Kecmanovic, Carle Claim Eddie Herr ITF Titles; Volynets Wins 16s, Pielet and Khan Capture 14s Championships
by Colette Lewis
, 9 December 2016
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After a week of excellent weather and hundreds of matches played across the sprawling IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, the Eddie Herr International Championships concluded Sunday with the crowning of eight singles champions in four age divisions.
The ITF Grade 1 finals always draw the biggest crowds on the tournament's final day, and even without an American in either championship match, that held true again this year.
The girls final between 16-year-olds Maria Carle of Argentina and Varvara Gracheva of Russia delivered the drama with Carle coming back for a 2-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory.
Carle, the No. 12 seed, and Gracheva, the No. 6 seed, took advantage of the many early upsets to advance through the draw. Top seed Xiyu Wang of China went out in the second round, as did No. 2 seed Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, while No. 3 seed Ellie Douglas and No. 4 seed Jodie Burrage of Great Britain exited in the quarterfinals.
In the final, Carle needed time to adapt to Gracheva's power, but just as she had done in her 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 semifinal win over Carson Branstine, Carle made the adjustment, although just barely in time, as Gracheva led 4-2 in the second set.
"It was the same match, I think," Carle said, comparing the final to Saturday's match. "This match was more hard for me, because I am one set to love and 4-2 down, and well, I think I have lost the match. But I say, ok, I will try. Play more hard, use my slice, and that was the key for the match today."
Carle ended a series of four consecutive breaks by holding for 4-4 in the second, and she broke an error-prone Gracheva to take a 6-5 lead. Gracheva had made few errors in her 6-2, 6-2 semifinal win over unseeded Irina Cantos Siemers of Germany, but many of Gracheva's shots in the late stages of the final's second set found the tape, and Carle held in the last game to take the set.
Gracheva dropped her serve in the opening game of the third set, failing to convert on four game points, but Carle was unable to capitalize, losing the next game. Another break of serve gave Carle a 2-1 lead, and this time she consolidated it. Carle got her fourth straight break of the Gracheva serve for a 4-1 lead, but Gracheva again closed the gap when she broke and held for 4-3. Carle sensed how important her next hold was, and when she got it, at 40-30, she let out a loud vamos, an emotional reaction that had the large group of spectators surrounding the court chuckling at its intensity.
Gracheva had two game points to force Carle to serve for the match, but she made two unforced errors and after a nifty crosscourt forehand pass from Carle, Gracheva faced a match point. Again her shot caught the tape, this time going over but landing well wide, giving Carle her first ITF Grade 1 title and her first title at any level this year.
Carle, who won the Orange Bowl 16s title last year, was reluctant to compare the two titles.
"It's the same for me, the same victory," said Carle, who trains at the club in Tandil where Juan Martin del Potro learned to play tennis. "Orange Bowl transmits for me a lot of confidence for the year, and I think that this tournament was the same as the Orange Bowl for me. An incredible moment and an amazing week. I want to thank the Eddie Herr tournament for giving me confidence and happiness."
Gracheva acknowledged that Carle's game style was the source of much of her inability to execute in the final stages of the second set and most of the third.
"It's difficult for me to win with a person who is just running and pushing," said Gracheva, who trains with former WTA Top 100 player Nina Bratchikova in Germany. "My strong shots were making no sense, and then I missed. It's a talent, a real talent, because she runs faster than my balls, I don't know how. And the slice, the slice is always difficult."