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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.

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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.

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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.








Monday, December 15, 2014

ITA Division I Operating Committee Votes to Continue Support of No-ad Format


At the ITA convention this past weekend, the decision to retain the format previously approved for college tennis this summer--no-ad for singles and doubles, with three doubles matches decided by one six-game set, and six singles matches with best two out of three sets--was approved by the ITA Operating Committee.

It appears the originally approved clinch/clinch rule, which would leave singles matches unfinished when a team reaches four points, has been amended to require completion of all singles matches, although conference rules still take precedence.

Although the NCAA is barely mentioned in the release below, they hold the keys to the format played at the spring championships in May, and when tabling this format the first time back in September, they asked the NCAA Tennis Committee to provide more input from student-athletes, who were to be surveyed on the format issue. I have not heard if that survey has been completed and provided to the NCAA Championships Cabinet, which is meeting in February to decide whether to approve the format change for the 2015 Championships.

Since the ITA announcement, I have spoken with dozens of college coaches and others about the format change. I have tried to keep an open mind, but I am unconvinced that no-ad will in any way enhance college tennis. I believe the win-by-two scoring in tennis is fundamental to its integrity and that adopting no-ad will deemphasize many of the physical and mental factors that make tennis so compelling. It favors one style of tennis over another, and presumes that it will shorten matches, although no hard data to support that has been released.

As I said back in August, I will not travel to cover this format, as I personally do not enjoy watching it, and as an independent journalist, I have the freedom to make that decision. Although I am not optimistic, I hope the no-ad proponents will find the casual fans they are looking for with this change. But this avid fan is saying goodbye to Division I tennis.

The full ITA release is below:


Shortened Format Strongly Supported at 2014 ITA Coaches Convention
No-ad scoring, 6-game doubles set highlight decision

NAPLES, FL (Dec. 15) - The ITA Division I Operating Committee moved to re-submit its dual match format proposal to the NCAA Division I Tennis Committee for the 2015 NCAA Division I Team Championships during its final meeting of 2014 on Saturday, Dec. 13. This decisive vote (25 yes, 0 no, 9 abstentions) - supported by the USTA and the USTA's Athletic Directors Advisory Council - is a powerful indication of the group's commitment to adopt creative and innovative measures to enhance the sport of tennis during this time of seismic change in collegiate athletics.

In addition the ITA Operating Committee voted 26-8 in favor of playing the shortened format during the 2015 ITA Kick-Off Weekend and 2015 ITA Division I National Men's and Women's Team Indoor Championships. Also, the Committee voted to adopt (30 yes, 0 no, 4 abstentions) the shortened format for all non-conference dual match competition with all singles matches being played to completion (doubles will remain "clinch"). It should be noted that NCAA conference rules supersede ITA rules, and therefore any conference can decide to not play the ITA format if it should so wish.

The ITA shortened format:
  • No-ad scoring in singles and doubles.
  • Three doubles matches played, each match one set to 6, with a tie-break at 6-all.
  • Followed (after a brief intermission; time TBD) by six singles matches, each match 2 out of 3 sets, with tie-breaks at 6-all.
  • No warm-up with opponents (in doubles and in singles)
The ITA Operating Committee felt that it was very important for Division I men and women's tennis to play with the same format - one that would enhance the student-athlete experience, be more fan-friendly, be more exciting and make college tennis more relevant.  And in this quickly changing landscape, the Committee also agreed to continue to monitor the pulse of the membership in looking ahead to the future.

"Over the past several years the ITA Division I member coaches have engaged in a vigorous and dynamic dialogue about format and best ways to grow and promote the sport of college tennis," said David Benjamin, ITA Executive Director. "We are very proud of the way in which all of our coaches of men's and women's tennis programs - from widely diverse institutions - have managed to work together and present a unified front on such a complicated and critical issue."

"We are supportive of the format recommendation made by the ITA Division I Operating Committee," said Virgil Christian Jr., USTA Senior Director, Market/Facility Development & Collegiate Tennis. "The collegiate coaches have navigated through a thorough and comprehensive process to reach this point. This is a critical first step in continuing to increase the relevance of college tennis on campuses across the country."

The NCAA Division I Tennis Committee will teleconference on Tuesday, January 6th to review the ITA shortened format proposal for possible implementation in the 2015 NCAA Team Championship. If endorsed by the Tennis Committee, it will be put forward to the NCAA Division I Championships/Sports Management Cabinet for its approval.

ITA Operating Committee co-Chair Sheila McInerney knows college tennis is on a long-term plan to become more fan-friendly and exciting.

"Coming out of the ITA Convention, the men's and women's Operating Committees are excited to play the new scoring format," McInerney said. "We feel this shorter and more exciting format will benefit college tennis and are hopeful the NCAA Tennis Committee will endorse this format for the upcoming 2015 NCAA Team Championship."

Boise State head men's tennis coach Greg Patton is filled with hope for the future of college tennis.

"I think it's a dynamic step in the future that is going to dramatically and positively impact the growth of tennis in this country," Patton said. "Tennis could be in the top five [of college sports] if we do it right and we're trying to take steps to do it. We can't keep on being satisfied with the product that we're giving. We want to make sure it's exciting and timely. If we can keep it into a certain time frame, it's going to be really incredibly compelling and incredibly attractive to people. It's hopefully going to attract a lot of kids to the sport."


Sunday, December 14, 2014

Kenin Takes Metropolia Orange Bowl Girls Title, Kozlov Wins Boys Championship in Singles and Doubles

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Plantation, FL--

Pembroke Pines may not be well known to those living outside of South Florida, but the city's profile was raised considerably in the tennis world Sunday, when two of its 16-year-old residents--Stefan Kozlov and Sonya Kenin--hoisted the winners' trophies at the Metropolia Orange Bowl.

For Kozlov, who was a finalist last year in the 18s, and runnerup in the Junior Orange Bowl 12s in 2009 and the 14s in 2011, the feeling after defeating unseeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 was more relief than elation.

"Losing in the final three times, losing in two slam finals this year, I'm just really relieved, to be honest," Kozlov said. "I'm relieved I finally won this, and hopefully I don't have to come back here next year."

Kozlov looked to be heading for yet another Orange Bowl final disappointment when Tsitsipas, broken to start the match, won four straight games, breaking Kozlov twice and closing out the set with another break.

Tsitsipas, who had impressed fans all week with his powerful forehand and one-handed backhand, was happy to accept the errors Kozlov was giving him, while taking control of points and keeping Kozlov on the defensive.

"He has really legit weapons," Kozlov said. "I wasn't expecting that. He didn't give me rhythm, he was serving good and his forehand is amazing."

But after a shirt change and bathroom break, Kozlov began to take control of points in the second set.  He broke Tsitsipas to start the set, and began to employ his drop shot effectively, as Tsitsipas was positioned several feet behind the baseline.

The crowd of 400 or 500 was solidly in Kozlov's corner, and several fans were providing loud appreciation and encouragement, with "Sugar" and "We Believe" their most frequent contributions. Up 3-2 and serving in the second set, Kozlov got into the act, giving himself a pep talk, saying, "This is all me. Let's go, focus every point. Don't let up." He added a "vamos" and an "allez", held serve, then broke Tsitsipas again.  Although Kozlov wasn't able to serve out the set, he had found his game. The errors were gone, the pace and placement of his shots improved and the drop shot continued to baffle Tsitsipas, who lost the set on a Kozlov drop shot winner.

After a bathroom break for Tsitsipas, the third set began with two holds, but Kozlov was broken on a double fault to give Tsitsipas a 2-1 lead. He was unable to sustain the advantage, however, and the unforced errors, absent in the first set, began to pile up as he began to tire. Kozlov broke and held for a 3-2 lead, and when he broke again, motioning the crowd to get behind him after a forehand winner gave him break point, his lead seemed safe.

Kozlov held at love in the next game, hitting a deft backhand drop shot winner to take a 5-2 lead, and put an end to all the past Orange Bowl regrets in the next game, fittingly, with a forehand drop shot winner.


After his three-set loss last year, in much warmer conditions, Kozlov had vowed his fitness would never again be an issue, and in the late stages of Sunday's final, there were no signs he was winded or tiring.

"Last year's match with Francis (Tiafoe) was much more physical than this one, to be honest. A lot of the points were long and Francis gets to every ball. But I think my fitness has improved. My match with William (Blumberg) and Reilly (Opelka) and this match, I'm feeling really confident toward the end, and believe that I can do whatever it takes to win."

Tsitsipas, who defeated World No. 1 Andrey Rublev of Russia in the semifinals, was dismayed by his performance in the final two sets, but said, "I beat some good players out there. I hope next year I'll do better, and go again to the final."

Tsitsipas, who trains on five clay courts at a club in Athens, said he would like to play the Australian Open juniors next month, but because there is little monetary support from the Greek federation, he may not.

"The money's the main thing in tennis," he said. "If you have money, you can travel, can do anything. Our federation is not very rich. They are trying to improve and I think it will get better in the next years."

Kozlov's plans for January include the two new hard court Futures in Southern California and the Maui Challenger.

Kenin is also looking to compete in more professional level events in 2015 after she defeated qualifier Ingrid Neel 6-3, 6-3 to claim her first Grade A title.

Kenin, who has said all week that the Orange Bowl feels like home to her, really began to pick up the level of her game after struggling in the second round. She dominated in wins over Eddie Herr finalist Gabby Ruse of Romania in the quarterfinals and CiCi Bellis in the semifinals, pointing to a peanut butter sandwich as the reason she had found her stride.

"I started eating finally, listening to the trainer," said Kenin, who cramped in the second set of her 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-0 second round win over Mayuka Aikawa of Japan. "So now I'm always eating a peanut butter sandwich."

Against Neel, who was playing her ninth match in nine days, Kenin was the steadier of the two, especially on her serve.

"I saw she was nervous, so I just kept putting the ball deep," said Kenin, who is coached by her father Alex. "I wasn't playing my best game at the beginning especially, but somehow I got in a groove and played good."

Neel had all kinds of trouble serving in the first set, hitting nine double faults, including three in the final game of the first set.

But she did not put the blame on nerves or fatigue.

"I've done that a couple of times before," said Neel, a 16-year-old from Minnesota who has trained full time at the IMG Academy for more than two years."It just gets off, sometimes just goes south and it's hard to bring it back up. It was disappointing. It was a lot of free points and you can't really do that, especially in a final, especially against Sonya."

Kenin went up 4-0 in the second set, but Neel began to cut down on her errors and closed the gap to 4-2.  Kenin reestablished herself with a love hold for a 5-2, lead but Neel made her close it out.  Down 30-40, at 5-3 Kenin came up with one her best serves of the match, and after Neel missed a backhand volley, Kenin had a match point. Again she got a first serve in, and after a short rally, Neel missed wide to give Kenin the win.


"I never expected this to happen," said Kenin, who is unsure whether she will play the Australian Open juniors or stay in Florida for the $25,000 tournaments in January. "I never expected to beat CiCi yesterday, I was expecting a three-set match. It was good that I pulled it through."


Bellis, who earned the No. 1 ITF World Junior ranking for 2014 with her quarterfinal win, added the Orange Bowl doubles title to her stellar year, teaming with Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic for a 7-5, 2-6, 10-4 victory over No. 7 seeds Miriam Kolodziejova of the Czech Republic and Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia.

The first set was extremely close, with five of the first ten games going to deciding points, but the top seeds broke Mihalikova for 6-5 and Vondrousova served out the set.  The second set was all Kolodziejova and Mihalikova, although again deciding points played a huge part, but Bellis and Vondrousova took control of the match tiebreaker, going up 7-1 and closing it out.

"We didn't play our best, I think," said Bellis, who will begin training with the USTA in 2015. "But in the French (junior doubles) we lost in the tiebreaker in the finals, so I think we were both thinking about that a lot. So when we got to the tiebreaker, we started playing a lot better and that was good."


Kozlov won his second title of the day in the doubles, with Michael Mmoh, beating No. 2 seeds Seong Chan Hong and Yunseong Chung of Korea 6-4, 7-6(5).  The top seeds looked to be cruising to a routine win with Kozlov serving at 5-2 in the second set, but Hong and Chung saved two match points from 40-30 in that game, and two more with Mmoh serving at 40-30 at 5-4.  Hong was broken on a deciding point to make it 6-5, but Kozlov didn't even get to a match point this time, double faulting to send it into a tiebreaker. Mmoh and Kozlov went down 5-2 in the tiebreaker, as dusk began to descend on the Veltri Tennis Center, but Chung lost both his service points and energized, Mmoh and Kozlov took the next three, with Kozlov bouncing the putaway into the park landscaping on the last point of the 2014 junior tennis year.

"We played really well to get to that position, but once we got to serve it out, those guys come up with some good shots and we didn't play our best tennis," Kozlov said.

"It was a tough moment to be in," Mmoh said of the service games they couldn't close out. "It was a tense moment, but I always thought we were the much better team, so I wasn't extremely worried. And then everything came through in those last few points. It was a great way to end his junior career especially."

For complete draws, see the tournament website.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Kenin and Neel Meet for Girls Metropolia Orange Bowl Title; Kozlov Reaches Second Straight Final; Riffice, Andreescu Collect 16s Championships

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Plantation, FL--

It's not every tournament that witnesses the losses of three ITF junior No. 1s before the finals, but this year's Metropolia Orange Bowl can claim that distinction, with two of them losing in Saturday's semifinals.



CiCi Bellis, who will take over the No. 1 position on Monday and finish the year there, was beaten by No. 13 seed Sonya Kenin 6-3, 6-2, while current boys No. 1 Andrey Rublev of Russia lost to unseeded Stefanos Tsitispas of Greece 6-4, 7-5.  Bellis had earned the No. 1 spot by winning Friday after current girls No. 1 Shilin Xu lost in the first round of singles and doubles.

Kenin had lost to Bellis twice earlier this year, both in three sets on California hard courts, but the 16-year-old from nearby Pembroke Pines loves the Har-Tru courts of the Frank Veltri Tennis Center and has been playing outstanding tennis on them the past three rounds.

"I like this tournament a lot," said Kenin, who was a semifinalist last year. "It's my hometown and I like competing here. I'm really glad that I'm in the finals. I'm speechless."

Kenin won a long tough game to break Bellis for the first set, and then took control, going up 5-0, as Bellis was having difficulty keeping the ball in play.  But the 15-year-old from California held and broke before Kenin quashed Bellis's hope for a comeback by breaking for the match.

"I had a game plan," said Kenin. "I was moving her, I served really good and I've definitely improved my forehand. When I played her before, my forehand would always break down. I like this surface and I like hard, so it doesn't make a difference. I try to play the same way."

Kenin pronounced Saturday's victory as the most important she's had.

"Yes, this is my biggest win," Kenin said. "We've always played each other in the semis, always, and she ended up winning the tournaments. So I want to win this tournament."

To do so, Kenin will need to get by qualifier Ingrid Neel, who won her eighth match in eight days, beating unseeded Monika Kilnarova 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

The 16-year-old from Minnesota, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton looked to be on her way to a routine victory up 6-2, and serving at 4-3, but she dropped three straight games, looking understandably tired. Neel managed to regroup for the third set however, which played out much like the second, at least until the last few games, with Neel up early and Kilnarova battling back.

"It's all about the heart at that point," said Neel. "It's the most fun part of the match, so you've got to enjoy it. Take it as a good opportunity, and that's what I live to play tennis for."

Neel, who frequently approaches the net to finish points, found that part of her game difficult to execute against the 15-year-old from the Czech Republic.

"At the beginning she would go down the line on her passes and then she starting going cross court, so I didn't really know which way she would pass me. It was hard to read it, so that was a problem," Neel said.

When Neel got her fourth break of the final set to take a 5-4 lead, she built a 40-0 lead, but even then Kilnarova kept the pressure on. She passed Neel to save the first match point, and Neel missed a forehand long after a lengthy rally to drop her second match point.  But determined to challenge Kilnarova one last time, Neel approached the net again, and this time Kilnarova's forehand didn't clear the net.

"I'm glad I ended it at the net," said Neel. "That was very nice. It was 50-50 in the rallies if I was going to win, so I came to the net, and let the chips fall where they may on that last point and I got it. My shot was just good enough."

Neel lost to Kenin  6-1, 6-4 in the quarterfinals of the USTA 18s National Championships in August.

"She was playing really well in the match I played her," said Neel. "She can be really on with everything, her drop shots, she has it all. So I'll just try to play my game, come to net, all that good stuff that I love doing. It's time for revenge, I guess."


In the boys final, second seed Stefan Kozlov will take another stab at an Orange Bowl title after losing in the 12s and 14s finals in 2009 and 2011 and falling to Francis Tiafoe in the Grade A final last year.  Kozlov defeated unseeded Reilly Opelka, the Eddie Herr champion, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 to earn his place in the final against Tsitsipas.

Kozlov played well to open the match, and Opelka double faulted to get broken and give Kozlov a 3-2 lead, which he added to with another service break.  In the second set, Kozlov surrendered the only break of serve, playing a little too casually, and Opelka closed out that set with a love hold and an ace.

At 1-1 the third set, Kozlov escaped from a 15-40 hole, winning the next four points and got a break in the next game. When he earned another break point with a stunning passing shot, Kozlov gave an excited fist pump and on the next point, got the insurance break he needed for a 5-1 lead.

"We were playing quick," said Kozlov. "The points were going quick, the games were going quick. His service games were like love in like minutes and in the third set I just wanted to change it up again, get momentum back. At 1-1 15-40 he was starting to get into the zone and I kind of got lucky a point, let out some emotions and got going again. I played a great game to break and from there I just took off again."

Tsitsipas, Kozlov's opponent in the final, is something of an unknown, having played in only three Grade As including this week's Orange Bowl, and no junior slams.

Against Rublev, Tsitsipas said he had zeroed in on what he considers the 17-year-old Russian's weakness.

"I think he doesn't like spin balls on his forehand," said the 16-year-old, who came into the tournament ranked outside the ITF Top 100. "He's still a very good player and you need to play very good to beat him, be on your best day."

Tsitsipas, who has a one-handed backhand, said both sides were crucial to his success Saturday.

"I was pressing with my forehand a lot and I was playing deep to his forehand a lot and he didn't like the spin balls," said Tsitsipas. "And I made very good backhands down the line, winners that helped me in some crucial moments and points."

Tsitsipas, who received congratulations and photo requests from a dozen or more fans after the match, said he was getting support from those back home in Greece too.

"I was dreaming about the Orange Bowl final, but I didn't know the feeling is so great," Tsitsipas said. "I am so happy. Everyone in my country is so happy about me, they support me from Greece and send me messages daily."

Kozlov said he doesn't know much about Tsitsipas but expects him to play well in Sunday's final.

"I don't know much of him, but obviously he's playing well here," Kozlov said. "I've watched him a couple of times this week. I'll get some tips from my coach."  As for his thoughts on yet another Orange Bowl final, Kozlov said, "Hopefully this is the one, but we'll see. It's just another match tomorrow."

It's actually two finals for Kozlov on Sunday, as he and partner Michael Mmoh reached the doubles final.  The top seeds defeated unseeded Nathan Ponwith and Tommy Paul 2-6, 6-3, 10-4 in the semifinals and will meet the No. 2 seeds Yunseong Chung and Seong Chan Hong of Korea, 6-7(4), 6-2, 10-4 winners over unseeded Domagoj Biljesko of Croatia and Benjamin Hannestad of Denmark, in the final.

The girls doubles final will see top seeds CiCi Bellis and Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic take on No. 7 seeds Miriam Kolodziejova of the Czech Republic and Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia. Bellis and Vondrousova defeated No. 3 seeds Usue Arconada and Fanni Stollar of Hungary 6-3, 6-4, while Kolodziejova and Mihalikova downed unseeded Francesca DiLorenzo and Caroline Dolehide 6-3, 6-2.



Eddie Herr champion Sam Riffice added another major 16s title to his resume Saturday, taking the Orange Bowl championship with a 6-1, 1-6, 7-5 win over No. 10 seed Mattias Siimar of Estonia.  In 2006, 15-year-old Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria won both the Eddie Herr and the Orange Bowl, then both on hard courts, the only other boy to win the grueling back-to-back events, which have no day off between tournaments.

Riffice said he had heard about his opportunity to equal Dimitrov, now No. 11 in the world, but didn't think about it during the final.

"I read about it yesterday and thought it would be cool if I could do it," said the 15-year-old from Roseville, California. "I'm honored to have the same accomplishment as him."

Late in the third set, Riffice looked to be a long shot for matching Dimitrov, with Siimar serving for the match at 5-4, after leading 3-1 and 4-2.

But the wheels came off for the 16-year-old, who made error after error, was broken at love, then lost the next four points with Riffice serving to fall behind 5-6.  He finally broke the string of nine straight points lost and went up 30-15 serving for the tiebreaker, but two more errors from the left-hander, both on shots well long brought up an abrupt match point.  Siimar, who had roared back from poor play in the opening set to dominate the second, then double faulted, and Riffice toppled backward into the clay in disbelief at his victory.

"He was just playing better than me flat out," Riffice said of the early games of the third set. "I just tried to not give him anything, make him win the match. I was able to stay in it and keep more balls in than him."

Siimar was still trying to figure out what went wrong at the end of the match.

"Something happened and I couldn't put any balls in, in the end," Siimar said. "I had thought I win this, because in second and third I was dominating and he didn't have a chance. But I just fall off in the end. I didn't think anything, just go offline."

Siimar will return to Estonia, and hopes to play higher level ITF events next year, as well as some Futures, where he recently picked up his first ATP point.

Riffice will be training for several weeks with USTA Director of Coaching Jose Higueras and USTA National Coach Sylvain Guichard in Palm Springs, then will begin his 2015 season with five ITF junior events in South America.


While Riffice's win was the first for a US boys since Alexios Halebian won the 16s title in 2009,  girls 16s winner Bianca Andreescu just added to her country's dominance.

With eighth-seeded Andreescu's 7-5, 6-3 victory over No. 11 seed Dominique Schaefer of Peru, she became the fourth straight Canadian champion in the girls 16s.

The opening set saw Andreescu save a set point serving at 4-5, then pick up her return game at 5-5, hitting two return winners, the second on game point, to serve for the set. She double faulted to start, but got her forehand working on the next two points and Schaefer contributed two errors to give Andreescu the game and set.

Andreescu held serve throughout the second set and earned breaks in the fifth and seventh games to serve for the match.  She didn't convert her match point in that game, and Schaefer broke, but Andreescu came up with some of her best play of the match in the final game, hitting a return winner, a forehand winner, a net cord winner, and on match point, a backhand winner.

"I didn't play my best, but she was missing and I was missing," said Andreescu, who uses visualization to help her handle the mental part of the game. "But I think I was more consistent than her and I was winning the big points, which helped me."

Schaefer regretted not using more variety as the match began to slip away from her.

"I played pretty well, but I didn't mix the ball around that much," said the 15-year-old, who lives in California. "I think she liked the pace and that's how I played, so I think I should have sliced a little more, mixed shots more."

Andreescu, who won the Les Petits As title in January and trains with Tennis Canada at the National Training Centre in Toronto, said she is playing the Junior Orange Bowl next week, but added a conditional "maybe."

Saying she was relieved that she wasn't the one to end the Canadian winning streak, joining Erin Routliffe, Gloria Liang and Charlotte Robillard-Millette, Andreescu had a simple explanation for their recent dominance.

"Canadians rock," she said.

The schedule for Sunday begins with the girls singles final at 10 a.m., followed by the boys singles final, then the girls doubles final and the boys doubles final, all on Stadium Court at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation.

Complete draws can be found at the tournament website.