Former champs in attendance
at 2019 Orange Bowl
Arthur Kapetanakis | December 11, 2019
PLANTATION, Fla. – The 73rd edition of the Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships is underway at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center, with a combined 256 top boys and girls from around the world competing in early-round play Monday and Tuesday in South Florida across the 18s and 16s events.
College coaches, sponsor reps and agents in attendance add to the buzz, as these talented youth fight to add their name to the historic list of Orange Bowl champions. Two former champs, Mary Joe Fernandez and Ivan Lendl, also added to the spotlight with their presence.
“I obviously have great memories of this event,” said Fernandez, whose 16-year-old son, Nicholas Godsick, earned a second-round win in the 16s singles competition on Tuesday.
In her playing days, Fernandez owned the tournament, becoming the only player in history to win a singles title in all four age groups (12s, 14s, 16s and 18s).ADVERTISEMENT
“It was really nice because I’m from Miami,” she said, “so it was like playing in my backyard.”
While the prestige of the tournament has not changed since Fernandez won the 18s title in 1985, there have been some new wrinkles. Doubles competition was added in 1993, and the event has moved from the Flamingo Tennis Center in Miami Beach to its current home in Plantation, with an 12-year run at Crandon Park in Key Biscayne in between, from 1999-2010.
New for 2019, on-court coaching is now permitted, under specific rules. Fernandez twice paid a visit to her son as he battled to a 7-6, 6-3 victory.
Though the tournament calendar has changed over the years, Fernandez still sees the Orange Bowl as the pinnacle of the junior game.
“There’s maybe more junior events now than when I played, but I still think this is the one that people really strive for and try to make it to play here.”
Story continues below photo gallery.
US Open finalist Alexandra Yepifanova (pictured at top of page) is one of the favorites to add her name to the star-studded list of former champions, and the Bradenton, Fla., resident started her second Orange Bowl 18s campaign with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over Uruguay’s Guillermina Grant. But the No. 3 seed admits that the spotlight on the Orange Bowl can be a bit “overwhelming.”
“When you’re playing, you’re constantly looking around,” she explained, “because there are so many college coaches, there are so many reps, sponsors, agents who are here and who are looking at everyone. So it’s tough to stay focused. And it’s pretty loud… but you have to get used to it.
“This is like the fifth Slam. It’s such an important tournament for juniors.”
Last year’s girls 16s singles champion, Madison Sieg, returns for the 18s this time. The American had an interesting day on Tuesday, first falling to Puerto Rico’s Lauren Anzalotta Kynoch in singles, then teaming with her conqueror to secure a doubles victory in a match tiebreak.
The two had been spending a lot of time on the practice court recently, and when Sieg’s original partner pulled out, she paired up with Anzalotta Kynoch before the singles draw came out. Still just 16, Sieg will have more chances to compete for the 18s singles title, though her 2019 doubles campaign continues.
“I love this tournament. I love this place,” she beamed. “It was definitely super special to win last year, and it’s super special to be back playing the 18s especially. It’s on another level.
“I just feel like the Orange Bowl name has something special behind it. Every single player internationally wants to be here.”
Among other notable results from the opening round, 18s debutant Dali Blanch secured a comeback win against Roman Andres Burruchaga, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4. After leading by a set and a break, the American No. 16 seed found himself down, 1-4, in the third set before storming back to win the last five games. He gained a measure of revenge on his good friend after the Argentine—whose father, Jorge Burruchaga, scored the World Cup winning goal for Argentina against West Germany in 1986—defeated him at Eddie Herr, erasing a set-and-a-break deficit on that occasion as well.
"I was like, 'I did it once, let's not do it again,' " Blanch said of thwarting this comeback attempt. After picking up a first-round win at the junior French Open in May, the 16-year-old is determined to make the most of his chance at the final Grade A junior event of the year.
“So many great players have played this tournament," Blanch said of the event's history. And as for this year: "All the players that play here are really good... anyone can win it.”
The biggest upset of the first two days came in the 16s draw on Monday, when Gabrielius Guzauskas knocked off top seed and Eddie Herr finalist Marko Andrejic of Austria, 6-1, 6-1. The American backed that up with another straight-sets win Tuesday, and will take the court for Round 3 on Wednesday.
Wednesday will also see the full slate of second-round action in the 18s singles draw, after Round 1 was split across two days.
For complete results, draws, schedule and more, visit the official Orange Bowl website.
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