©Colette Lewis 2007--
Delray Beach, FL--
Top seed Tennys Sandgren's 16th birthday present was a gold ball, earned with a 6-4, 6-4 win over 17th seed Denis Kudla in Sunday morning's 16s final at the Delray Beach Tennis Center. In the 18s, Clint Bowles added to his national singles championships with a 6-2, 6-0 romp over No. 6 seed Bradley Klahn, giving him three, and took home an unbirthday present--a main draw wild card into the ATP Delray International Tennis Championships next February.
Sandgren and Kudla led off the day of championship play with an excellent first set of tennis. The 14-year-old Kudla displayed a few nerves in the opening game and was broken, but at 3-2 he got it back. Typical of the high quality of play, which saw both players hit with great depth and pace, points were often decided by outright winners, not errors. Neither player was tentative, until a key moment when Kudla was serving at 4-4.
"At 30-15, in the ad court, he hit a serve that I think might have been out," Sandgren said. "I kind of thought they were going to call it out, I hit it, and they didn't call it out, so he missed the shot. It was a big point."
"He stopped a little bit," said Kudla, "I think he thought it was out, and then I hit the ball and it ended up going out. It was a mistake, but it stuck in my head the rest of the first set. It was stupid, but it's why I lost the first set. I wish I could go back in time and fix that."
Kudla's first serve deserted him after that and a double fault and a Sandgren forehand winner gave him a chance to serve out the set, which he did at love.
In the second set, the level of tennis dropped, and breaks were as common as holds of serve. Neither player played with the consistency they had displayed in the first set, and Sandgren had an obvious explanation.
"It felt like we were both a little tired, almost," said Sandgren, who did not lose a set in his seven matches and played only one tiebreaker all week. "We both made a lot of sloppy errors on our serves. I started feeling a little tired, I think we both got a little fatigued and that caused us to play poor on our serves."
Sandgren was up 4-2 in the second, but Kudla won the next two games, only to lose his serve again at 4-4, and again Sandgren held, this time for the championship.
"His game is really attacking and aggressive," said Kudla, from Fairfax, Virginia. "He's got one of the best forehands I've ever seen in this age group. He makes every ball, hits the lines or it goes in the corners. It's just a great game."
Sandgren had planned to fly home to Nashville, but since his father and older brother Davey, a sophomore on the University of Tennessee tennis team, had driven the 15 hours to watch him once he reached the semis, he was contemplating a change in travel arrangements.
"We're going to go out to eat now," said Sandgren, who has been accompanied by his mother and coach Lia all week. "And then I guess we're all driving back home together, so it should be a lot of fun."
Bowles also had a cheering section for his national final, when several of his Florida State teammates and their families joined his mother, father and Dwayne Hultquist, the Seminoles' head tennis coach, in supplying home state support for the Tampa resident.
The 18s final lasted only 44 minutes, and after Klahn took a 2-1 lead in the first set, he didn't win another game.
"He was making a lot of unforced errors," said Bowles, 18, who will begin classes at Florida State next month. "If I put it in his strike zone, he was just teeing off on his shots. So I had to make a lot of balls out of his strike zone, that was my game plan."
Klahn, the No. 6 seed, admitted that he had no energy and nothing in the tank to draw on when Bowles started to get more first serves in midway through the first set.
"I ran out of gas," said Klahn, of San Diego, who turns 17 next month. "The first few days were hot and humid and the heat just kind of wore on me. Clint played well, and he obviously handled the heat a lot better. It's a testament to him, he deserves it."
Bowles, unseeded in the tournament, was asked by several reporters afterward whether he was surprised by his performance. Having won his first 18s title at Mobile in 2005 as an unseeded 16-year-old, Bowles didn't put a lot of stock in the tournament's seeding, although he did express some surprise that he was the first unseeded player to win it.
"I knew if I played well I could win," said Bowles, who has won 19 consecutive matches on Florida clay in the past four months. "I don't have a high enough national ranking (to be seeded). But we all know each other; I don't think I really surprised anyone in the tournament. Maybe the people watching."
Bowles' longtime coach Nick Saviano attended the tournament, and Bowles made a point to acknowledge how important that relationship has been to his success.
"He's helped me so much," said Bowles. "Nick's been great and I owe a lot to his support and coaching."
He'll undoubtedly want his mentor at February's ATP tournament played on the hard court stadium that looms over the clay court where he earned the main draw wild card. Especially if he gets the draw he says he wants.
"I hope I draw the No. 1 seed, whoever it is," Bowles said.
The consolation finals were completed on Sunday, with fourth seed Wil Spencer taking the fifth position in the 18s for the second year in a row, defeating No. 10 seed Luke Marchese 6-3, 6-0. In the 16s, No. 2 seed Bo Seal avenged his main draw loss to No. 13 Sekou Bangoura taking a 6-4, 6-4 victory for fifth place.
The bronze ball for third place in the 16s went to No. 7 seed Ryan Noble, who downed unseeded Devin McCarthy 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. No. 5 seed Brennan Boyajian defeated Joey Burkhardt, a 17 seed, 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 for third place in the 18s.
The boys 18s doubles semifinals were completed before the rains came Sunday afternoon, with No. 7 seeds Reid Carleton and Steve Johnson upending No. 2 seeds Boyajian and Zach Hunter 6-3, 7-5, and No. 9 seeds Drew Daniel and Ryan Harrison taking out the unseeded team of Jordan Bridge and Spencer Smith 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.
Third place in the boys 16s doubles went to Billy Federhofer and Anderson Reed, who defeated fellow No. 9 seeds Christopher Freeman and Warren Hardie 7-6, 6-1.
Due to heavy rain on Sunday afternoon, the doubles finals in both divisions and the third place doubles match in the 18s were abandoned.
For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.
Sunday, July 22, 2007