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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

US Juniors Shine at Metropolia Orange Bowl; Kirkov Ousts Top Seed Ruud in 16s Action Wednesday

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Plantation, FL--

Unseasonably cold temperatures couldn't cool down the US juniors Wednesday in second round action at the Metropolia Orange Bowl.  Ten US girls and eight US boys collected victories on the Frank Veltri Tennis Center's Har-Tru courts to reach Thursday's round of 16.

Three of the boys top eight seeds fell, with unseeded Americans responsible for their exits.  Eddie Herr champion Reilly Opelka took out No. 4 seed Yunseong Chung of Korea 6-3, 6-4 and Tommy Paul avenged a recent loss to No. 6 seed Seong Chan Hong, also of Korea, 6-2, 6-4.

Paul had lost to Hong 6-4, 6-4 in the third round of the Grade 1 International Hard Courts in August, but he didn't think the surface change was a factor in reversing the result.

"I think he's a pretty good player overall," said Paul. "I think I just played really well today. That's one thing with me, I sometimes get nervous serving matches out, you saw it with (Michael) Mmoh, but today I didn't really get nervous."

Paul hit a ferocious backhand winner to go up 30-15, and another aggressive shot, this time a forehand, led him to the only match point he would need. He took something off his first serve, surprising the usually perfectly balanced Hong, who couldn't keep the return in court, and Paul had the win.

"It's tough playing them, because you have to be powerful to get the ball by them, but the guy I played is fast, so quick," said the 17-year-old USTA National Clay Court champion of the highly ranked Koreans. "So you have to be really patient, but when you get the right ball, you've got to rip it."

Paul will play unseeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece Thursday, who beat Ireland's Bjorn Thomson 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

The third seeded player to go out to an American today was No. 7 Mikael Ymer of Sweden, who was beaten by fellow 16-year-old William Blumberg 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.   Blumberg was up 4-2 in the second set, but lost the final four games, then was broken the first three times he served in the third set. But he broke back each time, and then finally held for a 4-3 lead. He proceeded to break Ymer yet again when the Swede missed an overhead at 30-40 to make it 5-3.  Serving for the match, Blumberg went up 30-0, but made two errors. He tried serving and volleying on the next point, but missed a backhand volley to give Ymer a break point, but undeterred, Blumberg tried another backhand volley, and it was textbook perfect. After a long rally on the next point, Ymer hit a forehand long, giving Blumberg a match point, which he converted with a good first serve.  He will play unseeded Croatian Domagoj Biljesko, who beat Vit Kopriva of the Czech Republic 6-2 ,6-2, in the third round.

Other American boys picking up wins Wednesday were Emil Reinberg, who beat fellow qualifier Harrison Scott of Canada 6-7(1), 6-3, 7-5; No. 5 seed Michael Mmoh, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over qualifier Jack Van Slyke of Canada; No. 9 seed Alex Rybakov, who won over Franco Capalbo of Argentina 4-6, 7-5, 6-3; No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz, who beat qualifier Walker Duncan 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 and No. 2 seed Stefan Kozlov, who topped qualifier Igor Ribeiro Marcondes of Brazil 6-0, 6-4.  Kozlov will play Reinberg in the only all-American third round match Thursday.

The US girls had even more success than the boys Wednesday, going 10-1, with the only loss in an all-American matchup, with qualifier Francesca DiLorenzo beating Mia Horvit 6-1, 6-0.  The bottom quarter of the draw contains four Americans, assuring a US semifinalist before the quarterfinals are played.  No. 2 seed CiCi Bellis, who beat Miriam Kolodziejova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 7-6(3) will play qualifier Maria Shishkina, who defeated No. 14 seed Seone Mendez of Australia 7-5, 6-2. Dasha Ivanova got a walkover from Sofya Zhuk of Russia and will play Caroline Dolehide, who downed No. 12 seed Luisa Stefani of Brazil 6-2 6-3.  No. 13 seed Sonya Kenin, a semifinalist at last year's Orange Bowl, is the other American in the bottom half of the draw. She defeated qualifier Mayuka Aikawa of Japan 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-0.

The top half has one all-American matchup Thursday, with qualifier Kayla Day taking on fellow 15-year-old Michaela Gordon.  Day beat Jaqueline Cristian of Romania 6-4, 6-3, while Gordon topped No. 4 seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia 6-3, 6-2.

"I don't think she played her best today," Gordon said. "She was making mistakes. A few times she had me, but she missed the finishing shot, so I got lucky a few times. But most of the time, I was controlling the points and winning the baseline rallies."

Gordon has been training on clay for just a few weeks, and is still learning its nuances.

"I've been training here in Florida, trying to learn strategy on the clay, because I almost never play on clay," said the Northern Californian, who has been practicing with the USTA. "I'm trying to be more aggressive and trying to be the one controlling the points. I'm just trying to practice those things in this tournament, and not think about the outcome too much."

Ingrid Neel, one of four US qualifiers to make the third round, won in straight sets, as did No. 11 seed Usue Arconada. Neel will play No. 8 seed Sandra Samir of Egypt, who didn't lose a game to Katarina Jokic of Serbia, while Arconada meets Monika Klinarova of the Czech Republic, who eliminated No. 6 seed Fanni Stollar of Hungary 1-6, 6-1, 6-1.

In the 16s division, the third round of singles was played on Wednesday, and six of the eight girls and five of the eight boys remaining hail from the US.

No. 2 seed and Eddie Herr champion Sam Riffice, No. 16 seed Trent Bryde, No. 12 seed Nathan Perrone and No. 4 seed Hady Habib all moved into the quarterfinals with straight-set wins.  So too did No. 14 seed Vasil Kirkov, who beat top seed Casper Ruud of Norway, son of former ATP top 40 player Christian Ruud, 6-4, 6-3 on a breezy grandstand court early in the day.

"It was tough to play in these conditions," said the 15-year-old from Florida. "It was hard for both of us, but I think it helped me, because I was on the defense a lot more and I had bigger margins, he had smaller margins, so it helped me out."

Kirkov served for the first set at 5-2, but played a poor game, although he was able to finish out the set by holding at 5-4.  In the second set, Kirkov didn't have to serve it out, breaking the powerful Rudd, who will be 16 this month, to finish the upset.

"I was changing the pace a lot more, because he hates when you play with no pace," said Kirkov, who trains with the USTA in Boca Raton. "He likes to run around his backhand and just rip, and I was getting him out of his comfort zone. And also, when I had the chance, I was stepping up and being aggressive when I saw opportunities. It's a very good win for me, I thought I played very well."

In the girls 16s, the top seed was out before the tournament began, and only three seeds still remain in the running for the title, No. 8 seed Bianca Andreescu and No. 15 seed Katarina Kopcalic of Canada and No. 11 seed Dominique Schaefer of the US.

Schaefer defeated No. 6 seed Sofia Sewing 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-4 in a two and a half hour rematch of Sunday's Eddie Herr final, which Sewing won 6-2, 7-6(5).

"I really wanted to play her again," said Schaefer, who reached the semifinals of the Orange Bowl 16s last year. "At Eddie Herr, she played really well and I played well, but not my best, so I just wanted to get her again, and hopefully it was a better match this time. Today I wasn't really nervous, because she won last time."

Up 5-2 in the final set, Schaefer lost her advantage, but Sewing was broken serving at 4-5 to give Schaefer the win. Schaefer, who lives in Ventura, California, has a Floridian's love for the Har-Tru surface.

"My best surface is probably clay, and I like playing on clay," Schaefer said.

Schaefer will play Allison Bojczuk in the quarterfinals Thursday.  Qualifier Sarah Dreyfuss will play Kopcalic and in the bottom half, Andreescu meets Taylor Russo, with Emma Decoste and wild card Ellie Douglas deciding a semifinalist.  Douglas, 14, defeated No. 2 seed Camila Vargas Gomez of Peru 6-4, 6-3.

The past three girls 16s champions have been Canadian, with Kopcalic and Andreescu, the reigning Les Petits As champion, still able to extend that streak, which began with Erin Routliffe, who was followed by Gloria Liang and last year, Charlotte Robillard-Millette.

The 16s doubles semifinals are scheduled for Thursday, with Dominic and Paul Barretto the sole US team remaining in that draw. Two US teams are in the girls 16s doubles semifinals, both unseeded: Morgan Coppoc and Madeline Meredith and Decoste and Kariann Pierre-Louis.

For complete draws and Thursday's order of play, see the tournament website.