Nava and Mejia Meet for Eddie Herr ITF Boys Title, Mandlik and Zheng Vie for Girls Championship; Dussault and Chervinsky Capture 12s and 16s Titles

©Colette Lewis 2018-- Bradenton, FL--Emilio Nava and Elli Mandlik earned spots in Sunday's Eddie Herr International ITF Grade 1 Championships finals, with Nava earning a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over qualifier Matheus Pucinelli de Almeida of

©Colette Lewis 2018–
Bradenton, FL–

Emilio Nava and Elli Mandlik earned spots in Sunday’s Eddie Herr International ITF Grade 1 Championships finals, with Nava earning a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over qualifier Matheus Pucinelli de Almeida of Brazil and Mandlik claiming a 6-2, 7-5 decision from Kamilla Bartone of Latvia on a warm and breezy day at the IMG Academy.

The fifth-seeded Mandlik, who won the last junior tournament she played, the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed back in October, admitted her confidence is growing with every win.

“I didn’t expect this at all, not at all,” said the 17-year-old from Delray Beach Florida. “Before Charlotte[site of the Pan Am Closed], it wasn’t that great of results, then Charlotte and now this, so I’m pretty confident.”

Against Bartone, who had beaten top seed Alexa Noel in the quarterfinals, Mandlik wasn’t able to run down all the No. 6 seed’s drop shots early, but Bartone quit going to that shot once Mandlik began to expect it.

“In the first set, she got me on like probably ten drop shots,” Mandlik said. “Then I finally got the hang of it, saw her doing it, and I just ran. Then she quit doing it, just started hitting the ball.”

Mandlik served for the match at 5-4 in the second set, and let two match points slip away, but she didn’t get down mentally.

“I kind of choked a bit, but I got through it,” Mandlik said. “It’s semifinals, so I got a little nervous, but it was good. I knew that I could break on return and go back on serve and win.”

Down 0-30 in that game, Mandlik was facing the prospect of a second set tiebreaker, but she put together four good points to close it out on match point number three.

Mandlik will play No. 2 seed Qinwen Zheng of China, who advanced to the final when No. 16 seed Georgia Drummy of Ireland retired down 4-1 in the first set. Drummy tweaked her back after her quarterfinal win on Friday.

“I’ve seen her, and I know she’s really powerful,” Mandlik said of Zheng. “I’ve never played her. It will be completely different from today. I’ll have to hold her power more, rather than running, like today.”

For the second day in a row, Nava dropped the first set, but he was not on the edge of defeat against Pucinelli as he had been against another Brazilian, Mateus Alves, in the quarterfinals.

“He’s a great player, great backhand, but I was rushing myself a little bit, in the first set,” said Nava, who is hoping for a title as a 17th birthday present on Sunday. “In the second set, I just kind of relaxed, stayed calm and did the same in the third set.”

Nava wasn’t aware that Pucinelli had come through qualifying, playing eight matches in the past eight days, but understood how that could have taken its toll.

“That’s tough for sure,” said Nava. “It definitely got to him for sure. I gets pretty tough after four matches.”

Nava will face No. 2 seed Nico Mejia of Colombia, who defeated No. 3 seed Filip Jianu 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, with Jianu cramping late in the third set.

“He was cramping at the end, but the first set was extremely tough,” said the 18-year-old, who trains with Jianu at the IMG Academy. “I knew it was going a very physical match. We played in January or February and it was also very tough. But these conditions were way slower than there, and conditions were very tough today, extremely windy, it was not easy to serve but I am really glad I was able to get the win.”

Mejia, who has played four weeks in a row, with the result in the first of those weeks a title at the Niceville Florida Futures, did not feel any fatigue as the match went on.

“I kept my energy high and physically I think I was really stable,” said Mejia, who hadn’t lost a set in the tournament until today. “He struggled a little bit at the end of the set with some cramps and that was a bit of a shame, but I would have loved to continue to play how we were playing the first set, but it is what it is.”

Mejia will not be playing the Orange Bowl, having forgotten to sign up, so Sunday’s final will mark the end of his junior career. He hopes to add a second Eddie Herr title to the 14s championship he won in 2014.

“It’s really exciting. I was here four years ago in the 14s, and I’m really happy I can be in another Eddie Herr final in my last junior tournament,” Mejia said.

Nava hasn’t play Mejia in singles, but is familiar with his game, and knows the other IMG players on site will be cheering on Mejia in the final.

“It’s going to be a great match,” Nava said. “He’s a great player, really consistent, great serve, great returns, just great overall. It’s going to be a tough atmosphere to play in, but I’m always looking for a challenge. I love these situations. I’ve got some good adrenaline, I guess you could say.”

The Sunday schedule begins at 9 a.m. with the girls final, followed by the boys final.

Regardless of the outcome in Sunday’s singles final, Mandlik has already claimed one Eddie Herr ITF title, winning the girls doubles with Anna Hertel of Poland.  The unseeded pair, playing together for the first time, defeated unseeded Kacie Harvey and Natasha Subhash 6-4, 6-3 in the final.

Mandlik said she knew Hertel from previous tournaments, saying “we were kind of friends, but not really,” but Hertel didn’t hesitate when she received Mandlik’s text asking her to play at the Eddie Herr. “It was easy.”

Mandlik said she did not expect to win the tournament, at least prior to seeing the draw, while Hertel said she could envision it, “a little bit.”

Although they were taken to a match tiebreaker twice during the tournament, including yesterday’s semifinal, Hertel said their games meshed very quickly.

“We are a team on the court, and we feel each other,” Hertel.

Hertel also had a prediction for the girls singles final Sunday. “She’s going to kill it,” Hertel said. “Obviously.”

Mandlik and Hertel will not be playing the Orange Bowl as a team, with other partners already having been arranged.

The boys doubles title went to unseeded Roko Horvat and Admir Kalender of Croatia, who saved four match points in a 1-6, 7-5, 10-5 win over No. 8 seed Shunsuke Mitsui of Japan and Taha Baadi of Canada.

Down 6-1, 5-4, 40-0, Horvat and Kalender saved three match points, then took the deciding point when Mitsui missed a routine overhead three feet beyond the baseline. Horvat and Kalender could not help but laugh at their good fortune in that game, and relaxed and re-energized, took control of the match after that.

“To be honest, we started really bad,” Kalender said. “It was windy so much, we didn’t find our games and we were a little bit nervous; we wanted to win. I don’t know, one point changed everything, then we started to fight more and more, to be more motivated. We were a little bit lucky then, and we won.”

Kalender and Horvat are close friends and have played doubles together throughout this fall swing in North America, but their friendship is not tied to their results on the court.

“Our friendship will keep at the same level, even if we didn’t win today, I think it would be pretty much the same,” Horvat.

“Unfortunately two weeks ago [at the Campeche Grade 1] we had three match points in the final and we lost,” Kalender said. “So this time we save four match points,” said Horvat.

The pair, both 17, will go for their second title as a team at the Orange Bowl.

The finals in the younger age division were all played at 9 a.m. Saturday, with Maximus Dussault claiming the boys 12s title and Elaine Chervinsky capturing the girls 16s title in all-American finals.

Dussault, the No. 6 seed, came back to defeat No. 5 seed Quang Duong 1-6, 7-5, 10-6.

The 11-year-old left-hander won five of his six matches this week in match tiebreakers, so today’s high pressure final set was nothing new for him.

“The first set I felt I was rushing a little bit too much and he was also making more balls,” said Dussault, who trains with Gabe Jaramillo at the Club Med Academies at Sandpiper Bay. “I raised the level in the second set; it was a really good match. He played very well, and so did I.”

After beating top seed and overwhelming pre-tournament favorite Rudy Quan, who won all four USTA National Level 1 12s singles titles this year, in Friday’s semifinals, Dussault might have been satisfied with his tournament, but he said that’s not how he thinks.

“I just think about the next point, the next match,” said Dussault, who had an enthusiastic cheering section on Court 1, including his mother, father, grandparents, siblings, friends and coaches. “They are amazing.”

Dussault comes to the net often, a game style that he said is second nature for him.

“I like to use my hands, and I like to be the one controlling the point, not being on defense,” Dussault said. “I have a way larger percentage of winning the point; that’s just naturally my game.”

Duong, who travelled from Manhattan Beach California to play this event and the Junior Orange Bowl, was not happy with his performance in the second set.

“I kept pushing the ball, not attacking it as much as usual, like in the first set,” Duong said. “He also played even better in the second set, started to be more consistent and stuff.”

No. 2 seed Chervinsky defeated top seed Madison Sieg 6-2, 7-6(6), a match that was difficult for both as they are good friends who train together at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton.

“It was really difficult, she’s my best friend,” said Chervinsky, 15. “We’ve played each other a couple of times before but this was one of the hardest times, our first time in a final. It was a pretty big deal.”

Chervinsky said the nearly two-and-a-half hour match was grueling for two reasons.

“It was physically and mentally hard,” Chervinsky said. “I think we are both mentally exhausted, especially in the second set. We both got nervous a lot and we both played really well at times, it was just my day.”

Sieg looked as if she was going to force a third set when she went up 3-0 in the tiebreaker, but Chervinsky won the next six points, only to see Sieg save three consecutive match points.

“When I was down 3-0 it was just like, ok, just play, it’s fine,” Chervinsky said. “Up 6-3, I think I got caught up in the moment, thinking that ok, this is my chance to win. I just needed to calm down and when I got up 7-6 I was pretty calm.”

Chervinsky, who had double faulted on her first match point, got a first serve in on her fourth and when Sieg’s forehand return found the net, she had her title, although without much celebration. The pair embraced and the net, and both were subdued when talking about the match a few minutes later.

“It’s always hard playing one my friends,” the 15-year-old Sieg said, who lost to Chervinsky in the third round of the Pan American Closed in October. “She is a really aggressive player, which is sometimes hard for me, but it was a great opportunity and it was really nice that both people from Evert were in the final.”

Both Chervinsky and Sieg and scheduled to being play at the Orange Bowl 16s on Sunday.

Unseeded Haoyuan Huang won the boys 16s title, beating unseeded Jacobi Bain of the Bahamas 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

“He plays so intense, I just had to play with a lot of focus,” the 16-year-old Huang said of the big 15-year-old left-hander. “I had to get used to his shots, but I wasn’t nervous. I don’t think of it as a big final. It’s just a match, I don’t try to think oh, it’s a huge tournament and then I’d get nervous for sure. I just focus on every point.”

Huang, who spent four years in the United States until eighth grade and was showing as being from the USA in the draws, is actually back living in China again, although he remains interested in playing college tennis in the United States.

“I’m not completely going professional or something,” said Huang, who was known as Tony when he lived in the US. “I want to leave a way for college.”

The boys 14s title went to No. 7 seed Togan Tokac of Turkey, who defeated No. 2 seed Fnu Nidunjianzan 6-2, 6-2.

The girls 14s champion is last year’s girls 12s champion: 11-year-old Brenda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic.

Fruhvirtova, the No. 5 seed, defeated No. 6 seed Clervie Ngounoue 6-2, 6-4, having also beaten Ngounoue last year in the quarterfinals of the 12s.

“I played my game,” said Fruhvirtova, who joins Russia’s Anastasia Potapova and Great Britain’s Laura Robson as girls who won the 12s and 14s titles back to back. “And I think she played the best she could do. But I played better than her. I did less mistakes than her, and I ran better than her and I played smarter I think.”

Fruhvirtova is hoping for a wild card into Les Petits As in January, but is not sure whether she will return next year to try for a third straight Eddie Herr title in the 16s. “I don’t know, probably, but I’m not sure, it’s hard to say.”

The girls 12s champion is unseeded Alexandra Azarko of Belarus, who defeated No. 14 seed Sasha Situe of New Zealand 7-6(3), 6-4. Azarko trains at recently retired Max Mirnyi’s club in Belarus, and Mirnyi could be seen observing her matches during the week.

Below are the results of the doubles finals, with photos of the winning teams. For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

B12s: Quang Duong and Thomas Faurel[3](USA) d. Fadi Bidan(LBN) and Jinpeng Tang[4](CHN) 6-2, 7-5

B14s: Aidan Kim and James Rico[8](USA) d. Gonzalo Bueno Rodriguez(PER) and Nicolas Nino(COL)[7] 7-5, 6-4

B16s: Hugo Hashimoto and Benjamin Kittay[6](USA) d. Jack Anthrop and Max Fardanesh[2](USA) 3-6, 7-6(2), 10-8

G12s: Brooklyn Olson and Natalia Perez[1](USA) d. Sarah L’Allier(CAN) and Mia Slama(USA)[3] 6-1, 6-2

G14s: Melisa Ercan and Ozlem Uslu[1](TUR) d. Katerina Dimitrova(BUL) and Angella Okutdyi[2](KEN) 3-6, 6-2, 10-5

G16s: Allie Gretkowski and Lara Schneider[2](USA) d. Mary Grace Armistead and DJ Bennett[6](USA) 6-1, 6-1

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