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Friday, December 8, 2017

Top Seed Osuigwe, Wild Card Beck Advance to Orange Bowl Semifinals; Crawley Reaches 16s Final; American Teams Claim 16s Doubles Titles

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Plantation, FL--

American girls will be carrying the home country's banner into the weekend at the Orange Bowl, with Whitney Osuigwe and Chloe Beck reaching the 18s singles semifinals and Fiona Crawley advancing to the 16s championship match.

Osuigwe, who was officially named ITF World Junior girls champion for 2017, was tested by unseeded Vanessa Ong in Friday's quarterfinal at the Veltri Tennis Center, but was able to get past her fellow 15-year-old 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.

Osuigwe said her poor start and Ong's level combined to make the match a difficult one.

"I think she played really well, but the first four games of the match for me, I played pretty careless tennis," said Osuigwe, who also needed three sets to defeat Ong when they played last year. "So I think that really gave her the confidence for the rest of the match. But overall, she played pretty good tennis, and I stepped up my game."

Osuigwe reasserted herself in the second set, going up 5-1, but Ong fought back, saving four set points, three at 3-5 and another with Osuigwe serving at 5-4.  But at 40-30, Osuigwe finally evened the match by cracking a forehand winner.

Ong had some difficulty with double faults at key moments in the match, and she was broken in the first game with a double fault on a game point and again, after pulling even at 2-2, double faulting twice from 15-30 to give Osuigwe the lead back. Osuigwe held and broke again, converting her second match point with a backhand winner to seal her second consecutive appearance in the Orange Bowl semifinals.

Osuigwe said the pressure she put on Ong's second serve was a factor in the double faults.

"I've always had pretty good returns," Osuigwe said. "I think today she really respected my return so she tried to do a little bit too much with her serve."

Osuigwe will face No. 9 seed Joanna Garland of Taiwan Sunday, after Garland defeated unseeded wild card Abigail Forbes 6-0, 3-6, 6-2.

The other girls semifinal will feature two unseeded players in Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine and Chloe Beck.  Duke recruit Bilokin took out No. 5 seed Naho Sato 3-6, 7-5, 6-4, while wild card Beck came from 4-1 down in the second set to eliminate No. 6 seed Nika Radisic of Slovenia 6-4, 7-5.

Beck said help she has gotten from USTA Mental Skills Specialist Larry Lauer is partly responsible for her surge.

"I was having issues with emotional control and I had really bad nerves," said the 16-year-old from Watkinsville Georgia. "I would get mad, just belittle myself during the match. I met with Larry Lauer down in Orlando right before I came here and I told him everything that was going on and I think that helped a lot. I've been able to keep my emotions in check better than I ever have and not get nervous. I didn't feel nervous at all."

That composure came in handy when she was down 4-1 40-0 in the second set.

"She had a couple points to go up 5-1," Beck said. "To be honest, I didn't really think about it. I was just trying to play every point the same and not look at it any differently."

Beck had not played Radisic before and had gotten contradictory scouting reports.

"I heard a bunch of different things," Beck said. "Some people said she attacks and slaps and some people said she has good loop balls. But she did a mix of both. She had a nice deep spin ball and would wait until she had a good ball to smash down my throat. She was very solid. I do little things to try to make my opponents mad, but I'm just trying to roll balls deep and stay in the point, not go for something too big early in the point."

Beck's breakout this week is something of a surprise to her.

"You want to win every tournament, but I definitely didn't think that I'd be here," Beck said.

Bilokin and Beck have played three times in the past two years, with the Ukrainian taking all three matches in straight sets.

Both US boys in the quarterfinals were defeated Friday. Wild card Tyler Zink lost to No. 11 seed Hugo Gaston of France 6-1, 6-1  and Govind Nanda was beaten by unseeded Dostanbek Taashbulatov of Kazakhstan 7-6(6), 6-7(2), 6-1.  Gaston will face top seed Timofey Skatov of Russia, a 6-4, 6-3 winner over unseeded Admir Kalender of Croatia and Tashbulatov will play unseeded Daniel Michalski of Poland, who beat No. 15 seed George Loffhagen of Great Britain 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.

The girls 16s final will feature No. 13 seed Katriin Saar of Estonia and unseeded Texan Fiona Crawley. Saar prevented an all-US final with a 6-3, 6-1 win over unseeded Jaedan Brown, while Crawley took out top seed Andreea Velcea of Romania 6-2, 6-3.

Crawley was aware that Velcea had been on the court for a long time in her quarterfinal win over Katrina Scott on Thursday.

"She played a three-and-a-half-hour three-setter yesterday, so I'm sure she was tired," said the 15-year-old from San Antonio Texas. "I played three sets too, but mine wasn't as long as hers. I had already finished mine and she was still in her second set."

Velcea, 16, took a medical timeout trailing 2-1 in the second set, and emerged from that with a significant wrap on her left thigh. But it was Crawley who suffered in the next game, dropping her serve with a double fault on break point, yet she didn't let it bother her.

"That always kind of throws you off, when they have that break and you have to go back out," said Crawley, who trains several times a week at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in New Braunfels Texas. "At least it threw me off a little."

Although she is from Texas, where she doesn't have an opportunity to train on the surface, Crawley, who won the 16s USTA Clay Courts this year in Virginia Beach, loves clay. She said it reminds her of the surface she grew up playing on in Japan, where her father was stationed in the Air Force.

"They only have omnicourt, so it's pretty similar to clay," said Crawley who was there from age 6-9. "It's like turf grass with sand, so you can slide on it. It's kind of different, they don't have it in America."

Crawley, who has played in only one ITF event in her junior career, said playing in the Orange Bowl final is special for her.

"I've been in a national final, but never an international final," said Crawley, who has beaten players from Estonia, Slovenia, Korea and Romania this week. "So yeah, it's exciting."

The 16s doubles finals were played Friday, with two American teams claiming the winner's Tiffany bowl of oranges.

Unseeded Eliot Spizzirri and Spencer Whitaker defeated Georgi Mavrodiev and Scott Sculley, also unseeded, 5-7, 6-3, 10-5 in the all-American boys final.

Spizzirri and Whitaker may not have been seeded, but the pair has now won two prestigious "Bowls" this year.

"Easter Bowl was our first one [together] and we won it, so we were like wow, we should probably play more," said Spizzirri, who went on to reach the Clay Court quarterfinals and the Kalamazoo semifinals this year with Whitaker.

This week, the pair had not dropped a set until the final, but that did not shake their confidence on Friday.

"We were pretty mad because we thought we should have won the first set," said Spizzirri, who turns 16 later this month. "We were playing, I think, better doubles, and it kind of slipped away at the end, but we were confident that our game would overall be better and in the next set we just kept on going."

"In the second half of the first set was definitely all four of us serving pretty big, so each one of our service games was pretty one-sided," the 16-year-old Whitaker said. "It just so happened that that last game slipped away and we knew we had that extra level that we can go to, if we really feel it."

Unlike the boys champions, girls winners Kylie Collins and Kacie Harvey had never played together before this week, but the No. 2 seeds defeated Briana Crowley and Puerto Rico's Maria Aguiar 6-3, 6-1 to close out a successful debut.

"At the beginning of the week, it was not like shaky, but we were still figuring some things out," said Collins, who turned 15 this week. "Kacie told me she's really confident in her tiebreakers, so that was really nice and I think we played really well. We communicated and moved well on court together."

"I like the match tiebreaks," the 16-year-old Harvey said, with two wins this week in those third sets in the quarterfinals and semifinals. "It's like all in and I like that feeling, giving it everything and you win or lose. It feels good to win, especially with Kylie. She's a great partner and for the first time playing together, I think we played really well together."

Both Collins and Harvey said the final was their best performance of the week.

"We stayed focused when we were up," said Collins. "In the past matches we had lost a 2-0 lead a lot, but today we stayed on top of it. We made sure we're up at the net, putting it away up there."

The weather forecast is dire for Saturday, so tournament officials decided to ask players in 18s doubles if they would be interested in playing their semifinal matches this evening.  Two semifinals were played, with No. 2 seeds Tomas Machac and Ondrej Styler of the Czech Republic reaching the final with a 6-3, 6-1 win over wild cards Brandon Nakashima and Emilio Nava.

In the girls semifinal match that was played, top seeds and Eddie Herr champions Osuigwe and Caty McNally were beaten by No. 4 seeds Yasmine Mansouri of France and Yuki Naito of Japan 6-4, 0-6, 10-6.

See the tournament website for Saturday's order of play, link to live scoring and complete draws.