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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

No. 1 Seeds Pacheco and Samsonova Post Eddie Herr ITF J300 Wins Despite Late Arrivals; Top Two Seeds Ousted in Boys 12s Division; IMG Announces Name Change for Eddie Herr Tournament

©Colette Lewis 2023
Bradenton FL--

On a day when the temperature didn't budge from 59 degrees, Eddie Herr ITF J300 top seeds and J500 Merida champions Rodrigo Pacheco Mendez and Laura Samsonova managed to put the conditions and their long travel days behind them to record first round victories on the IMG Academy Stadium Court this morning.

Pacheco was first on, with the 18-year-old left-hander facing wild card Boxiong Zhang of China. After capturing his second consecutive Copa Mundial Yucatan title Sunday evening, Pacheco could have chosen to skip the Eddie Herr and the multi-connection trip to Bradenton, but with his goal of finishing as No. 1 and ITF World Junior champion in sight, he never considered withdrawing.

"I need to win all of them to become the No. 1," said Pacheco, who is currently tied with Joao Fonseca of Brazil, the US Open boys champion, at the top of the junior rankings. "If not, I will be No. 2. It's difficult, there's a lot of good players, but I won the last two tournaments, so now I'm confident to win this one."

Pacheco, currently on a 12-match winning streak with his 6-4, 6-1 win over Zhang, is open about the significance he places on ending the year at No. 1.

"I think it's a really good achievement, a really good goal," said Pacheco, who was runner-up at the ITF Junior Finals in China last month and won his first ITF Men's Pro Circuit title in August. "For the sponsors, for the people who support me, they would like it. It's my last junior year, so I think it's really important to be the best of the better players."

Pacheco is also looking ahead to 2024, when he will be eligible for the ATP Accelerator Program, receiving up to eight main draw Challenger wild cards by virtue of finishing in the Top 10 in the year-end ITF junior rankings.

"Because I'll finish Top 10 in the world for sure, next year I'm going to play almost full Challengers," said Pacheco, currently 682 in the ATP rankings. "I'm going to use the Accelerator Program, that is very good for the juniors."

Pacheco admits to some fatigue, but counters that with the confidence he's gained by winning both the J300 in Zapopan and the J500 in Merida.

"I feel a bit tired, but I feel I have a lot of confidence, because I've won a lot of matches, so I think it's going to be a good time to win this tournament," said Pacheco, who did not play the Eddie Herr last year. "It's hard with these conditions, it's cold for me, but I feel good and it's a great place to be. I like the United States, so I'm going to enjoy it."

Pacheco said he neglected to enter the J500 Orange Bowl next week, where he reached the final last year, but is not likely to ask for a wild card.

"I forgot to sign up, but also I have a commitment in Mexico, that is almost mandatory for me, so it's not for me to be at the Orange Bowl," Pacheco said. "I need to win this one, that's why I came here, but I like to play tournaments."

Girls top seed Laura Samsonova also arrived Monday night after claiming the Merida title Sunday evening, and she admitted to being a bit lost in the first two sets of her 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 win over Jana Hossam Salah of Egypt.

"We arrived yesterday, late at night, and I didn't have a chance to practice this morning," said the 15-year-old from the Czech Republic. "I practiced on the other (red) clay, and I have never played on this (Har-Tru) surface, so that was a little hard, but I'm happy I got used to it."

Samsonova trailed 3-5 in the first set before claiming the final four games, but couldn't sustain that momentum in the second set, with Hossam Salah capitalizing on her unforced errors and poor shot selection.

The third set was close for the first four games, but Samsonova finally found the level she needed in the fifth game, holding in a long, well-played game for a 3-2 lead.

"That was important mentally, because the next two went fast for me to 5-2," Samsonova said. "I was happy that I managed that game, because whoever won it would have an advantage."

Hossam Salah held to force Samsonova to serve out the match, but she had no trouble doing so with Hossam Salah netting a backhand on the first match point.

Samsonova flew to Merida from the Junior Billie Jean King Cup in Spain, where she played No. 1 for the Czech team that finished runner-up to the United States. Also entered in the Orange Bowl next week, Samsonova expressed surprise at her success in Mexico.

"Honestly, I don't expect myself to win Merida," said Samsonova, who has worked for several weeks this year with Thomas Hogstedt, who has coached Tommy Haas, Maria Sharapova and many other top professionals and is here in Bradenton this week. "I just came here to enjoy the matches and these tournaments are very prestigious, a lot of good players come here. It's tiring, but I really enjoy it."

One concession Samsonova made to this three-week stretch was to limit her participation to singles, which would not be remarkable for most players, but as the reigning Wimbledon girls doubles champion with partner Alena Kovackova, who is the No. 3 seed here, it is a sacrifice.

Kovackova won her first round match today, as did all the girls seeds who played their opening matches Tuesday; the only seed to fall in the first round was No. 15 seed Monika Stankiewicz of Poland, who lost yesterday.

Thirteen-year-old qualifier Victoria Barros of Brazil was defaulted from doubles Tuesday afternoon after her remarks to an official after her first round singles loss to Yoana Konstantinova of Bulgaria at the Legacy Courts were deemed egregious aggravated behavior. She and partner Eleejah Inisan of France, who were wild card entries, were replaced in the draw by alternates Kanon Sawashiro of Japan and Tianmei Wang.

While the girls have 15 of 16 seeds in the round of 32, the boys have just 10, with two more seeds ousted today. No. 5 seed Adhithya Ganesan lost to Keegan Rice of Canada 6-4, 6-4; No. 12 seed Timofei Derepasko of Russia, the 2021 Eddie Herr 14s champion, was beaten by qualifier Jacopo Vasami of Italy 6-2, 7-5.

The first round of doubles was completed Tuesday afternoon, with one major upset. No. 2 seeds Alexander Frusina and Oliver Ojakaar of Estonia were beaten by Hoyoung Roh of Korea and Atakan Karahan of Turkey 1-6, 6-3, 11-9.

All second round singles and doubles matches are scheduled for Wednesday, with the forecast calling for sunshine and warmer temperatures.

The top two seeds in the boys 12s were ousted today, with Tyson Grant, the brother of Tyra Grant, beating No. 1 seed Rafael Pagonis of Greece 6-4, 6-4, and Yitian Lou defeating Anthony Kirchner 5-7, 6-3, 10-8.

In the boys 14s, No. 2 seed Colin McPeek retired with an illness with Achyuth Binu leading 6-1, 1-0.

In the girls 16s, No. 4 seed Bella Payne was beaten by Sara Shumate 4-6, 6-1, 7-5.

Draws for the 12s, 14s and 16s divisions are available here. The third round matches are scheduled for 8 a.m., 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. Wednesday.

A presentation was held at noon today at the IMG Academy to announce a rebranding of the Eddie Herr International Tournament. In the future, the tournament will be called the IMG Academy International Tennis Championships.