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Sunday, December 1, 2013

Four US Boys Qualify for Eddie Herr ITF; Play Begins in All Age Divisions Monday; USA Collegians Win Master' U Title Over Russia

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Bradenton, FL--

Four American boys each won two qualifying matches on Sunday to reach the main draw of the Eddie Herr ITF Grade 1.  A day that started with a light drizzle and fog turned into a beautiful afternoon, but it wasn't quite long enough to finish the girls qualifying draw, with two matches left unfinished when play was called for darkness.

Catalin Mateas, Tommy Paul, William Blumberg and Reilly Opelka will join 15 other Americans in the boys main draw which will begin Monday, although qualifiers will have the day off.

No. 14 Paul was the only one of the US boys seeded in the qualifying. The Kalamazoo 16s champion defeated No. 6 seed Peter Bertran of the Dominican Republic 7-6(2), 6-2 in the final round of qualifying. Catalin Mateas won the battle of the one-handed backhands against No. 15 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3 to earn a main draw berth, while Blumberg defeated No. 7 seed Ivan Liutarevich of Belarus 6-2, 7-6(2).  Opelka downed Ilya Vasilyev of Russia 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the main draw.

Opelka said that clay is his favorite surface, an unusual preference for a big server now standing at 6-foot-8.

"I guess I just grew up on clay," said the 16-year-old from Palm Coast, Florida. "I've spent most of my life playing on clay, so I just used to it, and I seem to play better on it."

Opelka's focus was tested in the second set, when on the changeover with Opelka about to serve with a 4-3 lead, Vasilyev called for the trainer for his knee. After at least a five-minute delay while the trainer made his way to Court 1 and worked briefly on Vasilyev's right knee, Opelka sat for a few minutes, got up, snuck in a couple of serves before Vasilyev complained to a nearby roving umpire, then sat down for another minute or so before play began again.  Opelka failed to get a first serve in on any of the four points they played to open the game. He didn't get a first serve in on the next point either, but thought he had hit a forehand winner on the far sideline, which Vasilyev called out.  The roving umpire came and looked at the mark, said he could not overrule the call, but then Opelka suggested the ball had broken on the point, so a let had to be played.  The umpire retrieved the ball from Vasilyev, who had pocketed it, determined it was broken and ordered the point replayed.  Opelka finally got a first serve in and won the replayed point with a forehand winner, not quite as close to the line as before. An excellent second serve gave him the game, and Opelka had negotiated the tricky part of the match, with his first serve back on track when he closed out the final game at love.

"Before, I was missing like one first serve per game," said Opelka, who wasn't broken in the match. "And then there, I missed four, five in a row. He definitely was trying to bother me, but I just had to play eight good points, serve two games, and the match would be over."

Vasilyev was standing five or six feet behind the baseline to return Opelka's first serve, and Opelka's second serve also gave him trouble.

"I'm comfortable with that (second serve)," said Opelka, who earned his first ATP point just two weeks ago at the Futures tournament on the very same set of courts. "He was behind the baseline, hitting up on my second serve. Today I served better (than yesterday) with my first and second serve, which kind of makes them think a little more."

No US girls qualified in the matches that finished, but two still have an opportunity. Mira Ruder-Hook lost the first set to Canadian Alexis Prokopuik 6-2, but was serving for the second set at 5-3 when play was called for darkness.  Ndindi Ndunda won the first set from Russia's Angelika Shapovalova 6-4, lost the second 6-1 and trailed 3-1 in the third set when play was suspended.

Top seed Nicole Frenkel lost in the second round to unseeded Seone Mendez of Australia, who went on to qualify.

In the 16s, American qualifiers to the boys main draw are: Jake Gabay, Nikola Samardzic, Christopher Morin, Nicholas Borchenko, Andrew Heller and Tony Leto.  The girls 16s qualifiers from the US are: Jaeda Daniel, Naomi Waters, Dominique Schaefer, Ashby Bland and Gabriella Rodriquez.

In the boys 14s, the US qualifers are: Ryan Goetz, Antoine Sanchez and RJ Fresen. The girls 14s qualifiers from the US are: Isabelle Boulais, Christie Wan and Miranda Ramirez.

The boys 12s US qualifiers are Billy Suarez and Nicholas Garcia, while the girls 12s qualifiers from the US are Nikki Redelijk, Andrea Sotova, Anastasia Khrustaleva, Elli Mandlik(daughter of Hana Mandlikova) and Ruth Marsh.

Complete qualifying draws can be found at eddieherr.com, where all the main draws and the 18s order of play for Monday are also posted. Not all the first round will be played on Monday; qualifiers and some of those who played on the final day of the Grade 1 Yucatan Cup will play Tuesday in the ITF.  The top half of the draws in all the other age divisions are playing Monday, with the bottom half on Tuesday.

Speaking of the Yucatan Cup, Italy's Filippo Baldi, the top seed, defended his title there, defeating No. 7 seed Francisco Bahamonde of Argentina 6-1, 6-1. In the all-Mexican girls final, No. 2 seed Alejandra Cisneros beat No. 6 seed Renata Zarazua 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.

At the Master' U BNP Paribas event in France, the United States team of Mitchell Frank(UVA), Marcos Giron(UCLA), Peter Kobelt(Ohio St), Robin Anderson(UCLA), Lauren Herring(Georgia) and Sabrina Santamaria(USC) won the international collegiate team competition for the third straight year, defeating Russia 7-0 in the final.  For more on the tournament, see coach Greg Patton's blog on usta.com.