09
Dec
11

American teens unable to adapt to the Orange Bowl’s clay courts.

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Alexios Halebian won’t lie. He would rather the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championship had stayed on hard courts in Key Biscayne than moved to clay in Plantation. The big-serving Californian won the 16s title at the Crandon Park Tennis Center two years ago, and reached the 18s semis there last year. Switching the tournament to the green clay at the Veltri Tennis Center “slows the points down and equalizes the big serve, which is one of my strengths,’’ he said. The trickier surface probably cost 13th-seeded Halebian a few points in his 7-6 (9-7), 6-7 (6-8), 6-3 third-round loss to unseeded Canadian Filip Peliwo on Thursday. It might also be a reason that none of the 41 American boys entered in the 16s and 18s advanced to the quarterfinals.

American girls are faring better with two in the 16s semifinals (Rasheeda McAdoo of Palmetto Bay and Kimberly Yee of Las Vegas) and two in the 18s quarterfinals (Sachia Vickery of Miramar and Samantha Crawford of Tamarac). Halebian said despite his personal surface preference, he understands the reason for the move. USTA officials want young Americans to play more on clay it will force them to learn to construct points, play better defense and get fitter.

Patrick McEnroe, the USTA general manager of Player Development, and Jose Higueras, the USTA Director of Coaching, watched as Halebian became the last American boy to go down. The other third-rounder, 15-year-old wild card Noah Rubin, lost earlier Thursday, 6-2, 6-1 to seventh-seeded Patrick Ofner of Austria. “The move to clay is a long-term plan, and initially, we might not have as good results,’’ McEnroe said. “But that’s fine. Our job as coaches and leaders in the sport is to teach our kids the right way to play and determine what’s better for American tennis. “I’m watching Halebian here, having to figure it out, work through it, and it’s good for him. Clay exposes your game more, especially at this age. We’re not trying to make better clay-court players. We’re trying to make better tennis players. Orange Bowl titles would be nice, too, but at the end of the day, we want to help develop pros. Nobody can tell me it’s not healthy for them to play a lot of tennis on clay.’’

Erin Routliffe, a 6-2 Canadian who will play McAdoo in the girls 16s semis, said she, too, prefers hard court but has benefited from adapting her power game to clay this week. “You can’t just hit big winners here,’’ she said. “And tall people aren’t as good at sliding, so I’ve had to work on that, too.’’ Routliffe beat American Caroline Doyle (San Francisco) 6-3, 4-6, 6-3. McAdoo beat Lexi Borr of New Jersey 7-5, 6-2. In the 18s, top seed Eugenie Bouchard (Canada) beat No. 13 Elizaveta Kulichkova (Russia) 6-3, 6-2; No. 3 Indy De Vroome (Netherlands) beat No. 16 Taylor Townsend (Stockbridge, Ga.) 6-4, 7-6 (7-5); wild card Sachia Vickery (Miramar) defeated No. 6 Zuzanna Maciejewska (Poland) 0-6, 6-2, 6-2; and Samantha Crawford (Tamarac) beat wild card Nadia Echeverria Alam (Doral) 6-3, 6-0.

British teenage star Liam Broady bowed out of the Orange Bowl at the last-16 stage on Thursday. The 17-year-old, who reached the final of Junior Wimbledon back in the summer, was beaten 7-6 6-4 by Latvian qualifier Janis Podzus in round three of the prestigious under-18 event in Florida. George Morgan won the title 12 months ago but there will be no similar success for Great Britain as Broady, seeded second, was the the last of eight Britons left in the draw. A change of surface from hard to clay this season hardly helped the British cause. The Orange Bowl is one of the biggest tournaments on the junior circuit. Former winners include Roger Federer, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg.

 

mkaufman@MiamiHerald.com

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