games into the 10:30 a.m. match, seats were already at a premium on court 1.

With the bleacher seating not yet in place, the steps of the adjacent Conference Center, golf carts and a couple of dozen patio chairs had to suffice, as Bollettieri students, other players, coaches and local fans all gathered to watch two of the bright young stars of international junior tennis.

Often the matches most anticipated turn out to be less than gripping, but not this one, which Bencic won, after nearly three hours of intense competition, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-4.

In the first set, the 15-year-old Bencic couldn't find her first serve, and Shishkina took full advantage, receiving well inside the baseline and attacking the second serve. After five breaks in a row, Shishkina held for a 5-2 lead, but she couldn't serve it out at 5-3.  Bencic saved two set points serving at 4-5, finally getting the advantage in the points with some good serving, and she saved another set point serving at 5-6, with Shishkina missing a forehand.

Although many spectators were neutral, the most vocal of them were Shishkina supporters, and their applause and shouts after their favorite hit a winner seemed to help keep Shishkina's energy high.  Her own c'mons hit a peak in the tiebreaker, when leading 5-4, Shishkina got a forehand error from Bencic, giving her two more set points.  

Bencic failed to produce a first serve, and Shishkina angled her return of the second serve sharply away from Bencic, who got to it, but missed her reply wide.  Shishkina and her fans were downright euphoric after that long and tense set, while Bencic looked far from discouraged, her body language betraying nothing but confidence.

When Bencic return from her bathroom break after the first set, the  emotional pitch of the second set was several octaves lower, with Shishkina starting to net more balls and Bencic starting to actually hold serve. She dropped it only once, and never trailed in taking the set 6-3.

After Shishkina took a bathroom break of her own after the second set, the third set began with Shishkina taking a 2-0 lead. But Bencic again stepped up her serving and took the next four games, with Shishkina helping her out with many unforced, and a few forced, errors.

Serving at 4-3 in the third, Bencic fell behind 15-30, and was called for a hindrance for celebrating with a c'mon a little too early on a swinging volley winner. Although Shishkina wasn't likely to have made a play on the ball, she was near it, and the roving umpire agreed the point belonged to her.

Despite the fact that it was a critical point in the match, Bencic didn't get argue much or let it bother her, "because it was my fault," she said after the match. "She didn't reach the ball anymore, but he called it like that, so I cannot change it, so I just played."

Bencic saved one of the break points, but not the second, when Shishkina crushed a backhand winner to make it 4-4.

Shishkina couldn't hold onto to any momentum she may have had, although it was Bencic who deserves praise for her play in the next game. At 30-30, she hit a world-class backhand deep into the deuce corner that forced an error from Shishkina, and Bencic seized that break point with a confident forehand putaway of a short ball.

The drama wasn't over however. Serving for the match at 5-4, Bencic seemed tentative, with two backhand errors, then a Shishkina backhand winner making it 15-40.  Again Bencic was able to come up with good serves when she needed them, setting up two straight backhand winners to get back to deuce.  Shishkina netted a backhand on the next point, and Bencic had her first match point.

It was a classic, with Bencic failing to put away one swinging volley, while Shishkina scrambled and willed herself back into the point. Neither girl blinked until Shishkina finally left another ball short, and this time Bencic's backhand cross court swinging volley was out Shishkina's reach, giving Bencic her 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-4 victory.

"It was stupid of me to give away the 4-2 lead," said Bencic. "But at 4-4, I said, she is not leading, so I'm just going to play now the big points and win the important points. It was not my best match, because it was the first of the tournament, and the first is not so easy. I was not playing the first match so good, but I won, and that's important."

Bencic also took the crowd's support for her opponent in stride.

"She's local here and she has people around her and she has support, but also I think the people were supporting me," said Bencic, who is No. 11 in the ITF world junior rankings. "She deserves it, because she is a good player."

The atmosphere on Court 8, where boys top seed Noah Rubin played Thien Nguyen Hoang couldn't have been more of a contrast with the 150 fans that hung on every shot of the Bencic - Shishkina encounter. With never more than a dozen fans watching, Rubin fought back to record a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over the 2009 Junior Orange Bowl 14s champion, picking up a break in the eighth game of the third set and holding on for the win.

Top seed Taylor Townsend did draw a bigger crowd for her 9 a.m. match with Dominika Paterova of the Czech Republic, but their viewing window was small, with Townsend taking a quick 6-0, 6-4 victory. Townsend, who is still awaiting word on her request for a wild card into next week's Orange Bowl, found her way to the net on occasion, even though the surface can make the route forward an adventurous one.

Second seeds Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic advanced to the second round in straight sets. Third seed Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia also came through, but boys No. 3 Borna Coric lost to Brayden Schnur of Canada 7-6(0), 7-6(5).

The 18s qualifying finished Monday morning, with Dan Kerznerman and Nicole Frenkel of the US joining the main draw with wins. Seeded girls falling in the first round include Christina Makarova(9), Domenica Gonzalez(15) of Ecuador and Erin Routliffe(11) of Canada. In addition to Coric, Hugo DiFeo(7) of Canada and Alexander Vasilenko(16) of Russia also went out in the first round.

It wasn't a good day for relatives of top professionals, as wild card Djordje Djokovic of Serbia, brother of ATP No. 1 Novak, retired down 6-2, 2-0 to Ronnie Schneider, and Daria Sharapova of Belarus, cousin of Maria, lost to Jennifer Brady 6-4, 6-3.

On Tuesday, the remaining 21 singles matches in the 18s will be played to complete the first round, as well as all 32 matches in the first round of doubles.

In the 12s, 14s, and 16s, half of the first round matches were played, with few upsets.

Abigail Desiatnikov of the US and Yshai Oliel of Israel, the top seeds in the 12s, moved through to the second round, as did Ku Keon Kang of Korea and Ye Qiuyu of China, the top seeds in the 16s.  In the 14s, top seeds Usue Arconada of the US and Orlando Luz of Brazil do not play their first round matches until Tuesday.

At 6 p.m. on Tuesday evening, ATP stars John Isner and Xavier Malisse will be providing an exhibition for coaches, parents and players at  Stadium Court, courtesy of Prince Tennis.

For complete results and draws, go to eddieherr.com.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Main Draw Matches Begin in All Four Divisions Monday at Eddie Herr International

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Bradenton, FL--

Another day of perfect weather--sunny, little wind, temperatures near 70--greeted those vying for main draw spots Sunday in the final round of qualifying for the Eddie Herr International.

The ITF Grade 1 for the 18s were scheduled to play two rounds of qualifying on Sunday, but due to darkness delaying the completion of five boys and two girls first round matches Saturday, only half the qualifiers were known when play was once again suspended around 5:30 p.m. on Sunday. 

Two US girls--No. 5 qualifying seed Johnnise Renaud and No. 11 seed Alexandra Morozova--did secure their spots in the main draw, as did unseeded Henry Craig of the US. Craig dropped only five games in his two qualifying matches Sunday, taking out No. 3 seed Kamil Majchrzak of Poland 6-1, 6-3 and cruising past fellow unseeded American Logan Smith 6-1, 6-0 in his second match of the day. Smith, who had a much longer morning match, beating Alp Horoz of Turkey 2-6, 6-3, 7-5, lacked some energy in the second set against Craig, but Craig did play very well, getting a number of free points on his serve while playing aggressively from the baseline.

Another all-American showdown for a qualifying spot, this time in the girls draw, was not completed, with Nicole Frenkel winning the first set from Maria Smith 6-3, but trailing 4-2 in the second set. Smith beat Frenkel in the semifinals of the Grade 4 ITF at the Evert Academy just over a week ago 2-6, 6-3, 6-0, so that is definitely still anyone's match.

Dan Kerznerman, who had made the overnight trip from the Yucatan Cup in order to play his first round match in qualifying on Saturday, won his second round match over Alejandro Tabilo of Canada 6-2, 6-2 Sunday. He did not have to play his fourth match in three days in two different countries because his opponent, Rafael Coutinho of Venezuela, was one of those players who did not finish his first round match on Saturday.

In the other age divisions, Russia dominated the qualifying in girls 12s, taking four of the eight available spots in the 64 draw, while Canada took four of the eight in the boys 14s.

The US had the most qualifiers in the remaining four divisions. In the boys 12s, Ivan Yatsuk, Robert Hammond, Ricardo Fernandez Paredes and Jordi Redelijk are the US qualifiers; in the boys 14s, Robert Loeb is the sole qualifier from the US. In the boys 16s, David Mitchell, Mark Epshteyn-Losev, Nikola Samardzic and Reilly Opelka are the American qualifiers.

In the girls 16s, Anna Pomyatinskaya, Jessica Failla, Isabelle Krupa and Amanda Atanasson are the US players reaching the main draw with wins Sunday. The American qualifiers in the girls 14s are M'balia Bangoura, Alexandra Angyalosy, Hanna Chang and Tate Schroeder. The US qualifiers in the girls 12s are Ulyana Shirokova and Zlata Bobyr.

My preview of the 12s and 14s division is available today at the Tennis Recruiting Network.  In case you missed it, my 16s and 18s preview was posted there on Friday.

The main draw for the 18s begins Monday with 43 main draw matches, with top seeds Taylor Townsend and Noah Rubin in action against Dominika Paterova of the Czech Republic and Thien Nguyen Hoang of Vietnam respectively.

One of the most interesting of Monday's first round matches will be 14-year-old wild card Maria Shishkina of the US against 15-year-old Belinda Bencic of Switzerland, the No. 5 seed.

The order of play and draws are available at eddieherr.com.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Kerznerman's Odyssey From Yucatan to Bradenton Ends with a Win in Eddie Herr Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Bradenton, FL--

At 9 p.m. on Friday night, Dan Kerznerman was just finishing his Yucatan Cup semifinal match with Thai Kwiatkowski in Merida, Mexico. With a win, Kerznerman would have received a special exemption and avoided qualifying for the Eddie Herr, but the 16-year-old left-hander lost 6-0, 1-6, 6-3, which meant the beginning of a very long and stressful journey to get to Bradenton in time for his first round qualifying match Saturday afternoon.

At midnight, Kerznerman and friend Luca Corinteli, who had lost in the doubles semifinals, began their trip back to the United States with a four-hour bus ride to Cancun.

"We got to Cancun at 4:15, and got a 6:00 a.m. flight to Miami," said Kerznerman, who put his total number of hours of sleep over the course of those two trips at four. "We got to Miami at 10, and at 11:50 took a flight to here. We got here at 1:20 pm, drove straight here from the airport, hit with Luca, and played my match."

Kerznerman's match, the last of the day, was scheduled for not before 3 p.m., but due to some long matches early in the day, he and his opponent, Luis Valero of Colombia, did not get on the court until 4:40 p.m.

Kerznerman's brief hit with Corinteli was on hard courts, so it was hardly surprising that he fell behind 2-0 in the first set before getting his measure of the clay courts and his opponent and posting a 6-4, 6-0 win as darkness set in.

"The first 20 minutes I was completely out of it, I felt really slow on the court," said Kerznerman. "Once I got into the match, got my legs moving, I started playing better over time."

Unseeded at the Yucatan Cup, Kerznerman said his run to the semifinals there gave him confidence facing so many obstacles, including the challenge of booking last-minute travel.

"Last week was the best week of tennis of my life," Kerznerman said. "My dad and Luca's dad were trying to find flights, and finally they found one flight--we spent like $600 each--but we got here. We have nowhere to stay tonight."

"I could have found another (earlier) flight," said Corinteli, who is already in the main draw. "But I couldn't let him do that by himself."

Kerznerman had the match well in hand, leading 5-0 in the second set and serving, when the fading light presented another variety of time pressure. After failing to convert two match points, Kerznerman was ready to serve the first deuce point when the roving official told him the match would be suspended at the completion of the game.

Kerznerman failed to convert another match point, but after another deuce he got the next one, as Corinteli stood at the fence, cheering him on.

" I wanted to win that last game," said Kerznerman, who needed less than an hour to complete the victory. "Last week was really fun and everything, but now I'm just really tired and I just want to rest for tomorrow."

Kerznerman was able to complete his match, but seven other first round 18s qualifying matches could not be finished, with no lights available on the clay courts at the IMG Bollettieri Academy.  Five boys and two girls matches will have to be finished Sunday morning. With two rounds of qualifying scheduled for Sunday in the 18s, those who did not finish their first round on Saturday (and their opponents, of course) may have to play their final round of qualifying on Monday.

The second round of the 12s, 14s, and 16s qualifying finished Saturday afternoon, so those qualifiers should all be decided on Sunday.

For the complete results for all divisions, see the TennisLink site.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Eddie Herr Preview; List of 18s Main Draw Wild Cards, with Qualifying Beginning Saturday; USA Today Followup on USTA Junior Competition Changes

My preview of the Eddie Herr 16s and 18s divisions is available now at the Tennis Recruiting Network. My preview of the 12s and 14s will go up on Sunday.

I arrived at the IMG Bollettieri Academy this afternoon and was amazed by all the changes since last year. The indoor tennis facility is no longer serving as tournament headquarters, with many new tents everywhere--for registration, match calling, officials, players lounge, vendors, you name it. There is also a new Prince building just a few steps from court 8, where the stringers and the score reporting are located. I believe that scores are going up on the internet as soon as they are recorded, so please check the TennisLink site often if you are looking for a particular result.

The place to go for the order of play for the start of the 18s qualifying on Saturday is eddieherr.com, which also has links to the qualifying draws.

The wild cards for the 18s main draw, which begins Monday:

JC Aragone
Deiton Baughman
Djorde Djokovic
Osni Junior
Toshiki Matsuya
Tommy Mylnikov
Ronnie Schneider
Henrik Wiersholm

Naiktha Bains
Louisa Chirico
Jessica Ho
Dasha Ivanova
Kaitlyn McCarthy
Daria Sharapova
Maria Shishkina
Naomi Totka

I also heard that John Isner and Xavier Malisse will be participating in an exhibition for players, coaches and parents here on Tuesday.  There should be extra buzz on the always humming academy grounds on that day.

Chris Oddo, writing for USA Today, provided a followup story on the USTA Junior Competition changes today, with new perspectives from Dick Gould and John Whitlinger of Stanford, Lisa Stone of Parenting Aces, former ATP stars and current academy owners Johan Kriek and Harold Solomon, and Jon Vegosen and Kurt Kamperman of the USTA. The second Town Hall listening meeting is tomorrow (Saturday) at the National Open in Connecticut.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving; 14 of 16 Competitors for USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Tournament Announced

Tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, is one of the very few days I take off during the year. A big family dinner in North Carolina will be followed by a long drive to Bradenton, Florida, where I begin my coverage of the Eddie Herr. The Tennis Recruiting Network will have my preview of the 16s and 18s on Friday, followed a few days later by my preview of the 12s and 14s. This is one time during the year when junior tennis has the spotlight nearly all to itself, and I'm looking forward not only to watching the players I know, but to getting a first look at others, especially in the 12s.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday, and thank you again for reading zootennis.

The USTA's Australian Open wild card tournament, which will again be held in Atlanta, is scheduled for December 14-16 at Life Time Tennis in Norcross.

All eight of the women and six of the men participants have been announced:

Mallory Burdette
Julia Cohen
Irina Falconi
Alexa Glatch
Madison Keys
Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Maria Sanchez
Alison Riske

Steve Johnson
Bradley Klahn
Daniel Kosakowski
Denis Kudla
Tennys Sandgren
Rhyne Williams

Madison Keys, who won the wild card tournament last year, is the youngest player, at 17, while Bethanie Mattek-Sands is the oldest, at 27.  I'm a bit surprised not to see Jessica Pegula and Chi Chi Scholl, who would be in if the USTA just went down the ranking list, but it's possible they declined. Taylor Townsend and Grace Min, both from the Atlanta area, are also notable in their absence.

While the women's selections appear to have gone mostly by WTA ranking, the men's do not, with many veterans with higher rankings than the above six players not in field.  Jack Sock, at a new career-high ATP ranking of 150, is the most obvious player missing, with Donald Young, who lives in Atlanta, also not among the participants. There are two more players to be added however, so check the tournament website for that announcement, and if you are in the area, ticket information.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Will Maryland Reinstate Men's Tennis? More Signing Updates

This week's announcements that both Maryland and Rutgers will join the Big Ten conference has led to discussion about the possible reinstatement of the men's tennis program at Maryland, which was dropped last year. (Rutger's dropped men's tennis back in 2006, so the cutting of that program is not as fresh in everyone's mind.) There is substantially more revenue available to these two schools now as members of the Big Ten, and all of the current members of the conference field teams in both men's and women's tennis.

This article from the Baltimore Sun suggests how painful the cuts were to the athletes in the eliminated programs, with no clear answer as to whether men's tennis and the other sports will be reinstated.

For more on Rutgers joining the conference, see this New York Times article, which says the athletic director there "sidestepped" the question of restoring the six sports eliminated along with men's tennis back in 2006.

The National Letter of Intent signing announcements have continued to pop up on school websites, and here are some of the latest that I've come across.

Alabama: Hayes Brewer, Saxon Buehning and Sean Donohue
Boise State--Brendan McClain and Abe Hewko
Duke--TJ Pura
Georgia Tech--Carlos Benito 
New Mexico--Hayden Sabatka
North Carolina--Jack Murray and Ronnie Schneider
Tennessee--Markus Kerner

Georgia Tech--Rasheeda McAdoo and Alexa Anton-Ohlmeyer
Nebraska--Brittany Brewster, Mary Hanna and Katerina Matysova
Notre Dame--Mary Closs and Monica Robinson
Ole Miss--Mai El Kamash
Rutgers--Farris Cunningham
Southern Mississippi--Alexandra Kitchen and Kathrin Waidner
UCLA--Jennifer Brady
Vanderbilt--Sydney Campbell
Wake Forest--Samantha Asch, Luisa Fernandez and Kimmy Guerin

Monday, November 19, 2012

USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Recap; Slideshow, Videos

Due to the many college announcements during signing week, my recap of the Indoor Championships in New York was delayed a few days, but is up today at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Below is the slideshow of the quarterfinalists in singles, the semifinalists in doubles and the consolation winners.

Also below are brief videos of the champions. In the recap I describe one of Jarmere Jenkins' improbable winners (there were several more), and it's in the video. Although you can only see him hit the ball, not where it lands, it provides some idea of just how locked in his was in that match.

There are videos of finalists Anett Schutting and Sebastian Fanselow available on the Tenniskalamazoo YouTube channel.



Dave Kozlowski also did phone interviews with the two winners for the Tennis Channel. Hear him talk to Robin Anderson here, and Jenkins here.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Pouille Wins Second Straight Futures in Mexico; Copa Yucatan Grade 1 Starts Monday; Link to Notes on USTA's First Town Hall Meeting

Eighteen-year-old Lucas Pouille of France, who started the year playing the Australian Open Junior Championships, but then switched entirely to the ITF Men's Circuit, won his second straight title in Merida Mexico today. 

Pouille beat Wimbledon and US Open junior champion Filip Peliwo of Canada 6-3, 6-3 in the final. Neither was seeded, but between them they eliminated five of the eight seeds.

The previous week, Pouille had defeated doubles partner Mathias Bourgue of France, also 18 years old, in the final. This week they met in the quarterfinals, and again it was a straight-set win for Pouille, who had reached two Futures finals earlier this year.  In his Mexico run, Pouille did not lose in set in his ten victories.

It was Peliwo's first Futures final, with a semifinal appearance his previous best showing at that level.

Today in the Bradenton $10,000 Futures final, 15-year-old Alexander Zverev of Germany lost in his first championship match at the Futures level 6-0, 6-1 to top seed Florian Reynet of France.

The ITF Grade 1 Copa Yucatan begins Monday in Mexico, with Sachia Vickery and Christina Makarova the top American girls and Mackenzie McDonald and Thai Kwiatkowski the top American boys on the acceptance list.  Qualifying should have been completed earlier today, but those draws have not yet been updated, nor have the main draws been released.  As I tweeted a couple of days ago, there were only 10 girls in qualifying, all from Mexico, while the boys draw of 64 was completely filled. For more information, see the tournament website.

The Parenting Aces blog is keeping close tabs on the USTA Junior Competition Town Hall Meetings, and after yesterday's at the Middle Atlantic section's annual meeting, someone who attended was kind enough to provide an account of the discussion.  I'm going to reserve judgment until I have more data to go on, but I will say my initial impression leaves me less optimistic than I was in October when these meetings were first announced. And to be honest, I wasn't all that optimistic back then.

For the account of the meeting, which had USTA's Lew Brewer and Scott Schultz as presenters, see this post at Parenting Aces.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Shishkina, Kalyuzhnyy Win Evert ITF Grade 4; 15-year-old Zverev reaches Final at Bradenton Futures

The last Grade 4 of the fall US ITF swing finished today at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton, Florida, with Maria Shishkina of the US and Vadym Kalyuzhnyy of Ukraine winning the singles titles.

The top-seeded Kalyuzhnyy, who turns 17 next month, needed three sets to get through in three of his matches, but today against US qualifier Baker Newman, he came through in straight sets 7-5, 6-2. Newman can hardly be disappointed with his showing this week, however, as the 17-year-old Floridian picked up eight wins including qualifying.

Third-seeded Shishkina breezed to the title, losing only 10 games in her six victories, and she beat three players, including unseeded Maria Smith in today's final, 6-0, 6-0. She is, at the moment, in the qualifying draws at both the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl, in the 18s division, and in this run, and her success at the Grade B1 in Tulsa, where she reached the semifinals before withdrawing with an injury, it's obvious she can compete with those three and four years older.

The girls doubles title went to unseeded Mia Horvit and Katerina Stewart, who beat seventh-seeded Lisa Ponomar of Germany and Tyler Smith of Bermuda in the final by a 6-1, 6-3 score. 

Lamar Remy and Alejandro Tabillo of Canada took the boys doubles title. The No. 5 seeds defeated unseeded Jake Devine and Nathan Ponwith 6-2, 6-7(4), 10-6.

On the other side of the state, another teenager got the attention of the tennis world, with 15-year-old Alexandre Zverev of Germany reaching the final of the $10,000 Futures tournament in Bradenton.
Zverev beat fellow teen Luke Bambridge of Great Britain 6-3, 6-4 in today's semifinal after picking up wins over No. 8 seed Sekou Bangoura Jr. and No. 4 seed Benjamin Balleret earlier in the week.
Although the field is not a strong one, with Zverev getting direct entry with his ATP ranking of 1156, it's still an impressive accomplishment for one so young. He will play top seed Florian Reynet of France in Sunday's final.

Zverev is in the main draw of both the Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl, which are being played on the same surface (and for the Eddie Herr, the same courts) as the Futures tournament. Zverev, the younger brother of ATP pro Mischa Zverev, will not be seeded, so where he lands in the draw will be of great interest to everyone.

Recent Stanford graduate Ryan Thacher picked up his second doubles title in as many weeks today in Bradenton, teaming with former UCLA star Haythem Abid of Tunisia, after winning at the Niceville Futures with Jason Jung.

Thacher and Abid, who were unseeded, beat No. 2 seeds Romain Arneodo of France and Balleret of Montserrat6-3, 3-6, 10-4.

The last US Pro Circuit challenger of the year finished up today in Champaign, Ill., with No. 6 seed Tim Smyczek defeating No. 7 seed Jack Sock 2-6, 7-6(1), 7-5 for the singles title.

Devin Britton and Austin Krajicek won their fifth doubles title of the year together, but their first Challenger, in Champaign, defeating the South African team of Jean Andersen and Izak van der Merwe 6-3, 6-3. Britton and Krajicek were seeded No. 2, while Andersen and van der Merwe were unseeded. It was Britton's 11th title overall, and Krajicek's sixth in 2012.

The complete draws can be found at the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.

Friday, November 16, 2012

First USTA Town Hall Listening Meeting Saturday Nov. 17; NLI Signing Announcements From Around the Country

The first USTA Junior Competition Town Hall Listening meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, November 17, at the Sheraton Hotel in Reston Virginia. Lew Brewer is scheduled to speak at the Mid-Atlantic section's annual meeting and awards luncheon with the topic "Understanding the Upcoming Changes to the Junior Tournament Structure." This gives the impression that the changes are a done deal, which was not my understanding from the statement after the October Tennis Industry meeting in Chicago, but I could be misinterpreting the above title or the statement. For more, see this post from Parenting Aces.

There have been some tentative plans formulated for additional Town Hall meetings, but I must emphasize that these are not final, nor are they likely to be the only meetings the USTA will be conducting on this topic. However, in case one of these is near you, you might want to save the date, and double check for details in the upcoming days and weeks, when I expect to have a more formal announcement from the USTA.

November 24: Boys & Girls 14s National Open, Rocky Hill, CT
December 16: ITA Convention (for convention attendees only), Naples FL
December 26: 16s & 18s Winter Nationals, Scottsdale, AZ
December 27: 12s & 14s Winter Nationals, Tucson, AZ
Jan. 10-13: Southern Section annual meeting, Atlanta, GA
Feb. 15-17: Texas Section annual meeting, Grapevine, TX

Obviously, there are some major markets that can be expected to be have their own Town Hall meetings, including Florida, Southern California and the Midwest sections.

After three days, the signing announcements are starting to roll in, so I'll provide links to the ones I've found, with the names of the school and the recruits(s). Not all are for fall of 2013. Some are financial aid commitments for spring of 2013.

Florida--Diego Hidalgo, Maxx Lipman, Elliott Orkin, Josh Wardell
Florida State--Jake Albo, Grayson Goldin, Jose Gracia, Jack Haffey
LSU--Justin Butsch, Hobie Hotard, Eric Perez
Miami--Bernard Tefel
Notre Dame--Josh Hagar, Eddy Covalschi
Oklahoma--Vasile Ghilea
Texas--George Goldhoff
Texas Tech--Hugo Dojas
UCLA--Gage Brymer, Joe DiGiulio, Mackenzie McDonald
Washington--Gal Hakak
Western Michigan--Ruben Greiner

Arizona State--Kassidy Jump, Gussie O'Sullivan
Duke--Alyssa Smith
Florida--Kourtney Keegan
Michigan--Sara Remynse
New Mexico--Rachana Bhat, Dominique Dulski, Emily Olivier, Meredith Hopson
North Carolina--Hayley Carter, Jamie Loeb
Oklahoma--Morgan Chumney
South Carolina--Caroline Dailey, Brigit Folland
SMU--Anna Anderson, Macie Elliott, Mary Wright
Tennessee--Brittany Lindl
USC--Zoe Katz
Western Michigan--Meika Ashby, Tracy Kuhle

Thursday, November 15, 2012

USTA Announces Team for Next Month's Collegiate Master'U BNP Paribas; Sean Karl Signs with Tennessee

The USTA announced today the three men and three women who will represent the United States in the annual international collegiate competition in France next month, defending the title they won last year.

Lauren Embree of Florida, Jacqueline Cako of Arizona State and Zoe Scandalis of Southern California make up the women's team, with Jarmere Jenkins, Evan King and Raymond Sarmiento the men representing the US. Embree, Cako and Jenkins were on last year's Master'U BNP Paribas championship team.

This is the fifth consecutive year the US will compete against seven other countries, with this year's teams coming from Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and Russia.  The competition is Dec. 5-9 in Aix-en-Provence, with Greg Patton of Boise State again coaching the men, and Cal's Amanda Augustus coaching the women.

For the complete release, see usta.com.

Of all the National Letter of Intent signings this week, none is more noteworthy than the one that has Sean Karl now officially at Tennessee. Karl had verbally committed to the Volunteers months ago, long before he was diagnosed with cancer, but until he signed, NCAA rules did not allow the school to acknowledge him. Obviously, many of his friends on the team were able to individually pay tribute to him (see the photo accompanying the article on his signing on the athletic website) as he began chemotherapy last week, but the institution itself could not.

As the release states, Karl's illness has touched nearly everyone in the tennis community, with Roger Federer showing his support in a video (Paul Annacone, Federer's coach, is a former Volunteer), and Rafael Nadal providing a signed Babolat racquet, while high school and college teams, and hundreds of his friends from the juniors, have also reached out to him.

The family now has a website, prayforsean.com, where inexpensive hats and T-shirts can be purchased, with the proceeds going to help the Karl family. Links to the group facebook page, the caring bridge page and a meal signup page are also included there.

Yesterday, Lisa Stone of Parenting Aces wrote a heartfelt post entitled simply "Community" that conveys how much the sport has given us all. I've been around junior tennis long enough to see its dark side, but that will never keep me from appreciating all that it can offer to children, parents, coaches and fans of the game.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Signing Day; Catching Up with Jack Sock, Mitchell Krueger, Noelle Hickey; Orange Bowl Mystery Solved

Today is the big day for the Class of 2013, the first day a recruit can officially commit to attend a school in the fall of 2013 by signing a National Letter of Intent.

These seven days, known as the early signing period, will see a raft of announcements by sports information departments once they have the signed NLI in their possession.  I will do my best to provide links to those that have not been covered by the Tennis Recruiting Network, but your best bet for keeping up to date with all the activity is check in there regularly.  Today TRN kicked off their coverage with the announcement that Jamie Loeb, the bluest of blue chips, will be wearing Carolina blue next fall.  George Goldhoff's commitment to Texas was also announced, and Taylor Davidson will be revealing her choice any minute.

A couple of recents announcements that aren't NLI signings, but recruiting news nonetheless, disclosed that Kiah Generette will be joining the Baylor women in January of 2013, and Nick Wood will be joining the Georgia men at that time as well.

USA Today ran a feature today by Romana Cvitkovic, who was at the Charlottesville Challenger two weeks ago, where she conducted an interview with Jack Sock. Sock, who lost in the opening round of the Knoxville Challenger, is in Champaign, Illinois this week for that $50,000 Challenger, and he has reached the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 7-5 win over Bradley Klahn earlier this afternoon.

Mitchell Krueger is competing in the IMG Academy Futures this week, and the Bradenton Herald provided this article about the 18-year-old (complete with his player credential photo from Kalamazoo).

Former UCLA All-American Noelle Hickey will be returning to the ITF Women's Circuit, according to this article from North Jersey's The Record. Hickey's last year at UCLA was a memorable one, clinching the Bruins upset of No. 3 Duke to reach the NCAA team Final Four in 2011.  Hickey played some in her first year out of college, but not since April, and she has been an instructor at Court Sense in Tenafly, where Christina and Lauren McHale trained for many years. (I believe Christina has left USTA Player Development in New York and returned there recently).

It turns out that the lower ranking for Seong Chan Hong (and others) in the Orange Bowl, which resulted in his being subjected to qualifying rather than the main draw, (he gained direct entry at the Eddie Herr) is the result of an earlier cutoff date for the Orange Bowl than for the Eddie Herr. I haven't been able to find out the reason why the Orange Bowl has an earlier cutoff date, since it is a week later, but I'm told that Grade A's often do, although the ITF regulations are vague on that, saying that Grades A's and their warm-up tournaments have entry cutoffs of 27, 34 or 41 days out.

Hard to believe that I never noticed that reversal before, but it certainly makes for an interesting qualifying round when you have Top 50 players in it. Hong's success in the big Asian events this fall were no help to him when it comes to the 2012 Orange Bowl.