Friday was another perfect day for tennis at the first Pro Circuit event of January, with temperatures reaching the mid-70s and no threat of rain, or even any humidity.
The day's first four quarterfinal matches provided most of the drama, with the two women's matches three-setters. Andrea Petkovic of Germany, the sixth seed, defeated unseeded Lina Stanciute of Lithuania 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-4. She will face Olga Blahotova of the Czech Republic, who eliminated Christina Schiechtl of Austria 6-2, 3-6, 6-1.
While those two matches were being played, I concentrated on the men's quarterfinal between third seed Michael Lammer of Switzerland and sixth seed Michael Yani of the U.S., on the "show court", court nine. Lammer took the first set 6-3, but fell behind 5-2 in the second set. Yani failed to capitalize on his many chances to even the match, and Lammer got the break back when the former Duke Blue Devil couldn't hold serving for the second set at 5-3. The tiebreak that ensued seemed to take at least 30 minutes to play, with Yani saving a couple of match points, and Lammer several set points. The match ended with a Lammer ace at 9-8, although Yani, a reserved sort, did not believe the serve was good and was still debating it as he left the court.
Lammer's semifinal opponent will be unseeded Adriano Biasella of Italy, who wasn't threatened by Pierrick Ysern of France, cruising to a 6-2, 6-4 victory over the 2005 NCAA finalist from the University of San Diego.
The match between Donald Young and Nikita Kryvonos drew a large crowd, and with Kryvonos the higher seed, No. 4 to Young's No. 8, and winner of their last meeting in a Futures early in 2006, he was the favorite. But Kryvonos found himself down a break early in both sets, and Young didn't falter, taking a 6-4, 6-3 decision over the 20-year-old from New York. Young's ability to protect his serve was the difference. The 17-year-old from Atlanta was broken only once, serving at 3-2 in the second, while Kryvonos lost his serve four times.
This is the second time in his career that Young has reached the semifinals of a Pro Circuit event and he will face unseeded Conor Niland of Ireland on Saturday. Niland overcame a slow start to defeat University of Virginia junior Somdev Devvarman of India 3-6, 6-4, 6-0. Niland's strategy to close the net against the consistent baseliner paid dividends later rather than sooner. When Niland, 25, squandered a 3-0 lead in the second set, a third set seemed unlikely, but at 4-4, he held his serve despite facing numerous break points then quickly broke Devvarman to even the match. Devvarman began to make uncharacteristic errors while Niland rarely missed and the third set was over much more quickly than the first two.
In the late matches on the women's side, Julie Ditty, who is second all-time on the Pro Circuit with 25 titles in both singles and doubles, defeated University of Miami junior Audra Cohen 6-1, 6-4. Last year alone, the 27-year-old Vanderbilt graduate won eight titles, and her experience showed against Cohen. While the 20-year-old Cohen struggled with her serve and her forehand in the first set, Ditty played flawless tennis from the first point. The left-hander from Kentucky then patiently waited for her chance in the second set, a set that produced no breaks until the last game, when Cohen played a few loose points and Ditty pounced. In the semifinals however, Ditty will face a much more seasoned competitor in
Russian Alina Jidkova, who only two years ago held a WTA ranking in the 50s. Jidkova, an unseeded qualifier, had no trouble with No. 5 seed Sunitha Rao of the U.S., taking a quick 6-0, 6-1 decision. Jidkova, who turns 30 next week, has yet to lose a set in her six matches this week.
For full draws, including results of the women's doubles, see the Pro Circuit page.
Friday, January 12, 2007