Monday, December 22, 2014

Andreescu Seeks to Make History; Oleil Goes For Second Junior Orange Bowl Title; Unseeded Osuigwe Reaches 12s Final

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Coral Gables FL--

Bianca Andreescu of Canada is on the verge of making history, as she seeks to become the first girl to win both the Orange Bowl 16s and Junior Orange Bowl 14s title in the same year. 

Andreescu, the No. 5 seed, will need to get by No. 2 seed and Eddie Herr champion Anastasia Potapova of Russia, who advanced to the final by saving a match point in her 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(6) thriller with No. 9 seed Iga Swiatek of Poland.

Now on an 18-match winning streak with an ITF Grade 4 title in South Carolina prior to her Orange Bowl 16s championship nine days ago, Andreescu reached the final by defeating No. 4 seed Taylor Johnson of the United States 7-6(1), 6-3 in Monday's semifinal at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center at the University of Miami.

Andreescu was up 5-4 40-0 in the opening set, but Johnson fought back, only to see Andreescu raise her level in the tiebreaker.  It was all Andreescu early in the second set, as she built a 4-0 lead, but again Johnson, a left-hander who trains at the RAMP Academy in Carson, California, battled back. After winning two straight games, Johnson was a point from getting back on serve in a six-deuce game, but Andreescu saved three break points to keep her lead and went on to serve out the match.

"I was a little bit sloppy and missing a lot," said Andreescu, who trains with Tennis Canada in Toronto. "I was a little bit stiff, so I was missing more, but I kept moving and it was good."

Andreescu, who also won the Les Petits As title early this year, attributes all her success lately to one thing. "I'm really focused, and that's helping me a lot."

Potapova, who reached the 12s final last year, was honest in her assessment of how she got through her match with Swiatek, with luck and Swiatek's errors playing a significant role.

Up 5-3 in the final set tiebreaker, after two and a half hours of heavy hitting in the 80 degree heat, Potapova lost three points in a row to give Swiatek a match point. But Swiatek missed a cross court backhand wide, and two points later, Swiatek hit a forehand just long to end the match, which led to her collapsing on the court, sobbing while Potapova waited patiently at the net to shake hands.

"She made three mistakes in a row,"  said the 13-year-old Potapova, who admitted she was able to stay patient near the end of the match. "I feel lucky, of course. But I just play my game and that's great."

Potapova and Andreescu have never played, but both have an idea of what to expect.

"Of course, I know her very well," said Potapova, who is looking to become the first girl to win the 14s Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl titles in the same year since Hanna Orlik of Belarus in 2006. "She was in Tarbes (Les Petits As) and in World Cup (ITF Junior Tennis team competition), so I know her well. She's a very good player."

Andreescu said her coach would be giving her some tips on how to play Potapova.

"All I know is that she likes to hit hard and flat," said Andreescu. "And she's emotional on court. My coach has watched her a little bit and will tell me how to play her tomorrow."

Andreescu says her lack of emotion on the court comes naturally to her.

"I try to be calm, but sometimes, on the inside when I miss, it's like what are you doing," Andreescu said. "But I try not to show it, so my opponent won't feel up."

Top seed Yshai Oliel of Israel will go for his second Junior Orange Bowl championship, after the 2012 12s champion defeated No. 7 seed Roscoe Bellamy of the US 6-1, 6-2.

"The weather today was the best to play," said Oliel, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament. "I played great--aggressive without many mistakes. I did great serves in the beginning of the match and it gave me a lot of confidence to try more with my forehand, backhand, volley."

Despite his experience in an Orange Bowl final, Oliel does not believe that will be any advantage for him in Tuesday's final, against unseeded Chen-jui Ho of Taiwan. 

"I'll just try to do my best tomorrow, and that's it."

Ho, who defeated No. 2 seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina 6-4, 6-3, used the fact that he was unseeded as motivation throughout the week.

"At the beginning of the tournament, they didn't put me seeded," said the left-hander, who trains at the Club Med Sandpiper Bay in Port Saint Lucie, Florida. "They don't think I can play that good. But I use my tennis to prove that I can get into the final."

As he has done throughout the tournament, Ho used his size and power to punish his smaller opponent.

"I'm a big guy, and my forehand his very powerful," said Ho, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament. "I try, for 80 percent of the court, to use my forehand to hit and let them feel that pressure, try to handle my ball."

As for his strategy against Oliel, Ho isn't tipping his hand.

"I think I'm going to think about it tonight," Ho said. "We are pretty good friends, but on the court we are opponents, and I'm going to do my best tomorrow."

Whitney Osuigwe is the lone American finalist, advancing to the girls 12s championship match with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over 10-year-old Cori Gauff, also of the US, at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center at the University of Miami.

Osuigwe, who is 12, is not accustomed to seeing younger opponents across the net, especially in the later stages of a tournament, and that experience contributed to her slow start.

"I got nervous in the beginning," said Osuigwe, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. "Because she's younger, and she's good. She was playing really well, and I just had to get my mind back into the game, tell myself I could do it."

After the first half of the first set, Osuigwe said she settled down. "I went down 3-0 and then I came back and she started playing better, so I had to step up my game. I had to move the ball around and get her upset, so I could take control of the match."

Although Osuigwe isn't seeded, she believed that she could go deep in the tournament, and that conviction has led her to a rematch with Himari Sato of Japan, who beat her 6-4, 7-6(2) in the third round of the Eddie Herr earlier this month.  Sato, who defeated Alina Charaeva of Russia 6-3, 6-4 in Monday's semifinals, is aiming to become the first Eddie Herr 12s champion to win the Junior Orange Bowl in the same year since Madison Keys did it in 2007.

Osuigwe is ready for another shot at Sato, but isn't planning on any changes in her strategy.

"She just played good," said Osuigwe. "I just have to do what I did, maybe a little bit better."

At the boys 12s at Salvadore Park, the title will be decided between Borna Devald of Croatia, a No. 1 seed, and Ross Weibull of Sweden, a No. 9 seed.  Devald defeated Daiki Yoshimura of Japan, a No. 9 seed, 6-2, 6-3 in Monday's semifinals and Weibull ousted Jeffrey von der Schulenburg of Switzerland, a No. 1 seed, 6-4, 6-3. 

The boys 12s consolation final was decided in favor of Aidan Mayo, a No. 9 seed from the US, when unseeded Spencer Brachman of the US was unable to compete in the match for fifth place. Mayo had defeated Benjamin Heynold of Great Britain to advance to the final, while Brachman had beaten Nicholas Garcia of the US, a No. 1 seed, 6-1, 6-2.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site. For additional coverage, see the tournament website.