Week-long Jr. Orange Bowl tennis championships begin in Coral Gables

Yshai Oliel, a long-haired lefty with big game, made history two years ago when he won the 12-Under title at the Junior Orange Bowl International Tennis Championships, becoming the first Israeli boys champion in tournament history.

It was such big news in Israel that he received a congratulatory phone call from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

This week, as he celebrates Hanukkah in Coral Gables, he will attempt to add the 14s trophy to his collection. Oliel is the top seed at the event, which begins Wednesday at five venues and runs through Dec. 23. More than 1,450 players from 75 nations are competing in Boys and Girls 12s and 14s divisions.

Among the top American boys in the 14s are Keenan Mayo (Roseville, Calif.) and Christian Alshon (Boca Raton), who are No. 1 and No. 2 in the U.S. rankings. Mayo won the USTA National Clay Courts in Fort Lauderdale in July and reached two other finals. Alshon advanced to the National Clay Courts semifinals.

The field also includes the top two South Americans — Sebastian Baez (Argentina) and Joao Reis da Silva (Brazil).

On the girls side, the top seed is Olesya Pervushina of Russia and No. 2 is also Russian, Anastasia Potapova. The leading Americans are Taylor Johnson (Redondo Beach, Calif.) and Caty McNally (Cincinnati), who is only 12, but playing up.

South America’s best hopes are Anastasia Iamachkine (Peru) and Camila Osorio (Colombia). Boca Raton’s Nicole Conard is one of the South Floridians to watch.

In the Boys 12s, contenders include top-ranked Zane Khan (San Antonio) and No. 2 Nicholas Garcia (Hollywood). The Girls 12s are led by No. 1 Alexa Noel (Summit, New Jersey) and No. 2 Naomi Cheong (Las Vegas). Argentina’s Ana Geller, sister of last year’s Boys 14s champion Axel Geller, is also a player to watch.

The Boys 14s are played at UM/Schiff and William H. Kerdyk Biltmore Tennis Center (Boys 14s), Girls 14s at Crandon Park Tennis Center (Girls 14s), Boys 12s at Salvadore Tennis Center (Boys 12s) and Girls 12s at Tropical Park (Girls 12s). UM hosts all semifinals and finals except Boys 12s, which will remain on the clay at Salvadore.


World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship tournament officials pledged $2.5 million over the next 10 years to United Way of Miami-Dade, making the organization the official primary charity of the Cadillac Championship, beginning in 2015.

Tournament officials also announced that nearly $1 million was generated for South Florida charities as a result of the 2014 event. The tournament at Trump National Doral will be held March 4-8.