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Friday, December 21, 2012

Ponwith Saves Match Point to Reach Junior Orange Bowl Boys 14s Semifinal Against Mmoh

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

A cold front descended on South Florida overnight, with the gusty winds accompanying the cooler air nearly blowing No. 3 seed Nathan Ponwith out of the Junior Orange Bowl boys 14s draw in Friday's quarterfinals.

Trailing 5-1 in the third set to Chien Hsun Lo of Taiwan, a No. 17 seed, Ponwith certainly couldn't expect victory, but the 14-year-old from Scottsdale won the final six games of the match for a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 win.

Serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set, Lo earned a match point with a sharply angled cross court forehand winner at 30-30.  After pushing Ponwith back behind the baseline, Lo stood at the net, just needing to put away a simple backhand volley to collect the victory. Somehow that volley went into the net, not over it, and two points and two unforced errors later, Ponwith was back even.

After Ponwith held for 6-5, Lo had a game point to force a tiebreaker, but his forehand caught the tape for deuce. On the next point, he had Ponwith frozen with a lob, but it drifted long, to give Ponwith a match point.  He converted his first and only when Lo sent a forehand long after a brief rally.

"It was a lot of luck," Ponwith said of surviving match point. "I should not have won that point. But after coming back and winning that game, I started getting a lot of momentum. Down 5-1, I realized if I didn't change something I was going to lose, so I just tried to make every ball, and when it was there play aggressive."

Ponwith, of Scottsdale, Arizona, said he'd been involved in matches with  similar comebacks before, but the outcome wasn't what it was Friday.

"Sometimes I was on the other end as well," Ponwith said. "It's always tough to have it right there on your racquet. I'm just glad I came back and got through it."

Ponwith will play top seed Michael Mmoh in Saturday's semifinal. Mmoh got by a pesky Zeke Clark 6-1, 6-3 to set up a rematch with Ponwith. Mmoh beat Ponwith in the semifinals of the Aegon Teen Tennis tournament in Bolton in January, and before that in the quarterfinals of the Junior Orange Bowl 12s in 2010, which Mmoh went on to win.

"I've played him a couple of times and never beaten him," Ponwith said. "He's a very tough player, very athletic, and it's going to be a very tough match for me."

The bottom half of the boys draw will feature No. 4 seed Mikael Ymer of Sweden against No. 6 seed Marko Osmakcic of Switzerland. Ymer downed Jay Clarke of Great Britain 7-6(3), 6-3, while Osmakcic ousted No. 2 seed Chan Yeong Oh of Korea 6-1, 4-6, 6-1.

The girls 14s quarterfinals were also played at the University of Miami on Friday, with the British girls leading the way into the semifinals.  Gabriella Taylor, a No. 17 seed, beat  top seed Dalma Galfi of Hungary 6-3, 6-1, and Maia Lumsden, the No. 8 seed, was even more impressive in her 6-1, 6-1 win over unseeded Nikolina Jovic of Serbia.

Taylor will play Eddie Herr champion Fanni Stollar of Hungary, the No. 5 seed, who recovered from a rough start to beat CC Bellis of the US, a No. 9 seed, 0-6, 6-1, 6-2. Lumsden will play Theo Gravouil of France, a 6-4, 6-4 winner over Alexis Nelson, a No. 9 seed, of the US.

In the girls 12s,  an American and a Ukrainian will meet in the final, but which one will be decided in Saturday's semifinals at the University of Miami.

Ohio's Abigail Desiatnikov, a No. 1 seed, will play qualifier Nada Dimovska of New Jersey in one semifinal, while the other will feature No. 1 seed Dayana Yastremska against unseeded Katarina Zavatska. Desiatnikov defeated Jovana Vukovic of Serbia 7-5, 6-1 in the quarterfinals, and Dimovska got by No. 1 seed Luci Kankova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 6-3. Dimovska has now won eight matches in eight days and has yet to lose a set. She lost to Desiatnikov in the second round of the Eddie Herr last month.

Yastremska outlasted Eddie Herr finalist Anastasia Potapova of Russia 2-6, 6-3, 6-3, while Zavatska cruised by qualifier Ulyana Shirokova of the US 6-3, 6-0.

There are three unseeded players and no Americans left in the boys 12s draw, after Brazil's Igor Gimenez defeated Roscoe Bellamy, a No. 1 seed from the US, 7-5, 6-4, and Israel's Yshai Oliel downed unseeded Jenson Brooksby of the US 6-2, 6-1. Gimenez will play Aruba's Patrick Sydow, also unseeded, in one semifinal, with Oliel playing unseeded Nicolas Mejia of Colombia, who lives and trains in Miami.  Mejia surprised Nike Junior Tour International Masters champion Rudolf Molleker of Germay 1-6, 7-6(0), 6-4. Sydow picked up a 6-3, 6-4 quarterfinal victory over unseeded Mischa Lanz of Switzerland.

The girls 12s and 14s semifinals are scheduled for 10:00 a.m.on Saturday at the University of Miami courts, with the boys 14s following around 11:30. The boys 12s semifinals at Salvadore Park will begin at 11:30 a.m.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.