©Colette Lewis 2007--
Ryan Lipman and Gabriela Paz will go for singles championships Saturday after capturing doubles titles on Friday afternoon at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. Skies were partly cloudy and temperatures warmer than the previous two days, and conditions were ideal for players and spectators alike.
Nashville's Lipman, the No. 5 seed, earned his berth in the singles final with a 6-4, 6-1 victory over unseeded Dennis Kudla, then a few hours later teamed with Ryan Harrison for a 7-6 (6), 7-6 (2) decision over the top seeded team of Bradley Klahn and Dennis Nevolo.
Paz, a Venezuelan who trains in Miami, had a similarly successful day, topping No. 3 seed Tara Moore 6-3, 6-2, in the singles semifinal, and with partner Nadja Gilchrist, capturing her second consecutive Grass Court doubles title with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Claire Bartlett and Emily Fraser.
Both Klahn and Bartlett still have an opportunity to avenge their doubles losses however, as they earned trips to the singles finals by vanquishing their partners earlier in the day.
Although the matches both began at 11 a.m., Lipman had defeated Kudla before Klahn and Nevolo had finished their nip and tuck opening set. Klahn saved two set points, one with a blistering forehand winner trailing seven points to six in the first set tiebreak, before sneaking past Nevolo 7-6(7). In the second set, Klahn, a left-hander from San Diego, got an early break and rolled on, taking his fourth straight-set victory this week by a 6-2 score.
"I think I started playing a little more aggressive," said Klahn, 16, of his improved results later in the match. "I came to net more, pressured him more. In the first set I tried to beat him from the back a little bit more than I should have."
Klahn credited Nevolo's returns as a factor in the tight first set as well. "His returns are so good he can place them, pinpoint them wherever he wants, so it was tough to get that first volley where I wanted it," Klahn, the tournament's second seed, said.
Nevolo, a 17-year-old from suburban Chicago, also made effective use of the lob against Klahn in the first set, but Klahn began to make more first serves during the second set, and that gave him the upper hand. "He had less looks at second serves, which enabled me to get into the net more," Klahn said.
Just a few minutes after the match ended, Klahn and Nevolo ate lunch together in the clubhouse and discussed key points of their battle. "It's a little bit hard to play a friend and doubles partner," Klahn admitted, "but bottom line you're out there to win."
Bartlett knows that feeling. She and Emily Fraser, both of whom have committed to play college tennis at the University of Virginia, decided to get a head start on their possible partnership for the Cavaliers this week, and unseeded, they reached the doubles final. They also played each other in the semifinals Friday afternoon, and it was Bartlett who prevailed in another subdued matchup of friends, 6-4, 1-6, 6-4.
"Emily played really well, and I did too," said Bartlett, from Chattanooga, Tenn. "She fought really hard, and she serves and volleys so much. It's always hard playing your doubles partner,"
New York's Fraser, like Bartlett unseeded in the tournament, has a one-handed backhand that is very effective on the unpredictable surface. But Bartlett has adapted her game to grass and knows that staying on the baseline is just too risky.
"It's such a different game, but I really love it," said Bartlett, who credits her English mother with supplying her with affection for the grass. "I know that there are going to be bad bounces, so you just take that into consideration and basically, get to the net. There can't be too many long rallies on grass."
Another player who enjoys the quirkiness of grass is Lipman, who, like Klahn, has yet to lose a set in the tournament. "I love the grass. It suits my game perfectly. Having a one-hander and being able to slice al ot, the drop shots, the serve and volley, really suits it well."
Kudla, 14, maximized his time at the net too, but the Virginian was unable to hold serve with any regularity. Although he broke Lipman twice in the first set, Kudla was broken three times himself, and never found a way to counteract Lipman's variety.
"I was a little tight," Lipman admitted, "but then I got ahold of it and started playing a lot better, smoother, and stopped thinking about the finals. I was focused on the present."
Despite being the same age, Klahn and Lipman have played only once before, at the 16s Winter Nationals, "a while ago" according to Lipman. But if the doubles match against each other later that afternoon is any indication, the finals could be very close. Although neither team was broken, the second-seeded team of Harrison and Lipman were called on to fight off four break points in the second set. Klahn and Nevolo, on the other hand, did not face a single break point in the entire match, but still lost when Lipman and Harrison raised their level in the tiebreaks.
When Paz and Bartlett square off Saturday, Paz is hoping she can be as successful avenging a defeat as she was in the semifinals against Moore. Moore, who trains at IMG/Bollettieri's in Bradenton, had beaten Paz at Carson in April's International Spring Championships, but Paz has been on a tear since then on the Women's Pro Circuit, winning one event in May and reaching the semifinals of another two weeks ago.
"In Carson, I really didn't play my best," said Paz, who was beaten by Bartlett in the first round of last year's Grass Court Championships. "It wasn't a very good match for me. Today I was moving well, I played good, and everything worked."
The second-seeded Paz credits her early arrival and extra practice time on the grass for her improved performance this year. But unlike Bartlett and Lipman, the 15-year-old professes no fondness for the surface.
"It's really hard to play on grass, it's really bad," said Paz. "The ball stays really low. You hit more slices, change the rhythm, because you can't just hit all the time. I hit drop shots, try to come to the net more, and just move, because you don't know what to expect--the bounces are so bad."
Saturday's finals will begin at 11 a.m. For complete draws, see the TennisLink website.
Friday, June 15, 2007