Timothy Neilly Wins 2004 Orange Bowl All-American Final
But it was a phone call that Neilly made three weeks earlier, after his first round loss at the Eddie Herr tournament in Bradenton that led him to the biggest victory of his junior tennis career.
?After that loss I was thinking totally negative, and I just decided I needed a new direction, so I gave Tarik (Benhabiles) a call,? said the 17 year old, originally from the Bahamas and now living in Miami.
?He said, ?buddy, come on down and let?s start working together, get some direction going in your game.?
Benhabiles, who coached Andy Roddick during his transition from juniors to the top of the men?s game, found in Neilly a willing student.
?He listens, which is important. Not all juniors are willing to take advice, ? said Benhabiles, who is now coaching in the Miami Beach area. ?He needed direction, some confidence, a way to use his weapons.?
In addition to his new partnership with Benhabiles, Neilly also recently became acquainted with Courier in conjunction with a documentary the four-time grand slam singles champion is producing about the US junior boys and their road to the National Championships in Kalamazoo.
Filming began this week, and Neilly and his family were frequently seen with microphones and cameras following them around the Crandon Park Tennis Center.
?It hasn?t been a problem, ? said Neilly of the film crew. ?I know what I have to do, how to focus on my tennis and to concentrate. And any kind of advice or affiliation you can have with Jim is just amazing.?
Neilly?s opponent, Donald Young, the 2003 16s Orange Bowl champion, also had his own connection with Courier in Sunday?s final. The 15-year-old prodigy, seeded fifth, was attempting to become the first player since Courier in 1986 and 1987 to win consecutive 16s and 18s Orange Bowl singles titles. But Neilly, seeded 11th, did not lose a set in the tournament, and brought a lethal weapon to the court-his forehand. He used his pace and an occasional deft drop shot to shorten points, thereby neutralizing Young?s primary strengths- court coverage and creativity.
After the match, Young was downcast about his play. ?He played well, but I just didn?t. At 5-4 (in the first set) I had the worst return game ever?didn?t get a single return in play.?
Though Young was disappointed, the large and appreciative crowd watching the final demonstrated the impact he has had on the junior game. And with three more opportunities to win the Orange Bowl, most expect to see him holding the Waterford crystal bowl of Florida oranges that Neilly captured Sunday.
In the girls 18 singles, Jessica Kirkland of Dayton Ohio beat Alla Kudryavtseva of Russia 6-3, 6-2 to become the first American winner since 1989. And with Neilly?s win, it is the first sweep of the 18 singles by Americans since 1974.
Argentina pulled off a similar sweep in the 16s singles with Emiliano Massa defeating Kellen Damico of Parker Colorado, 6-2, 6-0, and Florencia Molinero downing Stephanie Herz of the Netherlands 7-6 (7), 6-2.
Source: Colette Lewis (Tournament Office)