©Colette Lewis 2007--
The winds that were the talk of Southern California on Thursday subsided to a bare whisper for quarterfinal matches in the 18s division, making tennis, not the elements, the prime focus on Friday morning.
No. 5 seed Mallory Cecil knew she had a long day ahead of her, because her opponent, top seed Reka Zsilinszka, can frustrate the impatient with a wide array of moon balls, lobs and defense.
"Last time I played her she killed me like 0 and 1," said the 16-year-old Cecil, who is from South Carolina and trains at the IMG/Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton. "I just wasn't mentally ready to go in there and have the patience I needed. But today, I knew in order to do anything, I was going to have to have that patience."
Those unfamiliar with Zsilinszka's game may have thought that the match would be a short one when Cecil took a 5-0 lead in the first set. But Zsilinszka began to find the range with the high deep offensive lobs she uses to maximum effect and brought it back to 5-3. Cecil found the right combination of offense and consistency to finish off that set, and although she was down a break with Zsilinszka serving at 4-3 in the second, she won the next three games to reach her first Grade 1 semifinal.
In that eighth game, Cecil showed her determination, when after a 30-plus ball rally, she needed to hit three overheads looking into a bright cloudless sky to finally get a winner by Zsilinszka. And on match point, Cecil stayed in a 38-ball rally until she could finally get aggressive with a shot, but she didn't hesitate to pull the trigger when she got the chance, earning a spot against unseeded Armenian Zaruhi Harutyunyan. Harutyunyan, who hasn't dropped a set in the tournament, defeated qualifier Coco Vandeweghe 6-4, 7-6 (2) in a match that featured more power tennis in one game that the Cecil - Zsilinszka match displayed in an entire set.
The other girls semifinal will pit No. 2 seed Madison Brengle against No. 3 seed Sacha Jones of New Zealand. Brengle dismissed unseeded Tara Moore of Great Britain 6-2, 6-2, while Jones had more difficulty before overcoming No. 9 seed Gail Brodsky 7-6 (2), 6-2 in a match that featured a great many arguments with the chair umpire over line calls. Brodsky received a point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and was unable to collect herself mentally to challenge Jones in the second set.
In the boys action Friday, Wil Spencer and Ryan Thacher advanced to the semifinals of the ITF Grade 1 with straight set victories. Spencer downed Devin Britton 6-3, 6-3, while Thacher took out Jose Hernandez of the Dominican Republic 6-2, 6-4, in quarterfinals that featured no seeded players. No. 7 seed Rhyne Williams bested No. 14 seed Adam El Mihdawy 6-1, 6-1, leaving top seed Kellen Damico and No. 8 seed Austin Krajicek as the final hope for a dramatic three-setter. The match did go three, but Damico raised his game, as he had done on Thursday after dropping the second set, and cruised to a 7-6 (2), 2-6, 6-1 victory.
Damico, who injured his left wrist months ago, is hitting a one-handed backhand to protect it, and his opponents have been testing that shot, hoping to capitalize.
"Austin did a good job of pressuring my backhand and getting to the net," said Damico, who was a finalist at the International Spring Championships last year. "Good thing my lob was working today, because it got me out of a couple of tight spots."
Damico's serve is unaffected by the injury and his forehand, always his put-away shot, is as lethal as ever, so he has emphasized those strengths, and his volleying ability, to survive.
"I'm not going to win this tournament because I'm playing better than everyone else," said Damico. "I'm going to win it because I'm fighting harder and doing everything I possibly, humanly can to win. Also, experience helps a lot."
Against Thacher, Damico will face his second lefty in as many days, but he has no experience playing the Southern Californian, except in practice sets. Spencer and Williams will reprise their classic 7-6(5), 6-7(2), 6-3 battle (won by Spencer) in the round of 16 in Kalamazoo last year.
Williams has reached the doubles finals, teaming with fellow Tennesseean Ryan Lipman. The No. 4 seeds defeated unseeded Chase Buchanan and Bradley Klahn 6-4, 6-4 Friday afternoon. Krajicek and his partner Jarmere Jenkins, the third seeds, saved four match points at 2-5 in the third, winning the next five games from unseeded Devin Britton and Bradley Cox to take a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 victory.
The girls doubles will feature Brengle and her partner Kristy Frilling, the No. 3 seeds, against unseeded McCall Jones and Asia Muhammad. Brengle and Frilling scraped by No. 5 seeds Brodsky and Tanya Raykova 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (2). Jones and Muhammad overcame another unseeded team, Nicole Bartnik and Carling Seguso, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
The 16s finals in both singles and doubles will be played on Saturday, along with the 18s doubles.
In the girls division, unseeded Gabrielle DeSimone will face No. 7 seed Zoe DeBruycker. DeSimone eliminated top seed Noel Scott 6-4, 7-6 (6), whle DeBruycker came back to oust No. 8 seed Tayler Davis 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
The girls 16s doubles will be decided between the unseeded teams of Nicolle Stracar and Monica Yajima, and Sarah Lee and Sabrina Santamaria.
No. 2 seed Tennys Sandgren and No. 10 seed Junior Ore will vie for the boys 16s singles title. Sandgren defeated unseeded Matt Spindler 6-3, 6-3 on Friday and Ore squeezed past John Huang, the No. 13 seed, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (3). In the boys 16s doubles, Ore and partner Raymond Sarmiento, seeded fourth, take on unseeded Brian Fang and Michael Lin.
For complete draws, see usta.com.
Friday, April 13, 2007