Thomas sets up semifinal showdown with world No. 1 Kecmanovic

December 10, 2016 07:18 AM

By Pat Mitsch, special to

PLANTATION, FLA. – Danny Thomas seems ready for a challenge, which is good for him, because he’s going to get one.

The 17-year-old from Pickerington, Ohio, used his forehand and an aggressive, attacking style to dispatch fourth-seeded Yuta Shimizu of Japan, 6-1, 7-6 (4), in the Metropolia Orange Bowl Boys’ 18s quarterfinals on Friday at the Frank Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation, Fla.

His reward is a semifinal date with Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic, the world’s top-ranked junior and the reigning Orange Bowl Boys’ 18s champion.

Kecmanovic is coming off winning the Eddie Herr Boys’ 18s title last week in Bradenton, Fla., and hasn’t dropped a set this week. He had only lost five games total before his 6-2, 7-5 win over German Rudolf Molleker in Friday’s quarterfinals.

Thomas (pictured above), though, won’t shy away from the challenge and doesn’t plan to change what’s been working for him all week – the go-for-it forehand and the aggressive, attacking approach, cultivated in the year-plus since Thomas began  working with coach David Kass in Columbus.

“I feel like I play my best tennis when I’m playing guys who are better players, especially (since) he’s the No. 1 player in the world. I’m really excited about that,” Thomas said. “He’s done a lot, and I feel like it’ll be a really good opportunity to see where I stand amongst the other top guys.”

Whitney Osuigwe will get a similar test in the Girls’ 18s semifinals, though that she made it this far is perhaps remarkable enough.

Osuigwe – a 14-year-old wild card from Bradenton, Fla. – beat Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk, 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, on Friday, using a developing strategy of hitting shots from a variety of angles.

Osuigwe – who fended off five total match points in her second- and third-round wins here – will play Slovenian Kaja Juvan, the 16-year-old No. 9 seed on Saturday, not that the age or ranking disparity matters much to the IMG Academy trainee.

“They have more of the pressure than I do,” she said. “I just go there and fight.”

It’s unclear who will be under more pressure in Saturday’s all-American Girls’ 16s singles final, though it certainly projects to be competitive.

Katie Volynets, a diminutive 14-year-old from Walnut Creek, Calif., will meet 14-year-old Imani Graham of Saint Johns, Fla. – a contrast in styles between the 5-foot-4 Volynets and the 5-foot-11 Graham.

Volynets, the No. 2-ranked player in the USTA Girls’ 16s national standings and former USTA Girls’ 12s and 14s national hard court champion, used superior tactics, strategy and execution to overcome American Angelica Blake (Boca Raton, Fla.), 6-2, 6-3, on Friday.

“I just keep thinking about my goals and what I really want to do with my tennis,” said Volynets, who aspires for a professional career on tour. “That helps me stay focused and not get tired.”

Graham admittedly struggled to focus in the second set of her 6-1, 7-6 (4) win over Austrian Arabella Koller.

”The first set I was playing my game, and then the second, I was like, ‘Wow, I can actually make it to the finals of the Orange Bowl,’” said Graham, who trains in Mesa, Ariz., with Adam Altschuler, coach of Bethanie Mattek-Sands. “I started thinking about it way too much. I got kind of lucky at the end, I have to admit.”

American Steven Sun – who grew up in Glen Cove, N.Y., but now lives in Boca Raton and trains with coach Andres Pedroso – will play in the Boys’ 16s singles final against 10th-seeded Vikash Singh of India.

“Hopefully I’ll just try my best and see what happens,” Sun said. “It’s been working so far.”

In the Boys’ 16s doubles final, the second-seeded team of Yeongseok Jeon of Korea, and William Woodall (Washington, D.C.) defeated Christian Alshon (Boca Raton, Fla.) and Boris Kozlov (Pembroke Pines, Fla.), 2-6, 6-1 [10-5].

In the Girls’ 16s doubles final, Estonian Saara Orav and Italian Isazellba Tcherkes Zade beat Anna Brylin (Short Hills, N.J.) and Amber O’Dell (New Milford, N.J.), 7-6 (1), 6-3.

(Photo credit: Rob Foldy)