Two Aussie boys advance to quarterfinals on Australia Day; Damico, Schnugg and Kecki still alive in doubles competition ~~~
©Colette Lewis 2006
Both U.S. girls remaining in the Australian Junior Open lost their third round matches, but the local tennis fans definitely had something to cheer about Thursday at a warm and windy Melbourne Park.
January 26th is a national holiday in Australia, a mid-summer celebration of the discovery of the country by Captain Cook, and with no Australian players left in the main event, the tennis fans' attention turned to the juniors, where they were not disappointed.
Nick Lindahl defeated fellow Australian wild card Yan Levinski 7-5, 6-4 on Show Court 3, while Ryan Bellamy, also a wild card, upset 11th seed Sho Aida of Japan 6-4, 7-5, leaving the bottom half of the draw with a lone seed--Luka Belic of Croatia (13). Belic cruised to a 6-2, 6-2 win over unseeded Grzegorz Panfil of Poland. Unseeded Austen Childs of New Zealand eliminated the highest remaining seed in the draw, number three Sanam Singh of India, by a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 score and will face Lindahl in the quarterfinals on Friday.
Lindahl's second round win over fifth seed Kellen Damico of the U.S. on Tuesday saw both leave the court in a wheelchair, and even with a day off on Wednesday, Lindahl, 17, said he was still feeling the effects of that illness.
"I'm tired and sluggish," said the seventeen-year-old from New South Wales, who has recently moved to Melbourne to continue his development at the National Academy here.
Damico has had no problems with his recovery, although he did scrap his knee badly making what he called a "prayer" in he and partner Nate Schnugg's 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 victory over second seeds Kevin Botti of France and Stephen Donald of Australia.
After the first two sets were decided by a single break, the third opened with Damico dropping his serve and Donald following suit. With Schnugg serving at 30-40, it looked like there would be a third straight break when Donald lofted a near perfect lob over Damico.
"I just made a dead sprint back," said Damico. "I wanted to loft it into the wind, but I really didn't have much control over it, and then I fell."
His effort and subsequent tumble put him in no position to see the ball float to the far back corner for the winner, and he had to ask Schnugg if it was good, the pain from the fall forgotten when Schnugg answered yes.
In the very next game, Schnugg made an incredible reflex volley to gain a 15-40 lead and a demoralized Botti and Donald couldn't stanch the momentum that the long-time partners gained from the subsequent break.
Asked if they considered their victory an upset, as they were the lower seeds (6), Schnugg spoke with confidence.
"I feel like every match, every tournament we go into we should win," Schnugg said.
"And the last four tournaments, we've gotten to the semis at Yucatan, the finals at Casablanca...last week we got to the semifinals and we're in the semis here," Schnugg said, recounting their results from the post-Christmas Grade A's and Grade 1's.
Schnugg and Damico will play the unseeded team of Kei Nishikori of Japan and Peter Polansky of Canada in one of Friday's semifinals.
The only other U.S. competitor remaining in the Australian Juniors is Mateusz Kecki, who, with partner Bassam Beidas of Lebanon, advanced to the semifinals by virtue of a 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 victory over the Croatian team of Antonio Sancic and Nikola Mektic. Unlike Damico and Schnugg, who have played together during their entire ITF careers, Kecki, who turned 16 yesterday, had not played with Beidas until last week's Nottinghill event. "I was looking for a partner down here and Leo Rosenberg knew him," Kecki said. "We had a tough draw last week, losing to de Bakker and Sidorenko in the first round, but we're getting to know each other's games now."
Due to the extreme heat, with temperatures again near 100 degrees, not all junior doubles matches were completed on Thursday, so Beidas and Kecki are still awaiting their opponents.
Chelsey Gullickson and qualifier Kimberly Couts, the last U.S. girls of the ten who began in singles on Monday were eliminated; Gullickson dropped a 6-4, 6-4 decision to Raluca Olaru of Romania, while Couts fell to redhot Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, the eighth seed, 7-6 (3), 6-4.
Couts and Pavlyuchenkova struggled with the windy conditions and neither could establish a rhythm from the backcourt, where both prefer to stay. Although the first set was close, it was not pretty, as between them Couts and Pavlyuchenkova made 46 unforced errors and produced only 16 winners.
Gullickson also had difficulties playing the kind of tennis that resulted in a straight set win over 15th seed Alize Cornet of France on Tuesday. Facing the second seeded Olaru for the first time, she knew she needed her best form.
"I wish I could have played better," said Gullickson, 15. "I wish my first serve had been better. But she played the conditions well, she deserved it."
Olaru acknowledged that she needed all her experience to overcome Gullickson.
"I was very concentrated all match. I knew she played good and I had to take advantage of any chance I got," said the sixteen-year-old from Bucharest. "It was very windy and hot but I'm starting to get used to it because in the U.S., it's the same. But I was so concentrating that I didn't even notice it."
The girls draw has gone as expected with seventh seed Sorana Cirstea the only top eight seed failing to make the quarterfinals. And 12th seed Tamira Pazek of Austria, a Wimbledon Junior finalist in 2005, can hardly be considered a surprise quarterfinalist. Her 6-1, 6-1 pounding Wednesday of Cirstea, her doubles partner, was remarkable only for its thoroughness.
Storms are expected throughout the next two days, and with tournament officials still scrambling to reschedule all the matches delayed by the heat, there is as yet no timetable for Friday's matches.
Click here for official draws from the Australian Open website.
For additional photos of the U.S. boys playing in Australia, see ustaboys.com throughout the tournament.