Saturday, December 20, 2014

Alhogbani Upsets Eddie Herr Champion, Three Other US Boys Reach Junior Orange Bowl 12s Quarterfinals

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Coral Gables, FL--

Saturday was my last day of reporting on the Junior Orange Bowl boys 12s competition, which is played on the Har-Tru courts at Salvadore Park, because unlike the other divisions, they will not move to the University of Miami hard courts for the tournament's final rounds.

I picked a good day to spend there however, with two matches ending in third-set tiebreakers, including Saud Alhogbani's 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(2) upset of Eddie Herr champion Jungwon Park, a No. 1 seed.

The match, which began at 10:30 a.m. and finished at 1:40 p.m., was full of momentum shifts, but Park knew he was in a battle from the start.  With a size advantage over everyone in the field, Park used his power to overwhelm his previous opponents, but Alhogbani was not going to let that happen to him.

"He usually just powers on these kids since he's so tall and cover the court well," said Alhogbani, who lives in Washington DC and trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md. "I thought maybe if I could match his power back, then I could mix it up, kicks, slices and he didn't really like that."

Alhogbani didn't allow Park to develop any rhythm, and often pushed Park back near the fence with moonballs. On several occasions, even with his height, Park couldn't reach those balls to return them, and he seemed uncomfortable taking balls early or out of the air to counteract Alhogbani's strategy.

Alhogbani trailed 3-1 in the final set, but won four games in a row, as Park struggled to keep the ball in the court.  Alhogbani served for the match at 5-3, but Park was more aggressive in that game, and Alhogbani chipped in with a few errors.

Park held for 5-5, and began to drop shot Alhogbani effectively, although he began to look tired as both boys held for a tiebreaker.

Park took a 2-1 lead with a drop shot winner and an overhead winner that he made with a broken string.  That was the last point he would win however, as his forehand went AWOL and he made six straight errors to give Alhogbani the victory.

"Clay is a little bit more of a patient game," said Alhogbani, who recently won an Asian Tennis Federation tournament in Qatar, taking the title match 7-6 in the third. "So I just thought keep on rallying deep, and find a way to win this tiebreaker."

"I was preparing for this tournament for a year, hopefully to knock out one of the 1 seeds," Alhogbani added. "I can't believe I beat the Eddie Herr champion."

Alhogbani will play another No. 1 seed in Sunday's quarterfinals, Jeffrey von der Schulenburg of Switzerland.  Two No. 1 seeds will clash in the bottom half, with American Zane Khan playing Borna Devald of Croatia. Khan defeated No. 9 seed Michael Eala of the Philippines 6-1, 6-4 and Devald put an end to the run of qualifier Alexander Bernard of the US 6-1, 6-0.

American Aidan Mayo, a No. 9 seed, will play Ross Weibull of Sweden, also a No. 9 seed, after both came back from a set down to win in three. Weibull beat Spencer Brachman 0-6, 6-3, 6-3 and Mayo, whose brother Keenan is in the 14s quarterfinals, downed unseeded Juan Zabala Vargas 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.

The fourth quarterfinal will feature No. 1 seed Nicholas Garcia of the US against No. 9 seed Daiki Yoshimura of Japan.  Yoshimura won the day's second match ending in a third-set tiebreaker, hitting three straight forehand winners down 4-5 in the tiebreaker to claim a 6-2, 0-6, 7-6(5) win over unseeded Benjamin Heynold of Great Britain.

Garcia beat unseeded Korean Donglu Kim 6-3, 6-4, citing his willingness to come forward as a key to his win.

"When I moved in I gave him some trouble," said Garcia, who trains with the USTA in Boca Raton. "I was hitting my forhand well, opening up the court well."

Garcia, who reached the semifinals of the Eddie Herr, losing to Park, said he prefers the Junior Orange Bowl clay to the Eddie Herr hard courts.

"I actually like clay more, because I like sliding," said Garcia, a left-hander with a one-handed backhand. "On clay courts you have to take your time and build the points more and you can't finish the points as fast."

In each of the other three divisions, three Americans have advanced to the quarterfinals.  In the girls 12s at Tropical Park, unseeded Charlotte Owensby, Whitney Osuigwe and Cori Gauff won their fourth round matches in straight sets.  Unlike Park in the boys 12s, the Eddie Herr champion in the girls 12s is still alive, with Himari Sato of Japan advancing to play Owensby.  The only qualifier still playing the main draw of any of the divisions is Canadian Leylah Fernandez, who beat Eddie Herr finalist Helene Pellicano of Malta on Friday and Eva Garkusha of Russia today. Her next opponent is 10-year-old Cori Gauff.

The girls 12s will stay at Tropical Park for their quarterfinal matches, moving to the University of Miami on Monday for the semifinals, but the girls 14s will shift sites Sunday to the University of Miami.  One of the best matches of the day Sunday is a rematch of the Eddie Herr final, with No. 6 seed Caty McNally of the US taking on Eddie Herr 14s champion Anastasia Potapova of Russia.  McNally has been cruising through the draw in the first four rounds, losing just four games, and she defeated Russian qualifier Vasilisa Belonog 6-0, 6-1 Saturday. Potapova got by No. 9 seed Elysia Bolton of the US 6-4, 6-3.  Top seed Olesia Pervushina of Russia also will be tested Sunday, playing Orange Bowl 16s champion Bianca Andreescu of Canada, the No. 5 seed. Pervushina won her fourth round match over unseeded Amanda Anisimova of the US 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Taylor Johnson(4) and Anna Brylin, a No. 9 seed who defeated No. 3 seed Emiliana Arango of Colombia Saturday, are the other two Americans joining McNally in the quarterfinals.

2012 Junior Orange Bowl 12s champion Yshai Oliel of Israel, the top seed in the 14s this year, has reached the quarterfinals, where he will meet No. 5 seed Brian Shi of the US.  Oliel defeated William Woodall of the US 6-2, 7-6(3) and Shi, the Eddie Herr 14s finalist, downed Christian Alshon of the US 6-2, 6-2.

No. 7 seed Roscoe Bellamy will face unseeded Tao Mu of China, who beat No. 17 seed Steven Sun of the US 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.  Bellamy advanced with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over No. 8 seed Igor Gimenez of Brazil.  No. 3 seed Keenan Mayo beat No. 17 seed Daniel Michalski of Poland 6-4, 6-7(2), 6-1 and will play unseeded Chen-jui Ho of Taiwan, who defeated No. 9 seed Egor Noskin of Russia 6-3, 6-3.  The fourth quarterfinal features unseeded Chun-Hsin Tseng of Taiwan, who beat Andrew Fenty of the US 6-1, 6-1, against No. 2 seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina.

Complete draws can be found at the TennisLink site. For additional coverage, see the tournament website.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Sun Avenges Eddie Herr Loss to Mejia on Day Three of Junior Orange Bowl; Seven US Boys and Five US Girls Reach Saturday's Sweet 16 in 14s Division

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Coral Gables, FL--

Steven Sun didn't have to wait long for his opportunity to avenge his recent Eddie Herr quarterfinal loss to No. 4 seed Nicolas Mejia of Colombia. Meeting in the round of 32 (the fourth round in the new 192-draw for Boys 14s this year) on another clear and warm day at the University of Miami's Neil Schiff Tennis Center, Sun came through with a 6-4, 7-6(1) victory, without making many changes to his game.

"I got thoroughly beaten at Eddie Herr," said Sun, who lost 6-3, 6-2. "I didn't do anything differently, I just executed better."

Sun passed well all day, and on match point hit a dipping forehand pass from well behind the baseline for a clean winner. Sun said he and his new coach Andres Pedroso, the former University of Virginia men's assistant, worked hard in the week between the Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl, and he is now feeling comfortable on the court.

Sun, originally from New York but now living in Boca Raton, said his two tough three-set wins prior to his victory over Mejia, helped him get his revenge.

"I think it helps, just to get in a rhythm," said the No. 17 seed, who won the Easter Bowl earlier this year. "It takes a couple of rounds to feel out the courts and stuff."

Roscoe Bellamy, the No. 7 seed, had very little opportunity to do that in his first two matches, winning both his previous matches 6-0, 6-0.  On Friday, Bellamy was tested by unseeded Luka Vukovic of Canada, but came through with a 6-3, 7-6(3) victory.

Bellamy gave credit to Vukovic for breaking the string of 25 straight games won to start the tournament.

"He made a lot more balls and he was a lot more aggressive and could do more with the ball," Bellamy said, when asked how Vukovic compared to his previous two opponents.

Vukovic served for the second set at 5-4, and had set points, but Bellamy hung on to get the game when Vukovic double faulted.  In the tiebreaker, Bellamy had a slim 4-3 lead, but earned three match points with an excellent drop shot winner and a good first serve, converting the first match point when Vukovic's forehand went wide.

"I definitely didn't play my best the whole entire match," said Bellamy, who admitted he did briefly think about the loss of his first game of the tournament, "but I started competing a little better at the end."

Bellamy, a semifinalist at the Eddie Herr, was disappointed with the way that tournament ended for him.

"I thought I could have won the match I lost in the semifinals (to Mejia)," Bellamy said. "I played Nicolas, he's a good player, and had a tight match with him, but either set could have gone either way."

Sun and Bellamy are joined in the round of 16 by fellow Americans William Woodall(9), Christian Alshon(9), Brian Shi(5), Keenan Mayo(3) and unseeded Andrew Fenty, who has lost only 12 games in his first four matches.  The only all-American match on Saturday is Alshon vs. Shi. Woodall plays top seed Yshai Oliel of Israel, who beat Karlo Suevich(17) of Croatia 6-1, 6-1.

In the boys 12s, six US boys advanced to the round of 16, including all three seeds.  No. 1s Zane Khan and Nicholas Garcia advanced in straight sets, and No. 9 seed Aidan Mayo, Keenan's younger brother, moved on when Faris Khan retired with a back injury trailing 6-1, 2-1.  Unseeded Spencer Brachman and Saud Alhogbani reached the fourth round, as did qualifier Alexander Bernard. 

At the girls 14s, the Top 7 seeds all won, including No. 4 seed Taylor Johnson and No. 6 seed Caty McNally of the US.  Ninth-seeded Americans Elysia Bolton and Anna Brylin reached the fourth round, as did unseeded Amanada Anisimova, who will play top seed Olesia Pervushina of Russia in Saturday's round of 16. Bolton faces No. 2 seed Anastasia Potapova, the Eddie Herr 14s champion.

Six US girls have reached the round of 16 in the 12s at Tropical Park, including Alexa Noel, one of the eight No. 1 seeds. She is joined by No. 9 seeds Gabriella Price and Victoria Hu, and unseeded Charlotte Owensby, Whitney Osuigwe and Cori Gauff.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Metropolia Orange Bowl Recap, Slideshow, Videos

Before I head out for third round action at the Junior Orange Bowl, it's time to wrap up last week's Metropolia Orange Bowl. My recap for the Tennis Recruiting Network is available now. The singles quarterfinalists and doubles semifinalists are featured in the slideshow, and videos of the champions are also below. As with the Eddie Herr finalists, those videos will be posted early next month.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Australian Open Junior Acceptances; Junior Orange Bowl Day Two

The acceptances for the 2015 Australian Open Junior Championships, which will take place January 24-31 in Melbourne, were released Wednesday.  As usual for any junior slam, the list of those competing is unlikely to include everyone on the current acceptance list, and with the withdrawal deadline January 13th, the field won't really shape up until after that.

CiCi Bellis entered, but is not expected to play, opting instead for Pro Circuit events in the US.  Other US girls accepted into the main draw are: Orange Bowl champion Sonya Kenin, Raveena Kingsley, Usue Arconada and Michaela Gordon. Jessica Ho, Mia Horvit, Raquel Pedraza, Madison Bourguignon and 2013 quarterfinalist Olivia Hauger have been accepted into the qualifying.

US boys on the acceptances list include Taylor Fritz and Michael Mmoh, who told me at the Orange Bowl that they intend to play it, with Reilly Opelka, William Blumberg and Sameer Kumar also receiving acceptance into the main draw. Kalman Boyd is the only American currently in the qualifying, although Ulises Blanch is just one spot out of qualifying, and will certainly move in as withdrawals happen.

One of the most intriguing names on the boys acceptance list is 17-year-old Romain Safiullin of Russia, who has won four straight Futures and is now ranked 333 on the ATP computer.

The complete acceptance lists can be found at the ITF junior tournament page.


I spent the second day of the Junior Orange Bowl at Key Biscayne's Crandon Park, the site of the Girls 14s tournament's early rounds.  I saw at least a few points of all the main draw matches, but I was also committed to updating my photo library, so I didn't stay at any match long. The vast areas between courts counterbalances the excellent viewing and camera positions, but toward the end of the day, I was able to sit down for a few minutes and watch two Midwest girls, playing side by side.  No. 6 seed and Eddie Herr 14s finalist Caty McNally had no trouble in her match with Daria Lukyanova of Russia, breezing to a 6-1, 6-0 victory in the afternoon's warm sunny and calm conditions.

Elysia Bolton, one of eight No. 9 seeds, had more difficulty with the hard-hitting Varvara Gracheva, also of Russia, but Bolton came through with a 6-3, 6-3 victory. 

Russia had plenty of winners however, with top seeds Olesia Pervushina and Anastasia Potapova both advancing in straight sets.  The only top eight seeds failing to reach the round of 32 was No. 8 Olga Danilovic of Serbia, who lost to Dalila Said of Egypt 1-6, 6-4, 6-1.  Last year's 12s champion, Hurricane Tyra Black, who received a wild card into this year's tournament, lost to No. 3 seed Emiliana Arango of Colombia 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Two Top 8 seeds lost in the Boys 14s, with No. 8 seed Marko Miladinovic of Serbia losing to Chen-jui Ho of Taiwan 6-2, 6-3 and No. 6 seed Patrick Sydow of Venezuela, an Eddie Herr 14s semifinalist, falling to Andrew Fenty of the US 6-1, 6-3.

In the 12s, Spencer Brachman of the US, an Eddie Herr quarterfinalist, defeated No. 1 seed Shunsuke Mitsui of Japan 6-2, 6-2. And in a long and dramatic match that finished under the lights at Salvadore Park, Benjamin Heynold of Great Britain took out Eddie Herr semifinalist Dawid Taczala of Poland 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.  Heynold and Taczala battled for over three and half hours, with Taczala going up 2-0 in the third set, only to lose four straight games.  He got the break back, but in the eighth game, Heynold appeared to cramp or pull a muscle in his calf.  After a long, tough point, he crumpled in tears on the service line, receiving medical attention from the trainer, but he continued, and Taczala was broken when the game resumed. Heynold, not looking as energetic as he had earlier, managed to hold serve to win the match, with Taczala's aggressive errors ending most of the points.

In the girls 12s, the only No. 1 seed to fall was Naomi Cheong of the US, who lost to 10-year-old Cori Gauff, the reigning USTA 12s Clay Court champion, 7-6(8), 6-2.

Complete results can be found at the TennisLink site.  Check the Junior Orange Bowl website for more coverage.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Changes in 2015 for USTA National Summer Championships; Few Surprises on Day One of Junior Orange Bowl

The USTA board has approved changes to the 2015 USTA Clay Court and National 16s and 18s championships.  After a qualifying tournament was held in 2014 to determine eight spots in a 128-player draw, the tournaments will revert to the 192-player draws they had prior to 2014.  Alternate methods of gaining entry have also been reintroduced. The changes:

1. Eliminates Qualifier:  Replaces the 64-player qualifier and 128-player main draw at the Boys' and Girls' 18 and 16 USTA National Clay Court Championships and The USTA National Championships (Hard Courts) and with a main draw of 192 players.

2. Creates Direct Acceptance List:  Creates a Direct Acceptance List of top USTA, ATP/WTA and ITF* players to be published on May 1 that will automatically be selected for the Boys' and Girls' 18 and 16 USTA National Clay Court Championships and The USTA National Championships.  ATP/WTA and ITF players are only included on the Direct Acceptance List for the 18 Divisions.  Up to 32 players are selected off of this list for the 18 Divisions; up to 16 players are selected off of this list for the 16 Divisions.

I have seen reference elsewhere to the criteria for ATP/WTA/ITF entry as follows, although this could change: 

In the 18 Divisions, the Direct Acceptance List will be comprised of the top 16 players on the National Standings List, followed by players with top 800 ATP ranks/top 600 WTA ranks, followed by top 100 ITF players. Up to 32 players will be selected by this method. If fewer than 32 players on the List enter, the open spots are filled with endorsed players from the National Standings List published at the time of selection.

3. Net Increase in Draw Size to Section Quota: The net increase in draw size is allocated to Sectional Association quota using the same quota formula that currently exists (60% based on strength of Section/40% based on size of junior membership as of December 31, 2013).  

4. Sectional Ranking Tournament Winner Always Replaced with Quota Player:  If the winner of the designated Sectional Ranking Tournament (May/June Sectionals) does not enter The USTA National Championships (Hard Courts) or is not age eligible, one additional player from the Section's endorsement list will be selected.  This proposed change applies to all divisions (BG12-18).

With the elimination of the qualifying tournaments, the previously published 2015 dates for the Clays and Nationals will not be accurate, so look for revisions there in the upcoming months.


Today was the first day of the Junior Orange Bowl main draw and I spent most of the day at the Boys 12s in Salvadore Park.  The only division to play on Har-Tru, the boys 12s had their usual variation in size, strength and skill level.  Of the eight No. 1 seeds, seven won easily, and one, Ilya Tirapolsky of Canada, lost to Juan Zabala Vargas of Ecuador 7-5, 6-0.

Eddie Herr champion Jungwon Park of Korea, a No. 1 seed, breezed through his match, and Zane Khan, Eddie Herr finalist, beat Christopher Li of Peru 6-1, 6-1.  Li hit the ball hard and at time challened Khan, but made many more errors, particularly in extended rallies.  The other No. 1 seed from the US, Nicholas Garcia, also won, beating Matthew Melosch of Germany 6-1, 6-0.  The third US player seeded, Aidan Mayo, one of eight No. 9 seeds, defeated Mathias Musil of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-3.  Unseeded Benjamin Kittay of the US defeated No. 9 seed Alexander Mandma of Estonia 2-6, 6-0, 7-5. 

The top eight seeds in the Girls 14s all advanced, with Orange Bowl 16s champion Bianca Andreescu of Canada, the No. 5 seed, among them. Andreescu was not entirely certain she would play after winning in Plantation last Saturday. Olesia Pervushina and Anastasia Potapova of Russia are the top two seeds.

All top eight seeds in the Boys 14s seeds also won their first matches in the 192-draw.  2012 12s champion Yshai Oliel of Israel and Sebastian Baez of Argentina are the top two seeds.  Keenan Mayo(3) and Roscoe Bellamy(7), the two US boys in the Top 8, lost only one game between them in their matches this afternoon.

In the girls 12s, played at Tropical Park this year, seven of the eight No. 1 seeds made the second round, with Luisa Meyer auf der Heide of Germany who retired with an injury in the first set of her match with Savannah Broadus of the US, the only one who didn't advance.

Complete results can be found at the TennisLink site.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Eddie Herr Slideshow, Videos

All Eddie Herr semifinalists and doubles finalists appear in the slideshow, and despite the finals all being played simultaneously, there is at least a short video of all the champions. My recap of the tournament for the Tennis Recruiting Network was published last Friday. Videos of the 16s and 18s champions are below, with links to the 12s and 14s champions' videos here:

Boys 12s: Jungwon Park
Girls 12s: Himari Sato
Boys 14s: Nicolas Mejia
Girls 14s: Anastasia Potapova

I will be posting the videos of the Eddie Herr and Metropolia Orange Bowl finalists next month, when I return home and have more time.