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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Americans Mmoh, Desiatnikov Reach Junior Orange Bowl Finals; British Champion Assured in Girls 14s

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Coral Gables, FL--

Michael Mmoh of the US already has one Junior Orange Bowl title, winning the 12s championship in 2010. Sunday morning he will take aim on a second title, this time in the 14s, against No. 6 seed Marko Osmakcic of Switzerland.

Top seed Mmoh has yet to drop a set in tournament, but he played his best match of the tournament Saturday, defeating No. 3 seed Nathan Ponwith, also from the United States, 6-0, 6-2.

Mmoh had two previous wins over Ponwith, the last one in the semifinals at the Aegon Teen Tennis tournament in the Great Britain in January, and again Ponwith had no answers for Mmoh's strength and power.

"He was really tight coming in," said Mmoh, who has yet to surrender more than four games in a set this week. "I was loose, and I don't think he's been in these kind of situations. It was just mental really. He's a really good player, but he just didn't come out strong."

Mmoh has been playing 18s successfully this fall, qualifying for the US Open Junior Championships and winning a round there and also reaching the quarterfinals at the Grade A Osaka Mayor's Cup in Japan in October, so playing in the 14s now comes with a different set of expectations.

"Coming into this tournament, I really wanted to win this tournament, that was my goal," said Mmoh, who trains at the IMG Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton.  In the 18s, usually my goal is like quarters, but this, my goal was to win it."

Mmoh said he's frequently asked if his goal is to win every age division of the Orange Bowl, and in hindsight thinks perhaps he should have played the 16s at the Orange Bowl in Plantation, rather the 18s, where he lost in the first round to eventual champion Laslo Djere of Serbia.

Osmakcic, who defeated No. 4 seed Mikael Ymer of Sweden 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 in Saturday's other semifinal, will be looking to avenge his 6-2, 6-0 loss to Mmoh at the ITF World Junior Tennis 14-and-under Team Championships back in August.

Eighth seed Maia Lumsden and Gabriella Taylor, a No. 17 seed, both of Great Britain, will meet in the girls 14s final, and that will be a rematch of a much closer previous meeting.

Back in May, Lumsden defeated Taylor 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the final of a 14s tournament on clay in the Czech Republic.

"It was hard, especially because it was in the final,"  Lumsden said of the three-hour match. "We were both a bit tired, but it was a good match."

Neither girl will likely be tired for Sunday's final, as neither has dropped a set in their six victories this week.  In their semifinals Saturday, Lumsden took care of Theo Gravouil of France 6-1, 7-6(1), coming back from 5-2 down in the second set, while Taylor cruised past Eddie Herr champion and No. 5 seed Fanni Stollar of Hungary 6-2, 6-0.

Lumsden, who has never played the Junior Orange Bowl before, said her belief in the strength of the British contingent grew as the week progressed.

"I wasn't expecting it at the beginning, but as the tournament went on, I though that maybe could happen," said Lumsden, of Glasgow, Scotland. "When I got further into the tournament I started playing better, and I could see Gabby was playing well as well, so I had a feeling."

Whether it is Taylor or Lumsden collecting the winner's bowl of oranges Sunday, she will be the first girl from Great Britain to take the 14s title. Jessica Ren won the Junior Orange Bowl 12s title in 2006.

LTA coach Helen Reesby said there are a variety of reasons for the recent surge in British tennis, both at the professional and junior levels.

"We've had a great year throughout, with the 14s particularly very strong, but in general all the way through," said Reesby. "I work for women's tennis, but we have a very strong group of women now, with Laura Robson and Heather Watson and another three girls who are inside or around Top 100, and our juniors are also starting to move that way. I think it's showing we're becoming a very strong tennis nation. We have a good system in place now, we have a new CEO since 2007, when we had quite a big shakeup, and I think we've got the right coaches in the right places, working with the right players."

Abigail Desiatnikov is looking to become the third straight American girl to win the 12s title, following Nicole Frenkel and Claire Liu, after her 6-4, 6-3 victory over qualifier Nada Dimovska, also of the US.

Desiatnikov trailed 3-0 in the second set, but took the last six games of the match by keeping the ball away from Dimovska's forehand.

"All the time she was trying to hit a winner on the forehand," said the 11-year-old from Ohio, who had beaten Dimovska in the second round at the Eddie Herr. "She definitely played better this match. Her forehand was way more lethal. Maybe two she hit not trying to hit a winner, so I was trying to focus more to the backhand."

It's Desiatnikov's first time playing the Orange Bowl, and after a semifinal showing at the Eddie Herr and reaching the final at the Nike Junior Tour International Masters the past few weeks, she says she's ready for a title.

"I just really, really want to win this tournament," said Desiatnikov. "I really hope to win, and I think I can."

Desiatnikov will play Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine, also a No. 1 seed, in Sunday morning's final.  Yastremska defeated unseeded compatriot Katarina Zavatska 6-4, 6-1 to set up a rematch of her Eddie Herr quarterfinal defeat to Desiatnikov.

"She's very good, hits very hard," said Desiatnikov, who won the match 6-2, 6-4. "She never hits high, except on defense, she hits bam, bam, bam, and that's my game. I love that game. It will be a really good final."

The boys 12s final, which will be played at Salvadore Park at 9 a.m., the same time as the girls 12s final at the University of Miami, will feature Yshai Oliel of Israel against Patrick Sydow of Aruba.

Sydow, who is unseeded, reached the final with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Igor Gimenez of Brazil, also unseeded.  Oliel had a considerably tougher time with unseeded Nicolas Mejia of Colombia, recording a 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-1 victory.

Oliel had a vocal band of supporters for the third set, as did Mejia, who trains in Miami. In the first few games of the third set, which were extremely close, those lining the second deck railing above Court 1 made no secret of their affiliation, and the players were both reacting emotionally to each winner or error.  When Oliel finally got control of the match, getting a second break to make it 5-1, he was able to close it out without any further drama in a match full of it.

A player from Aruba has never won a Junior Orange Bowl title, and the only player from Israel to win one is Shahar Peer, who took the girls 14s title in 2001.

In addition to the singles finals, Sunday will also feature the third and fourth place matches and the consolation final, which will decided fifth place in the tournament.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.