Schedule a training visit to the prestigious Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, MD by clicking on the banner above

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Rain Pushes Scores of Junior Orange Bowl First Round Matches to Thursday; B12s Top Seed Davidov Comes from Behind to Advance

©Colette Lewis 2021--
Coral Gables FL--

Rain overnight Tuesday delayed the start of the Junior Orange Bowl Championships and just as matches were beginning to get called to courts, another heavy shower arrived. This led to another delay, with 8 a.m. matches at the two sites I covered today not starting until after 11 a.m. in the case of the girls 14s at the Biltmore and noon for the boys 12s at Salvadore Park.

I watched top seed and 2021 Easter Bowl 14s champion Iva Jovic win her first set at the Biltmore Tennis Center before I headed seven blocks north to Salvadore Park to watch boys 12s top seed and Eddie Herr champion Teodor Davidov. I had brought my folding chair to Court 5, and I was glad I did, as the 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4 match between Davidov and Ireland's Charlie Riley took more than three hours to complete, not counting another rain delay of an hour in the third set.

Davidov dropped his serve to open the match and was behind throughout the first set. Riley served for the set at 5-4, but was broken, although he did manage to hold to force a tiebreaker.

Riley didn't seem bothered by Davidov's unusual technique of switching the racquet from his right hand to his left hand so that he never hits a backhand. Instead, Riley played an aggressive baseline game, stayed with Davidov in the rallies until he hit a winner or Davidov made an error.

Leading 4-3 in the tiebreaker, Davidov lost both of his serves, and Riley won the next two points to take it. 

Although Davidov was visibly upset by all the errors he was making, he seemed confident at the start of the second set, although the first few games were long, with sloppy points and well-constructed points alternating. Davidov took a 4-2 lead in the second set, but gave it right back, the first two breaks in a streak that extended to five.

Riley went up 40-0 serving at 4-5, but lost the next four points. Davidov couldn't convert that first set point, with Riley's forehand forcing him into an error, but Davidov's left-handed putaway on his next ad evened the match.

The 10-minute break between the second and third sets (unlike the Eddie Herr, which plays third-set match tiebreakers in the 12s, the Junior Orange Bowl's format is the standard best-of-three) seemed more helpful to Riley, who broke Davidov twice, with a hold sandwiched in between to take a 3-0 lead.

It wasn't an ideal time for a rain shower, unless, of course, you are the player trailing 3-0.

After a little over an hour, play resumed, and this time, unlike the set break earlier, Davidov's level improved dramatically. Hitting deeper, with fewer errors, Davidov broke, held and broke, leveling the match at 3. He wasn't out of the woods entirely, double faulting on game point at 3-all, but undeterred, he broke Riley again, held for 5-4, then broke Riley for a fourth time in the set to take the match, four and a half hours after it had started.

Davidov said being the No. 1 seed was part of the reason for his uneven play in the first two and a half sets.

"Unintentionally I put pressure on myself," said the 11-year-old, who lives in Bradenton Florida now. "It's the first time I've been the one seed in a level 2 or a level 1. It's kind of new to me."

But Davidov's father, who is his primary coach, helped him put those concerns aside.

"My dad talked to me, just told me to be calm, relaxed, whatever happens, happens," Davidov said. "Obviously that helped me. I definitely played better; I was way more relaxed and calmer."

Davidov said he is careful not to underestimate his opponents, but definitely was expecting an easier match in the first round.

"He had a really good forehand and backhand down the line," Davidov said. "He was really good off the corner of the court. Normally when I play people, they just pop it up and I finish the point, but he hits a better shot when he's stretched out."

Davidov leans to hard courts as his favorite surface, but has been practicing on clay since the Eddie Herr and likes the Salvadore Park courts.

"I think my better surface is hard, but still, I like clay," Davidoff. "Since Eddie Herr I've been practicing on it. These courts are good actually. I thought they were going to be worse, because in a public park I thought they would be worse, but they're good."

The other No. 1 seeds, all from the United States, had the advantage of getting their first round matches completed, with Jovic beating lucky loser Carrington Brown 6-1, 6-3 in the girls 14s. Max Exsted defeated Tim Vaisman of Israel 6-1, 6-0 in the boys 14s, and in the girls 12s, Christina Lyutova defeated Pepper Rickert 6-1, 6-0. 

More than half of the first round matches were not completed and Thursday's schedule will begin at 8 a.m. with the hope the first round can be completed by mid-afternoon Thursday and the second round can at least begin. Unfortunately, the weather forecast currently shows a greater than 65% chance of rain on each of the next five days.

Results and match times can be found at the USTA's PlayTennis site.

Harvey Fialkov, formerly a sportswriter at the Sun-Sentinel, is providing coverage of the tournament for the Junior Orange Bowl website. He talked to many of the famous tennis (and basketball) players' offspring at registration yesterday.


Lyana said...

Really enjoyed your detailed match description.