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Boys star is Argentina's loss and America's gain

Andrea Collarini of the US plays a return

Andrea Collarini of the US plays a return to Agustin Velotti of Argentina during their Boys Final match in the French Open tennis championship. (June 6, 2010) Credit: Getty Images

Andrea Collarini, born in New York, raised in Argentina and now playing for the USA, won his second-round match in boys singles Tuesday, beating Guilherme Clezar of Brazil, 7-6 (1), 6-3.

Collarini, 18, lost in the final of the French Open juniors in June, the only other junior event he has played this year. He is a pro, and has played low-level events during the summer. The USTA gave him a wild card into the boys event here, as you could have expected it to do.

In the spring, Collarini switched allegiances and came to Boca Raton, Fla., to join the USTA elite player development program. The USTA provides Collarini with coaching, housing, training and wild cards into events. He needs the wild cards because he hasn't played enough junior events to get direct entries and is No. 148 in the world. That ranking is misleading, given his talent. He beat the boys No. 1 seed, Juan Sebastien Gomez, in the first round.

The circumstances of his coming to America are the subject of a small contretemps between the USTA development program and the Argentines, with Argentine tennis authorities saying the Americans lured Collarini with money and the Americans saying that Collarini, who has a U.S. passport, approached them first. Collarini has said that the Americans approached him first.

When the USTA hired Jose Higueras as head of elite player development, Higueras recruited an Argentine coach, Diego Moyano, for the U.S. program. Moyano just happened to be Collarini's coach.

"They are my sponsors now," Collarini said in the spring of his involvement with the USTA. The USTA says that Moyano is not exclusively Collarini's coach and was recruited to upgrade the program.

"I asked Diego to come work with us because of his clay- court experience," Higueras said Tuesday. "He said he has someone who he had been working with for six months that was interested in coming to the U.S. And that's how it happened. I understand the curiosity about it, but it was just that."

When asked Tuesday what he thought he would get from the American program after leaving Argentina, Collarini responded: "I have talked about that. Just better for me."

Collarini is a well-rounded, lefthanded player with a good serve and whiplash forehand. Another Argentine lefthander with a big serve and big forehand, Guillermo Vilas, did quite well for himself three decades ago.

Vilas is three times Collarini's age and wouldn't be considered an inspiration. "He played before I was born," Collarini said. "I hit with him at Wimbledon [once]. He is a nice man."

Collarini models his game after Spaniards Rafael Nadal and Fernando Verdasco. His whippy forehand is reminiscent of Nadal's and is plenty potent.

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