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Saturday, April 8, 2006

Chekhov and Damico in International Spring Boys' Final; Gullickson and Milevskaya Meet for Girls' Title

©Colette Lewis 2006
Carson CA--

After all the drama at the Home Depot Center on Friday (see post below), the semifinals on Saturday were much more straightforward affairs, none of the four matches extending to three sets.

Russian Pavel Chekhov, the top seed and a finalist in 2005, continued his string of straight set victories with a 7-6 (5), 6-3 win over fifth seeded Clint Bowles. Second seed Kellen Damico overcame a sluggish start to overpower third seed Jamie Hunt 6-4, 6-3.

In girls action, Friday's unseeded miracle workers in the quarterfinals ran out of tricks. Michelle Larcher de Brito, who had come back from down a set and 5-0 Friday fell to fourth seed Kseniya Milevskaya 6-2, 6-2 while Reka Zsilinszka, who saved six match points in her quarterfinal win, went down to third seed Chelsey Gullickson 7-5, 6-1.

The Bollettieri-trained Chekhov ran out to a 3-0, two break lead against Bowles, but the lefthander from Tampa fought back to force a tiebreak. Bowles began to get in a groove while returning Chekhov's big serve and it wasn't until Chekhov nailed a forehand winner at 4 all in the tiebreak and followed it with an ace that he could squeeze through the first set.

"I lost control, my concentration," said Chekhov of his failure to serve out the set at 5-4. "He played the same, the whole set, but it was me who dropped."

In the second set, Chekhov again took a big lead, this time 4-0, and Bowles could not not make another two-break comeback.

Damico was down 3-1 in the first set, perhaps still feeling the effects of the cramping that had been evident in his win over Nate Schnugg Friday afternoon.

"This morning I woke up feeling awful," Damico said. "But Mary Jo and Michelle (the trainers) got me stretched out, thank God. The legs were heavy the first few games."

The vocal and volatile Damico admitted that he needed something beside the training staff to get him going, and it came in the form of a rant at the chair umpire. Unwilling to let the matter drop, he eventually got a code for unsportmanslike conduct, and took control of the match at that point.

"I got down on myself at first, but once I channeled my anger at the ref, I wasn't mad at myself anymore," said Damico. "I needed something to pump me up."

Hunt too acknowledged that the tenor of the match changed after the code violation.

"He used the line calls against him to pump himself up," Hunt said. "It threw me off, got to me psychologically. I knew coming in that it might happen, since we've had so many battles before, but I let it get to me."

Damico, who has played three straight good friends--Drew Daniel, Schnugg and Hunt--the past two days, was ambivalent about his on-court behavior.

"I feel bad, but once I get on the court, I don't know you. On the court I want to kill you."

Damico has revenge in mind for Sunday's final, as it was Chekhov who upset him in the round of 16 at last year's tournament, when the seventeen-year-old from Colorado was the top seed.

"I'm playing at the top of my game, and he's playing at the top of his," said Damico. "It's time to take him out."

The girls final will also feature a rematch, although from a much different surface and place. Chelsey Gullickson and Kseniya Milevskaya of Belarus met in the final of an ITF Grade 2 in Morocco last June, with Milevskaya taking a three set win on the red clay.

Milevskaya, 15, hasn't lost even four games in any set during the week in Carson, and completely dominated thirteen-year-old Larcher de Brito.

"She missed very much today," said Milevskaya, who is training at the Weil Academy in Ojai until she joins the ITF travel team in May. "I think she was tired. I tried to move her side to side and up and down."

"I don't hit as hard as most girls," she said, "Everyone plays hitting balls so hard and when they play me it's not the same." Milevskaya cites her consistency and angles as her prime strengths and she will need them against Gullickson, who overpowered Reka Zsilinszka, another unconventional stylist.

"Reka gets everything back," said Gullickson. "I had to play my game, taking the balls on the rise, not letting her game change the way I play."

In the first set Gullickson was gauging what she needed to do, but once she held in a five deuce game at five-all, she was ready to take control.

"In the second set, I was moving up and not giving her time," Gullickson said.

Zsilinzska agreed. "She was pressuring me and I didn't think I was as consistent as I usually was, but some of that had to do with her."

Milevskaya believes she has the advantage with her previous win, but Gullickson is not so sure.

"My game's made more for hard courts," Gullickson said. "It's going to be tough, but I'm ready."

The doubles finals are set, and for the girls fifth seeds Kristy McVitty and Ashley Weinhold of the U.S. will meet the eighth seeded team of Jade Curtis and Jillian O'Neill of Great Britain. The boys doubles championship will feature fourth seeds Clint Bowles (USA) and David Simon (Austria) against Gastao Elias (Portugal) and Cesar Ramirez (Mexico) who are seeded fifth.

In the 16s age division, Ryan Harrison, the 13th seed, and unseeded Kyle McMorrow, both of the United States, will meet for the boys title. The girls championship match will be between Tanya Raykova of Bulgaria, the sixth seed, and unseeded Kaitlyn Christian of the United States.

For complete results and scores see usta.com.


Kathy K said...

While a player rants at the officials, HE's in charge. He's judging the judges. He's judging their competence and vision, not just their call. Play doesn't continue till HE condescends to allow it by shutting up. That establishes him as the controller of the scene. I always wonder why the other guy doesn't go up to the official and tell him or her that if they don't make that guy shut up and play, he'll do the same thing. Play is continuous.