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Sunday, August 12, 2007

McClune and Sandgren Win Kalamazoo Titles

For all the upsets and the drama during the past ten days in Kalamazoo, for the second year in a row, the number one seeds in both divisions left town with the National Championship trophies.

This year Michael McClune and Tennys Sandgren survived the pressure of being the ultimate target, and even Kalamazoo's famous affection for the underdog couldn't throw them off course. For my story and photos of all the day's action, see ustaboys.com (I am also posting my entire finals story at the end of this post).
Marcia Frost of collegeandjuniortennis.com made her first visit to Kalamazoo this weekend. Please visit her site for additional coverage, as well as coverage from the girls 18s, won today by Ashley Weinhold, the runnerup in 2006.

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Kalamazoo, MI --
Tennys Sandgren and Michael McClune arrived in Kalamazoo as the targets, and after ten days and seven matches both top seeds emerged with the coveted title of National Junior Champions.

On a hot but not unbearable day, Sandgren defeated Tennessee rival James (Bo) Seal 6-3, 6-2, in a routine match that ended strangely, while McClune lost his first set of the tournament, but regrouped to outlast fellow Southern Californian Ryan Thacher 6-1, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.

The usual match point eruption from both the audience of nearly 2000 and Sandgren was absent when the chair umpire ended the match with a point penalty for racquet abuse after Seal flipped it toward the net.

At 5-2, Sandgren, who had had trouble closing out matches all week, was serving for the match but was down 30-40 when Seal let a defensive lob from Sandgren go, only to see it nestle in the corner. His mood already dark from that misjudgment, Seal got no luck on the next point when a clip of the net cord caused his ball to ricochet wide. Almost casually he tossed his racquet toward the net, and seemed almost expecting the penalty, which he got.

"I don't think he did it in anger," said Sandgren, who has now won back-to-back National championships. "He didn't even seem that mad, and maybe on match point he didn't think the umpire would call it. It seemed a little harsh. It would have been nicer to end with a forehand winner, but I'm sure he feels worse about it than I do, because I won."

Sandgren cited his tough path to the final, which included four three-set victories, as instrumental in his win.

"If you go through a tournament not having any tough matches and you get to a point where you're playing someone really good and it's really close, you don't really have that edge, " said Sandgren, of Gallatin, Tenn.

"Today I felt like I had a little bit of an edge mentally because of all those tough matches I had before. Had he lost a set?" Sandgren asked. When the negative reply came, Sandgren continued.

"I don't think that helped him. All those tough matches were tiring, but I think it helped me out in the long run."

The long run for McClune and Thacher was a best-of-five-set match, a tradition in Kalamazoo that helps prepare the winner for their U.S. Open main draw contest in a few weeks.

Neither had ever played a match of that length, but the points were often short in Sunday afternoon's final, which took a little over two and a half hours to complete.

McClune started quickly, and afterwards, both players mentioned his serving as a key to his dominance in the first set.

"My served really worked well," said McClune who reached the 120s on the radar gun several times. "Especially in the beginning of the first set. It got me off to a good rhythm--I think I got four first serves in right then. Second set I didn't serve so well, but third and fourth I got a better first serve percentage."

Countering an athletic left-hander presents some special challenges, and McClune prepared for the different spins and angles by warming up with the 16s third place winner.

"I warmed up with Evan King this morning," McClune revealed. "So I could get that lefty serve down." But he also had to readjust his expectations on what constituted a winner.

"I knew every ball was going to come back," McClune said. "I knew most balls that most kids wouldn't get back, he would get back and get back with a lot of force. So I had to be patient and not go for it too early."

The third set was pivotal and despite an early break, McClune couldn't hold it, with Thacher pulling even at 4-4.

"I was pretty comfortable in the third set," Thacher said. "I got broken, but then I broke back and felt like I was playing pretty well. But I missed a couple of volleys today that I wish I had back. It's a little bit disappointing when you set up the point the way you want it and dump an easy ball like I did a couple of times. But all in all, I'm fairly pleased with the way I played."

McClune, who turns 18 in ten days and has been a professional since April, now heads home for some rest before journeying to the US Open, where his win has earned him a place in the main draw. Thacher receives a men's qualifying wild card, while Sandgren has assured himself a spot in the US Open Junior draw. But despite those prizes, all three boys will leave Kalamazoo with many of the same memories as the other competitors who didn't win quite as often as they did.

"It's all about living the dream that very few people get," said Mickey McClune, Michael's father, in his remarks to the crowd following the match. "Whether they lose in the first round of the main draw and the first round of the consolation, or whether they get to the quarters, the semis, the finals, they're all able to say, I lived the dream, I played at Kalamazoo."


Don Stowe said...

oxxmoMickey McClune's farewell speech at the end of the finals was superb and one of best I have heard. And I have heard most of them since 1943 when I was eleven. Especially his comment of the dream of junior tennis players to have played in Kalamazoo, no matter how well they did . "they're all able to say, I lived the dream, I played at Kalamazoo."

Brent said...

Thanks for your coverage as always. Does anyone know of a site that summarizes college commitments for this past year's juniors and seniors? Has El Mihdaway announced his plans?

Don Stowe said...

I noticed in several commentaries of the boys16 final that the match ended on a code violation.

I was wondering if Schnugg received a code violation after his loss to Kecki (I didn't actually see this one but read about it in a Zoo Tennis comment). Also Kecki threw his racket so hard after his loss to Thacher, it ended up in the next court (the crowd gasped in disbelief)-a display of poor sportmanship of which I have never witnessed before. Did Kecki receive a code violation or a penality or because it came after the match was finished was overlooked by the umpire?

If so, it seems strange that Seal received a code violation and Kecki and Schnugg did not.

Austin said...

I'll admit I don't really follow much junior girls tennis except for the grand slam results, but last night I was looking at the draw and results and noticed a bunch of names missing from the Girl's 18's Hard Courts. Basically most of the names I even knew weren't there. This usually doesn't happen in the boys division even if they have turned pro. The first three might be getting wildcards into the main draw at the Open based on previous wins, but can someone explain why all the others didn't show to try to win the hard court wildcard? I'm confused as to why the following weren't playing, I'm sure Ashley Weinhold didn't mind though...

Madison Brengle
Lauren Albanese
Alexa Glatch
Reka Zsilinszka
Gail Brodsky
Mallory Cecil
Veronica Li
Chelsey Gullickson
Krista Damico
Mallory Burdette

Anonymous said...

The only person i could make an excuse for not playing G18's hardcourts is Lauren Albanese. I could see her not wanting to play this year since she won last year, and anything less than a victory would be dissapointing

The Dude said...

El Mihdawy will be taking a year off the try for the brass ring. He will keep his amateur status to keep his college options open for next year.

Anonymous said...

How about the girl's 16's. I haven't seen anything on that. Do they get wild cards into the U.S. Open like the boys do.

Anonymous said...

girls 16s gets wildcards just like the guys. lilly kimbell will be getting it this year. i dont know as for lauren herring, she won easter bowl this year and was runner up at hards but from what ive heard she hasnt gotten a wildcard, but then again she only just turned 14