Saturday, December 3, 2016

Kecmanovic and Sigouin Meet for Eddie Herr ITF Title, Gracheva and Carle in Girls Final; Six Americans Play for Eddie Herr Championships in 12s, 14s and 16s Divisions

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Bradenton, FL--

A week of beautiful weather will come to a close on Sunday with the top two seeds in the boys Eddie Herr ITF tournament, Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia and Benjamin Sigouin of Canada, playing for their second championship after the pair captured the doubles title after tough semifinal singles victories on Saturday morning.

The girls championship will feature No. 6 seed Varvara Gracheva of Russia, who defeated unseeded Irina Cantos Siemers of Germany 6-2, 6-2 and No. 12 seed Maria Carle of Argentina, who won a controversial and messy match with unseeded Carson Branstine 2-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Sigouin came back from the brink of defeat to take a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 decision from No. 3 seed Kenneth Raisma of Estonia, with Raisma serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set.  Raisma never got to match point in that game, although got as close as deuce twice. Raisma's backhand began to let him down near the end of the second set, but it was two consecutive double faults from 15-30 that proved fatal, and he was broken.  Sigouin had to save a break point serving for the set at 6-5, but two aces, the final one on his second game point put him into a third set.

"I think I did pick up my game," the 17-year-old right-hander said of the latter stages of the second set. "I don't feel he should regret anything, I just played very well that game. I was kind of pissed off from the game before, and I had a break 3-1 in the second, so I wasn't the happiest guy."

Sigouin broke Raisma for a 3-2 lead and held for 4-2, but after he fell going for a shot in Raisma's next service game, Sigouin had to call the trainer for his bleeding knee.

"I actually didn't want to take a medical timeout, but I felt like I had to," Sigouin said.  "It maybe slowed me down a little bit but I didn't really want to relax after that."

After giving up his break Sigouin got it right back, hitting a backhand winner at 15-40 to give him an opportunity to close it out on serve. He lost the first point of the game, but closed it out by winning the last four points, with a good first serve ending the final point before it really started.

"I was lucky I served from the easier side to serve from," Sigouin said. "With the wind a little bit and not against the sun, that helped. In Mexico City (the Grade A two weeks ago), I had six match points and I lost that match in the quarters and that hurt a lot, so this is definitely going to feel good."

Like Sigouin, Kecmanovic had not lost a set coming into the semifinals, but his 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 win over No. 12 seed Ergi Kirkin of Turkey proved a difficult puzzle to solve for the ITF's No. 1 junior.

"I think it was just that my opponent played a different game style than I'm used to," said Kecmanovic, who trains at the IMG Academy. "He was just getting a lot of balls back and making me play a few more shots. I think that got to me a little, but in the end I stayed focused and got through."

Kecmanovic admitted his frustration level peaked in the second set.

"In the second set I didn't really stay calm," the US Open boys finalist said. "I started going for too much and started missing and that's why I lost the second set."

Kirkin broke Kecmanovic to start the third set, but Kecmanovic got the break right back and then earned a break to make it 4-2.  But that one-break lead was tenuous when Kecmanovic went to serve out the match at 5-3.

"It was very difficult at the end, so I just tried to stay mentally tough," Kecmanovic said. "He had three break points in that last game on my serve, but I had some pretty good points, so I'm pretty happy about that."

Kecmanovic and Sigouin have never played before.

"It's going to be our first match, but I know he plays very good of course, and we'll see how it goes," Kecmanovic said.

While Kecmanovic was working to subdue Kirkin on Court 1, drama was building on Court 3, with Carle attempting to earn a split with Branstine at 5-1 in the second set.  Earlier in the set, both players had been given a soft warning by the chair umpire for too much emotional celebration directed at her opponent, and shortly thereafter Branstine was issued an actual code violation warning for unsportsmanlike conduct.  Carle had thought that was a second code violation, which is a point penalty, and confusion ensued when Branstine said the game was not complete, while Carle maintained it was.  The chair umpire, who was doing live scoring input, but not using a card, was not definitive in his reconstruction and the referee was called to court to sort it out. The decision went in Carle's favor, much to Branstine's dismay, but it was Branstine who took an early 2-1 lead in the third set, only to see Carle win four of the next five games for a 5-3 lead.

Always prone to self-critical monologues in a match, Branstine's frustration level grew, and Carle was the steadier of the two in the final points of the match, with a good first serve, a missed return and third shot handcuffing Branstine giving Carle the victory.  Branstine heaved her racquet into the chain link fence separating the court from the walkway, startling a few spectators watching from there and after leaving the court, was heard smashing her racquet.

"It was a hard match, and the girl that I play, play so good," Carle said. "There were problems, discussions in the match and in the second set, the problem was the ref called 5-1, when it was set for me, and this is the big problem. I try to stay focused, and I think these matches are for those who are mental strong, and this was the key for me. Stay focus and concentrate in my play."

Being down in the final set did not faze Carle, who won the 16s Orange Bowl title last year, but had not reached a Grade 1 final before this week.

"I try to be positive all the time," Carle said. "Because if you stay mad for two minutes, you lose the match. I try to stay positive for all the points, and this is key for me."

With all the drama in the other three semifinals, the Court 1 match between Gracheva and Cantos Siemers paled in comparison, with Gracheva efficiently ending the German's impressive run this week.

Gracheva made few errors and her backhand was nearly all the offense she needed.

"I think I played really good today," said the 16-year-old, who has trained in Germany with 31-year-old Russian Nina Bratchikova, a former WTA Top 100 player, for the past three years. "I focused on my game, what I was supposed to do."

Gracheva said she did not think about Cantos Siemers' comebacks in her previous two rounds, but concentrated instead on hitting her favorite shot, a backhand down the line.

Gracheva has four titles in ITF Grade 2 events this year, but like Carle, she will be playing in her first Grade 1 final on Sunday, and it will be their first meeting.

The day's action closed with Kecmanovic and Sigouin taking the doubles title with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over unseeded Govind Nanda and Alexandre Rotsaert.

Kecmanovic and Sigouin, the top seeds, had never played together before, but everything was clicking for the pair Saturday afternoon, with Nanda and Rotsaert not having a game point until they held at 6-0, 5-0.

"Our goal was to finish this match quick, because we have a big match tomorrow," Sigouin said. "We had two long ones today, so we tried to get the job done."

"I think we were both tired, but it didn't really show because we played very well," Kecmanovic said. "We were serving pretty good and returning, and that gave us easy points."

The match took only 34 minutes, and the momentum swings that regularly surface in doubles never appeared.  Kecmanovic and Sigouin will try for a second straight title at next week's Orange Bowl.

The girls final, played early Saturday morning, saw No. 4 seeds Kaja Juvan of Slovenia and Lea Boskovic of Croatia win their second title in as many attempts, defeating No. 7 seeds Maria Portillo Ramirez of Mexico and Sofia Sewing 7-6(8), 6-3.

Juvan and Boskovic won a $10,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in October, so they were confident in their first junior event as a team.

"It was a great victory," said Juvan, 16. "It was a tough tournament, a lot of great players."

"We were playing some great matches," said Boskovic, 17. "They played great, so congrats to them also, but it's amazing."

Juvan and Boskovic, who beat top seeds Yuki Naito of Japan and Xiyu Wang of China in the semifinals, will be going for their third straight title at the Orange Bowl next week.

The finals are now set for the 12s, 14s and 16s divisions, with six Americans vying for singles titles on Sunday morning.

The only final not featuring an American is the boys 16s, which is an all-British affair between Jake Hersey, the No. 4 seed, and No. 2 seed Anton Matusevich.

The US is assured of claiming the girls 16s final, with Victoria Hu and Katie Volynets advancing to the finals with wins today. Gianna Pielet, the No. 5 seed will play No. 2 seed Emma Raducanu of Great Britain in the girls 14s final, and No. 3 seed Katrina Scott, the Easter Bowl 12s champion, will face No. 4 seed Dasha Plekhanova of Canada in the girls 12s final.

No. 2 seed Zane Khan will face top seed Bu Yunchaokete of China in the boys 14s final and Jonah Braswell, the No 9 seed, will meet qualifier Gunuk Kang of Korea in the boys 12s final.

The full draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

Below are the results of the singles semifinals, including those played on Friday:

Girls 12s:
Katrina Scott[3](USA) def. Stela Peeva[11](BUL) 6-3, 6-2
Dasha Plekhanova[4](CAN) def. Tatiana Muzykantskaya[2](RUS) 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 FRIDAY

Girls 14s:
Gianna Pielet[5](USA) def. Gabby Price[4](USA) 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-4
Emma Raducanu[2](GBR) def. Natasha Sengphrachanh[12](CAN)  6-7(1), 6-3, 6-1 FRIDAY

Girls 16s semifinals:
Victoria Hu[4](USA) def. Emma Navarro[9](USA) 6-1, 6-2
Katie Volynets[7](USA) def. Margaryta Bilokin[3](UKR) 6-0, 6-2

Boys 12s:
Jonah Braswell[9](USA) def. Victor Lilov[1](USA) 6-4, 6-4
Gunuk Kang(KOR) def. Kenta Nakamura(JPN) 7-5, 6-3 FRIDAY

Boys 14s:
Bu Yunchaokete[1](CHN) def. Toby Kodat(USA) 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 FRIDAY
Zane Khan[2](USA) def. Alexander Gaponenko[3](ISR) 6-2, 6-4

Boys 16s:
Jake Hersey[4](GBR) def. Vikash Singh[5](IND) 6-2, 6-4
Anton Matusevich[2](GBR) def. Jack Draper[3](GBR) 6-4, 7-5 FRIDAY

The doubles championships were all played on Saturday.  Below are photos of the winners, with the results of the finals in the captions.

G12s: Maria Drobotova/Katrina Scott[1](USA) def. Nadezda Khalturina(RUS)/Stela Peeva(BUL)[4] 6-4, 6-4

B12s: Jonah Braswell/Bruno Kuzuhara[2](USA) def. Victor Lilov/Evan Wen[1](USA) 4-6, 7-6(1), 10-6
B14s: Viktor Jovic(SRB)/Alexander Mandma(EST)[3] def. Santiago de la Fuente/Juan Torres[6](ARG) 6-7(4), 6-4, 10-8
G14s: Kylie Bilchev/Emma Raducanu[1](GBR) def. Jiaqi Wang/Qinwen Zheng[3](CHN) 6-2, 7-5
G16s: Margaryta Bilokin(UKR)/Amber O’Dell[2](USA) def. Saara Orav(EST)/Sarka Richterova(CZE)[7] 6-4, 6-0
B16s: Leighton Allen/Joseph Brailovsky(USA) def. Cleeve Harper(CAN)/Vikash Singh(IND)[5] 6-2, 3-6, 10-7