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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Five US Boys, Seven US Girls Reach Eddie Herr ITF Round of 16; Top B16s Seed Riffice Advances to Quarterfinals with Comeback Win

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Bradenton, FL--

The top eight boys seeds in the Eddie Herr International Grade 1 ITF have moved into the third round, but three of the girls top eight were eliminated on Wednesday, with No. 2 seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic  and No. 3 seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia falling to Americans Claire Liu and Emma Higuchi.

In matches played on the clay courts at Academy Park, a tram ride away from the main complex of hard and clay courts, wild card Higuchi topped Kalinskaya 6-3, 7-5 and Liu defeated Vondrousova 6-2, 3-6, 6-1. It was Liu's second win over Vondrousova in the past 12 months, with the 14-year-old Southern Californian also prevailing in the final of last December's Junior Orange Bowl.

No. 6 seed Naiktha Bains of Australia lost 6-4, 6-4 to Great Britain's Katie Swan, and the other seed from Australia, No. 13 seed Seone Mendez, was ousted by wild card Caroline Dolehide 6-4, 6-2.

Dolehide, who has been training for the past week at the IMG Academy to prepare for the tournament, went up 4-0 to start the match.

"I played really well in the beginning, but then I let off a little bit," said the 16-year-old from Illinois, a semifinalist at the US Open junior championships this year. "She came back to 4-3, then I closed it out with my serve. The second set was a lot better. I felt a lot more comfortable and it was forehand to forehand and I pushed her deep in the court until she hit it short, and then I put it away."

Dolehide will play Higuchi in Thursday's third round match, with the other all-American contest also featuring another wild card, Ingrid Neel, who defeated No. 14 seed Greet Minnen of Belgium 6-4, 6-3. Neel will play top seed CiCi Bellis, who won an exceedingly tough and well played first set from 14-year-old Destanee Aiava of Australia, then cruised to a 7-6(7), 6-0 victory.  Liu will play No. 15 seed Evgeniya Levashova of Russia, who put an end to the run of qualifier Kylie McKenzie 7-6(6), 6-0.

Raveena Kingsley, the No. 9 seed, will play Maia Lumsden of Great Britain. Kingsley defeated lucky loser I-hsuan Cho of Taiwan 6-2, 6-2 and Lumsden avenged her third round Wimbledon loss to Michaela Gordon 1-6, 6-4, 6-3.  Sonya Kenin, the No. 12 seed, advanced over Russian qualifier Karine Sarkisova 6-2, 6-2.

Four of the five US boys remaining play each other in Thursday's third round. No. 2 seed Michael Mmoh defeated Lian Yu Richard Lin of Taiwan 6-4, 6-4 to set up another meeting with unseeded Tommy Paul, who beat lucky loser Sami Kirberg 6-2, 6-4. When they last met, in the quarterfinals of the ITF B1 Pan American Closed in Tulsa back in October, Mmoh saved three match points in a 7-5, 5-7, 7-6(4) win and has lost only one of his next 18 matches, both in juniors and Futures, since then.

The other third rounder between two Americans will be an even more recent rematch, with Reilly Opelka taking on No. 5 seed Alex Rybakov for the third time in a month. Opelka won both matches in straight sets against Rybakov in the second round of the two November Futures in the Florida Panhandle, and he certainly had the easier time in advancing on Wednesday, beating No. 9 seed Sora Fukuda of Japan 6-1, 6-0.

Although Opelka dominated the scoreline and served well, he thought the match was closer than it appeared.

"He had many chances in games," said Opelka, who lost only one game in his first round match Tuesday. "He had game points, break points, in at least four or five games. Momentum could have changed, and I had had some good holds basically, that kept momentum on my side."

Opelka has always liked clay and the 6-foot-10 17-year-old believes the surface can benefit players of his size.

"I think clay for bigger guys, I see it as a big advantage," Opelka said. "You have more time. I move better on it. And if I'm hitting my spots on my serve, it doesn't matter the surface. I don't think they're going to make more returns because of the surface."

Rybakov was down 5-3 in the third set against Tung-lin Wu of Taiwan, but thanks to some nerves by Wu and more effective aggression by Rybakov, he took the final four games of the match in a 6-2, 0-6, 7-5 victory.

The only US boy not playing a friend Thursday is William Blumberg, who will take on No. 3 seed Seong Chan Hong of Korea. Blumberg, the No. 13 seed, defeated qualifier Jack Van Slyke of Canada 6-1, 6-1, and Hong took out Youssef Hossam of Egypt 7-5, 6-0.

The best tennis I saw all day wasn't in the 18s, but in the 16s division, where top seed Sam Riffice and No. 10 seed Trent Bryde met in the third round on the hard courts.  The two 15-year-olds, friends and training partners, played focused, serious tennis, particularly in the second set, before Riffice claimed a 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory.  Riffice was down 6-1, 3-0 before winning the final six games of the second set, but Bryde showed no signs of discouragement or disappointment as the games slipped away. Points were long and physically demanding, with many of the rallies going 20 or 30 shots, with a winner or forced error ending them.  Backhands, forehands, slices, volleys--all the shots were used and executed well.  The third set was bound to be anticlimactic, and it was, with Bryde's game faltering a bit as the physical demands grew too much for him, but the many spectators who gathered around court one and witnessed the second set, often gasping and profanely exclaiming over the quality on display, are unlikely to forget it.

"It was a crazy match, really physical," Riffice said. "I started to feel it a little bit at the end, just right after the point. But by the next point, I was ready to play."

The friendship was set aside, which isn't easy.

"We're really good friends," said Riffice. "We train together most of year, stay together a lot. When he came out he was just killing me, but I brought my level up a little. But it was a match where he played really well. I'm just happy to come out on top."

The No. 1 seeds still remaining in the younger divisions all advanced to the quarterfinals today and will have tomorrow off from singles, as the bottom half plays their third round matches.  Boys 12s top seed Zane Khan, girls 12s top seed Himari Sato of Japan and girls 14s top seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia all advanced to Friday's quarterfinals with straight-set wins.

For complete draws in the younger age divisions, see the TennisLink site.

For the ITF draws and order of play, see the tournament website, where a link to the live streaming for some of the matches in the younger age division can be found.