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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

De Bakker's Win Streak Ends; Lajola's Loss Leaves U.S. Without a Singles Quarterfinalist in Boys Tournament

De Bakker's Win Streak Ends; Lajola's Loss Leaves U.S. Without a Singles Quarterfinalist in Boys Tournament ~~~
©Colette Lewis 2006

Top seed Thiemo de Bakker's string of victories ended at 20, as Russian Pavel Chekhov stunned the world's third ranked player 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 in the third round of the Australian Junior Open.

The atmosphere was strangely quiet on the remote court 13, and even when de Bakker lost his serve in the third set's first game, few spectators gathered to see if the tournament's prohibitive favorite would recover. And the blazing sun and a determined opponent did little to assist de Bakker's quest to win his fourth tournament of the year.

Calling a trainer at in the third game and then again at the changeover trailing 2-3, de Bakker was unable to gain any advantage from the treatments he received.

"I was cramping," said the seventeen-year-old from the Netherlands. "It was hot and there were long rallies."

Chekhov, who lives in Moscow but trains at IMG/Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton, did not let the delays affect his play, winning both games immediately following the medical timeouts. During the second delay, Chekhov used the timeout to hang his sweat-soaked shirts on the fencepost to dry. The 16th seed credited his concentration for getting him through the tight spots in the third set, when de Bakker was threatening to even the match.

Serving at 3-2 in the third set, Chekhov faced two break points but used his big serve and forehand to extricate himself from trouble. Despite getting less than 40% of his first serves in, Chekhov still kept de Bakker on his heels.

"It's a good first serve," said de Bakker, "and his second serve is tough as well."

And it was on his own serve that the cramping came into play most for de Bakker; with that weapon dulled and the accumulated fatigue of three tournament wins in Mexico, Costa Rico and Australia weighing him down, he succumbed when serving down 3-5 -- Chekhov executing a perfect lob and forcing a forehand error to complete the upset.

"I played a good match," Chekhov said. "He's a good player. He's playing well right now. I think he's just tired."

Chekhov will now face unseeded Jaak Poldma of Estonia, who has raced through his first three opponents in straight sets, including his opponent Wednesday, Dennis Lajola of the U.S. Poldma came out with his forehand blazing to take a 6-3, 6-3 win and even he was surprised by his quick start.

"I hit about five winners the first two games," said the seventeen-year-old righthander. "I got overconfident, and then I had to change everything. He moves well and is consistent from both sides, so I just sliced to his forehand, so he wouldn't have any pace."

Lajola agreed that Poldma's change of tactics caught him offguard.

"At the start, once the ball went to his forehand, the point was over, so I just went cross court, cross court," Lajola said. But after Lajola took a 3-2 30-0 lead in the first set, Poldma took control. "He started slicing on the forehand and I got rattled I guess," admitted the sixteen-year-old from Hawaii.

Lajola had opportunities in the second set, but Poldma won each key point, including a drop shot winner to end the match.

"I was very lucky the last two points--I got good calls on those two," Poldma said with a grin.

Lajola's day improved when he and partner Christian Vitulli of Kenya thrashed the third seeded doubles team of Luka Belic and Antonio Veic of Croatia, 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the Thursday's quarterfinals.

Kellen Damico and Nate Schnugg, seeded sixth, also have reached the quarterfinals, with a 7-6 (2), 6-1 win over Greg Jones and Brydan Klein of Australia. The fourth U.S. player still in the doubles draw is Mateusz Kecki, who with partner Bassam Beidas of Lebanon, took a second consecutive straight set win. Beidas and Kecki upset the fourth seeded team of an undoubtedly tired Chekhov and partner Valeri Rudnev 7-5, 6-4.

Jamie Hunt and his partner Ivan Sergeyev of the Ukraine were one of five seeded doubles teams losing Wednesday. Hunt and Sergeyev, seeded fifth, fell to the Croatian team of Nikola Mektic and Antonio Sancic 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

The only girls doubles team remaining featuring U.S. players, Madison Brengle and Kristy Frilling, lost a hard-fought battle with the top seeded team of Raluca Olaru (Romania) and Amina Rakhim (Kazakhstan) 7-5, 1-6, 6-1.

The bottom half of the singles draw plays on Thursday, with Chelsey Gullickson and qualifier Kimberly Couts the remaining hopes for a U.S. player in the singles quarterfinals on Friday.


Anonymous said...

Australian Open .. another exhibition of the poor quality tennis America is producing. The USTA, over $2 billion in revenues, cannot produce a good player to compete on the world's circuit, begining with juniors.

What's your views Zoo Tennis?

Anonymous said...

Ditto! The USTA isn't getting the job done. But here's the thing...the USTA shouldn't be in the business of developing players. They're not good at it. Considering their track record, would you turn your son, daughter or player over to the USTA to be developed??? The USTA should be facilitating [emphasis] the development of players. That means providing money on a consistent basis for coaching, training, and tournament travel. Prospects don't develop without high-level coaching AND a daily competitive training environment where the kids push each other. The biggest junior development failing of the USTA has been their inability to get the best juniors together to train on a consistent basis. It's a complicated subject made so by the bureaucracy of the USTA and the fragmented nature of tennis.

Colette Lewis said...

I wouldn't make too much of this one tournament. At last year's Wimbledon, the U.S. boys made up a full half of the quarterfinalists.
Although their track record is spotty, the USTA is realistic about what they can do, and the budget that is allotted High Performance by the USTA is miniscule. And In general they don't want to develop players; that is best left to personal coaches and parents, but they can assist in providing funds for coaching and travel.
It's a subject that is complicated, as the above comment says, but I'll continue to learn what I can about it, and make suggestions on how the process can be improved.