Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Kalieva Wins Girls 14s Title; Fruhvirtova Claims Girls 12s Championship; Japan Sweeps Boys Titles at Junior Orange Bowl

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Coral Gables FL--

Unseeded Elvina Kalieva had both nerves and fatigue to contend with in the opening set of the Junior Orange Bowl girls 14s final Tuesday at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Miami.  But the unseeded 14-year-old didn't let those problems deter her, and three hours later she had claimed the title with a 2-6, 7-5, 6-2 win over fellow American Ellie Coleman, a No. 9 seed.

Coleman, who didn't surrender a game in her semifinal match, showed no sign of nerves as the final began on a warm and sunny Tuesday morning. But Kalieva, who had played over three hours in her semifinal win over Mara Guth of Germany Monday, admitted she was caught off guard by Coleman's hot start.

"She was playing really good, I wasn't expecting her to play like that," Kalieva said. "She was playing super aggressive."

Kalieva said she felt some fatigue, but the adrenaline from being in the final overcame that, and she settled down in the second set, just as Coleman began to see her first serve percentage drop.

Kalieva got an opportunity to serve for the second set at 5-3, but couldn't convert that game. She did get a set point with Coleman serving at 4-5, but Coleman saved it. Coleman was not able to convert either of her game points at 5-6, and an unforced error and a double fault gave Kalieva the 75-minute set, which could have drained Kalieva of her remaining energy, but did not.

After two sets, Kalieva was clear on what strategy she needed to employ.

"I was just trying to hit the ball deep to her backhand," said Kalieva. "Her forehand's really good, but her backhand's a little weaker, so I was trying to keep it cross court."

The third set didn't start well for Kalieva, who lost her serve, but, as in the second set, she got the break right back, and saved three break points in her next service game for a 2-1 lead. Kalieva got her chance to take control in the sixth game, breaking Coleman for a 4-2 lead, and as Coleman's unforced errors piled up, Kalieva went in the opposite direction, playing aggressively, but with appropriate margins, and she held and broke, with Coleman double faulting on match point to end it.

"In the first set I wasn't really engaged into the match," said Kalieva, who trains with Antonio Torri at ProWorld Tennis Academy in Delray Beach. "Ellie was just going for her shots. But [in the third set] I grabbed onto it at 3-2 and pulled it out."

Coleman was content with her strategy, if not her execution.

"I expected her to play her best, and just go with it," said Coleman, a 14-year-old from Michigan. "I think she played well and congrats to her on the tournament. I think I played the right tennis, played the way I need to play to improve, so I'll keep improving on that."

Kalieva called winning the Orange Bowl a dream come true, but now she will look to the next level of competition, playing International Tennis Federation tournaments and the 18s division in USTA events.

Like Alexa Noel last year, Kalieva won the title without being seeded, but she said that situation didn't faze her.

"I didn't really pay attention to that," said Kalieva, who beat six seeds in her seven matches. "I didn't really care and I wasn't really surprised, because I was playing 18s tournaments."

The girls 12s final, played simultaneously on an adjacent court, was nearly as long as the girls 14s final, with top seed Linda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic defeating No. 3 seed Alexandra Eala of the Philippines 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-2.

The 75-minute first set saw only two service holds, with Eala failing to convert her first set point at 6-5 when she double faulted.  But Eala took advantage of errors by Fruhvirtova in the tiebreaker, claiming the set when Fruhvirtova's forehand return found the net.

The second set went much more quickly, as Fruhvirtova found her range with her ground strokes, while Eala's game was not as solid as earlier in the match.  In the third set, Fruhvirtova couldn't shake the gritty left-hander, but when Fruhvirtova broke Eala from 40-0 up to take a 4-2, lead, she didn't look back, holding and breaking for the title.

"I was motivated, I really wanted to win," said Fruhvirtova, who had lost in the Eddie Herr 14s final earlier this month. "So I didn't give up. She played really good, but I tried my best, and I won. The final of the Eddie Herr was really close, so I wanted a lot to win this tournament."

Unlike Fruhvirtova, Eddie Herr finalist Alex Bernard was not able to improve on his result at the Junior Orange Bowl.  For the second time in three weeks, top seed Bernard fell to No. 2 seed Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan, with Mochizuki claiming a 6-3, 6-3 victory in the boys 14s final.

Bernard took a 3-0 lead in the opening set, but Mochizuki used that deficit to change his tactics.

"When I was down 0-3 in the first set, I thought if I don't do something I lose," said Mochizuki, who is the first Japanese boy to win the Boys 14s title, with Kei Nishikori the only other finalist from Japan back in 2003. "I changed my tennis."

Mochizuki said he enjoys coming to the net to finish points, and that strategy was particularly effective against Bernard.

"He really takes so much time away from me," said Bernard, a 14-year-old from Naples Florida. "He has a good game style to play against me. I am a little bit farther back and he just takes time away and makes me run all over the place."

Bernard said he thought he played better than he had in the Eddie Herr final, but Mochizuki gave him few opportunities.

"I just wasn't comfortable with my shots compared to some of the other matches," Bernard said. "When I was getting my chances, I wasn't feeling I could really attack that much. I was waiting for him to miss and that didn't work too well."

Mochizuki didn't miss much, although Bernard was able to go up a break to take a 3-2 lead in the second set, only to give it right back. Serving a 3-4, Bernard had a game point, but he ended up losing a four-deuce game and Mochizuki held for his second major title of the month.

"I'm very happy, because I won Eddie Herr, I want to win this tournament too," said Mochizuki, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. "It's a way to be a good player, and I want to be No. 1 in the world."

When it rains, it pours, and Japan got another champion in the boys 12s division, with No. 7 seed Lennon Jones defeating No. 3 seed Nishesh Basavareddy of the United States 6-2, 6-3 at Salvadore Park.  Jones, who was runner-up at the Eddie Herr earlier this month, was able to return to Japan with a winner's bowl of oranges.

"My opponent played really good," said Jones, whose father is from California. "He didn't miss that much, and I tried to rally with him, and if I can, try to get a winner off him. I tried drop shots, high balls and stuff, mixing it up, so I think he got confused."

Although disappointed with the outcome of the final, Basavareddy gave credit to Jones's level of play.

"I feel really good about my performance this week," said the Carmel Indiana resident, who took out top seed Alexander Blockx of Belgium in the semifinals. "He played much better today. He was the more aggressive player today and I was on the defense more and he got more free points with his serve."

"I always wanted to win the Junior Orange Bowl," Jones said. "This is my first time being at the Junior Orange Bowl, but I won, and I am very happy."

Below are the results from the third place and consolation finals. Complete draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

Third place:
Boys 14s:
Alvaro Guillen Meza[7](ECU) def. Pedro Boscardin Dias(BRA) 7-5, 6-3.

Girls 14s:
Dariya Radulova[17](BUL) def. Mara Guth[9](GER), walkover

Boys 12s:
Alexander Blockx[1](BEL) def. Nahuel Nicolas Eli(ARG) 1-6, 6-3, 6-2

Girls 12s:
Sofia Costoulas[2](BEL) def. Clervie Ngounoue[8](USA) 6-1, 6-3

Consolation finals (fifth and sixth place):
Boys 14s:
Joel Pierleoni[8](GBR) def. Dali Blanch[Q](USA) 1-6, 6-2, 10-8
Note: Pierleoni lost in the first round of the main draw last Wednesday and won 10 matches in the next six days to claim fifth place.  Only two of his wins were walkovers.

Girls 14s:
Madison Sieg[17](USA) def. Kailey Evans[7](USA) 6-4, 6-1

Boys 12s:
Rodrigo Pachecho Mendez[4](MEX) def. Cooper Williams[5](USA) 6-1 6-3

Girls 12s:
Mio Mushika(JPN) def. Priya Nelson[7](USA) 6-2, 6-1