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Saturday, December 12, 2015

Day and Andreescu Meet for Orange Bowl Girls Championship; Tsitsipas Returns to Final to Face Kecmanovic for Boys Title

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Plantation, FL--

Kayla Day and Bianca Andreescu met in the final of the ITF Grade 1 Yucatan Cup just two weeks ago, while Stefanos Tsitsipas and Miomir Kecmanovic played last week in the quarterfinals of the Eddie Herr. On Sunday, in the finals of the Metropolia Orange Bowl, Andreescu and Kecmanovic will be trying to reverse the results of those matches to win their first Grade A titles.

The ninth-seeded Andreescu has nothing but positive memories to propel her, having now won 11 straight matches on the Har-Tru courts at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center. The 2014 girls 16s champion was having difficulty grasping that she's in another Orange Bowl final, with the 15-year-old Canadian celebrating her 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 win over No. 2 seed Dalma Galfi of Hungary, with the classic hand-over-open-mouth gesture of surprise.

"It was like, did this just happen?," said Andreescu, who broke Galfi, the US Open girls champion, three times in the final set. "I feel like I played my best tennis in this match, ever. Not in the first set, but in the second and third. It was amazing. No words."

Day was also in something of a daze following her victory over No. 13 seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia, who retired at 5-7, 6-3 after injuring her right hand in a fall late in the second set.

"I am in shock and I also feel really bad for her," said Day. "I thought it was a good match and it's never easy to go out like that. It doesn't feel that great for me, it's kind of sad that we didn't get to finish."

Day got off to a quick start on another warm and humid day in South Florida, breaking the 14-year-old Russian in her first two service games.  Potapova wasn't playing particularly well, but by the seventh game, she had found her form and she broke Day serving for the set at 5-4 with a backhand down-the-line winner at 15-40.  Serving at 5-6, Day was not about to be steamrolled, and she saved three set points, but on the fourth, Potapova's backhand down the line again found its mark.

After winning the first two games of the second set, Potapova had won six straight games, but Day found a reason for hope in the third game. With Potapova serving at 30-40, the two produced one of the best points of the tournament, with drop shots, lobs, volleys, overheads, overhead returns all in evidence. Although Potapova won the point, she ended up losing the game, and Day was back in the match.

"She won that, but after that point, I saw her sort of bend over even though she won it," said Day, a 16-year-old from Santa Barbara, California. "It looked like she was cramping, so I really started firing up, okay, I can do this."

With Potapova serving at 3-3 in the second set, she fell, landing awkwardly on her right hand, and ending up losing that game, and the next two as well.

"She got back up right away, and played the point, but her thumb, I think, just kept getting worse," Day said. "I started playing to her forehand, because I knew it was not doing well. I thought we'd continue when she came back from the bathroom (after Day won the set), but she couldn't even open up her hand."

Day defeated Andreescu 7-5, 6-3 on the red clay at the Yucatan Cup final, but Andreescu said she learned from that loss, although what she learned she said was "top secret."

Both Day and Andreescu will be playing in their first Grade A final Sunday.

The third newcomer to Grade A finals is Kecmanovic, who defeated unseeded Calin Manda of Romania 6-4, 6-2.  The ninth seed has dropped only one set in the tournament and even his lack of familiarity with his opponent didn't give him pause in the semifinals.

"I saw him a couple of times a couple of months ago, but I didn't see a lot, so I didn't know that much about him," said the 16-year-old, who has trained at the IMG Academy in Bradenton for three years. "The start is always tougher, because you don't what to play, so you have to figure it out quick. The first couple of games I just stick to the basics, go backhand, open the court and see what happens. It turned out good."

As for the rematch with Tsitsipas, won by the Greek 6-2, 7-6(4), Kecmanovic is looking forward to it.

"I've been playing good this whole week," said Kecmanovic. "At the Eddie Herr, I lost that match, but we'll see if it'll be different. I know how to play him now and I hope it's going to be better."

The third-seeded Tsitsipas, who lost to Stefan Kozlov 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 in last year's final, still has regrets from that match.

"Last year I had many opportunities to win this tournament, but I didn't use them," said the 17-year-old, who has also lost only one set this week. "That's why I lost the final. This year I'm looking forward to winning the title."

Tsitsipas was 0-3 against semifinal opponent Mate Valkusz of Hungary, the No. 2 seed, before today's 6-3, 6-1 victory, so he was especially pleased with the result.

"It feels really good, especially with such an easy score," said the 6-foot-4 right-hander. "I don't think he was in the best shape today. It happens to everyone. At the end of the day (Friday), I was really tired, because I played two singles and one doubles, but despite this, I managed to win today."

The doubles finals are set for Sunday, with no US players in either the boys or the girls finals.

Yuta Shimizu and Yunosuke Tanaka of Japan defeated Jack Mingjie Lin of Canada and Oliver Crawford 7-6(6), 6-3 in Saturday afternoon's semifinals and will play Ergi Kirkin of Turkey and Alexei Popyrin of Australia in the final. Kirkin and Popyrin beat No. 5 seeds Youseef Hossam of Egypt and Alberto Lim of the Philippines 6-7(6), 6-3, 13-11.

In the girls doubles, Eleni Christofi of Greece and Anastasia Detiuc of Moldova will play No. 5 seeds Pranjala Yadlapalli of India and Tamar Zidansek of Slovenia for the title. Christofi and Detiuc defeated Jaqueline Cristian of Romania and Michaela Gordon 6-4, 7-5, with Yadlapalli and Zidansek beating Eddie Herr champions and No. 4 seeds Sonya Kenin and Ingrid Neel 6-4, 2-6, 10-7.

In the 16s, Argentina has an opportunity to win both singles titles.  No. 2 seed Maria Carle defeated unseeded Hannah Lairmore 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals and will play qualifier Gabriela Tatarus of Romania for the girls title. Tatarus beat qualifier Lea Ma 6-2, 6-1 to advance to the final.

Sebastian Baez, the No. 9 seed, eliminated Kyrylo Tsygura, the only US boy to reach the quarterfinals, 6-4, 6-4 and will play No. 3 seed Karl Friberg of Sweden for the boys title.  Friberg defeated qualifier Nicolas Mejia of Colombia 6-2, 6-3.

Three US players remain in the running for a doubles title.  The unseeded Atlanta-area pair of McCartney Kessler and Emma Kurtz reached the final with a 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 5 seeds Emma Decoste and Ann Li. They will play No. 4 seeds Ania Hertel of Poland and Mihaela Marculescu of Romania, who beat Lairmore and Alana Wolfberg 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 10-8.

Brian Shi, who with Canadian Nicaise Muamba, is seeded second, will play Baez and Miguel Pereira of Chile, the No. 3 seeds in the boys final. Shi and Muamba defeated No. 4 seeds Andrew Fenty and Tristan McCormick 7-6(5), 3-6, 14-12, while Baez and Pereira downed unseeded Trey Hilderbrand and Keenan Mayo 6-1, 3-6, 10-5 in the other semifinal.

Sunday's order of play and the link to live scoring is available at the tournament website.