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News from the 2007 Orange Bowl

December 6, 2007 12:19 PM
Oudin Streak Stopped; Berankis Becomes No. 1
12/9/07 8:22 PM

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RELATED: News from the 2007 Orange Bowl

By Joshua Rey, special to USTA.com

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. -- All good streaks must come to an end.


Orange Bowl girls' 18s runner-up Melanie Oudin (l) and winner Michelle Larcher de Brito
After winning 27 straight matches on the ITF Junior Circuit, American Melanie Oudin (Marietta, Ga.) fell, 7-5, 6-3, to Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal Sunday in the Orange Bowl girls' 18s singles final.

Moments earlier, Lithuanian Ricardas Berankis ended Uladzimir Ignatik's six-month reign atop the junior tennis rankings by defeating Grigor Dimitrov, 6-3, 6-2, in the boys' 18s singles final.

Larcher de Brito and Berankis are the first Orange Bowl singles champions from their countries in the event's 61-year history.

"I haven't won a tournament the whole year, so finally winning one is really great," said Larcher de Brito.

She started slowly, as Oudin, 16, raced from side to side behind the baseline and mixed backhand slices and topspin forehands to jump to a 3-0 lead. Oudin had four break points to make it 4-love but couldn't convert, opening the door for the Portuguese player to make a comeback.

Larcher de Brito didn't hold back on her heavy groundstrokes, punishing down-the-line forehands and backhands, then finishing points at the net, even when she wasn't confident doing so.

"There was one point where I went to the net and I panicked a little bit and nearly pee-ed in my pants because I was at the net, and I don't like it," said Larcher de Brito. "I was losing in the first set, down 4-2, and it was an important point, too. But I actually won the point, so it went OK."

Larcher de Brito broke Oudin three times in the first set before clinching it when the American framed a cross-court forehand wide.

She continued dictating play in the second set, breaking Oudin to start, then holding serve when she followed a down-the-line forehand to net again and put away a short cross-court forehand for a winner.

Aiming for her fifth straight ITF junior title, Oudin continued to fight, hitting three winners to break Larcher de Brito when she served for the match. But serving at 3-5, 40-30, Oudin double-faulted, and Larcher de Brito cashed in her first match point when Oudin hit a forehand approach into the net.

"She's improved a lot, and we just played one great match," said Larcher de Brito, who will play professional tennis in 2008. "I had to go for everything and push myself to the limit to actually win it."

It didn't take long for Oudin to return to the winner's circle as she and Mallory Cecil (Spartanburg, S.C.) clinched the girls' 18s doubles title, defeating Coco Vandeweghe (Rancho Santa Fe, Calif.) and Allie Will (Boca Raton, Fla.), 6-2, 6-4.

"I definitely wanted to win a final today," joked Oudin, "so I'm very happy."


Boys' 18 champion Ricardas Berankis
The boys' 18s singles final pitted Dimitrov, the 2006 Orange Bowl boys' 16s champion, against Berankis, the reigning US Open junior champ. Berankis entered the match knowing that a win would make him the No. 1 player in the world and a loss would allow Ignatik to finish 2007 with the top ranking.

With so much at stake, and Dimitrov having already won an Orange Bowl title, all the pressure seemed to be on Berankis' racquet heading into the match. But it was the Bulgarian who struggled, spraying unforced errors and slamming his racquet to the court twice.

"As you guys saw, nothing happened," said Dimitrov. "I played pretty bad and wasn't ready for the match."

Berankis, who spent two weeks this summer training with Roger Federer, looked prepared for the big occasion. He did his best Federer impression to break for a 3-0 lead, chipping a short-angled backhand slice winner from well inside the baseline.

"You just do what you have to do sometimes," said Berankis, who wrapped up the first set when Dimitrov missed a forehand long, then held to start the second by launching an ace out wide.

Dimitrov double-faulted to hand Berankis a 6-3, 3-1 lead, which was all the Lithuanian needed. When the Bulgarian missed a backhand wide on match point, Berankis smiled from ear to ear and put his hands on his head in disbelief, having clinched the title and No. 1 ranking.

"What can I say?" said Berankis. "Winning the US Open and now the Orange Bowl is an unbelievable feeling."

Only the Yucatan Cup, next week's season finale in Mexico, is standing between Berankis and the 2007 ITF Junior Boys' World Championship. Berankis won the Yucatan Cup last year and said his confidence is high after he squeaked through the semifinals when Jarmere Jenkins retired, then dominated Dimitrov Sunday.

"It's getting more and more interesting to finish the year No. 1," said Berankis. "Before this tournament, it was hard to believe that I could do it. Maybe this tournament was meant for me."


61st Annual Dunlop Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships
Crandon Park Tennis Center
Key Biscayne, Fla.
Dec. 2-9, 2007

Sunday's Results:

Boys' 18s Singles – Final
(2) Ricardas Berankis, Lithuania, d. (16) Grigor Dimitrov, Bulgaria, 6-3, 6-2

Girls' 18s Singles – Final
(9) Michelle Larcher de Brito, Portugal, d. (8) Melanie Oudin, Marietta, Ga., 7-5, 6-3

Boys' 18s Doubles – Final
(5) Roman Jebavy, Czech Republic, and Vasek Pospisil, Canada, d. (7) Matt Reid and John-Patrick Smith, Australia, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 

Girls' 18s Doubles – Final
(4) Mallory Cecil, Spartanburg, S.C ., and Melanie Oudin, Marietta, Ga., d. Coco Vandeweghe, Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., and Allie Will, Boca Raton, Fla., 6-2, 6-4

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RELATED: News from the 2007 Orange Bowl

 

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