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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Garin, Konjuh Claim Eddie Herr 18s Titles; Americans Norris and Douglas Win Girls 16s and Girls 12s Championships

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Bradenton, FL--

Ana Konjuh began the Eddie Herr championships last Monday by dropping the first set in the first round 6-0 to wild card Jessica Ho.

On a warm and sunny Sunday morning at the IMG Bollettieri Academy that day seemed long ago, with the 14-year-old Croatian breezing past Barbara Haas of Austria 6-1, 6-1 in less than an hour.

“I got used to this clay, the new balls, and everything,” said Konjuh, the No. 7 seed. “Every tournament that first round I was down, I won the tournament, so I was used to it.”

Against the No. 16 seed Haas, who had beaten No. 1 seed Taylor Townsend and No. 5 seed Belinda Bencic en route to the final, Konjuh was nearly flawless.  Hitting with great power, especially on the backhand side, Konjuh also displayed touch, with effective drop shots at unexpected times.

Haas admitted to being tired, and Konjuh, who has a bigger frame than Haas, said she noticed her opponent was missing shots due to fatigue.

“I really respect her, she’s a really good player, but today, she was a bit tired,” said Konjuh, who said she wasn’t nervous at all playing in her third Grade 1 final. “Today I was just better than her. I was very aggressive, especially in the start of the match, so I am just happy to be here and to play the best I can.”

“I was a little bit tired already,” Haas confirmed. “She played really solid and really hit strong winners, so I have to congratulate her.”

Konjuh, who turns 15 later this month, will play the Orange Bowl, then return home to Croatia, where she trains with Kristijan Schneider in Zagreb, before heading for the Australian Open Junior Championships.

When Serbia’s Laslo Djere took a 6-0, 4-1 lead over Christian Garin of Chile in the boys championship match that followed, it looked as if both ITF finals would be cut-and-dried affairs.

The match morphed into some quite different, however, as Djere then proceeded to lose nine straight games to trail 4-0 in the third set, before reeling off five consecutive games. When the roller coaster ride ended two hours and ten minutes after it started, it was Garin who enjoyed it most, taking a 0-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory.

Both players alternated between brilliant shotmaking and tired-looking errors in the final set. Djere clawed his way to a 5-4 lead after Garin failed to win a point serving at 4-1 and at 4-3.

Garin finally won a big point serving at 4-5. At 15-30, Garin was in danger of facing match points, when he came up with a scrambling forehand half-volley flick winner for 30-all.  He won the next two points to end the 17-year-old Serbian’s streak, then broke when at 30-30, Djere made two unforced errors on the forehand side.

With Garin serving for the match, two more unforced errors from Djere left Garin with two match points. Djere’s backhand forced an error from Garin to save one, but a good first serve ended the drama.

“In the first set I was waiting for the error,” said Garin, who often used his doubles partner Nicolas Jarry as an interpreter. “He was playing very good. I was going to run and run for every single ball, and after all, it worked.”

Garin said he was guilty of looking ahead when he took a 4-0 lead in the final set.

“I was a little bit nervous for winning,” said the 16-year-old, who is the first Chilean to win the Eddie Herr 18s since his idol Marcelo Rios in 1993. “I thought of what was going to happen, not of my game. This is what gives you more experience.”

Garin remembers competing at the Eddie Herr in the 14s, and being in awe while watching the players in the 18s.

“I saw the finals of the 18s and thought that they were really good, and wanted to be one of them,” said Garin, who also won the doubles title with Jarry on Saturday. “So now I realized that I’m good.”

For Djere, the disappointment of coming all the way back to 4-4 in the final set only to lose it was especially painful.

“It felt good to come back, but maybe I am more disappointed to lose this way,” said the 17-year-old right-hander. “I had my chances in the third set, but I lost.”

Djere hopes he can follow Garin’s lead and learn from the match, but if he does, it won’t be right away.

“Now I can’t think about this match, I need some time to rest,” said Djere. “Then sometime I think about it and hopefully I will also learn something. I don’t have a lot of time, I just have to look forward. It was a pretty nice week for me, but I have to continue to work hard.”

Marie Norris became the fourth straight American champion in the girls 16s division, coming from behind to take a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 decision from Carolyn Xie, also of the United States.

Norris, the No. 4 seed, didn’t lose a set in the tournament until the opener in the final, but she made adjustments.

“I was really tight in the first set,” said the 15-year-old from Kansas. “In the second I got more relaxed, more focused. She was doing a really good job of keeping me back, but in the second and third I decided to be more aggressive, so I could attack and be in control of the point.”

Norris was broken serving for the match at 5-1, but she didn’t panic when the unseeded Xie won the game.

“I just said ‘these four points,’” Norris said of her thoughts on the changeover.

When she returned to the court, four points was all she needed. Xie made it easy for Norris with errors, while Norris kept hitting aggressively to reach match point. With three match points, Norris only needed one as her forehand winner dropped softly onto the baseline, giving her the championship.

Although Norris said it was her biggest title, she was still trying to figure out how she felt about it.

“I don’t really know,” said Norris, who will play on Monday in the main draw of the 16s Orange Bowl. “It hasn’t sunk in yet. It’s been a good week, and hopefully I can do it again next week.”

Ku Keon Kang of Korea took the boys 16s title, defeating No. 2 seed Jordi Arconada of Argentina 6-0, 6-0 in a match that barely lasted over half an hour.

Kang, who had an ITF ranking high enough to get into the 18s but could not play it because he had reached his maximum number of tournaments for a 15-year-old, was required to go through qualifying for the 16s division.

He sailed through those three matches and didn’t drop a set in his six main draw wins. With his doubles title, he played a total of 15 matches in ten days in Bradenton, but the ITF Asian Closed Grade B1 Spring finalist showed no sign of any fatigue.

“No, I’m not tired, maybe next week,” said Kang, who was already looking ahead to Monday’s start to the Orange Bowl 16s, where he will also be the top seed.

“I practice always on clay, when I practice in Korea,” said Kang, who said he didn’t play exceptionally well in his shellacking of Arconada, but didn’t make many errors, while Arconada did.

Kang followed his singles title with one in doubles. He and partner Soon Woo Kwon, the No. 5 seeds, defeated unseeded Carsten Fisher and Alexander Knight of the United States 6-2, 6-1.

The girls 16s doubles title went to unseeded Alexandra Baer and Charlotte Petrick of Canada, who beat No. 3 seeds Ellyse Hamlin and Norris of the US 2-6, 6-4, 10-8.

All doubles were played in the ITF junior no-ad, match tiebreaker format.

Another top seed, this one a wild card, came through in the boys 14s, with Brazil’s Orlando Luz taking the title 6-1, 6-3 over No. 4 seed Evan Zhu of the United States.

Luz has not lost a match in the 14s this year, going 30-0 in major South American tournaments, but thanks to the generosity of Prince, he was able to fly to Florida to participate in the Eddie Herr.

After playing well over three hours in his 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-2 semifinal win over No. 3 Chanyeong Oh of Korea, Luz admitted he was tired, but it didn’t show against Zhu.

“I’m very tired,” Luz said through an interpreter. “Yesterday it was very tough, today not so much, but during the whole week, I got very tired. But I’m very happy for the title.”

Luz will not be playing Orange Bowl or Junior Orange Bowl, but will instead be competing in a South American tournament, as well as qualifying in the ITF Grade A Abierto Juvenil in Mexico City.

“It was a very nice week,” Luz said. “I would like to thank Prince for their sponsorship and congratulate the people for a very nice tournament, well-organized and managed, and I would like to be back next year.”

Luz and his partner Alexei Popyrin of Australia, the No. 3 seeds, claimed the tournament's final championship, downing No. 4 seeds Chanyeong Oh of Korea and Jakub Patyk of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-0.

The girls 14s championship went to No. 7 seed Fanni Stoller of Hungary, who defeated No. 3 seed Sofia Kenin of the United States 1-6, 7-5, 6-3. Kenin served for the match at 5-3 in the second set, but Stoller found her form just in time.

Top seeds Dalma Gálfi of Hungary and Tereza Mihalikova of the Slovak Republic  defeated unseeded Hanna Chang and Abigail Chui of the United States 7-5, 6-2 for the girls 14s doubles championship.

Ellie Douglas of the United States won the girls 12s, defeating Anastasia Potapova of Russia 6-7(4), 6-0, 6-2.

Douglas, the No. 8 seed, had come back from a set down in two of her previous three matches prior to the final, a situation she said she doesn’t mind.

“I just know what to do in the next set,” said the Texas resident. “After the first set I played a lot more aggressive and I moved her a lot.”
Douglas said Potapova was very aggressive and moved well, and she was also prone to loud displays of energy, occasionally directed at her opponent.

All that competitive fire came to head on match point, when Potapova threw her racquet with such fury that it landed on the other side of the net, uncomfortably close to Douglas.

“I didn’t know what happened,” said Douglas, who had her back turned to go collect her towel. “I heard something and then I heard the crowd. It was pretty close.”

The crowd booed loudly, but Potapova was not defaulted, and she and her partner Alina Mazepova, also of Russia, played and won the doubles final later in the afternoon. The No. 6 seeds, they defeated Douglas and her partner Sarah Bahsoun, the No. 5 seeds, 7-6(4), 6-3.

The boys 12s title went to unseeded Alen Avidzba of Russia, who beat No. 3 seeded countryman Nikolay Vylegzhanin 6-1, 6-2.

The boys 12s doubles champions are Roscoe Bellamy and Sangeet Sridhar, the No. 2 seeds, who defeated No. 1 seeds Tomas Machac of the Czech Republic and Yshai Oliel of Israel 4-6, 6-4, 10-4.

For complete draws, see eddieherr.com.