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Thursday, December 10, 2020

Krueger Upsets No. 2 Seed Jimenez Kasintseva to Reach Orange Bowl Quarterfinals; Unseeded Americans Ray and Evans Reach Girls 16s Final; Braswell Advances to Boys 16s Final

Ashlyn Krueger was able to draw on the fond memories of her 16s title at last year's Orange Bowl in today's third round against No. 2 seed and Australian Open girls champion Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra at the Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation Florida. Although Krueger needed a wild card for entry into the main draw, she had already beaten No. 16 seed Petra Marcinko of Croatia in straight sets in the second round, and she continued her impressive play with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Jimenez Kasintseva. 

"I'm playing another age division, but I think it did help me," said the 16-year-old from Texas, who won the Eddie Herr 16s and Orange Bowl back-to-back last December, of that experience. "I feel good when I walk into a lot of tournaments, but last year's win, that just helped with confidence."

Krueger stuck with her game plan of moving forward and staying aggressive, although she was reluctant to reveal any more about her strategy due to the likelihood she'll play the 15-year-old in the future.

If Jimenez Kasintseva had an opportunity to get herself back in the match, it was after she had broken Krueger serving at 4-1 in the second set. The next game went to seven deuces, with Krueger eventually getting the break on her fourth opportunity, then holding for the win.

"It was definitely a relief," Krueger said when asked about the importance of that game. "She was playing an unreal game, she had some good serves, hit a very good volley on one of my advantage points, so it was tough. I knew if I won that game, she was either going to come out firing in the next one, or she was going to play a loose game. And she played a loose game, so I really had to stay focused on that one."

With the loss, Jimenez Kasintseva no longer has a path to the ITF World Junior championship, with the official announcement of France's Elsa Jacquemot finishing as No. 1 expected to come from the ITF next Monday.

In the quarterfinals, Krueger will play the only other American girl remaining in the draw, unseeded Hina Inoue, who defeated No. 8 seed Elvina Kalieva 6-1, 6-2.

Jacquemot will face No. 6 seed Sofia Costoulos of Belgium, who defeated qualifier Kimmi Hance 6-4, 7-5. The other American qualifier, Fiona Crawley, lost to 2019 Orange Bowl finalist Jana Kolodynska 6-4, 6-2. The other quarterfinal in the bottom half will feature No. 12 seed Oceane Babel of France against unseeded Laura Hietaranta of Finland.

Two American boys advanced to the quarterfinals, both in the bottom half. No. 2 seed Dali Blanch, who reached the 16s final in 2018, defeated No. 16 seed Zsombor Velcz of Hungary 6-3, 6-3, and will face No. 12 seed Juncheng Shang of China.  No. 8 seed Alexander Bernard downed No. 11 seed Marko Topo of Serbia 6-3, 6-4 and will play unseeded Arthur Fils of France, who came back to beat Samir Banerjee 2-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Top seed Peter Fajta of Hungary defeated No. 15 seed Aidan Mayo 6-2, 6-1 to set up a quarterfinal meeting with No. 6 seed Sean Cuenin of France. No. 4 seed Jack Pinnington Jones of Great Britain, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over wild card Ben Shelton, faces the only unseeded player to beat a seed today, Luca Van Assche of France, who downed No. 9 seed Rafael de Alba Valdes of Mexico 6-2, 6-2.

The semifinals are set in the 18s doubles, with three unseeded teams advancing in the girls draw. Alexis Blokhina and Switzerland's Chelsea Fontenel will face Elise Wagle and Katja Wiersholm in the top half. Reese Brantmeier and Hance will play No. 6 seeds Costoulas and Evialina Laskevich of Belarus in the bottom half.

Top seeds Blanch and Pinnington Jones will meet No. 8 seeds Shang and Paraguay's Adolfo Vallejo in the top half boys semifinal. Unseeded JC Roddick and Braden Shick will play No. 2 seeds Fajta and Velcz in the bottom half.

The 16s singles finals, scheduled for Friday, will feature three Americans, with the girls singles championship an all-US affair between two unseeded 15-year-olds.

Valeria Ray defeated the last seeded girl in the draw, taking out No. 8 Elisabeth Jones 6-3, 6-2. Her opponent in the final, Tatum Evans, also earned a straight-sets victory, ending qualifier Taylor Goetz's winning streak at seven with a 6-2, 6-1 victory.

Ray was pleased with her performance, although she acknowledged some anxiety. 

"It was a very interesting match," said Ray, who lives in Doral, 30 miles south of Plantation, and trains at the MGT Academy there. "A lot of tension, obviously, in the semis of Orange Bowl. I feel like we both played great, but I played my game, which is the fight I put in every single point; the point by point mentality is what got me through, trusting that every shot would put my opponent in a bad situation."

Ray wasn't certain she would get into the main draw, so making it to the final was not a result she was anticipating.

"If I'm being honest, I never thought I would get this far," Ray said. "I went into the tournament with the intention of having fun, playing my game, playing the game of tennis, but I feel this is the best tennis I've ever played. I feel comfortable, my confidence is up and I'm ready for the final."

Unfortunately for Ray, she will not be able to share the experience of participating in an Orange Bowl final with her parents watching, with players limited to just one guest for the tournament. For Ray, that guest is her longtime coach Manny Garcia, who will be present for the biggest final of her career.

Evans, who will share the experience of an Orange Bowl final with her mother, knew that Goetz might be at a disadvantage physically, after playing seven matches, including a three-hour quarterfinal on Wednesday. 

"I looked at the draw and I saw that she had a couple of long matches, a couple of three-setters," said Evans, who trains at the 4-Star Academy in McLean Virginia. "So I definitely used that in the game I was trying to play--trying to play long points, move her around, because her body obviously had to feel tired. I have played just one three-set; the rest were like 2 and 1."

Unlike Ray, who has grown up training on the green clay, Evans admits she is not accustomed to it.

"Clay is definitely not my best surface," Evans said. "I'm definitely more of a hard court player. But I think this tournament has been one of my better tournaments on clay. I actually really like the clay here because you don't slide as much as other clay I've played on."

Aside from the surface not being exactly to her liking, Evans was optimistic about her chances to do well prior to the event, if not envisioning a place in the final.

"I was feeling really good about the way I've been playing," Evans said. "I've been working really hard in practice, training really hard, training on clay, playing against really good people, so I was definitely confident going into this tournament. But getting to the finals was definitely a little surprising. I'm not completely blown away, considering how hard I've been working, but it's definitely a little surprising."

No. 15 seed Jonah Braswell didn't panic after losing the first set 6-0 in his semifinal match against No. 9 seed Ethan Quinn. Instead, the 16-year-old from Sarasota made a strategic adjustment that resulted in a 0-6, 6-2, 6-3 win.

"The first set, the kid came out playing really, really good, serving big, hitting really big," said Braswell, who has been training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton since early this year. "So after the first set, I knew I wasn't going to be able to win playing the way I was playing. So I knew I had to make some adjustments. I started backing up a little bit more and hitting more heavy topspin, just to change up the pace a little bit. One thing led to another and it worked."

Braswell tried to temper his expectations coming into the tournament, but he was looking forward to a major event on his favorite surface.

"I grew up playing on clay as a kid," said Braswell. "It was at Laurel Oaks, which is only clay. It's probably my best surface and I'm really comfortable moving on it, playing on it. Going in I knew I could do well, but I tried to keep my expectations to a minimum, because in the past, I've gone in with a little too big expectations, which wasn't too good, put too much pressure on me. I went in knowing I could do well, but I'm more just focused on each match."

Braswell's opponent in the final, No. 5 seed Ignacio Buse of Peru, won the match of the tournament, outlasting No. 2 seed Lucas Brown 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-4 in just under four hours. Buse, who couldn't be reached by phone for an interview, broke Brown serving at 4-5 in the third, to set up another final against Braswell, although the first was seven years ago.

"It's been a really long time," Braswell said. "What's funny is, I actually played him in the finals of the Little Mo when I was nine. I'm surprised I remember that, but yeah, that's the only time I've played him."

Although Brown was undoubtedly crushed by the semifinal loss, he did manage to make the doubles final. He and John Kim, the No. 3 seeds, defeated unseeded Marko Mesarovic and Connor Smillie 7-5, 7-5 and will face No. 4 seeds Nicholas Godsick and Quinn in the final. Godsick and Quinn defeated No. 6 seeds Braswell and Brayden Michna 6-4, 6-4. 

The girls 16s doubles final is between two unseeded teams, with Ahmani Guichard and Lexington Reed facing Vivian Miller and Maddy Zampardo. Guichard and Reed defeated top seeds Gabriella Broadfoot of South Africa and Eva Elbaz of France 6-3, 6-2. Miller and Zampardo downed unseeded Krystal Blanch and McKenna Schaefbauer 6-3, 6-2. 

The doubles finals in the 16s are scheduled for 10 a.m., with the singles finals at 2 p.m.

The links to the order of play, draws and live scoring can be found here.