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Friday, December 4, 2015

November Aces; Anisimova, McKenzie Reach Eddie Herr ITF Semifinals; Nine US Players Still Contending for 12s, 14s, 16s Titles

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Bradenton, FL

Before I look ahead to Saturday's semifinals at the Eddie Herr, take a look back at the top college and junior performances of November in my monthly column for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Drama was minimal in the ITF quarterfinals on a cool and overcast Friday morning, with only one of the seven matches going three sets.

Top seed and defending champion Dalma Galfi of Hungary, who hasn't dropped a set this week, fell behind unseeded Claire Liu 3-1 at the start, but won five of the next six games and went on to defeat the 15-year-old Californian 6-4, 6-3.

Galfi's semifinal opponent, unseeded Kylie McKenzie, played her quarterfinal match out on the Academy Park courts, where spectators rarely venture, as it is a tram ride away and has no dedicated seating. McKenzie, who played on Court 1 in her dramatic comeback from 5-1 down in the third set against Hanna Chang, said she didn't mind the atmosphere, as might be expected when posting a 6-2, 6-0 win over unseeded Oana Gavrila of Romania.

"I think it was a big thing for me, coming out today after a match like yesterday, trying to keep that momentum, not letting down at all," said McKenzie, who counted her two coaches, the USTA's Henner Nehles and her coach from Arizona, Lou Belkin, as her entire support group today. "I did a lot of good things on court today, a lot of things I've been working on."

With her big serve and ground strokes, McKenzie's preferred surface is hard courts, but she has adjusted this week, after a training block on green clay at the USTA's National Center in Boca Raton.

"I love hard courts, but I've had some pretty good results on clay," said McKenzie, who is hoping to reach her first Grade 1 final with a win on Saturday.

"It took me a little while to get used to it after the summer, but I've been working really hard, working on a lot of things and improving my game, so it's good to go out on the court, playing a tournament and be able to see yourself incorporating new things. So I'm happy with the way I'm playing and I hope I can keep it going."

 Another unseeded player happy with the way she's playing is 14-year-old Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano champion Amanda Anisimova, who defeated No. 15 seed Alexandra Sanford 6-4, 6-2 in her first match of the week on show court 1.

"I liked the support when I won big points," said Anisimova, whose winners brought  comments of "wow" and "great shot" from the dozens of local tennis fans not familiar with her game. The agents and clothing and racquet reps were not as vocal, but were very much in evidence.

"In Mexico, there were a lot of crowds, so I'm definitely used to that now," Anisimova said of her win two weeks ago in Mexico City.

Her six wins there provided not just a confidence boost and the experience of playing in front of large crowds, but another benefit as she prepared for the two big ITF tournaments in the United States.

"I got a lot of matches in and on clay courts, the red clay, that obviously helped," said Anisimova, who received a special exemption into the Orange Bowl with her win today. "I thought that helped a lot."

In a three-set win over Michaela Gordon on Thursday, Anisimova said the points were much longer than in her match with Sanford, who had beaten her last year in the quarterfinals of the Grade 4 in Wichita Falls, Anisimova's second ITF junior tournament.

"I think the rallies were a bit longer yesterday," said Anisimova. "We were both way more consistent. Today both of us played very aggressive, so the points were shorter. We had a good pace on the ball, so it was whoever made a winner first."

Looking back to that match against Sanford 14 months ago, Anisimova sees the strides she's made.

"I thought I played well in that match, but I had some lack of energy," Anisimova said. "I split sets, I was younger, and I think I'm more stable now. I can last three sets without getting tired. I also prepare better before every point, knowing that I can't make mistakes. I think that's a really big part of my game, that I'm aggressive and try to have good placement on every single ball."

Anisimova will play No. 5 seed Tamara Zidansek in the semifinals, after Zidansek overcame No. 2 seed Sonya Kenin 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 in just over three hours.

Zidansek is the highest-ranked WTA player in the draw, (for a list of her accomplishments, see my September Aces column), which is responsible for her seeding.

Fit and composed, Zidansek showed no sign of frustration when she broke Kenin for a 5-4 lead in the third set but, her first serve absent, never got to match point.  She broke Kenin in a three-deuce game, or rather Kenin broke herself with a double fault, giving the 17-year-old Slovenian another chance to serve out the match at 6-5. This time the 289th-ranked Zidansek got her first serve in on all four points, hit a perfect offensive lob on the baseline to give herself three match points, then finished off the game and match when Kenin missed a drop shot.

The boys quarterfinals were all completed in straight sets. No. 6 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada was the first to reach the semifinals, beating No. 13 seed Yibing Wu of China 6-3, 6-0 in an hour, a marked contrast to his Thursday struggle against Alexandar Lazarov of Bulgaria, in which he saved three match points.  Auger-Aliassime will play No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who defeated IMG Academy student Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia 6-2, 7-6(4).

As with the US girls, the Canadian boys still have a chance for an intra-country final, with No. 14 seed Benjamin Sigouin, who beat top seed Casper Ruud on Thursday, quickly taking out No. 8 seed Jurabeck Karamov of Uzbekistan 6-1, 6-1 in the other Academy Park quarterfinal.

Sigouin will play No. 4 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia, who took out the last hope for a second straight boys champion from the US, beating No. 12 seed Ulises Blanch 7-6(4), 6-2.

The doubles finals are set in the ITF tournament.  Kenin will attempt to win her second straight, when he and Ingrid Neel, the No. 2 seeds, play top seeds Galfi and Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia.  Galfi and Mihalikova defeated unseeded Bianca Andreescu of Canada and Liu 7-6(4), 6-4.  Kenin, who won with Duke freshman Jessica Ho last year, and Neel came back to post a tough 2-6, 7-5, 11-9 victory over unseeded Georgia Craciun and Gavrila of Romania.

De Minaur and his partner Bjorn Thomson of Ireland will play top seeds Kecmanovic and Norway's Ruud in the boys final.  Kecmanovic and Ruud defeated No. 6 seeds Toru Horie of Japan and Wu 6-1, 1-6, 10-7, while the eighth-seeded De Minaur and Thomson beat Auger-Aliassime and Sigouin, 3-6, 6-3, 11-9.

For Saturday's order of play and draws, see the ITF Junior website.

Nine US players are still in contention for an Eddie Herr singles titles, including three in the boys 16s.  Results of Friday's quarterfinals are below, with US winners in bold.

Boys 12s:
Xiaofei Wang[CHN](Q) def. Martin Damm [USA] (11) 6-2, 6-4
Jacobi Bain[BHS] def. Maximo Lucentini Sanchez [ARG] (13) 6-2, 6-0
Saud Alhogbani [USA] (4) def. Woodam Song [KOR] 6-3, 6-2
Jewon Jeon [KOR] (8) def. Shintaro Mochizuki [JPN] 6-1, 6-2

Girls 12s:
Elvina Kalieva [USA] (5) def. Yeonwoo Ku [KOR] 6-4, 7-6(3)
Cori Gauff [USA] (7) def. Charlotte Owensby [USA] (3) 6-1, 6-3
Kylie Bilchev [GBR] (4) def. Nikki Yanez [USA] (8) 6-1, 6-0
Noa Krznaric [CRO] (2) def. Punnin Kovapitukted [THA] (6) 6-2, 6-3

Boys 14s:
Thiago Agustin Tirante [ARG] (1) def.  Luis Iriarte Bastidas [VEN] 6-4, 6-2
Jack Draper [GBR] (5) def. Filip Cristian Jianu [ROU] (4) 6-1, 6-4
Timofey Skatov [RUS] (16) def. Admir Kalender [CRO] (10) 6-3, 6-4
Chun Hsin Tseng [TPE] (13) def.  Nini Dica [ROU] 6-0, 6-1

Girls 14s:
Saara Orav [EST] def.  Manu Carmen-Roxana [ROU] (7) 4-6, 6-3, 7-5
Margaryta Bilokin [USA] (Q) def. Adrienn Nagy [HUN] (5) 6-4, 5-7, 6-4
Marta Kostyuk [UKR] (8) def.  Himeno Sakatsume [JPN] 6-1, 4-6, 6-3
Gia Cohen [USA] (WC) def.  Anastasia Tikhonova [RUS] (2)6-0, 7-5

Boys 16s:
Sangeet Sridhar [USA] (1) def. Brian Cernoch [USA] (5) 6-3, 6-2
Patrick Zahraj [GER] def. Drew Baird [USA] 7-5, 6-3
Trey Hilderbrand [USA] (11) def. Andrew Fenty [USA] (4) 6-2, 3-6, 6-4
Ryan Goetz [USA] (13) def. Karl Friberg [SWE] (2) 6-4, 6-2

Girls 16s:
Mihaela Marculescu [ROU] (5) def. Selma Cadar [ROU] (1) 6-2, 6-4
Ulyana Shirokova [RUS] (3) def.  Alise Krista Cernecka [LAT] (11) 6-2, 6-1
Meg Kowalski [USA] (4) def. Sohyun Park [KOR] (8) 6-3, 6-2
Tiffany Lagarde [CAN] (6) def.  Nicole Mossmer [USA] (2) 6-3, 2-6, 6-4

Complete 12s, 14s and 16s draws can be found at the TennisLink site.