©Colette Lewis 2012—
Coral Gables, FL—
Two Americans—one a veteran and former champion, the other a rookie—joined Great Britain’s and Israel’s first-time winners on a crisp and cloudless final day at the 51st Junior Orange Bowl International 14s and 12s Championships.
Top seed Michael Mmoh of the United States, the 2010 boys 12s champion, defeated No. 6 seed Marko Osmakcic of Switzerland 6-4, 7-5 in the boys 14s final, while 11-year-old Abigail Desiatnikov, competing in her first Junior Orange Bowl, won a similarly tight battle with Dayana Yastremska of Ukraine 7-5, 7-5. Both Desiatnikov and Yastremska were No. 1 seeds.
No. 8 seed Maia Lumsden, another first-time Junior Orange Bowl participant, picked up Great Britain’s first girls 14s title, defeating compatriot Gabriella Taylor, a No. 17 seed, 6-3, 7-5, and Yshai Oliel, a No. 1 seed collected Israel’s first boys 12s title with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Aruba’s unseeded Patrick Sydow.
Mmoh took a quick 5-1 lead in the first set, but there would be no repeat of his 6-2, 6-0 win over Osmakcic in the ITF World Junior Tennis 14-and-under competition back in August, with Osmakcic winning three straight games before Mmoh closed out the opening set.
Osmakcic, hitting the ball with pace and depth, kept Mmoh on the defensive, and got an early break in the second set, building a 5-2 lead. Serving for the set at 5-3, Osmakcic was two points from forcing a third set at 30-0, but Mmoh raised his level, hitting a perfect backhand pass to get a break point, and then converting it, with a big return of a good first serve forcing Osmakcic to net a backhand.
Once Mmoh held for 5-5, hitting an ace on game point, he could see the finish line.
“He tends to get a bit flustered,” said Mmoh, who trains at the IMG Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton. “So I knew if I got back from 5-2 down to 5-all, he wouldn’t be too strong mentally, and that was the case.”
Mmoh broke in the next game, hitting another brilliant backhand pass, this of the dipping cross court variety for 15-30, and then waited for Osmakcic to unravel, which he did, netting two forehands.
Serving for the match, Mmoh gave his opponent no hope, cracking an ace for 30-0, then getting another forehand error from Osmakcic to reach match point. He missed his first serve, but hit a wicked kicker on his second, and Osmakcic couldn’t get his return back in play.
Mmoh, who won all seven of his matches in straight sets and was truly tested for the first time in the final, wasn’t pleased with his performance early in the second set, but he gave credit to Osmakcic for that lapse.
“He was playing really well, hitting it flat and deep, so it was tough for me to get a rhythm,” said Mmoh, who donned a Washington Redskins cap and T-shirt immediately after his win, showing support for the team he’s been following since his childhood days in Maryland. “Hard courts suit him better, I think, because on clay (the surface of the World Junior Tennis competition), he hits so flat, it just dies.”
With his second Orange Bowl title secure, Mmoh could reflect on the meaning of his first, two years ago, as a wild card.
“Even though this is the same tournament, I feel like the 12s was almost a different title for me,” said Mmoh, who is the son of former ATP player Tony Mmoh of Nigeria. “It gave me so much confidence, and I felt after I won that I could compete, play really well, at a high level. This year, I was kind of like the favorite, the one seed, and a couple of rounds I was pretty tight, but I’m really happy with the way I’m playing.”
Next for Mmoh is the Australian Open Junior Championships, and whether he’ll try for the Orange Bowl 16s title next year depends on how he performs in the big events in the ITF Juniors in 2013.
“I might play 16s even if I’m doing really well,” said Mmoh. “Har-Tru’s not my best surface. But it depends.”
Desiatnikov made her first appearance at the Junior Orange Bowl a winning one, capping a successful Florida swing with a title, after a semifinal appearance at the Eddie Herr and a trip to the finals at the Nike Junior Tour International Masters.
Desiatnikov and Yastremska blasted the ball from baseline to baseline, but it was the diminutive native of Ohio who performed best in the late stages of both sets.
Neither girl was able to defend her serve as six of the first eight games went to the receiver. At 5-5 in the opening set, Desiatnikov fell behind 0-30, but won the next five points, then broke Yastremska at love to take the first set.
The second set played out much like the first, with five straight breaks until Yastremska held for a 4-2 lead. Double faults plagued both girls, but once the rallies began, the fans in the University of Miami stands were treated to some entertaining tennis and more “davais” than you could count.
Desiatnikov, who is of Russian heritage and says she speaks a little of the language, said she recently made a new Russian friend who doesn’t speak much English, so it seemed natural to start exhorting herself in that language this week.
Yastremska, who has the power to blow past opponents, couldn’t outhit Desiatnikov, nor could Yastremska hold her 4-2 second set lead. But when she broke Desiatnikov again at 4-4, the 12-year-old Ukrainian served to send the match to a third set. She never got to set point, with Desiatnikov holding steady, while Yastremska made a few key forehand errors.
After Desiatnikov held for 6-5, Yastremska was under pressure and her forehand couldn’t survive it. She missed two and, at match point, netted a third to give an obviously delighted Desiatnikov the victory.
“It was a great match, it was so fun,” said the bubbly Desiatnikov, who had beaten Yastremska in the quarterfinals at the Eddie Herr. “It was bam, bam, bam, bam, barely high balls, just power, power, power, and that’s my favorite, it's so fun.”
As a reward for winning the tournament, Desiatnikov will travel to the USTA Winter Nationals, which begin on Thursday in Tucson, Arizona, to play in the 14s division.
"Last year I didn't play Arizona Super Nationals, I went and had Christmas," Desiatnikov said. "Me and my parents had a deal--because they wanted to do Christmas, but I wanted to go (to Arizona)--that if I won this tournament, we'd go to Arizona."
As for a more immediate celebration, Desiatnikov said, "I can't wait to eat an orange."
The emotion and energy that surrounded the girls 12s final didn't spill over to the next court, where two longtime friends and current roommates Lumsden and Taylor engaged in a battle to be the first British girl to win a Junior Orange Bowl 14s title.
Both girls are low-key and business-like on the court in a normal competitive setting, so the added emotional circumstances only added to the subdued nature of the match.
Lumsden took the first set, handling her nerves and using her different spins and placements to keep Taylor out of sync.
In the second set, it was Lumsden who couldn't get all the parts of her game clicking, and she fell behind 4-1, before she regained her equilibrium and took the next four games. Serving for the match at 5-4, Lumsden had two match points, but unforced errors kept her from closing it out. Taylor couldn't hold in the next lengthy game however, with two double faults back-to-back contributing to Lumsden's opportunity to serve it out a second time.
Again Lumsden got to the brink, getting to 40-15 only to commit two more unforced errors. After a Taylor backhand went just long, Lumsden reached match point No. 5, and this time it was Taylor who made the error, netting a forehand to give Lumsden the title.
"Especially in the first set, I was moving the ball around well, using the whole court--short, deep, wide," said Lumsden in her Glasgow, Scotland brogue. "I lost my focus a bit in the second when I went down 4-1, but then it was nice to get it together and come through."
Lumsden, who is staying in the same hotel room with Taylor this week, admitted that playing her best tennis was difficult under the circumstances.
"It was, especially because I know her so well and everything," said Lumsden. "It's really hard to play against someone like that. I've pretty much traveled with her the whole year. We've been on the winning Summer Cup team together, so yeah, it was tough."
As for the distinction of being the first British girl to win the 14s title, Lumsden was pleased she could fight through the difficulties an all-British final presented and put her name on the long list of winners.
"I knew it was going to be a tough match," Lumsden said. "I'm glad it's me."
In the boys 12s final, played on the Har-Tru courts of Salvadore Park, Oliel became the first boy from Israel to capture the Junior Orange Bowl 12s title.
Oliel, a left-hander with both power and touch, dropped only one set in his march to the final, and said he had that history in mind when he stepped on the court this morning.
"I feel very excited and up to play the Orange Bowl and to take the tournament," said Oliel, who is a product of the David Squad, a non-profit program for development of Israeli tennis.
Oliel, who joins Shahar Peer, the 2001 Girls 14s champion, on the list of Israeli Orange Bowl winners, stayed with a South Florida family, who also supplied support for him at all his matches.
"Today I played very good," said Oliel, who will play Les Petits As in France next month. "I hope to play like this every day."
How big is Oliel's Junior Orange Bowl title in Israel? According to IsraeliTennisResults.com, Oliel received a congratulatory phone call from prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Third Place and Consolation Results
In boys 12s, third place went to Nicolas Mejia of Colombia, who defeated Igor Gimenez of Brazil 6-3, 6-3. Chen-Jui Ho of Taiwan took fifth place with a 6-3, 0-6, 6-2 win over Naoki Tajima of Japan.
In girls 12s, Katarina Zavatska of Ukraine defeated Nada Dimovska of the US 6-4, 6-4 for third place, and Ellie Douglas of the US took fifth place with a 6-1, 6-4 victory over Nicole Conard, also of the US.
The boys 14s third place trophy went to Mikael Ymer of Sweden, who beat Nathan Ponwith of the US 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-1. Oliver Anderson of Australia took fifth with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over India's Basil Khuma.
Fanni Stollar of Hungary took third place, given a walkover by Theo Gravouil of France. Nicole Frenkel of the US finished in fifth place with a 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 win over Sofia Kenin, also of the United States.
For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.