©Colette Lewis 2006
Palm Springs, CA--
The temperature in sunny Palm Springs reached the mid-eighties, but the real desert heat was felt on the Riviera Resort's court two where Steve Forman defeated the boys 18s second seed Kellen Damico 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 in second round action Wednesday afternoon.
The match was only a few games old when the first argument occurred and Forman immediately asked the nearest roving umpire to come on court. Damico, known for his frequent emotional outbursts on the court, seemed intent on irritating Forman, directing several disparaging remarks at him during changeovers and across the net. The umpire, who never left the court, had all he could handle, several times instructing both players to stop talking to each other.
The usually placid Forman was not intimidated; instead he was determined to keep his focus.
"I think he was trying to get in my head," said the unseeded seventeen-year-old, who has beaten Damico in several intense battles in their younger years. "I didn't want him to take me out of my rhythm."
Damico rarely gets overpowered on a tennis court, but Forman hit the ball with just as much pace and depth, despite the disparity in their recent tennis experiences. Damico has been playing the Junior Grand Slams and is ranked in the ITF top twenty, while Forman, a finalist in the 16s in Kalamazoo last year, has been competing very little, focusing instead on his academics as a junior in high school.
"I've been training, but not competing much," said Forman, who has recently begun working with fellow Del Mar, California resident Larry Stefanki, coach of such ATP luminaries as Marcelo Rios, Tim Henman and Yevgeny Kafelnikov. "I wasn't sure myself how I would play."
After a long first round victory that went well into Tuesday evening, when he came back from a set down, Forman appeared confident that he could do so again. With Forman up two breaks in the second set, Damico began to show signs of cramping and down 1-4, he left the court with the trainer. When he returned to the court, Damico appeared willing to let the second set go for a chance for a fresh start in the third.
Forman got an early break however, and Damico's usual fire began to wane as Forman continued to blast forehand winners. Damico was not moving with his usual quickness and Forman took control of the match by continuing to retrieve everything Damico tried.
"I have a strategy against him," Forman said after the match. "I just don't want to say what it is."
When the match concluded, Damico went straight to his chair and bag, not offering the traditional post-match handshake.
"That wasn't my choice," Forman said. "If he didn't want to shake my hand, I wasn't going to force him."
Forman faces unseeded Kayvon Karimi in the round of 16 Thursday.
Two fifteen-year-olds have also earned spots in the round of 16. Rhyne Williams, the 2005 Junior Orange Bowl Champion, took out Bradley Mixson, also unseeded, 0-6, 6-4, 6-4 while Brad Klahn defeated 13th seed Tyler Hochwalt 7-5, 6-4. Jeff Dadamo won his match with 12th seed Mateusz Kecki 6-3, 7-5 in the only other upset in boys 18s.
The highest seed to fall in the girls 18s was eighth seed Chloe Jones, who fell to Hilary Barte 6-4, 6-2. After the year unseeded Reka Zsilinszka has had, it is difficult to call any victory of hers an upset, but technically her 6-3, 6-0 drubbing of 16th seed Gail Brodsky qualifies as one. Zsilinszka next meets another unseeded player, Logan Hansen, who followed up her win over second seed Chelsey Gullickson with a 6-1, 7-6 (5) decision over Alexa Guarachi.
The ITF event results and draws can be found here, the boys 16s event here, and the girls 16s & 14s and the boys 14s, which began on Wednesday, here.