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Saturday, December 7, 2013

Rublev and Majchrzak Reach Eddie Herr ITF Boys Final; Ostapenko and Samir Will Decide Girls Title; Americans Reach All Six Finals in 12s, 14s, and 16s

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Bradenton, FL--

Three of the four Eddie Herr International ITF Grade 1 semifinals went to three sets, with No. 11 seed Andrey Rublev's 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 6-2 win over wild card Deiton Baughman the highlight of the seven hours of competition Saturday on the Har-Tru courts of the IMG Bollettieri Academy.

Baughman and Rublev went toe-to-toe in the first two sets, with neither player able to take any significant advantage in the big groundstroke department.  Rublev, a 16-year-old Russian, is known for his volatile temper on court, and while serving at 5-5, 15-all in the first set, a bad bounce on the clay led him to fling the racquet in anger to back fence, and he received a warning from the chair umpire.

Unlike others, Rublev's displays of temper and his frequent  lengthy soliloquies in Russian do not result in any decline in his level of play and he went on to hold serve and earn a set point with Baughman serving at 6-5 in the first set. Baughman came up with three straight forehand winners to force a tiebreaker, resulting in another Rublev tirade, and he gave his racquet another bashing after he lost the first point. The chair umpire declined to assess a point penalty then, and Baughman took control of the tiebreaker, going up 5-1 at the change of ends and closing out the set 70 minute set with a good first serve and a forehand winner off a fine return from Rublev.  Another racket smash by Rublev drew the point penalty he seemed to be looking for, with Baughman beginning the second set with a 15-0 lead.

Baughman dropped serve in the third game of the second set, and Rublev protected that break until serving for the set at 5-4. Rublev saved one break point, but not the second when his backhand was just out. Rather than erupt, Rublev went quiet, with both Baughman, the 17-year-old Californian, and Rublev winning their services games to force another tiebreaker.

Rublev caught a break at 3-2 in the tiebreaker, getting a let cord winner, and while Baughman got back to 4-4, he missed a forehand just wide and a backhand long to give Rublev two set points. Rublev hit a good first serve and Baughman's backhand return found the net, making it one set all.

In the third set, Rublev broke for a 3-1 lead, with Baughman double faulting at 30-40.  Suddenly Baughman's backhand, so solid throughout the first two sets, began to break down, with wild misses and shanks giving Rublev an easy hold for 4-1. Although Baughman held at love for 4-2, his intensity looked to be gone, and in his next service game he double faulted again to give Rublev two match points. The European 16s champion needed only one, with Baughman netting a forehand to end the two hour and 37 minute contest.

"In the third set, I tried to give all my maximum in the beginning," said Rublev, who won the Futures tournament held at the IMG Academy last month. "I broke him, and I think he was tired, so he didn't show his best level in the third set."

Rublev and Baughman practiced together at IMG in the week between the Futures and the Eddie Herr, and Rublev admitted he lost a set to him, so he was not surprised by the level Baughman produced in Saturday's match, and was pleased with his own.

"My serve was really good, my forehand was also good," said Rublev, who has played three three-setters in his five victories. "I feel my game, it was good. It was really tough match."

Rublev will play No. 9 seed Kamil Majchrzak of Poland, who took out local Academy favorite Naoki Nakagawa of Japan 6-4, 6-3. Majchrzak needed five set points to close out the opening set, and was serving for the match at 5-2 in the second, but was broken after failing to convert two match points. Nakagawa couldn't take advantage of the opportunity, going down 15-40 in his service game, and finally, on his fourth match point, Majchrzak converted to reach his first Grade 1 final.

"I was a bit nervous, when I served and had match points," said Majchrzak, 17.  "If it was 5-4, my serve and sun for me, oh my God. I was very glad to have two breaks."

Although it was Majchrzak's fifth consecutive straight set win, he knew he had been in a battle.

"It was a very long, very tough match for me, I served very well," said Majchrzak. "Naoki played good too, and I had to play my best tennis to beat him, and I did it today, so I'm very happy for that."

Majchrzak beat Rublev 6-0, 6-3 in the European 16s championships in 2012, yet neither player is putting much stock in that result.

"I beat him quite easily, but right now it will be a very tough match for me and for him," said Majchrzak. "I think we'll make great show and everyone will enjoy our match."

"Last year I was like, little boy, who only cry on the court," said Rublev. "Now I am better, and I hope I can fight tomorrow."

The girls final will feature two 16-year-olds, in No. 10 seed Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia and No. 12 seed Sandra Samir of Egypt.

Samir ended the run of unseeded Jaqueline Cristian of Romania 3-6, 6-3, 6-1, finding her form midway through the second set and rolling through the third.

"My coach has been supportive all match, and he's knows when I've been dropping," said Samir, who trains at the Advantage Academy in Irvine, California.  "He's giving me that look, like let's go, let's fight, and that pumped me up."

At 1-1 in the third set, Samir won the next five games to reach her first Grade 1 final.

"The third set was good, because I started pushing from the beginning and that's what got me through to finish it," said Samir, whose favorite surface is clay. "The beginning of the set is the most important thing and I started it really good."

Ostapenko's 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 win over top seed Flink was hardly a thing of beauty, with both players struggling through a long stretches of unforced errors and double faults.

"I played good today, but not my best tennis," said Ostapenko. "I think I could play much better, and I could have won the second set. I had so many chances win my serve and I did so many double faults and a lot of stupid mistakes and that's why it was three sets."

The match, over two and a half hours long, was lengthened considerably by mark checking and point replays, with the line umpires being overruled by the chair, who was not having a great day either. After calling first set score as 3-3, when it was really 4-2, there was a long discussion, with the tournament referee finally going on court to confirm the chair's scorecard. Flink's coach, watching from the bleachers, was irate that Ostapenko argued for the 3-3 score, and when the match finally ended, Flink did not shake Ostapenko's hand, and the coach had harsh words with Ostapenko afterward.

The third set began with five straight service breaks, with Ostapenko getting the rare hold, then breaking Flink again, for a 5-2 lead. Serving for the match, Ostapenko didn't get to match point, with Flink breaking, then holding, for the first time in the set, with back-to-back aces. Given a second chance to serve it out, Ostapenko did get to match point,  but missed a backhand at 40-30. She saved a break point with a backhand winner, and her second match point was lost when Flink teed off on a second serve, crushing a backhand return for a winner. But Ostapenko, who takes the ball early and hits it close to the lines, pounded an inside in forehand winner for her third match point, and she converted it with another big forehand that forced a Flink error.

Ostapenko defeated Samir 6-3, 6-4 in the second round of the Australian Open this year in their only previous meeting.

"I think in Australia I was playing really good, it was my good tennis," said Ostapenko, who has won two ITF Grade 1 titles, both on European clay. "I am looking forward tomorrow to playing the same tennis as the Australian Open."

The doubles championships were played on Saturday, with No. 2 seeds Filippo Baldi of Italy and Lucas Miedler of Austria and unseeded Naiktha Bains of Australia and Anna Bondar of Hungary taking the titles.

Baldi and Miedler had their hands full with No. 6 seeds Omar Jasika of Australian and Stefan Kozlov, but stayed tough in the match tiebreaker to post a 6-3, 6-7(5) 10-5 victory.  At 4-4 in the match tiebreaker, Baldi and Miedler won six of the next seven points, with first Kozlov, then Jasika each losing both their serves with unforced errors, rather than outstanding play by their opponents.

The girls doubles final was barely an hour long, compared to an hour and 45 minutes for the boys, with Bains and Bondar downing unseeded Katerina Jokic of Bosnia and Akvile Parazinskaite of Lithuania 6-2, 6-2. Bains and Bondar got early breaks in both sets, although the second set, and match, ended with four consecutive games going to the deciding point in the no-ad format.

The girls final is scheduled for 9 a.m. on Sunday, with the boys final to follow.

Although there are no Americans in the final of the Eddie Herr ITF, there will be one in each of the six other finals in the younger age divisions.

In the girls 12s final, No. 2 seed Hurricane Tyra Black will face 2012 finalist and top seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia. Black downed No. 4 seed Ekaterina Makarova of Russia 6-1, 7-5, while Potapova outlasted No. 3 seed Amanda Anisimova 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

In the boys 12 final, No. 2 seed Adam Neff meets No. 4 seed Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria. Neff, who lives in Bradenton, defeated No. 7 seed Blaise Bicknell of Jamaica 6-1, 6-1, and Andreev downed No. 8 seed Tyler Zink 6-2, 4-6, 6-1.

The girls 14s final will feature No. 10 seed Olesia Pervushina of Russia and No. 2 seed Sofia Sewing. Pervushina beat No. 14 seed Hannah Lairmore 6-1, 6-2, and Sewing defeated No. 13 seed Lea Boskovic of Croatia by the same score.

No. 16 seed Patrick Kypson will attempt to derail top seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia in the boys 14s final. Kypson defeated No. 12 seed Rudolf Molleker of Germany 6-2, 6-2, while Kecmanovic rolled past No. 4 seed Brian Cernoch 6-0, 6-2.

The only unseeded finalist is in the boys 16s, where wild card Alfredo Perez will play top seed Yunseong Chung of Korea. Perez beat unseeded Kalman Boyd 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 and Chung reached the final with a 6-3, 7-5 win over No. 3 seed Ben Fatael of Israel.

The girls 16s championship will be decided by top seed Helen Altick and No. 3 seed Sydney Riley.  Altick recovered to post a 1-6, 6-4, 6-0 win over unseeded Jaclyn Switkes, and Riley topped unseeded wild card Ingrid Neel 6-3, 1-6, 6-2.

All six singles finals in the younger divisions are scheduled for 9 a.m., which unfortunately makes it nearly impossible for me to cover those matches.

The doubles championships were all completed on Saturday afternoon. I will have photos of all the winners and finalists, as well as all singles semifinalists in my slideshow later this month.

In boys 16s, top seeds Chung and Soon Woo Kwon of Korea defeated No. 2 seeds Basil Khuma of India and Robert Levine 6-3, 7-6(7).

In girls 16s, No. 6 seeds Maddie Pothoff and Rebecca Weissmann beat No. 3 seeds Altick and Alexa Bortles 7-5, 3-6, 10-5.

In boys 14s, No. 4 seeds Chen-Joi Ho of Taiwan and Yshai Oleil of Israel downed unseeded Trent Bryde and William Howells 6-3, 6-7(1), 11-9.

Girls 12s singles finalist Anastasia Potapova won the 14s doubles title with Olesia Pervushina. The No. 7 seeds defeated top seeds Monica Kilnarova of the Czech Republic and Katsiaryna Yemelyanenka of Belrus 7-5, 4-6, 10-5.

The boys 12s doubles title went to top seeds Andreev of Bulgaria and Alexander Zgirovsky of Belarus, who defeated No. 5 seeds Sebastien Grundtvig of Denmark and Gabriel Nini of Romania 6-4, 3-6, 11-9.

In the girls 12s doubles championship match, Ukraine's Anna Laguza and Russia's Makarova, the No. 2 seeds, beat top seeds Whitney Osuigwe and Black, 2-6, 6-3, 10-7.

For complete draws, see eddieherr.com.