©Colette Lewis 2006
Thursday evening is the Sweet 16 dinner at the Congressional Country Club, where all 32 of Wednesday's singles winners are invited to celebrate their success in the tournament by dining at the exclusive club. It's a boys-only event--no coaches, no parents-- designed to increase the camaraderie among the players. Long pants are de rigueur, so on Wednesday evening there is a run on preppy khakis at the Old Navy and TJ Maxx stores in the vicinity, because, as one parent said to me, it would be "presumptuous" to pack them.
With 64 of the best juniors in the country on the courts at Woodmont Country Club today, I wasn't able to see more than a few matches in their entirety, but in honor of the dinner, and as a change of pace from my normal match reporting, I thought I'd list 16 things I learned Thursday at the Clays.
1. Top seeds are an endangered species in the 18s. With Attila Bucko (2) and Wil Spencer (4) losing today, top seed Marcus Fugate is the only player seeded above 9 still in the main draw.
2. Brennan Boyajian, the top seed in the 16s, is picking up right where he left off after his Easter Bowl win three months ago. His routine 6-3, 6-2 dissection of Ryan Harrison, which gave him his fourth consecutive straight-set win, was more evidence that his game, although subtle, is brilliant nonetheless.
3. Davey Sandgren caught a scheduling break. With an 8 o'clock match time, Sandgren and opponent Ryan Thacher avoided the heat of midday. Sandgren, who won in three sets, said he was going to do nothing the rest of the day but practice his first serve, which he joked went in about 5% of the time Thursday. Sandgren will undoubtedly be fresher than his opponent--Jarmere Jenkins, who played until 5 p.m.
4. The serve may not earn as many free points on clay as it does on grass and hard courts, but it can still make a difference. Matt Brewer, the 9th seed who upset Wil Spencer, wasn't broken until the second set, and his serve was a weapon, not a liability, as it often was for Spencer.
5. Jarmere Jenkins is an iron man. For the fourth straight day, in the daunting heat and humidity, the unseeded 15-year-old from Georgia won a marathon match, beating Roy Kalmanovich 6-7, 6-3, 7-5.
6. Roy Kalmanovich has a fearsome forehand and isn't afraid to use it. Jenkins had six match points with Kalamanovich serving at 5-6, but for the first five, Kalmanovich hit either a service winner or a forehand winner, and never seemed tempted to play it safe.
7. If a player is injured, the heat, the long points and the mental demands of clay won't give him a chance to play through it. Attila Bucko was suffering from back and shoulder problems and wasn't able to play with the same verve he showed in reaching the 2005 final, losing ninth seed Michael Venus in straight sets.
8. Jason McNaughton is one vocal tennis player. In his three set win over Erik Corace, also unseeded, McNaughton could be heard bellowing and howling in the main seating area four courts away.
9. Jeff Dadamo supposedly hates clay, but the 17-year-old Floridian may be changing his mind. The 17th seeded lefty hasn't lost a set in the tournament and took out five seed Reid Carleton Thursday.
10. Nick Meister can raise his game at the right moment. Down a set in both of his 18s consolation matches on Thursday, the Southern Californian Jr. Sectional champ won the twelve-point tiebreak that decides all back draw matches in both.
11. Devin Britton, a wild card and five seed, usually serves and volleys and had great success on grass last month in Philadelphia, reaching the semifinals. But his expectations for the clay, a surface that blunts the 15-year-old's arsenal of shots, weren't high coming in, so no matter what happens in his match against opponent Andrew Kells, a 17 seed, on Friday, he should leave Rockville pleased with his results.
12. Days are shorter when no doubles are played.
13. Clay courts need a LOT of maintenance.
14. There are still plenty of players I have yet to see hit a tennis ball. In the 16s, I'll admit to having no knowledge of three of the quarterfinalists--Jason Smith, Creighton Blanchard and Spencer Smith.
15. Ken Thomas is arriving Friday for Radiotennis.com webcasting, so give a listen over the next three days if you have a chance. Dave Kozlowski of Tennis Channel fame, who was here last year, is not returning.
16. It may not be as hot as earlier in the week, but nobody would call it good weather for tennis.