A HEAD Team Elite member was assured of victory even before the finals were played in three divisions of the ITF Grade 1 Eddie Herr Championships in Bradenton, Florida.
All the finalists in the Boys 14s, Girls 14s and Girls 16s singles competition used HEAD racquets. Representing five different countries, the Team Elite players provided plenty of evidence of the global popularity of the brand.
In the Boys 14s, Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov, the top player in the European Tennis Association’s 14 and under rankings and seeded second in the tournament, defeated surprise finalist Alex Domijan of the United States 6-1, 6-1. Domijan, the 13th seed, had stunned top seed Borut Puc of Slovenia in the semifinals to earn his shot at the championship.
In the Girls 14s, the final was a rematch of the 2004 Junior Orange Bowl 12s, but this time Belgium’s Tamaryn Hendler was the HEAD Team Elite player claiming the championship, with a 6-1, 6-2 decision over unseeded Valeria Solovieva of Russia. Hendler, also unseeded, felt the hard courts (the Junior Orange Bowl girls 12s are played on clay) helped her reverse the outcome this year.
“I just feel more comfy on hard courts,” the 14-year-old Bollettieri Academy student said after the match. “I had a couple of butterflies, but after a few hits I was fine.”
The third HEAD Team Elite champion was 12-year-old Michelle Larcher de Brito of Portugal who defeated unseeded qualifier Nadja Gilchrist of the United States 6-3, 6-4 in the Girls 16s division. De Brito, also unseeded, cruised through the draw, never losing more than four games in any set she played. She was happy to have surpassed Maria Sharapova, who won the Girls 16s Eddie Herr International title in 2000, at the age of 13.
“It means a lot,” de Brito said of her first major junior singles title. “I’ve been working so hard for this, and I’ve got it.”
Again following in Sharapova’s footsteps, de Brito was named the recipient of the Eddie Herr “Rising Star” award, the same honor bestowed upon Sharapova after her championship performance in 2000. De Brito and partner Mallory Cecil also captured the doubles in the 16s.
In boys 18s doubles action, Team Elite member Clay Donato of Canada joined with partner Jesse Levine of the U.S., both hoping to duplicate the doubles title they won at a November Pro Futures circuit event in Canada. But the unseeded Bollettieri students could not pull the upset, falling to the top seeded team of Dusan Lojda and Ryan Sweeting 6-4, 6-4.