Saturday, December 13, 2014

Riffice completes rare double; Bellis upset

Sam Riffice and one of his coaches, Amine Khaldi
of the Gold River Racquet Club in the Sacramento
area, relax after a tough workout. File photo
courtesy of Amine Khaldi
   Today was bittersweet for Northern California in the Orange Bowl.
   Sam Riffice of Roseville in the Sacramento region completed a rare double in the boys 16s, but CiCi Bellis of Atherton in the San Francisco Bay Area was upset in the girls 18s. Both players are 15.
   Riffice, seeded second, rallied to beat 10th-seeded Mattias Siimar of Estonia 6-1, 1-6, 7-5 to win the clay-court tournament in Plantation, Fla. Riffice, who trains at the USTA center in Boca Raton, Fla., won the last three games.
   Riffice also won last week's Eddie Herr International Championships on hardcourts in Bradenton, Fla. He joins Grigor Dimitrov, the 11th-ranked man in the world after reaching a career-high No. 8 in August, as the only players to sweep the boys 16 titles in the prestigious tournaments.
   “This means everything to me,” Riffice said on “These are definitely two of the biggest tournaments of the year. The whole year I trained to do well here, and to be able to win both of them is incredible.”
   Here's a link to my August profile of Riffice and his Roseville neighbors, brothers Keenan and Aidan Mayo:
   Bellis, also seeded second, lost to 13th-seeded Sofia Kenin of Pembroke Pines, Fla., 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals. Bellis became a national sensation in August by stunning Dominika Cibulkova, the Australian Open runner-up in January, in the first round of women's singles in the U.S. Open.
   Kenin, who turned 16 last month, captured the Eddie Herr doubles title with Jessica Ho of Wexford, Pa., last week. Kenin also qualified for the $75,000 Albuquerque Challenger in September in singles, beating veteran pro Maria Sanchez from Modesto, before falling in the first round to 34-year-old Petra Rampre.     
   Kenin will meet qualifier Ingrid Neel of Rochester, Minn., for the title. Neel outlasted unseeded Monika Kilnarova of the Czech Republic 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
   Second-seeded Stefan Kozlov, 16, of Pembroke Pines reached the boys 18 final for the second consecutive year, beating unseeded Reilly Opelka of Palm Coast, Fla., 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.
   Opelka, 6-foot-10 (2.08 meters), won the Eddie Herr title last week. Kozlov did not play.
   Kozlov, who turned pro two years ago, broke through on the men's tour by reaching the final of the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger in October.
   He will face unseeded Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece today for the title. Tsitsipas stunned Russia's Andrey Rublev, the top-ranked junior in the world, 6-4, 7-5. Kozlov lost to fellow American Francis Tiafoe in last year's final. Although Tiafoe is only 16, he did not return this year.
   Bellis salvaged her day by advancing to the girls 18 doubles final with Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic. The top seeds, who reached the French Open girls doubles final in June, stopped third-seeded Usue Arconada of Puerto Rico and Fanni Stollar of Hungary 6-3, 6-4.
   Bellis and Vondrousova will play seventh-seeded Miriam Kolodziejova of the Czech Republic and Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia.
   The Orange Bowl is the most prestigious non-Grand Slam junior tournament in the world.
   Past Orange Bowl champions on clay include Chris Evert (1969-70), Bjorn Borg (1972), John McEnroe (1976), Ivan Lendl (1977), Gabriela Sabatini (1984), Mary Joe Fernandez (1985), Jim Courier (1987) and Anna Kournikova (1995).
   Former winners on hard courts include Roger Federer (1998), Elena Dementieva (1998), Andy Roddick (1999), Vera Zvonareva (2000-01), Marcos Baghdatis (2003), Nicole Vaidisova (2003) and Caroline Wozniacki (2005). 
    The Junior Orange Bowl, for boys and girls 14s and 12s, is scheduled for Wednesday through Dec. 23 at various sites in the Miami area.

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