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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Cheong Saves Match Points to Join Price in G14s Junior Orange Bowl Quarterfinals; Two US Boys and Three US Girls Reach 12s Quarterfinals

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Coral Gables, FL--

A cold front brought some rain Friday evening, but also some welcome relief from the high humidity of the first three days at the Junior Orange Bowl.  By mid-morning a less welcome weather development emerged, with gusty winds creating serious difficulties for most of the players who didn't close out their morning matches quickly.

No. 9 seed Naomi Cheong survived a serious challenge from unseeded Thasaporn Naklo of Thailand, saving two match points in her 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(6) victory at the University of Miami courts Saturday morning.

Naklo served for the match twice, with her two match points coming at 5-4, 40-15, but Cheong eventually broke for 5-5. Cheong gave Naklo a second chance to serve for the match, but Naklo didn't get any closer than 30-40 in her second try.

The tiebreaker saw more wind-induced shanks than winners, but Naklo managed to fight back from 6-3 down to even it at the change of ends. Cheong hit her second backhand down-the-line winner to earn match point No. 4 and she converted it when Naklo netted a forehand reply to Cheong's off-balance first-serve return.

"It was really lucky," Cheong said of her backhand winners in the tiebreaker, "because my backhand was kind of off today. I was hitting the top of the net on a lot of them. But I just had to keep going for it, so it would get better."

Cheong, who won two ITF Grade 5 titles the last week of November and first week of December, said training in Las Vegas helps her know how to cope with windy conditions.

"I'm from Las Vegas, where it's really windy all the time," said the 13-year-old, who was a finalist this year at the USTA National 14s. "It's more of a mental game, so you have to stay strong, play with the wind, let it be your partner. You can use it to your advantage--you don't have to go for such a big shot. I think I got used to it quicker than she did."

Cheong is happy to advance to the quarterfinals in the 14s, after losing in the second round of Junior Orange Bowl 12s last year.

"I haven't done well, but I want to make this year a little different," Cheong said.

Although Cheong and Naklo played nearly three hours, it was nowhere near the longest match of the day.  Top seed Ekaterina Makarova of Russia spent four hours on the court before finally subduing No. 9 seed Himari Sato of Japan, a finalist in the 12s division last year, 6-7(3), 7-6(6), 6-4. Makarova will play Chong in Sunday's quarterfinals.

On the other end of the match duration spectrum, unseeded Ludmilla Bencheikh of France defeated No. 3 seed Luniusca Delgado of Venezuela 6-1, 6-0 in well under an hour, using her powerful game to keep Delgado on the defensive the entire match.  Bencheikh will play No. 6 seed Anastasia Tikhonova of Russia in the quarterfinals.

Eddie Herr 14s champion Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, the No. 5 seed, will face No. 9 seed Oana Corneanu of Romania. Corneanu, a heavy-hitting left-hander, defeated No. 4 seed Katie Volynets 6-1, 7-5.

The fourth quarterfinal match will be between two unseeded players, Yuki Naito of Japan and Gabby Price.

Naito, with a 134 ITF world junior ranking, had her toughest match yet, but still got by unseeded Chloe Beck 6-2, 6-4.  Twelve-year-old Gabby Price, who beat No. 2 seed Alexa Noel in the second round on Thursday, continued her strong play with a 6-3, 6-3 win over unseeded Giulia Morlet of France.

The last US boy in the 14s main draw was eliminated today, with Nathan Han, a No. 9 seed, falling to No. 7 seed Jack Draper of Great Britain 7-5, 6-4.  Top seed Thiago Tirante of Argentina, No. 3 seed Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan and No. 4 seed Timofey Skatov of Russia all advanced to the quarterfinals.

The quarterfinals in the G12s will feature three Americans, and the eight top seeds, a rarity in any tournament, let alone one in Girls 12s.

No. 4 seed Cori Gauff, No. 5 seed Charlotte Owensby and No. 2 seed Elvina Kalieva all advanced to the quarterfinals with straight-set victories. Top seed Noa Krznaric of Croatia and No. 3 seed Kylie Bilchev of Great Britain also won their round of 16 matches in straight sets.  In fact the only three-set match in the 12s was Russian No. 8 seed Anna Chekanskaya's 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory over qualifier Alexandra Yepifanova.

The boys 12s quarterfinals will feature two Americans and only three seeded players.

Aidan Mayo, who took fifth place last year in the 12s division, defeated No. 7 seed Benjamin Kittay 6-3, 6-2 in the all-American match.  Mayo will next face top seed Xiaofei Wang of China, who defeated unseeded Martin Damm 7-5, 6-1.

Unseeded Alexander Bernard is the other US quarterfinalist. He advanced to a quarterfinal meeting with No. 8 seed Jewon Jeon of Korea when Marko Stakusic of Canada retired with an injury, trailing 6-2, 3-0.

No. 2 seed Hugo Hashimoto was beaten by unseeded Elmer Moller of Denmark 7-6(6), 6-2. No. 3 seed Hamad Medjedovic of Serbia, who will play unseeded Christopher Li of Peru, is the third seed in the quarterfinals.

Moller will play Eduardo Morais of Portugal in the only quarterfinal without a seed. Morais defeated Jon Suntar of Slovakia in a three-hour plus match, 5-7, 7-5, 6-4.

For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.