©Colette Lewis 2008--
Rancho Mirage, CA--
Jack Sock earned 10 gold balls in the 12s, but stress fractures in his foot kept him from reaching that level again--until now. Sock, the No. 8 seed from Lincoln, Neb., defeated No. 2 seed Clay Thompson of Venice, Calif., 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(4) to capture the boys 16s Easter Bowl title.
With temperatures on court over 120 degrees, a three-setter was not what either player wanted, but Sock said the conditions weren't a factor for him until the tiebreaker.
"The heat started creeping in on me in the tiebreak," said Sock, who is training at the Mike Wolf Academy in Kansas City. "I wasn't really thinking about nerves."
Thompson, a 6-foot-5 serve-and-volleyer who turns 16 next month, was kept at bay by Sock throughout the contest.
"To be honest with you, I think I would have rather lost this match 2 and 2 and played my game," said Thompson. "My game is a come-in, serve-and-volley, at the net. And I was grinding for some reason."
"I wanted to keep him back off the net," said Sock, who will be 16 in September. "I didn't want him to start attacking me all over the place...if you let him have any room, he'll just stay on you."
Thompson's volleys weren't sharp in the opening set, and when his other weapon, a punishing forehand, went off, he went to what he called "Plan C."
"Plan A is to serve-and-volley, Plan B is to hit my forehand and Plan C is you have no idea what's going on, so just play. I'm disappointed in myself that I didn't stick with the game plan. He's a great player and he did well to take me out of my rhythm."
There was certainly not much rhythm throughout the match, as both players had breaks and lost them at crucial moments in the first two sets. Sock was up 3-1 in the second, but lost the next five games, the final one on a double fault. During the ten-minute break between sets, Sock was encouraged to stay positive by his coaches, and told to get his first serve percentage up, keep the ball to Thompson's backhand and hit second serve returns more aggressively.
Although Sock conceded that his first serve percentage didn't improve, he was serving for the match after breaking Thompson for the only time in the final set at 4-4. But he immediately lost his serve at love due to unforced errors, and when Thompson held, Sock was facing a crucial 5-6, 5-30 point. Thompson missed a return, however, and Sock held for the tiebreaker.
Sock took a 5-2 lead in the tiebreaker, but an ace and a strong forehand kept Thompson in the match. But Sock took the final two points on his serve to collect his first singles gold ball since the 12s.
"I played my game really well in the third set," said Sock. "I did what I did well and made him uncomfortable."
Number 2 seed Ellen Tsay has been making opponents uncomfortable all week, and even down a 4-2 in the final set against No. 12 seed Sarah Lee, she was unconcerned.
"I knew I could come back if I ground out some tough points," said the frail looking 14-year-old left-hander, who did just that in her 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.
Defense and placement are the hallmarks of Tsay's game, but in the first set, Lee took away those strengths.
"In the first set, I knew nothing could stop me from winning," said the 14-year-old from Los Angeles, who aggressively approached the net and aimed for the lines. "In the second set I slowed down a little, and she slowed down her pace a little."
Having lost her first set of the tournament, Tsay wasn't worried.
"I actually had a lot of opportunities, just a few misses at critical points," said Tsay. "The second set I started playing with my own rhythm more--in the first set I was just sort of reacting to her ball. Even though it probably looked like she was still on the offense, I felt like I was controlling more points."
As the match neared its conclusion, Tsay won 11 of twelve points to take a 5-4 lead, and Lee's backhand error at 4-5, 30-40 gave Tsay her fourth gold ball, two of which were earned in singles play.
She collected her fifth a few hours later, as she and partner Amelia Herring, the sixth seeds, won the doubles championship, defeating Alexandra Clay and Whitney P. Kay, the fifth seeds, 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.
Clay Thompson played his second third-set tiebreaker of the day, but this one he won. Thompson and partner Nelson Vick, the No. 1 seeds, took the doubles gold ball with a 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(3) decision over No. 8 seeds Warren Hardie and Casey E. MacMaster.
For complete results, including consolation and third place matches, see the TennisLink site.
Sunday, April 13, 2008