By Joshua Rey, special to USTA.com
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – After stumbling in last year’s semifinals, Americans Catherine Harrison and John Harrison Richmond started the 2010 event strongly Sunday with first-round wins at the Biltmore Tennis Center.
Harrison (Germantown, Tenn.) bashed her two-handed groundstrokes to beat Daniela Schippers of Guatemala 6-2, 6-1 in a Girls’ 16s first-round match. It was a welcome win for Harrison, who let a 6-2, 5-2 lead slip away against Kelsey Laurente in the 2009 semifinals.
"I have a lot of motivation," said Harrison. "I probably should have won that match, but I have a ton more confidence knowing that I’m 10 times better than I was last year, when I made it to the semis."
Harrison had to qualify to gain entry into last year’s Orange Bowl – her stamina finally failing her just a few points from the final. A fitter and focused Harrison never wavered against Schippers, crushing cross-court winners at will and rushing the net often.
Among the spectators watching Harrison’s every shot were college coaches from Michigan, Virginia, Baylor and Northwestern.
"Thankfully, the sun was going at an angle where you couldn’t really see everybody in the back," said Harrison. "I could hear them, so I knew there were quite a few people there. But it doesn’t really bother me."
When her strings broke on match point, Harrison worked her way to the net and secured her spot in the second round with a forehand volley winner. It was not just a desperation play, but something she’s been practicing with coach Damien Spizzo.
"I’ve been working on coming to the net a lot more, and my second serve," said Harrison. "Usually, my first serve is really good when I can rely on a good second serve. Today, I think I only had one double fault."
If Harrison has improved her variety in the last 12 months, Richmond has stepped up his fitness training. With 20 more pounds of muscle mass, Richmond (Pawleys Island, S.C.) opened his Boys’ 16s singles campaign with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 win over Johan Skattum of Norway.
"I definitely want to do better," said Richmond. "It’s never fun when you play the same tournament and you don’t do as well the second time."
In the first set, Richmond misfired repeatedly with his groundstrokes, conceding the set in the 12th game with two forehand and two backhand errors.
"The court’s really fast and I was not used to it," said Richmond, who two years ago won Junior Orange Bowl Boys’ 14s title. "I was hitting everything late, so I tried to rush and I was not in rhythm at all. I tried to slow things down in the second set because I was everywhere – in the net and long."
Squared away at 3-3 in the second set, Richmond broke Skattum’s serve, and then held for 5-3 after saving a pair of break points. The Norway native never recovered, dropping nine of the last 10 games.
Joining Richmond in the second round are countrymen Mackenzie McDonald and Ryan Smith, who pulled off a pair of upsets.
McDonald (Piedmont, Calif.) steamrolled second seed Vladimir Polyakov of Russia 6-1, 6-1, while Smith (Weston, Fla.) knocked out fourth-seeded Frenchman Julien Delaplane 7-5, 5-7, 6-3.
Smith, a wild card entry without an ITF junior ranking, was cheered on by friends and family as he served out the match with two aces, a service winner and an inside-out forehand past Delaplane.
The last two sets saw just two service breaks as little separated Smith and Delaplane.
"Just the big points," said Smith. "When I could make one more ball than him, I think I was a little bit more consistent."
Also advancing Sunday was Samuel Monette of Canada, who took out fellow lefty and No. 6 seed Trey Strobel (Bradenton, Fla.) 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.
"Righties usually say that they don’t like to play lefties because it’s different, but for us, it’s the same thing," said Monette. "We’re not used to playing lefties. It’s basically like a righty playing a righty: a lot of inside-out forehands to the backhand."
One month shy of his 17th birthday, the big-hitting Monette took advantage of new balls in the third set to overpower Strobel. He clinched the match with a clean ace out wide.
"Late in the second set, he was getting a rhythm because my balls were coming slower," said Monette. "But in the third set I took the balls earlier, and because they were new, that helped me a lot."
Silvia Garcia Jimenez pulled off the biggest upset in the girls’ draw, defeating the reigning USTA Girls’ 16s National Champion. The Spaniard eliminated No. 7 seed Kyle McPhillips 6-1, 1-6, 6-3 in a match that featured a memorable rally late in the third set.
With Jimenez holding a break point and a 4-3 lead, McPhillips (Willoughby, Ohio) saved herself momentarily by retrieving a ball deep in her backhand corner. That started an extended exchange of crosscourt forehands that ended when Jimenez found a short angle that McPhillips did not have an answer for.
Though Jimenez and McPhillips claimed the longest rally of opening day, American wild card Josie Kuhlman and No. 12 seed Anna Maria Heil of Austria played the longest match: two hours and 58 minutes.
Kuhlman (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.) saved a match point with Heil serving at 5-3 in the third set. But in the final-set tiebreak, the American was undone by errors, falling 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(1).
"She was always hitting high balls in the match," said Heil. "It was difficult and I wasn’t sure if I should move to the ball or away from it. But in the tiebreak, she made a few more mistakes."
On Monday, Boys’ and Girls’ 16s action continues at the Biltmore Tennis Center, while the Boys’ and Girls’ 18s events begin at the Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne.
Admission to the 2010 Dunlop Orange Bowl is free.
64th Dunlop Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships
Biltmore Tennis Center
Coral Gables, Fla.
December 5-12, 2010
Girls’ 16s Singles – First Round
 Anna Maria Heil (Austria) d. [WC] Josie Kuhlman (Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.) 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(1)
 Zuzanna Maciejewska (Poland) d. Suzanna Grigoryan (Russia) 6-2, 6-3
Kristina Chasovskikh (Russia) d. [WC] Katrine Isabel Steffensen (Scarsdale, N.Y.) 6-3, 6-1
Catherine Harrison (Germantown, Tenn.) d. Daniela Schippers (Guatemala) 6-2, 6-1
Clementina Eugenia Riobueno de Paola (Venezuela) d. Tracy Dong (Canada) 6-1, 6-3
 Alanna Wolff (Boca Raton, Fla.) d. Sofia Araujo (Portugal) 7-5, 6-3
Silvia Garcia Jimenez (Spain) d.  Kyle McPhillips (Willoughby, Ohio) 6-1, 1-6, 6-3
Emma Onila (Canada) d. Valeria Salazar (Mexico) 6-4, 6-1
Johnnise Renaud (North Miami, Fla.) d. Marina Albert (Egypt) 6-4, 6-0
[SE] Estelle Cascino (France) d.  Dhanielly Quevedo (Pompano Beach, Fla.) 7-6(5), 6-1
 Ximena Jenniffer Siles Luna Violeta (Peru) d. [WC] Yuki Kristina Chiang (Ojai, Calif.) 5-7, 6-4, 6-2
Alejandra Cisneros (Mexico) d. [SE] Riko Shimizu (Ojai, Calif.) 6-2, 6-4
Boys’ 16s Singles – First Round
Samuel Monette (Canada) d.  Trey Strobel (Bradenton, Fla.) 6-4, 4-6, 6-1
[WC] Alex Van Cott (Unadilla, N.Y.) d. Mateus Brisot Silva (Brazil) 7-6(3), 6-3
Pedro Pablo Ruiz (Colombia) d. Martin Trapero (Ecuador) 6-3, 6-2
 Diogo Rocha (Portugal) d. [SE] Lucas Gomez (Mexico) 6-3, 5-7, 6-2
Hugo di Feo (Canada) d. [WC] Konrad Zieba (Glenview, Ill.) 7-5, 6-1
 Vasco Mensurado (Portugal) d. Markus Ahne (Austria) 6-4, 6-4
Luciano Ramazzini (Guatemala) d.  Lukas Mugevicius (Lithuania) 6-3, 7-6(7)
Harrison Adams (New Braunfels, Texas) d. Guilherme Hadlich (Brazil) 7-5, 6-3
[WC] Ryan Smith (Weston, Fla.) d.  Julien Delaplane (France) 7-5, 5-7, 6-3
 Laurent Lokoli (France) d. Ricky Medinilla (Mexico) 6-3, 6-0
Ronnie Schneider (Bloomington, Ind.) d. Adrian de Silva (Trinidad & Tobago) 6-1, 6-1
 John Harrison Richmond (Pawleys Island, S.C.) d. Johan Skattum (Norway) 5-7, 6-3, 6-1
Mackenzie McDonald (Piedmont, Calif.) d.  Vladimir Polyakov (Russia) 6-1, 6-1