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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Junior Orange Bowl 14s Top Seeds Survive, Eddie Herr Champions Move into Second Round; Volynets Makes International Debut

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

The No. 1 seeds in the 14s age division won their first Junior Orange Bowl matches, with Thiago Tirante of Argentina prevailing in a third-set tiebreaker and Ekaterina Makarova of Russia taking her match 6-1 in the third set.

Makarova, in an 8 a.m. match at the University of Miami courts, defeated qualifier Anastasia Poplavaska of Ukraine 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, while Tirante survived against 2014 Boys 12s semifinalist Daiki Yoshimura of Japan 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-6(5) in a second round match played at Crandon Park. Eddie Herr Boys 14s champion Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan had an easier time in his opening match, a 6-2, 6-3 second round victory over Shunya Maruyama of Japan.

I spent the morning at the Boys 12s at Salvadore Park, where just one top 8 seed lost. Eddie Herr semifinalist Jacobi Bain of the Bahamas, seeded No. 5, lost to Christopher Li of Peru 7-6(7), 6-3.

A top four seed exited before playing a point however, as Eddie Herr finalist and USTA 12s National Champion Saud Alhogbani withdrew due to an illness.

Eddie Herr champion Xiaofei Wang of China defeated Ryan Colby 6-2, 6-3, using his volleying skills to avoid the grinding Har-Tru points often prevalent in the Boys 12s.

At Tropical Park, the top three seeds in the Girls 12s didn't lose a game in their opening matches. Eddie Herr champion and No. 1 seed Noa Krznaric of Croatia, No. 2 seed Elvina Kalieva, and No. 3 Kylie Bilchev of Great Britain blanked their opponents, while No. 4 seed Cori Gauff, the Eddie Herr 12s finalist, won her match over Jimin Kwon of Korea 6-1, 6-2.

The University of Miami was a busy place on the hot and humid first day of the tournament, with both girls and boys filling the 14 hard courts from 8 a.m. until well after 8 p.m.

Eddie Herr Girls 14s champion Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine had difficulty early in her first round match with Gabriela Giraldo of Colombia, but pushed through for a 6-4, 6-2 win.

No. 4 seed Katie Volynets, the USTA 14s champion, made her international debut, beating Tina Smith of Australia 6-1, 6-2.  The first set was not a difficult one for Volynets, whose aggressive style was difficult to counter.

After going up 4-0 in the second set, Volynets missed a few more balls, and Smith, who tried every strategy should could think of, would not give in.

Smith demonstrated that at 4-0, when in a game that lasted nearly 20 minutes, she held serve to get on the board in the second set.

"In that one game, I kind of lost my focus a little bit," said Volynets, who will turn 14 on New Year's Eve. "I would win the deuce point and she would win the ad point. It got a little tougher because the points got longer, but I pulled it out because I kept being aggressive."

After holding in that marathon game, the left-handed Smith quickly broke Volynets, but Volynets got the break right back and served for the match at 5-2.  Down 30-40, Volynets saved the break point with a backhand volley winner, then closed it out with good forehands, with a cross court short-angle winner on match point.

At barely 5-feet tall, Volynets has developed her game to counter the constant moonballing tactics she faces.

"I love taking the ball on the rise," said the Walnut Creek, California resident. "People like to moonball against me because they see I'm not very tall, so I like to come in and take it as early as possible. And I also love returning serves."

Volynets said she is enjoying her first exposure to international players.

"It's really nice to play new people I haven't seen before," Volynets said. "Different places have different styles and it makes me learn a lot."

Volynets tries to determine her opponent's strengths and weaknesses during the warmup, and if she hasn't discovered them by then, can usually pick it up in the first few games.

"I start playing the way I want to play when I don't know my opponent, then I figure it out on the court," Volynets said.

Round of 64 matches are scheduled for all four sites on Thursday.  For complete results, see the TennisLink site.