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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Vismane Defeats No. 2 Seed Anisimova, Kirkov Ousts No. 7 Seed Caruana in Second Round Metropolia Orange Bowl Action

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Plantation, FL--

On Monday, Daniela Vismane of Latvia had won a long battle of attrition against wild card Nicole Mossmer 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 on a court on one of the most remote courts of the Veltri Tennis Center.  On Wednesday, on Stadium court, the 16-year-old was much happier with the style of play of her opponent, No. 2 seed Amanda Anisimova, and that comfort level translated into a 6-4, 7-6(2) victory.

"It was really hard match for me," Vismane said of her first round win on Monday. "I don't like to play with this kind of player. I like more hitting, so I really wanted to play this match."

Few juniors have the pace and depth that Anisimova possesses, so Vismane had to accept the winners blazing past her on occasion, but she was able to stay in the rallies long enough often enough for Anisimova to commit an error.  After dropping the first set, Anisimova led 3-1 in the second set, but Vismane fought back, got the break back and another won for a 5-4 lead. Serving at 4-4 30-40, Anisimova stopped play on a baseline ball she thought was out, but the chair umpire ruled it good and she lost the point.

Vismane was not able to serve out the match, although she did have a match point at 40-30, but the chair umpire's decision on another baseline ball mark went against her and two points later, Anisimova had broken back for 5-all.

"I was thinking that it was in," Vismane said. "Like on the line. But I really, really wanted to win this match, so I focused on every ball, said keep going, keep going, you can do it. And I forgot it, and played another point."

Vismane led from the first point of the tiebreaker, but even a 6-2 lead was not comfortable for her.

"I was very nervous, because I didn't believe I'm on court and up 6-2 and I can win," said Vismane, who counted the win among her top five performances. "It's really big, the first time I won with a top 10 ranking player."

Vismane will play wild card Whitney Osuigwe, who defeated fellow wild card Lea Ma 0-6, 6-2, 7-6(3).

Top seed Anastasia Potapova struggled a bit on serve, but managed a 6-3, 6-4 win over Sofia Sewing to reach the third round.  No. 3 seed Claire Liu overcame a stern challenge from 14-year-old Vanessa Ong 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 and will play Carson Branstine next.  Branstine took out No. 15 seed Dominique Schaefer 6-1 ,6-2.

No. 5 seed Xiyu Wang of China made an early exit for the second straight week, falling to Mihaela Marculescu of Romania 6-3, 2-6, 7-5. Eddie Herr champion Maria Carle extended her Orange Bowl winning streak to eight matches, with the 2015 16s champion defeating Elysia Bolton 6-4, 6-4. Carle will face No. 4 seed Taylor Johnson in Thursday's third round, with Johnson getting by Fernanda Labrana of Chile 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.  No. 7 seed Usue Arconada will play qualifier Victoria Emma on Thursday, after Arconada defeated qualifier Amanda  Meyer 7-6(3), 6-4 and Emma took out Eddie Herr semifinalist Irina Cantos Siemers of Germany 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Six US boys have advanced to the round of 16: Sam Riffice, Sangeet Sridhar, Alexandre Rotsaert, Oliver Crawford, Danny Thomas and Vasil Kirkov.

Riffice, the No. 13 seed, beat Alan Rubio Fierros of Mexico 7-6(6), 6-2 and will next play qualifier Sridhar, who came back for a 0-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory over Govind Nanda.  Thomas, a 6-0, 6-4 winner over Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic, and Crawford, who took out Eddie Herr semifinalist Ergi Kirkin of Turkey 6-1, 6-2 will play in the other all-US third round match.  Rotsaert plays No. 4 seed Yuta Shimizu of Japan, who defeated wild card Lukas Greif 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-1.  Rotsaert advanced with a 6-2, 6-4 win over No. 16 seed Trent Bryde.

Kirkov, who won a grueling first round match over Alberto Lim of the Philippines on Tuesday, had considerably less trouble subduing No. 7 seed Liam Caruana of Italy Wednesday, taking a 6-2, 6-4 decision.

"I felt a little tired after the match, a little tight," Kirkov said of his physical condition after his 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(4) win over Lim. "My muscles were a little tired, but I had a long sleep and recovered well. Today I felt a little tired, but still went out there and just competed and it turned out ok."

Caruana had a 2-0 lead, but surrendered the next six games.

"He started very well, and I think I started a little slow," said Kirkov, 17. "I wasn't in it in the first couple games, but I started playing my game, serving and volleying a little bit and after that I started getting a rhythm. He started making a few errors and from there I just took it. He got a little disappointed in himself. There was just one break in the second, and that's all I needed."

Kirkov signed with IMG back in September, so he will not be playing collegiate tennis.

"It was a big move, the decision was really tough," said Kirkov, who reached the Kalamazoo 18s final this year. "Once I got it done, I felt kind of relieved to get it out of the way. It took the pressure off after that. I just played free. I still have one more year of juniors, but since I've turned pro, I'll focus more on pro tournaments."

Right after the US Open, Kirkov and several other boys in his age group did a six-week physical training block with Jez Green, a fitness expert who worked previously with Andy Murray.

"Six weeks is a pretty long time," Kirkov said. "We did two weeks with no tennis. I'm starting to see some of the effects already, which I didn't expect to, but I'm obviously getting stronger and more fit from those six weeks. And I think I'll see more results from the fitness in a couple of months."

In addition to Futures tournaments, Kirkov may play the Costa Rica Grade 1 at the start of next month, hoping to assure himself a ranking that will get him into the junior slams this summer.

"I'm not trying to go to South American or anything, but maybe do well in Costa Rica and hopefully I can have enough points to get in the slams," Kirkov said.

Kirkov will play 2015 16s Orange Bowl champion Sebastian Baez of Argentina in Wednesday's third round. Baez downed Gianni Ross  7-6(2), 6-4.

No. 1 seed Miomir Kecmanovic defeated Finn Bass of Great Britain 6-2 6-2 and No. 2 seed Yibing Wu of China also won in straight sets, although he was down a break in both sets to Siphosothando Montsi of South Africa before recovering for a 6-4, 6-4 win.

After the dust had settled in the third round of the 16s, only one girls seed and four boys seeds have reached Thursday's quarterfinals.

Eddie Herr champion Katie Volynets defeated No. 2 seed Oana Corneanu of Romania 7-6(4), 7-6(4) and No. 3 seed Kacie Harvey fell to Angelica Blake 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-3 in a three-hour contest. No. 14 seed Imani Graham is the sole seed to reach the quarterfinals, which feature seven Americans.  Only qualifier Arabella Koller of Austria can prevent a US champion this year.

Four of the last eight in the boys draw are from the US: Drew Baird, Trey Hilderbrand, Steven Sun and No. 4 seed Brian Shi.  No. 3 seed and Eddie Herr champion Anton Matusevich of Great Britain was tested by Joseph Brailovsky, but Matusevich pulled away in the second set of his 7-6(11), 6-2 victory.

The first round of 18s doubles was completed today, with boys top seeds Kecmanovic and Benjamin Sigouin of Canada getting their second straight 6-0, 6-1 victory, this time over Nicolas Mejia of Colombia and Duarte Vale of Portugal. Kecmanovic and Sigouin won the Eddie Herr doubles championship by that same score. The girls No. 1 seeds Olga Danilovic of Serbia and Potapova barely got by Abigail Forbes and Chloe Hamlin 3-6, 6-1, 15-13.

For Thursday's order of play and the complete results, see the USTA's tournament page.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Qualifier Sridhar Defeats Sigouin, Thomas Downs Etcheverry in Metropolia Orange Bowl First Round Action

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Plantation, FL--

Top seed and ITF No. 1 junior Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia breezed into the second round of the ITF Grade A Metropolia Orange Bowl Tuesday, beating local wild card Joseph Honorio 6-0, 6-0, but No. 3 seed Benjamin Sigouin of Canada, who lost to Kecmanovic in the final of the Eddie Herr Grade 1 on Sunday, ran into a red-hot qualifier in Sangeet Sridhar and fell 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-0.

Sridhar was taking the ball early and matching Sigouin's power and then some throughout the opening set. In the first set tiebreaker, Sridhar hit five winners total, including a forehand winner at 5-4 and an ace at 6-4.  Sigouin came back in the second set, but Sridhar refused to concede the set, with Sigouin escaping only after saving a break point.

"I just wanted to put as much pressure as possible for him to close out the set," said the 16-year-old from Arizona. "I had a break point with a tough call there on the line, but I just made him work for it. He did a good job closing the set out, but when the third set started, I was ready again. I think the effort at the end of the second set, even though I lost it, was I think critical to the third set."

Sridhar took control of the third set with a break in the second game and rolled from there.

"I played really solid in the first three games and he started to break down and lose it mentally a little bit," Sridhar said. "He was obviously tired, I'm sure he had a long week last week. I played smart and put the pressure on him to push his level and he struggled a little bit and I took advantage of it."

Sridhar, who had also qualified last week for the Eddie Herr, but lost in the first round there, admitted his game was at its peak today.

"It's one of the best matches I've played," Sridhar said. "I hope to have better matches in the future, but so far that's the best match I've played. It's tough, there's times you want to drop the level, drop the focus because it was so tough, some of the games. But I told myself obviously Ben's a great player and if I want to win the match I have to do it by playing every game as hard as I possibly could. So the drive to win the match pushed me to play at that level the entire match."

Danny Thomas had seen the downside of not sustaining his level when he played No. 3 seed Kenneth Raisma of Estonia last week in the second round of the Eddie Herr. After taking the first set 6-4, Thomas lost the next two 6-3, 6-2, so after winning the first set today against No. 8 seed Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina 6-1, the 17-year-old from Ohio was on his guard.

"It was in my mind the whole time, especially when I won the first set pretty easily," said Thomas, who completed the 6-1, 6-1 victory without any drama. "Going into the second, I had a couple of bad points and he ended up holding for 1-all, and I was thinking maybe it would happen again. But I tried to keep fighting as hard as I could to not let that happen."

Thomas did not play either of the ITF junior tournaments in Mexico, opting for Futures in Central America instead, but he believes he is acclimated to clay after last week.

"This is just I think my fourth tournament on clay this year, and I haven't had too much practice on it," Thomas said. "In Ohio I mostly play on hard. But I like clay more, I think, than hard court."

In addition to Sridhar and Thomas's wins over seeds, four other US boys advanced to the second round.  Alexandre Rotsaert defeated qualifier Yusuf Khamis of Egypt 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, No. 16 seed Trent Bryde beat qualifier Carlos Sanchez Jover of Spain 6-3, 6-4, and Govind Nanda downed Maxence Broville of France 6-4, 7-5.  Vasil Kirkov had lost to Alberto Lim of the Philippines in the third round of the Eddie Herr 6-2, 6-2, but their rematch in today's first round was much closer, with Kirkov pulling out a 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(4) victory.  Kirkov led 4-1 in the third set, but it was Lim who served for the match at 6-5, only to be broken without reaching match point, and Kirkov was the steadier of the two in the tiebreaker.

The rematch of the Eddie Herr ITF girls final saw the same winner emerge, with Maria Carle beating No. 14 seed Varvara Gracheva of Russia 6-2, 6-2.  No. 8 seed Jodie Burrage of Great Britain lost to qualifier Meiling Wang of China 7-5, 6-3, No. 11 seed Emily Appleton of Great Britain lost to qualifier Victoria Emma 7-5, 6-3 and qualifier Layne Sleeth of Canada beat No. 10 seed Ellie Douglas 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

In the second round of the 16s, top seed Yeonseok Jeong of Korea was
beaten by Roi Ginat of Israel 6-3, 6-4 and No. 2 seed Jack Draper of Great Britain was ousted by Drew Baird 6-2, 6-3. Of the 14 boys seeds that started the tournament (two dropped out before play began) only five have advanced to the third round.

The girls 16s draw had only 12 seeds to begin with, with four, including No. 1 Elli Mandlik, dropping out after the draw was made.  Only three seeds are left in the round 16, No. 2 seed Oana Corneanu of Romania, No. 3 seed Kacie Harvey and No. 14 seed Imani Graham. Eddie Herr 16s champion Katie Volynets repeated her win in the final over Victoria Hu two days later, with Volynets taking out the No. 13 seed 6-1, 6-2 in a match much closer than that score suggests. Volynets faces Corneanu in Wednesday's third round.

The doubles quarterfinals are set for the 16s, but only the bottom half of the 18s doubles draws completed their first rounds today, with the top half first round matches scheduled for Wednesday.

For draws, the order of play and the link to live scoring, see the USTA's tournament page.

Monday, December 5, 2016

2016 World Junior Champion Potapova Starts Orange Bowl with Win, Top US Girls Seeds Advance; USA Wins Sixth Straight Master'U Championship; Shane Claims Waco Futures Title

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Plantation, FL--

World No. 1 junior Anastasia Potapova of Russia played her first match as the 2016 ITF World Junior Champion today in the first round of the ITF Grade A Metropolia Orange Bowl, but it wasn't a particularly satisfying victory for the 15-year-old Wimbledon girls champion.

Potapova had drawn, for the second consecutive Grade A in the US, friend Maria Mateas, who had taken Potapova to three sets in the opening round of the US Open Junior Championships back in September.

"We had a practice yesterday and she asked me if we play again," Potapova said. "I and was like, 95 percent yes. And of course, we did. It's always tough to play her, because she's a strong player, so good at tennis, and she's my good friend."

Mateas started the match well, going up a break, but Potapova fought back to take the first set 6-3, and at 2-1 in the second set, down a break, Mateas asked for a trainer, and retired after taking the medical timeout.

"Her shoulder was hurting so much, she can't play," Potapova said. "I'm so sorry for her. It was a good match, and I want to wish her to get better soon."

Despite the unfortunate circumstances that led to the win, Potapova could express her satisfaction at finishing the year as the ITF's No. 1 junior.

"Of course I am so happy," Potapova said. "It was my goal after winning Wimbledon, my goal for the other half of the year and I'm happy that I did it."

Potapova's lead in the points race became insurmountable only when second-ranked Kayla Day withdrew last week.

"She had an amazing year," Potapova said. "She won a $50,000, she won US Open. I wish her luck for next year."

Potapova left the Veltri Tennis Center with a broken finger last year, an injury she suffered in the semifinals against Day, forcing her to retire.

"I am here to finish what I started last year," Potapova said. "Probably this is my last junior tournament, and I want to show amazing here. Not so much pressure now that I am 100 percent the No. 1, but it's always a bit of extra pressure on the first. I feel it, but I'm used to it, so it's ok."

No. 2 seed Amanda Anisimova, who lost to Potapova in a blockbuster first round of the Orange Bowl, had an easier time in her second Orange Bowl singles match, beating Zhibek Kulambayeva of Kazakhstan 6-1, 6-1.  No. 3 seed Claire Liu won the final 11 games in her 6-3, 6-0 win over Himari Sato of Japan and No. 4 seed Taylor Johnson moved past Jia Qi Ren of China 6-3, 6-0.  All four top seeds in the girls draw did not play last week's Grade 1 Eddie Herr.

The United States started with seven of the 16 seeds in the girls draw, but No. 12 seed Caty McNally was beaten by Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 and No. 16 seed Natasha Subhash lost to Emiliana Arango of Colombia 6-3, 6-1. Usue Arconada, the No. 7 seed, and Ellie Douglas, the No. 10 seed, play their first round matches on Tuesday.

Fourteen-year-old wild card Whitney Osuigwe defeated No. 13 seed Yuki Naito of Japan 6-3, 6-0. Wild card Nathalie Finch, Pepperdine freshman Ashley Lahey, Elyisa Bolton and Hurricane Tyra Black are the other US girls to advance to Wednesday's second round.

A rematch of the Eddie Herr final is on Tuesday's schedule, with champion Maria Carle of Argentina again meeting Varvara Gracheva of Russia, who is the No. 14 seed this week. Both were seeded last week, with Carle 12, but she is unseeded this week, with the Eddie Herr not counting for this week's seedings.

The boys draw lost two seeds on Monday, with No. 6 seed Yshai Oliel of Israel falling to Sergio Hernandez Ramirez of Colombia 6-2, 6-2 and No. 10 seed Juan Carlos Aguilar of Bolivia going out to Gianni Ross 6-2, 7-6(5). Only two US boys are seeded, with No. 13 seed Sam Riffice beating Shinji Hazawa of Japan 6-2, 6-1 today, and No. 16 seed Trent Bryde playing on Tuesday. In addition to Ross and Riffice, Patrick Kypson, Oliver Crawford and wild cards Karl Poling and Lukas Greif posted wins on Monday.

No. 2 seed Yibing Wu of China, a late withdrawal at the Eddie Herr, advancing with a 6-0, 6-3 win over wild card Mikael Rodriguez of Ecuador. ITF No. 1 and Eddie Herr champion Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia will play his first round match against wild card Joseph Honorio Tuesday.

The 18s doubles will begin Tuesday, with Eddie Herr champions Kecmanovic and Benjamin Sigouin of Canada the top boys seeds.  Olga Danilovic of Serbia and Potapova are the No. 1 seeds in the girls doubles.

In the 16s, both Eddie Herr champions continued their winning streaks, with Katie Volynets defeating qualifier Makayla Mills 6-0, 6-2 and Great Britain's Anton Matusevich, the No. 3 seed, defeating Blake Croyder 6-2, 6-3.

Both have intriguing second round matches on Tuesday, with Volynets facing Victoria Hu, who she beat yesterday in the Eddie Herr final, and Matusevich meeting 2016 Kalamazoo 16s finalist Jenson Brooksby.

The draws and order of play can be found at the USTA tournament page, where there is also a link to live scoring.

The USA collegiate team of Francesca Di Lorenzo of Ohio State, Ena Shibahara of UCLA, Hayley Carter of North Carolina, Christopher Eubanks of Georgia Tech, Strong Kirchheimer of Northwestern and Tom Fawcett of Stanford won the country's sixth consecutive Master'U BNP Paribas, the international team event for collegiate tennis.  The United States defeated Russia 4-1 in the final, after overcoming a 2-0 deficit against Germany in the semifinals.  For more on the competition, see the USTA College Tennis page and College Tennis Today.

At the $25,000 Waco Futures, 2015 NCAA champion Ryan Shane of Virginia won the second ITF Pro Circuit singles title of his career, with the No. 7 seed saving a match point in his 2-6, 7-6(7), 6-4 win over unseeded Jared Hiltzik, a recent Illinois graduate, in the final.

Mexico's Hans Hach(Abilene Christian) and Great Britain's Farris Gosea(Illinois) won the doubles title, with the No. 2 seeds beating Baylor's Juan Benitez Chavarriaga of Colombia and Julian Lenz of Germany, who were unseeded, 7-5, 6-3.

This week's USTA Pro Circuit event is a $25,000 Futures in Tallahassee, with Sekou Bangoura the No. 1 seed.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Carle Comeback Secures Eddie Herr ITF Title; Kecmanovic Wins Boys Championship; Volynets Takes 16s Title, Pielet and Khan Win 14s Championships

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Brandenton, FL--

Sunday's two championship matches in the ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr tournament were studies in contrast, with Maria Carle of Argentina down 6-2, 4-2 before rebounding for a 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory over Varvara Gracheva of Russia, while Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia needed less than an hour to claim a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Benjamin Sigouin of Canada.

The 9 a.m. start was early for the majority of the spectators, who did not witness Carle's struggles in the first set. The 16-year-old, seeded No. 12, needed time to adapt to Gracheva's power, but just as she had done in her 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 semifinal win over Carson Branstine, Carle made the adjustment, although just barely in time Sunday.

"It was the same match, I think," Carle said, comparing the final to Saturday's match. "This match was more hard for me, because I am one set to love and 4-2 down, and well, I think I have lost the match. But I say, ok, I will try. Play more hard, use my slice and that was the key for the match today."

Carle ended a series of four consecutive breaks by holding for 4-4 in the second, and she broke an error-prone Gracheva to take a 6-5 lead. Gracheva had made few errors in her 6-2, 6-2 semifinal win over Irina Cantos Siemers of Germany, but many of her shots in the late stages of the second set found the tape, and Carle held in the final game to take the set.

Gracheva dropped her serve in the opening game of the third set, failing to convert on four game points, but Carle was unable to capitalize, losing the next game. Another break of serve gave Carle a 2-1 lead, and this time she consolidated it. Carle got her fourth straight break of the Gracheva serve for a 4-1 lead, but Gracheva again closed the gap when she broke and held for 4-3.  Carle sensed how important her next hold was, and when she got it, at 40-30, she let out a loud vamos, an emotional reaction that had the now large crowd of spectators surrounding the court chuckling at its intensity.

Gracheva had two game points to force Carle to serve for the match, but she made two unforced errors and after a nifty cross court forehand pass from Carle, Gracheva faced a match point.  Again her shot caught the tape, this time going over but landing well wide, giving Carle her first ITF Grade 1 title and her first title at any level this year.

Carle, who won the Orange Bowl 16s title last year, was reluctant to compare the two titles.

"It's the same for me, the same victory," said Carle, who trains at the club in Tandil where Juan Martin del Potro learned to play tennis. "Orange Bowl transmits for me a lot of confidence for the year, and I think that this tournament was the same as the Orange Bowl for me. An incredible moment and an amazing week. I want to thank the Eddie Herr tournament for giving me confidence and happiness."

Gracheva, seeded sixth, was frustrated with her loss and the 16-year-old acknowledged that Carle's game style was the source of much of her inability to execute in the final stages of the second set and most of the third.

"It's difficult for me to win with a person who is just running and pushing," said Gracheva, who trains with former WTA Top 100 player Nina Bratchikova in Germany. "My strong shots were making no sense, and then I missed. It's a talent, a real talent, because she runs faster than my balls, I don't know how.  And the slice, the slice is always difficult."

Both Carle and Gracheva will head to the Orange Bowl for matches Tuesday, with Carle returning to the site of her title last year, while Gracheva will be playing the event for the first time in her career.

After the long and emotional girls match, most of the spectators settled in for the boys final, but it proved to be short and drama-free.

Kecmanovic, who rose to the top of the ITF Junior rankings two weeks ago with his title at the Grade A in Mexico City, looked the part throughout the final.

The top seed didn't face a break point in the match and was never even taken to deuce on any of his service games.  But despite that impressive serving, which set him up to dominate the point from the ground, Kecmanovic said it was his return that was the real difference in the match.

"I think I served pretty good, but my return I think was the key today," said the 17-year-old, who lives and trains at the IMG Academy. "Obviously he has big serves and I didn't miss much of the returns and that's what made the difference today."

Kecmanovic got a break in the third game of each set, and never took his foot off the gas, as he had allowed himself to do in a 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 win over No. 12 seed Ergi Kirkin of Turkey in Saturday's semifinals.

The second-seeded Sigouin, on the other hand, had the memory of an impressive comeback in his 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 semifinal win over No. 3 seed Kenneth Raisma of Estonia to look to for inspiration, but Kecmanovic didn't show any signs of vulnerability.

"I think I came out kind of slow and I think that affected the whole match," said the 17-year-old Sigouin. "I for sure could have played much better, but he didn't miss too much today at all, so it was hard to win a lot of long points. He made a lot of first serves today, I didn't, and that was key, and I didn't return as well as I should have either. But I'm just going to look at it as a great week and just move forward."

Kecmanovic is planning to play the Orange Bowl next week, his fourth tournament in four weeks, although he is assured of finishing the year at No. 1 regardless of whether he defends his title, with No. 2 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, the only player with a chance of catching him, dropping out last week.

"It's nice to win both (singles and doubles) every tournament, but it doesn't happen very often," Kecmanovic said. "So I enjoy these moments very much and I think I'm going to take this, just relax at Orange Bowl, and try to play my best."

Although the United States did not have representation in either of the ITF singles finals, there were six Americans in five of the six finals of the younger divisions, with Katie Volynets claiming the girls 16s title, Gianna Pielet taking the girls 14s title and Zane Khan capturing the boys 14s title.

No. 7 seed Volynets defeated No. 4 seed Victoria Hu 6-3, 6-2 in the day's only all-US final, contested by two 14-year-olds.

Volynets had dropped the opening set of her quarterfinal match with Angelica Blake 6-0, but that result jolted her into a more aggressive mindset.

"I decided to start all my matches aggressively and play my game," said the 2015 National 14s champion, a Walnut Creek, California resident. "That's attacking as often as I can. Today, I came out and I was really ready to play aggressively and to play high-level tennis, and it was a great match."

Volynets wasn't ready to say that it was the best match she had played, but she would concede it was in the conversation.

"It's a big deal to me," Volynets said of the Eddie Herr title. "I really wanted to win this and I'm really glad."

Volynets heads for the Orange Bowl 16s for a match on Monday, where she is unseeded.

Pielet succeeded Volynets as National 14s champion this year, and she too has an Eddie Herr title after the No. 5 seed defeated No. 2 seed Emma Raducanu of Great Britain 6-2, 6-3.

The 14-year-old from El Paso, Texas said the breezy conditions may have helped her get the straight-sets win.

"My opponent hit really hard and it was hard to get a rhythm," Pielet said. "So I had to find a way to get more balls in the court and move her around. The wind was really bad, and I think it affected her mostly. If it hadn't been windy, I think it would have been a lot closer."

Pielet defeated top seed Qinwen Zheng of China 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 in the quarterfinals, and she pointed to that match as her best tennis of the week.

"And yesterday in the semis (when she defeated No. 4 seed Gabby Price 6-7(3) 6-2, 6-4), was really good."

Pielet will be playing in the 14s division at the Junior Orange Bowl in two weeks.

Also attempting the Eddie Herr/Junior Orange double is Zane Khan, who won the first leg of the two prestigious events by defeating top seed Bu Yunchaokete of China 6-3, 6-3.

"I played well today," said Khan, who was not in the main draw when the acceptances were first published, but did move in after several withdrawals. "It was pretty tricky, because it's windy out here, and I wasn't serving too well, and I was getting my second serve attacked a lot. It was tough to get my service games, but I broke him most of the time, because I was returning pretty well."

Khan, the No. 2 seed, who had finished as runner-up in the Eddie Herr 12s division two years ago, preferred the result of his second final.

"This feels much better," said Khan, who headed to the draw board for the first of many photo sessions.

Both US players in the 12s finals were beaten, with No. 3 seed Katrina Scott falling to No. 4 seed Dasha Plekhanova of Canada 6-4, 7-5 in the girls final.

In the boys 12s final, unseeded qualifier Gunuk Kang of Korea won his tenth match of the tournament, beating No. 9 seed Jonah Braswell 6-1, 6-2.  Kang, who dropped only one set in those ten matches, is the second consecutive unseeded qualifier to win the boys 12s, with Xiaofei Wang of China pulling off that feat last year.

In the boys 16s final, No. 2 seed Anton Matusevich won the all-British final, beating No. 4 seed Jake Hersey 6-4, 7-6(5).

Complete draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Kecmanovic and Sigouin Meet for Eddie Herr ITF Title, Gracheva and Carle in Girls Final; Six Americans Play for Eddie Herr Championships in 12s, 14s and 16s Divisions

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Bradenton, FL--

A week of beautiful weather will come to a close on Sunday with the top two seeds in the boys Eddie Herr ITF tournament, Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia and Benjamin Sigouin of Canada, playing for their second championship after the pair captured the doubles title after tough semifinal singles victories on Saturday morning.

The girls championship will feature No. 6 seed Varvara Gracheva of Russia, who defeated unseeded Irina Cantos Siemers of Germany 6-2, 6-2 and No. 12 seed Maria Carle of Argentina, who won a controversial and messy match with unseeded Carson Branstine 2-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Sigouin came back from the brink of defeat to take a 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 decision from No. 3 seed Kenneth Raisma of Estonia, with Raisma serving for the match at 5-3 in the second set.  Raisma never got to match point in that game, although got as close as deuce twice. Raisma's backhand began to let him down near the end of the second set, but it was two consecutive double faults from 15-30 that proved fatal, and he was broken.  Sigouin had to save a break point serving for the set at 6-5, but two aces, the final one on his second game point put him into a third set.

"I think I did pick up my game," the 17-year-old right-hander said of the latter stages of the second set. "I don't feel he should regret anything, I just played very well that game. I was kind of pissed off from the game before, and I had a break 3-1 in the second, so I wasn't the happiest guy."

Sigouin broke Raisma for a 3-2 lead and held for 4-2, but after he fell going for a shot in Raisma's next service game, Sigouin had to call the trainer for his bleeding knee.

"I actually didn't want to take a medical timeout, but I felt like I had to," Sigouin said.  "It maybe slowed me down a little bit but I didn't really want to relax after that."

After giving up his break Sigouin got it right back, hitting a backhand winner at 15-40 to give him an opportunity to close it out on serve. He lost the first point of the game, but closed it out by winning the last four points, with a good first serve ending the final point before it really started.

"I was lucky I served from the easier side to serve from," Sigouin said. "With the wind a little bit and not against the sun, that helped. In Mexico City (the Grade A two weeks ago), I had six match points and I lost that match in the quarters and that hurt a lot, so this is definitely going to feel good."

Like Sigouin, Kecmanovic had not lost a set coming into the semifinals, but his 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 win over No. 12 seed Ergi Kirkin of Turkey proved a difficult puzzle to solve for the ITF's No. 1 junior.

"I think it was just that my opponent played a different game style than I'm used to," said Kecmanovic, who trains at the IMG Academy. "He was just getting a lot of balls back and making me play a few more shots. I think that got to me a little, but in the end I stayed focused and got through."

Kecmanovic admitted his frustration level peaked in the second set.

"In the second set I didn't really stay calm," the US Open boys finalist said. "I started going for too much and started missing and that's why I lost the second set."

Kirkin broke Kecmanovic to start the third set, but Kecmanovic got the break right back and then earned a break to make it 4-2.  But that one-break lead was tenuous when Kecmanovic went to serve out the match at 5-3.

"It was very difficult at the end, so I just tried to stay mentally tough," Kecmanovic said. "He had three break points in that last game on my serve, but I had some pretty good points, so I'm pretty happy about that."

Kecmanovic and Sigouin have never played before.

"It's going to be our first match, but I know he plays very good of course, and we'll see how it goes," Kecmanovic said.

While Kecmanovic was working to subdue Kirkin on Court 1, drama was building on Court 3, with Carle attempting to earn a split with Branstine at 5-1 in the second set.  Earlier in the set, both players had been given a soft warning by the chair umpire for too much emotional celebration directed at her opponent, and shortly thereafter Branstine was issued an actual code violation warning for unsportsmanlike conduct.  Carle had thought that was a second code violation, which is a point penalty, and confusion ensued when Branstine said the game was not complete, while Carle maintained it was.  The chair umpire, who was doing live scoring input, but not using a card, was not definitive in his reconstruction and the referee was called to court to sort it out. The decision went in Carle's favor, much to Branstine's dismay, but it was Branstine who took an early 2-1 lead in the third set, only to see Carle win four of the next five games for a 5-3 lead.

Always prone to self-critical monologues in a match, Branstine's frustration level grew, and Carle was the steadier of the two in the final points of the match, with a good first serve, a missed return and third shot handcuffing Branstine giving Carle the victory.  Branstine heaved her racquet into the chain link fence separating the court from the walkway, startling a few spectators watching from there and after leaving the court, was heard smashing her racquet.

"It was a hard match, and the girl that I play, play so good," Carle said. "There were problems, discussions in the match and in the second set, the problem was the ref called 5-1, when it was set for me, and this is the big problem. I try to stay focused, and I think these matches are for those who are mental strong, and this was the key for me. Stay focus and concentrate in my play."

Being down in the final set did not faze Carle, who won the 16s Orange Bowl title last year, but had not reached a Grade 1 final before this week.

"I try to be positive all the time," Carle said. "Because if you stay mad for two minutes, you lose the match. I try to stay positive for all the points, and this is key for me."

With all the drama in the other three semifinals, the Court 1 match between Gracheva and Cantos Siemers paled in comparison, with Gracheva efficiently ending the German's impressive run this week.

Gracheva made few errors and her backhand was nearly all the offense she needed.

"I think I played really good today," said the 16-year-old, who has trained in Germany with 31-year-old Russian Nina Bratchikova, a former WTA Top 100 player, for the past three years. "I focused on my game, what I was supposed to do."

Gracheva said she did not think about Cantos Siemers' comebacks in her previous two rounds, but concentrated instead on hitting her favorite shot, a backhand down the line.

Gracheva has four titles in ITF Grade 2 events this year, but like Carle, she will be playing in her first Grade 1 final on Sunday, and it will be their first meeting.

The day's action closed with Kecmanovic and Sigouin taking the doubles title with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over unseeded Govind Nanda and Alexandre Rotsaert.

Kecmanovic and Sigouin, the top seeds, had never played together before, but everything was clicking for the pair Saturday afternoon, with Nanda and Rotsaert not having a game point until they held at 6-0, 5-0.

"Our goal was to finish this match quick, because we have a big match tomorrow," Sigouin said. "We had two long ones today, so we tried to get the job done."

"I think we were both tired, but it didn't really show because we played very well," Kecmanovic said. "We were serving pretty good and returning, and that gave us easy points."

The match took only 34 minutes, and the momentum swings that regularly surface in doubles never appeared.  Kecmanovic and Sigouin will try for a second straight title at next week's Orange Bowl.

The girls final, played early Saturday morning, saw No. 4 seeds Kaja Juvan of Slovenia and Lea Boskovic of Croatia win their second title in as many attempts, defeating No. 7 seeds Maria Portillo Ramirez of Mexico and Sofia Sewing 7-6(8), 6-3.

Juvan and Boskovic won a $10,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in October, so they were confident in their first junior event as a team.

"It was a great victory," said Juvan, 16. "It was a tough tournament, a lot of great players."

"We were playing some great matches," said Boskovic, 17. "They played great, so congrats to them also, but it's amazing."

Juvan and Boskovic, who beat top seeds Yuki Naito of Japan and Xiyu Wang of China in the semifinals, will be going for their third straight title at the Orange Bowl next week.

The finals are now set for the 12s, 14s and 16s divisions, with six Americans vying for singles titles on Sunday morning.

The only final not featuring an American is the boys 16s, which is an all-British affair between Jake Hersey, the No. 4 seed, and No. 2 seed Anton Matusevich.

The US is assured of claiming the girls 16s final, with Victoria Hu and Katie Volynets advancing to the finals with wins today. Gianna Pielet, the No. 5 seed will play No. 2 seed Emma Raducanu of Great Britain in the girls 14s final, and No. 3 seed Katrina Scott, the Easter Bowl 12s champion, will face No. 4 seed Dasha Plekhanova of Canada in the girls 12s final.

No. 2 seed Zane Khan will face top seed Bu Yunchaokete of China in the boys 14s final and Jonah Braswell, the No 9 seed, will meet qualifier Gunuk Kang of Korea in the boys 12s final.

The full draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

Below are the results of the singles semifinals, including those played on Friday:

Girls 12s:
Katrina Scott[3](USA) def. Stela Peeva[11](BUL) 6-3, 6-2
Dasha Plekhanova[4](CAN) def. Tatiana Muzykantskaya[2](RUS) 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 FRIDAY

Girls 14s:
Gianna Pielet[5](USA) def. Gabby Price[4](USA) 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-4
Emma Raducanu[2](GBR) def. Natasha Sengphrachanh[12](CAN)  6-7(1), 6-3, 6-1 FRIDAY

Girls 16s semifinals:
Victoria Hu[4](USA) def. Emma Navarro[9](USA) 6-1, 6-2
Katie Volynets[7](USA) def. Margaryta Bilokin[3](UKR) 6-0, 6-2

Boys 12s:
Jonah Braswell[9](USA) def. Victor Lilov[1](USA) 6-4, 6-4
Gunuk Kang(KOR) def. Kenta Nakamura(JPN) 7-5, 6-3 FRIDAY

Boys 14s:
Bu Yunchaokete[1](CHN) def. Toby Kodat(USA) 6-4, 1-6, 6-2 FRIDAY
Zane Khan[2](USA) def. Alexander Gaponenko[3](ISR) 6-2, 6-4

Boys 16s:
Jake Hersey[4](GBR) def. Vikash Singh[5](IND) 6-2, 6-4
Anton Matusevich[2](GBR) def. Jack Draper[3](GBR) 6-4, 7-5 FRIDAY

The doubles championships were all played on Saturday.  Below are photos of the winners, with the results of the finals in the captions.

G12s: Maria Drobotova/Katrina Scott[1](USA) def. Nadezda Khalturina(RUS)/Stela Peeva(BUL)[4] 6-4, 6-4

B12s: Jonah Braswell/Bruno Kuzuhara[2](USA) def. Victor Lilov/Evan Wen[1](USA) 4-6, 7-6(1), 10-6
B14s: Viktor Jovic(SRB)/Alexander Mandma(EST)[3] def. Santiago de la Fuente/Juan Torres[6](ARG) 6-7(4), 6-4, 10-8
G14s: Kylie Bilchev/Emma Raducanu[1](GBR) def. Jiaqi Wang/Qinwen Zheng[3](CHN) 6-2, 7-5
G16s: Margaryta Bilokin(UKR)/Amber O’Dell[2](USA) def. Saara Orav(EST)/Sarka Richterova(CZE)[7] 6-4, 6-0
B16s: Leighton Allen/Joseph Brailovsky(USA) def. Cleeve Harper(CAN)/Vikash Singh(IND)[5] 6-2, 3-6, 10-7

Friday, December 2, 2016

November Aces; Top Seeds Kecmanovic, Sigouin Advance to Eddie Herr ITF Semis, Cantos Siemers' Run Continues; Five Finalists Ready for 12s, 14s, 16s Championship Matches Sunday

©Colette Lewis 2016--
Bradenton, FL--

Before I get to the action today at the Eddie Herr Championships, here is my review of November's top college and junior tennis performers for the Tennis Recruiting Network. Fifteen players in all, with teenagers making up the bulk of the highlights, now that college tennis's individual season has been completed.

At the Grade 1 ITF event at the IMG Academy, top seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia and No. 2 seed Benjamin Sigouin of Canada continued to post impressive results, with both claiming their fourth consecutive straight-sets wins.

Kecmanovic, the ITF's top-ranked junior boy, defeated No. 6 seed Tomas Etcheverry of Argentina 6-4, 6-0 to advance to the Eddie Herr ITF quarterfinals for the first time after taking quarterfinal losses in both 2014 and 2015.

Kecmanovic will play fellow 17-year-old Ergi Kirkin of Turkey, who survived the day's longest singles match. Kirkin, seeded 12th, needed over three hours to work his way past No. 13 seed Alberto Lim of the Philippines 4-6, 7-6(8), 6-4.

Kenneth Raisma, the No. 3 seed, eliminated Lukas Greif, the last American boy in the draw, 6-1, 6-4, spoiling the Kalamazoo 16s champion's 17th birthday.

The 18-year-old Raisma, the Wimbledon boys doubles champion, will play Sigouin next, with the 17-year-old Canadian earning a 6-3, 6-3 victory over unseeded Finn Bass. Sigouin, who reached the semifinals here last year, has had some of his best results on clay.

Against Bass, Sigouin led 6-3, 5-0, unsuccessfully serving for the match twice before he finally broke Bass for the win, aided by a shanked backhand lob winner at 30-all that had spectators chuckling and Bass shaking his head in disbelief and repeating "wow" several times.

"I kind of got really relaxed after I got the third break," said Sigouin, "It's happened a couple of times. In Mexico City, the same thing happened, so I happy to get through."

As for the lob winner, Sigouin recognized his good fortune when Finn was no doubt feeling the momentum in the match had turned in his favor.

"Yeah, I was really relieved," Sigouin said. "It couldn't have come at a better time."

Sigouin's match with Raisma will be his first against a seeded player.

"I been happy with the way I've been playing, but honestly, I haven't had the toughest draw," Sigouin said. "But I think I've been dealing with my matches well and I deserve to be in the semis."

Sigouin, who is No. 2 in the Tennis Recruiting Class of 2017 rankings, is still considering college as an option, but he has told the many interested coaches that he is not making a decision on his future until the middle of next year.

"I haven't visited any schools and I haven't looked properly yet," said Sigouin, who trains with Tennis Canada at the National Centre in Montreal, and is traveling this week with Vasek Pospisil's former coach Fred Fontang, who is also working with last year's Eddie Herr ITF champion Felix Auger-Aliassime. "Maybe in the near future I will look. I'm not sure yet."

Sigouin, who has reached the semifinals and quarterfinals at Futures tournaments this fall, will continue to play juniors next year, with the Australian Open Junior Championships on his calendar.

"My goal is to be the No. 1 junior," said Sigouin. "So I'm going to try to play these tournaments to accomplish that."

Sigouin and Kecmanovic will play in the doubles final on Saturday after their singles semifinals, with the top seeds escaping with a 6-3, 5-7, 10-7 win over unseeded Gianni Ross and Danny Thomas. Ross and Thomas saved three match points at 3-5 in the second set, another on a deciding point at 5-4 in the second set and then two more at 9-5 in the match tiebreaker, but on match point No. 7 went the way of Sigouin and Kecmanovic.  Their opponents in the final are unseeded Alexandre Rotsaert and Govind Nanda, who beat No. 3 seeds Dan Added and Matteo Martineau of France 7-5, 4-6, 10-8.

With the top 5 seeds out of the girls singles draw after the third round, it's no surprise that two unseeded players have advanced to the semifinals.  One of them, Irina Cantos Siemers of Germany, has beaten three seeds in her last three matches, taking out No. 1 seed Xiyu Wang in the second round, No. 14 seed Morgan Coppoc in the third round and No. 9 seed Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine today.

Cantos Siemers was not feeling well and considered retiring early in the match, but for the second day in a row, she dominated in the final two sets taking a 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 decision from the 14-year-old Kostyuk.

"I felt really bad in the first set, I was extremely dizzy, I have a cold," Cantos Siemers said. "But I don't know, I fought through it and then suddenly I won the second set, and I realized I can win this. It definitely gave me confidence to do the same thing yesterday."

After a bathroom break for both girls after the second set, Kostyuk took a medical timeout and emerged from her time with the trainer with her left leg taped above the knee.  Kostyuk's movement didn't appear to be affected and she took a 2-0 lead in the third set, but Cantos Siemers raised the level of her game, particularly on the backhand side and she won the final six games of the match over an increasingly dispirited Kostyuk.

"I felt better with my backhand, I started to get my rhythm again," Cantos Siemers said of her resurgence after breaking Kostyuk and holding for 2-2.  "And the new balls. She hits really flat, so the balls come really fast and I am already not feeling very well, so I am hitting everything late. But once I got the rhythm of the new balls, I started feeling better again."

Cantos Siemers was happy to get the extra few minutes of rest when Kostyuk took the medical timeout.

"It actually helped me. As I said before, I wasn't feeling too well, so I used that time to rest myself."

Cantos Siemers is playing with a heavily taped thigh after tweaking her hamstring in her first round match.

"I always have a little pain, but I can't really tell," the 16-year-old left-hander said with a laugh. "I think it's actually better."

Cantos Siemers faces No. 6 seed Varvara Gracheva of Russia, who defeated unseeded Nicole Mossmer 6-3, 6-3.

"She's an amazing player; she has amazing timing," said Cantos Siemers, who will be playing the 16-year-old Russian for the first time. "I'm excited to play her, because she's my type of player."

Unseeded Carson Branstine lost her first set of the tournament today against No. 16 seed Astrid Brune Olsen but used her power to overcome the 17-year-old from Norway 6-1, 2-6, 6-1.  Branstine, who has agreed to play under the Canadian flag and is traveling with a Tennis Canada coach, although still technically representing the US at the moment, will play No. 12 seed Maria Carle of Argentina.  The crafty Carle, who won the 16s Orange Bowl title last year, defeated No. 15 seed Lea Boskovic of Croatia 6-3, 6-0.

Boskovic still has an opportunity for a title however, as she and partner Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, the No. 4 seeds, have advanced to Saturday's girls doubles championship, beating top seeds Yuki Naito of Japan and Xiyu Wang of China 6-4, 6-2.  They will play No. 7 seeds Maria Portillo Ramirez of Mexico and Sofia Sewing, who defeated No. 2 seeds Ellie Douglas and Natasha Subhash 6-4, 5-7, 10-8.

Five of the finalists in the younger age divisions have been determined with the results of those semifinals listed below.  Their opponents will be decided in the semifinals played on Saturday.  The girls 16s quarterfinals were all played today and both of those semifinals will be played Saturday. Complete draws can be found at the TennisLink site.

Girls 12s:
Stela Peeva[11](BUL) v Katrina Scott[3](USA) SATURDAY
Dasha Plekhanova[4](CAN) def. Tatiana Muzykantskaya[2](RUS) 6-3, 3-6, 6-4

Girls 14s:
Gianna Pielet[5](USA) v Gabby Price[4](USA) SATURDAY
Emma Raducanu[2](GBR) def. Natasha Sengphrachanh[12](CAN)  6-7(1), 6-3, 6-1

Girls 16s quarterfinals:
Emma Navarro[9](USA) def. Cori Gauff[8](USA) 6-4, 7-5
Victoria Hu[4](USA) def. Hye Ran Yun[6](KOR) 6-3, 6-2

Margaryta Bilokin[3](UKR) def. Lauren Stein[10](USA) 6-0, 6-2
Katie Volynets[7](USA) def. Angelica Blake[11](USA) 0-6, 7-5, 6-2

Boys 12s:
Victor Lilov[1](USA) v Jonah Braswell[9](USA) SATURDAY
Gunuk Kang(KOR) def. Kenta Nakamura(JPN) 7-5, 6-3

Boys 14s:
Bu Yunchaokete[1](CHN) def. Toby Kodat(USA) 6-4, 1-6, 6-2
Alexander Gaponenko[3](ISR) v Zane Khan[2](USA) SATURDAY

Boys 16s:
Vikash Singh[5](IND) v Jake Hersey[4](GBR) SATURDAY
Anton Matusevich[2](GBR) def. Jack Draper[3](GBR) 6-4, 7-5