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Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Beck Ends Noel's Winning Streak; Osuigwe Defeats Gauff in Three Sets in Orange Bowl Second Round Action

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Plantation, FL--

Wild card Chloe Beck ended the winning streak of No. 2 seed Alexa Noel Wednesday in the second round of the Orange Bowl, defeating the Abierto Juvenil and Yucatan Cup champion 6-3, 6-3.

Noel, whose ITF junior ranking went from 161 to 20 with her 12 straight victories in Mexico, started quickly, taking a 3-0 lead in the first set.  But Beck remained committed to playing what she called smart tennis to pick up her second Top 25 win in the span of two weeks.

"I just played smart the entire time and I tried to not worry about it if she hit some crazy slices that I couldn't get," said the 16-year-old from Georgia, who beat No. 3 seed Lulu Sun of Switzerland in the first round of the Eddie Herr last week. "Playing someone like her, I know it's going to be tough, but I weathered the storm, just said 'good shot' when she hit a slice that was just too good."

With all her variety, Noel has many options on every point, but Beck saw that Noel wasn't executing well.

"She was getting a little frustrated when I would just keep staying in points and she would make an error," Beck said. "She got frustrated at herself, so I just told myself to keep her moving side to side and she ended up making mistakes."

When Beck beat Sun last week, she knew she could not let Sun get a rhythm; against the unpredictable Noel, Beck had to adopt a different strategy.

"I was not going for too huge of shots," Beck said. "I was just trying to play smart tennis, not making a lot of errors. I was rolling a couple of balls and waiting to get the perfect shot and then attack, instead of from the first shot trying to rip the ball."

Beck will face No. 14 seed Layne Sleeth of Canada in the third round, after Sleeth defeated Dalayna Hewitt 6-1, 6-3.

The grandstand court was the place to be for girls marquee match of the day between top seed and French Open champion Whitney Osuigwe and US Open finalist Coco Gauff, with Osuigwe claiming a 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 victory. A large crowd surrounded the court, with some seeking shade from the palms and the small shelter on a warm and sunny day. The first set was a bit ragged from both players, with the 13-year-old Gauff in particular struggling with her serve.

"I came out pretty nervous, but my ball is pretty tough for her to hit," the 15-year-old Osuigwe said. "She wasn't expecting it. She hits big and she never really changes the way she plays. She keeps hitting big, even in the first set, when she was missing a couple."

In the second set, the level improved, and after an early exchange of breaks, Gauff got her chance for another at 3-4, 30-40. She converted when Osuigwe netted a forehand early in the rally and Gauff served out the set, hitting a sizzling cross court forehand winner on her second set point.

"On one of my serves I didn't take care of it and I let her back into it," Osuigwe said. "I think that gave her the confidence she needed to start hitting her balls and making more of them."

Despite that second set lapse, Osuigwe approached the third set with confidence.

"I play pretty good third sets," said Osuigwe, who won the Eddie Herr title on Sunday with a 6-1 third set. "But I think I have just a little bit more variety than she does, so I am able to change the way I play, when something's not working. But mainly, I just made more balls than she did."

With her 59 wins in the highest level of ITF junior competition this year, Osuigwe has made a habit of getting through matches when she is not playing her best.

"I've played a lot of matches and I've learned how to grind through some of them," said Osuigwe. "Obviously, she's a pretty good player and all, and I'm pretty tired. I let her back into that second set and that gave her some momentum, but she's a pretty good player and I expected a tough match."

Osuigwe will play No. 16 seed Yasmine Mansouri of France, who she beat 6-1, 6-3 in the Eddie Herr semifinals last week.

"She's going to come back stronger, now that she knows how I play," Osuigwe said. "She's obviously is a really good player and I played really well last time."

Except for Noel, all girls seeds in action Wednesday advanced. There are seven American girls in the round of 16, but only Beck is in the bottom half. Two of Thursday's matches are all-USA, with Vanessa Ong facing No. 8 seed Caty McNally and wild card Abigail Forbes playing No. 14 seed Hurricane Tyra Black.  No. 7 seed Natasha Subhash will face No. 9 seed Joanna Garland of Taiwan.

The boys draw has only six seeds remaining and none of them are Americans.  No. 5 seed Andrew Fenty lost to Admir Kalender of Croatia 6-3, 6-3, No. 7 seed Alex Rotsaert retired after losing the first set to Daniel Michalski of Poland 7-5.  No. 13 seed Drew Baird went out to Dostanbek Tashbulatov of Kazakhstan 6-2, 6-3, leaving four unseeded Americans left in the draw: Govind Nanda, qualifier Sumit Sarkar and wild cards Tyler Zink and Brandon Nakashima.

Nanda defeated Ryan Goetz 7-6(4), 7-6(3), while Zink took out qualifier Marcelo Sepulveda Garza of Mexico 7-6(4), 6-1 and Sarkar beat No. 12 seed Carlos Lopez Montagud of Spain 6-3, 6-0. Nakashima eliminated No. 4 seed and Grade 1 Yucatan Cup champion Juan Cerundolo of Argentina 6-3, 6-3, acknowledging a win over a seeded Argentine on clay is an accomplishment.

"I played pretty solid," said the reigning 16s Kalamazoo champion. "I felt I had a good balance between staying consistent and going for the right shots, while just rallying with the guy. I also had a good mix with coming into the net and finishing off the points there."

Cerundolo, a left-hander, used his drop shot often in the first set, which did not come as a surprise to Nakashima.

"Before the match started, I knew he liked to drop shot off the backhand side," Nakashima said. "I tried to anticipate in the beginning and he was getting me at the beginning, but as the match went on, I felt more comfortable getting to those and reading them."

Nakashima, who qualified and reached the third round at the Yucatan Cup, went back to San Diego instead of playing the Eddie Herr, spending the week prior to the Orange Bowl training on a rare Southern California clay court.

He will face Tashbulatov in the third round Thursday.

Top seed Timofey Skatov of Russia was tested by Germany's Leopold Zima, but advanced with a 6-2, 7-6(5) victory. No. 6 seed Tao Mu of China was defeated by Texas A&M recruit Alejandro Vedri Asensi of Spain 6-4, 6-3.

The first round of 18s doubles was completed today, with top girls seeds Caty McNally and Osuigwe and top boys seeds Nicolas Mejia of Colombia and Uisung Park of Korea advancing.

The quarterfinals are set for the 16s, with two US boys: No. 2 seed Eliot Spizzirri and No. 8 seed Blaise Bicknell and four US girls: Katrina Scott, Fiona Crawley, Jaedan Brown and Rosie Garcia Gross still vying to succeed Steven Sun and Katie Volynets as Orange Bowl champions.

All four American girls, who are unseeded, face international players in the quarterfinals, scheduled for 10 a.m. on Thursday.

The doubles semifinals in the 16s are not before 1:30 p.m.

Complete draws and the order of play are available at the tournament website.