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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Top Seed Ngounoue Sets Sights on Junior Orange Bowl Title; Eddie Herr Gallery; USTA National Campus to Host Collegiate Wild Card Challenge Saturday

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Coral Gables, FL--

Girls 12s top seed Clervie Ngounoue has already made her mark in the 14s, winning the USTA Clay Courts this summer, and reaching the final of the USTA Nationals and the recent Eddie Herr. But the 12-year-old from Washington DC has been thwarted in her two previous attempts at the Junior Orange Bowl 12s title, so the 2017 semifinalist has elected to give it one last shot.

"I wanted to come back to the 12s Orange Bowl and try to win it," Ngounoue said after her harder-than-it-looks 6-1, 6-2 second round win over Regina Alcobe-Garibay. "A lot of the girls in 14s usually playing 16s came back to the 14s, and I think it would be very tough for me. I still think I would make it several rounds in the 14s, but I wanted the Orange Bowl title. I've been looking forward to Orange Bowl because this is my third year, it's the biggest tournament of the year and the last one....I think the Orange Bowl is the one I've been waiting for."

After the Eddie Herr, Ngounoue was able to play the America's Cup in Lake Nona, the 14-and-under team event between the US, Canada, South America and the Caribbean that serves as a warmup for the Orange Bowl.

"It was good," said Ngounoue, who trains with her father Aime at Sportfit Bowie in Maryland. "I haven't played team tennis in a while, so the fun, the intensity of cheering on your teammates is really fun."

Ngounoue, who won her first round match without dropping a game, said she could find her forehand early in the match.

"At first I thought it was my racquet, because my grip was slippery and I wasn't hitting my forehands right," Ngounoue said. "But I think it was just my mentality; I needed to wake that up a little bit to get in the game. It would go to sleep on some points and I have to wake it back up. I have to keep up my intensity."

A day after the boys 12s lost their No. 4 seed, the girls 12s did the same, with Jovana Grujic of Serbia falling to Isabella Marquart of the United States 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. No. 2 seed Brooklyn Olson of the United States advanced with a 6-2, 6-1 decision over Gabia Paskauskas of Great Britain and No. 3 seed Valerija Kargina of Latvia beat Emily Baek of the United States 6-0, 6-0.
Top boys 12s seed Rudy Quan of the US posted another 6-2, 6-0 win in the second round, beating Lucas Kimelman of Canada.  No. 2 seed Alexander Razeghi of the United States, who is No. 2 behind Quan in the USTA national rankings, defeated Joaquin Guilleme of Nicaragua 6-1, 6-2 to advance to the third round. Like Quan, who came to the Salvadore Park Har-Tru courts from the hard courts at the Eddie Herr, Razeghi was also getting accustomed to a new surface after winning the singles and doubles titles at the USTA National Indoors late last month.

"I didn't have much practice on clay, that's why we came a few days early," said the 12-year-old left-hander, who trains at the Giammalva Racquet Club in the Houston area. "There's very little clay in Texas."

Razeghi is playing his first Junior Orange Bowl and is enjoying the international flavor of the event and figuring out how to compete against unfamiliar opponents.

"It's great playing people from different continents, it's great experience," Razeghi said. "Because you don't know how they play, you don't know who they are, so it's just difficult. The first few games you see what their weak shot is or how they play. Toward the end of the first set or the second set, or even the third, you start to have a strategy. Today, it was just keep the ball in, because it's a really slow surface and you're not going to be hitting many winners, so I would just keep on grinding and just keep the ball in until in the opponent misses."

Razeghi said when he first came to the tournament it was different from USTA events he plays.

"I didn't recognize any players, and with a 128 draw, there's going to be a lot of good players and I'm just going to have to fight through the whole tournament," Razeghi.

No. 3 seed Antonio Voljavec of Croatia advanced to Friday's third round with a 6-0, 6-0 win over lucky loser Fumin Jiang of China.

The top seeds in the 14s also advanced to the third round without difficulty. Girls No. 1 Yayi Yang of Taiwan defeated Sage Loudon of the United States 6-1, 6-1 and No. 2 seed Eleana Yu of the US won her second straight 6-0, 6-0 match, this one over Orly Oglivy of Canada.  No. 3 seed Katja Wiersholm defeated qualifier Valeria Centeno, also of the US, 6-2, 6-3 and No. 4 seed Melisa Ercan of Turkey beat Jasmin Makela of the US 6-2, 6-0.

At the boys 14s on Key Biscayne, where I'll be heading Friday, top seed Victor Lilov of the US defeated Joseph Phillips, also of the US, 6-2, 6-0, and No. 2 seed Bruno Kuzuhara of the US defeated Ignacio Buse of Peru 6-3, 6-4.  No. 3 seed Chak Lam Wong of Hong Kong earned a 6-2, 6-4 win over Waleed Qadir of the US and No. 4 seed Juncheng "Jerry" Shang of the US defeated Sebastian Castro of Ecuador 6-1, 6-0.

For complete results and times for Friday's third round, see the TennisLink site.

As usual, I prepared a photo gallery of all 32 of the singles semifinalists at the Eddie Herr, which can be found this year at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

When the American Collegiate Invitational at the US Open was not held this year, another event was planned to take its place and that is coming up beginning Saturday at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona.  Eight US women and eight US men will play the Collegiate Blizzard Wild Card Challenge, with the women's winner getting a main draw wild card into a $60K event in 2019 and the men's winner getting a main draw wild card into the ATP 80 Challenger in Lake Nona late this month. Invitations to the USTA's National Collegiate Team will also be extended to the champions. Round robin play is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, with the semifinals on Monday and the finals on Tuesday.

The women participating are: Kelly Chen, Duke; Sara Daavettila, North Carolina; Salma Ewing, USC; Michaela Gordon, Stanford; Makenna Jones, North Carolina; Ashley Lahey, Pepperdine; Brienne Minor, Michigan; Sophie Whittle, Gonzaga.

The men's participants are: Alafia Ayeni, Cornell; Brandon Holt, USC; John McNally, Ohio State; Emil Reinberg, Georgia; Sam Riffice, Florida; Alex Rybakov, TCU; Keegan Smith, UCLA; Tanner Smith, USC.

For more on all the competitors, as well as their UTRs, see this article from the USTA.