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Saturday, December 21, 2019

ITF Orange Bowl Recap; Yakoff and Basavareddy Reach Junior Orange Bowl 14s Finals, Moved Up to Sunday

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Coral Gables FL--

The weather in South Florida the past two weeks has not been conducive to predictable tennis schedules, but at the ITF Grade A Orange Bowl in Plantation, the final day featured great weather, a relief from the rain the previous three days. My recap of Robin Montgomery and Ashlyn Krueger's sweep of the girls titles, as well as the incredible run to No. 1 by Argentina's Thiago Tirante, is available now at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Unlike the 16s and 18s Orange Bowl, the forecast for the final day of the Junior Orange Bowl calls for a good chance of rain, causing the tournament committee to move the finals up from Monday to Sunday.  Due to a problematic forecast for Sunday afternoon and beyond, the quarterfinal and semifinals of the Junior Orange Bowl were completed Saturday, after the third and fourth round matches were played on Friday. All eight finalists will be playing their fifth match in three days Sunday for the title of Junior Orange Bowl champion.

Nishesh Basavareddy is not new to Junior Orange Bowl finals, having reached the 12s final in 2017. The No. 2 seed in the 14s this year, after more than a year out with injury, Basavareddy will take on No. 3 seed Rashed Naif of Qatar after both posted straight-sets victories today at Crandon Park. Basavareddy defeated Japan's Yu Maeda, a No. 17 seed, 6-0, 6-3 in the quarterfinals and knocked out No. 4 seed and Eddie Herr champion Alexandru Mihai Coman of Romania 6-2, 6-4 in the semifinals. Naif, whose name is spelled Nawaf in his ITF profile, advanced to the semifinals with 7-6(1), 4-4 retired inj. decision over Lennon Jones of Japan, who beat Basavareddy in the 12s final in 2017. Naif, the Les Petits As finalist this year, defeated No. 7 seed Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez of Mexico 7-5, 7-5 in the semifinals, after seeing a 5-1 second set lead slip away.
I stayed at the Biltmore courts today to watch the quarterfinals and semifinals of the girls 14s, with four Americans in the last eight. One of them, Stephanie Yakoff, advanced to Sunday's championship match, and, as has been the case all week, she did it with a minimum of fuss. Yakoff, a No. 9 seed, defeated Brooklyn Olson, also a No. 9 seed, 6-2, 6-3 in the quarterfinals and Sara Saito of Japan, a No. 17 seed, 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals.

Yakoff was dominant on serve against Saito, who had taken out No. 4 seed Aya El Aouni of Morocco 6-4, 7-5 in the quarterfinals, and used that advantage, and her variety, to keep Saito from settling into her power baseline game.

"I mixed it up, and I tried to change pace a lot," said the high school freshman from Fort Lee, New Jersey. "Her style is aggressive, so I tried to make her uncomfortable by changing pace, heavy shots, angles. I have been working on my serve a lot and I'm trying to hold more and be more aggressive on the returning game."

Saito's serve is not a weapon, and Yakoff took full advantage of that.

"She had a good first serve percentage, but still I was able to attack it," said Yakoff, who has not lost a set this week.

As for playing four matches in two days, Yakoff was not fazed by that at all.

"I played Indoor Nationals not too long ago, and that was also two matches a day," said Yakoff, who finished third in the USTA National Indoor Championships in the 16s last month. "I'm kind of getting used to it by now."

Yakoff will face top seed Kayla Cross, who also earned her two wins in straight sets, beating No. 17 seed Sage Loudon of the US 6-1, 6-1 and fellow Canadian Cadence Brace, the No. 3 seed, 6-4, 6-2. Brace had beaten No. 9 seed Theodora Rabman of the US 6-3, 3-6, 10-8 in the quarterfinals. Although Cross's win over Brace looked routine, it was an emotional victory for her.

"I was playing another Canadian and I hadn't beaten her in a long time," said the 14-year-old left-hander, who won the Eddie Herr title earlier this month. "My record against her is not very good, so the adrenaline helped me to win that match. It showed I can play with her, and even though I've lost the last few times, I can beat her when it really matters."

At one stage late in the second set and early in the third, there were six breaks in seven games, but the one hold was Cross serving for the first set. She then held again for a 3-1 lead, and after breaking to go up 4-1, Brace took a medical timeout. Down 0-40 after that delay, Cross gathered herself, won the game and then saved a break point in the final game to seal the victory.

"She took a medical timeout, and I didn't get really cold, but we hadn't played in five minutes, so it's hard to get back, when you're serving, you are doing it every other game, while when you're returning, it's like you're in the rally," Cross said. "I had to find the rhythm again."

Cross and Yakoff played two years ago here in Coral Gables in the 12s, with Cross winning 1-6, 7-6(1), 6-1 in the round of 16.

"I remember playing here at Orange Bowl," said Cross. "I remember playing her and I know she's a really good opponent and I'm going to have to fight really hard to get the title."
Cross is the only Eddie Herr champion to reach the final here at the Junior Orange Bowl, after the semifinal losses by Coman in the boys 14s, Dhamne in the boys 12s, and in the girls 12s, Alina Korneeva of Russia. Korneeva defeated Sapir Cohen, who had finished her round of 16 match this morning, beating No. 7 seed Claire An 7-6, 6-4, by a score of 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, but Korneeva lost to No. 5 seed Yelyzaveta Kotliar of Ukraine 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals. Kotliar, who had finished her round of 16 match at the Biltmore last night, barely edged No. 9 seed Sasha Kilgour of the United States 6-2, 6-7, 10-8 in the quarterfinals.

Eddie Herr finalist Mirra Andreeva of Russia earned her appearance in the Junior Orange Bowl final with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Elizabete Brutane of Latvia, a No. 9 seed, and a 6-3, 6-1 win over unseeded Mariia Masiianskaia, the third Russian to reach the semifinals.
In the boys 12s, top seed Alejandro Arcila of Colombia rolled on, beating unseeded Nicolas Arseneault of Canada 6-2, 6-0 in the semifinals and Eddie Herr champion Manas Dhamne of India, the No. 4 seed, 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals.

Arcila's opponent in the final will be No. 6 seed Benjamin Gusic-Wan of Great Britain, who won two tight matches Saturday at Salvadore Park. Gusic-Wan defeated No. 9 seed Oliver Bonding, also of Great Britain 2-6, 6-4, 10-7, then took out unseeded Calvin Baierl of the United States 7-6(5), 7-6(5) in the semifinals. Baierl had beaten No. 9 seed Samy Khediri 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals. Arcila will be the first Colombian champion at the Junior Orange Bowl title if he wins; Gusic-Wan will be the first boy from Great Britain to win the 12s since Andy Murray in 1999 if he takes the title.

The boys and girls 14s and the girls 12s finals are scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Kerdyk Tennis Center at the Biltmore, while the boys 12s final will be played at Salvadore Park, also at 10 a.m.

For updated draws, see the TennisLink site.