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Friday, December 18, 2015

Han Lone US Boy in Junior Orange Bowl 14s Round of 16; Four US Girls Reach 14s Fourth Round; 10 Americans Alive in 12s Division

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

I ventured out the Crandon Park on Key Biscayne today to watch the round of 32 of the Boys 14s.  Unseasonably warm and humid weather this week, as well as the occasional rain shower, has caused problems at the four sites, and wet courts from overnight dew delayed the start of play today for more than an hour.

No. 2 seed Govind Nanda lost to No. 17 Seon Yong Han of Korea, retiring after a back injury worsened in the second set.  Nanda won the first set 6-4, then Han, who led Korea to the ITF World Junior Tennis team title in August, took advantage of Nanda's lack of mobility to win the second set 6-2. Han, who is physically mature beyond his years, led 2-0 in the third set when Nanda retired.

Once I looked in on all the main draw matches, I settled on the only all-American round of 32 match, with No. 9 seed Nathan Han playing unseeded Daniel Sharygin. The day started with 11 American boys still in the main draw, but when it ended, only Han remained, after a tense and physical 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 battle.

Both Han and Sharygin were going for their shots, with the errors they made usually the result of that aggression.  Sharygin, a 14-year-old left-hander from Indiana,  jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set, but Han countered with four straight games, only to have his forehand let him down in the final three games, which were won by Sharygin to secure the set.

Sharygin took a 4-2 lead in the final set, but as in the second set, Han fought back, taking the next three games to get an opportunity to serve for the match.

Han went down 0-30, but won the next three points to earn a match point, but Sharygin unleashed a forehand winner to save it. Another forehand winner, on a crosscourt pass, gave Sharygin a break point and he made it 5-all when Han netted a backhand on the third ball of the point.

Sharygin immediately went down 0-40 in the next game, but saved those three break points and another, but it was then that a cramp in his left leg began to hinder his movement. His attempt to shorten points resulted in two quick forehand winners, but on the second of two more break points, Sharygin missed an overhead and Han would serve for the match again.

After a Sharygin forehand return went long, Han had his second match point at 40-15, but he missed a backhand lob long. Match point number three marked the end of the two and half hour match, with Sharygin sending a forehand long.  An affectionate hug during the handshake showed the respect both players had for the effort the other gave.

For Han, it was his third straight match to go the distance.

"I have a lot of confidence in third sets and that really helped me get through these matches," said the 14-year-old from Oklahoma, who won the USTA 14s Nationals this August.

Han tried every strategy he could think of down 4-2 in the third set.

"I was like, go to Plan Z," said Han, who was 1-1 in his head-to-head with Sharygin. "I'm not playing my best tennis, but I'm trying to do anything to win really. Ugly tennis, slicing, moonball, hustle, trying to find a way out."

As for keeping his focus when he saw Sharygin was cramping, Han managed to control his thoughts.

"You feel like it's unfair, but you can't do anything about it," Han said. "You've got to just keep competing really. Sometimes people start missing, get really tight, so I just try to ignore it as much as possible."

Han will play No. 7 seed Jack Draper of Great Britain in the round of 16.  Draper also needed three sets to advance Friday, beating No. 17 seed Nini Dica of Romania 6-7, 6-0, 6-1.

Top seed Thiago Tiriante of Argentina, No. 3 seed Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan and No. 4 seed Timofey Skatov of Russia all advanced in straight sets.

Four US girls remain in the 14s round of 16: No. 9 seed Naomi Cheong, No. 4 seed Katie Volynets and unseeded Chloe Beck and Gabby Price.
Beck and Price are part of the bottom quarter that has no seeded players remaining, but it does include Yuki Naito of Japan, who is 134 in the ITF Junior world rankings.

Five US boys and five US girls are into the round of 16 in the 12s division.

The five US girls are No. 2 seed Elvina Kalieva, No. 4 seed Cori Gauff, No. 5 seed Charlotte Owensby and unseeded Ellie Coleman and qualifier Alexandra Yepifanova. Top seed Noa Krznaric of Croatia and No. 3 seed Kylie Bilchev of Great Britain also advanced with routine wins.

The boys advancing to the 12s round of 16 Saturday are No. 2 seed Hugo Hashimoto, No. 7 seed Benjamin Kittay and unseeded Martin Damm, Alexander Bernard and Aidan Mayo.  Mayo, who defeated No. 9 seed Ashton Cross of Canada 6-4, 6-4, will play Kittay in the only all-American match.

Damm, who beat No. 9 seed Pedro Boscardin Dias of Brazil 6-4, 6-4, will play top seed Xiaofei Wang of China Saturday morning. The two played in the quarterfinals of the Eddie Herr, with Wang winning 6-2, 6-4.

Complete draws are available at the TennisLink site.