Saturday, November 28, 2015

Levine, Ambrozy Take Down No. 2 Seeds in First Round of Eddie Herr ITF Qualifying; Girls 16s Qualifying Complete; Gibbs Reaches WTA Carlsbad Final

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Bradenton, FL--

A beautiful Florida day was not pretty for the No. 2 seeds in the first round of qualifying of the Eddie Herr ITF Grade 1, with Eugenia Ganga of Argentina and Constantin Bittoun-Kouzmine of France falling to US juniors who didn't travel far for the competition.

Mimi Levine, who trains at the IMG Academy, saved two match points in her 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(5) win over Ganga, and she appreciated the support of  the half dozen friends cheering her on from the deck of the porch overlooking Court 1.

Serving at 4-5 in the third set, Levine found herself at ad out twice, but each time Ganga made unforced errors early in the point. Levine went on to hold and break, so she was serving for the match, but she was broken at love, a circumstance Levine did not let bother her.

"We kept breaking each other on that side," said Levine, who turned 17 last Sunday. "There was something with the wind. But she played a really good game, a solid four points. I just tried to go into the tiebreaker with a clean slate, not worry about that, because I knew that was the tougher side."

Levine fell behind 5-3 in the tiebreaker, but Ganga threw in her second double fault of the tiebreaker to make it 5-4, and Levine won her two serves, with Ganga making forehand errors in both points to give Levine a match point.  Levine converted when Ganga netted a backhand, with Levine's small cheering section expressing their delight, although doing so discreetly.

"It was kind of like my home court, and all my friends were watching, so it was a really fun atmosphere," said Levine. "One of them is my roommate, but most of them are golfers. I'm friends with a lot of golfers. They're generally more reserved, because golf is super polite and stuff. But it was fun to have them watching."

In addition to Ganga, No. 3 seed Hurricane Tyra Black and No. 5 seed Rafaella Baquerizo of Ecuador went out in first round play, with Kamilla Kokeladze of Russia beating Black 6-0, 2-6, 6-3 and Nadia Gizdova advancing over Baquerizo, 6-3, 3-1, retired. 

Four of the top eight seeds in boys qualifying lost, with wild card Ambrozy beating Bittoun Kouzmine 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-3 despite a gap of over 1200 places in the ITF junior rankings.

"I played one ITF like six months ago and I did well, I got to the semis, but that's my only points, so that's why I needed a wild card to get into qualies," said Ambrozy, who lives in nearby St. Petersburg.

Ambrozy, a senior who has committed to Columbia, obviously had no previous history with the 16-year-old from France, so he needed some time to assess his game.

"I knew he was lefty coming in, so I knew that much. When he came on court I saw he was short, so I thought my kick might be good," said the tall 18-year-old. "It took me a couple of games to learn he is a really fast, grinding player that gets balls back. I was struggling with that in the first and a little bit in the second, but I managed to figure it out."

Ambrozy said that growing up in Florida, he is comfortable on the Har-Tru courts used for the ITF tournament. He also is determined to make the most of his last nine months of junior competition before heading to Columbia next fall.

"A lot of people stop playing tournaments, and they get to school, and it's like, wow, I'm not playing well right now because I haven't played a match in a year," Ambrozy said. "I have a pretty good birthday, it's in September, so I want to play Clay Courts and Kalamazoo my last year and do well there."

No. 3 seed Alexis Galarneau of Canada, No. 7 seed Sebastian Arcila of Puerto Rico and No. 8 seed Jack Van Slyke of Canada all lost in opening round play.  Christos Antonopoulos of Greece beat Galarneau 6-3, 6-3, Jacob Eskeland of Norway defeated Arcila 6-7(3), 6-1, 6-2 and John McNally downed Van Slyke 6-0, 6-3.

Top qualifying seeds Hanna Chang and Rudolf Molleker of Germany advanced easily in their first round matches.

Qualifying will be completed on Sunday, with two rounds, and those who qualify will not play on Monday.

Usue Arconada and Denis Klok of Russia, both of whom would have been seeded in the main draw, have withdrawn.

Complete results and Sunday's order of play can be found at eddieherr.com.

The girls 16s qualifying is complete, with four US girls advancing to the main draw: Sarah Hua, Anna Letto, No. 4 seed Margaret Ownsby and No. 7 seed Vanessa Streng.  The other four qualifiers are: Azul Agustina Pedemonti of Argentina, Fernanda Labrana of Chile, Adelaide Lavery of Canada and Sofiya Sokolova of Russia.

The final round of qualifying for boys and girls 12s, boys and girls 14s and boys 16s is Sunday.

At the WTA Carlsbad $125K, No. 5 seed Nicole Gibbs advanced to the final with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Jennifer Brady.  Gibbs won the first nine games of the match, but Brady recovered from two breaks down in the second set to pull even, only to get broken a third time at 4-4, with Gibbs serving it out. The two-time NCAA champion will play top seed Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium, who beat Maria Sakkari of Greece 6-4, 6-2.

Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland made it two straight titles in the US, beating Sekou Bangoura 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 in the final of the $15,000 Waco Futures.  Laaksonen won the ATP $50,000 Challenger last week in Champaign.

Next week, the ITF Men's Circuit will feature a new $15,000 Futures event in Tallahassee. Qualifying began there today.