King and Kudla Take Quarterfinal Wins in 16s; Thacher Puts Out No. 2 seed Buchanan in 18s at the Nationals, Will Meet Trombetta
©Colette Lewis 2008--
Number two seed Evan King and No. 6 seed Denis Kudla took decidedly different routes, but both posted quarterfinal wins on a cool and partly cloudy Friday at Stowe Stadium. King needed less than an hour to dispatch No. 12 seed Ben Guthrie 6-1, 6-0 while Kudla needed two hours to get past No. 3 seed Jack Sock 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
King, the 16-year-old from Chicago, has been rolling through the draw this week, not losing more than four games in any set, but against Guthrie, he was particularly sharp. Using his strength and lefty advantage, King controlled the points and showed no signs of nervousness, an advantage the bronze ball winner last year in the 16s acknowledged.
"I was used to the stadium environment, I was used to the line judges, having everyone cheer for you or cheer against you, used to the crowd and everything," King said. "I think it definitely helped me."
Kudla admitted to some jitters throughout his encounter with Sock, even with the first set under his belt.
"I was going through so much. The whole match I was battling nerves," said Kudla, who lost in the 16s last year in the round of 32. "Right after that second game (in the second set) when I had 0-40 and he came back and held, it got a little in my head, the point penalty, I was getting all frustrated and it was very stupid mistake. In the third set I tried to regroup and learn from that mistake."
Kudla spoke with his coach Frank Salazar during the ten-minute break between sets, but the pep talk didn't immediately help, with four straight breaks of serve opening the final set.
"My coach told me I had to believe in myself, because he could tell I was really nervous. He told me to go for it, because he felt I was the better player--I could set up the points a little bit better, but I just had to believe in myself."
Kudla admitted that he had been looking ahead to the King match from the beginning of the tournament.
"I think we'll match up very well against each other if I don't get too nervous," said Kudla, who won their last meeting back in the 2006 Junior Orange Bowl 14s consolation draw. "He's a great player and I enjoy playing him so much."
In the 18s, No. 8 seed Ryan Thacher's 6-4, 7-5 victory over No. 2 seed Chase Buchanan can be summed up simply: the serve. Thacher was not broken, and his decision to receive to open the match paid off immediately when he broke Buchanan in the first game. Buchanan had much more trouble holding throughout the set than Thacher, whose confidence in his serve often extended to hitting another big serve when he missed his first.
"Ever since I grew my serve has been the focal point of my game," said the 6-foot-3 two-time finalist at Kalamazoo. "If I'm serving well, it's going to be hard to break me. I'm left-handed, I'm big, I can hit the ball pretty hard and I can put a lot of spin on it. If I am serving well, it's a tremendous advantage to me."
Thacher, who will begin his college career at Stanford next month, got his second break of the match at 5-5 in the second, and after the changeover stepped to the line to finish off the 17-year-old from Ohio. Thacher double faulted on his first match point, but he wasn't concerned.
"You're the one hitting the first ball, and if you have nerves, you can kind of hit through them on the serve, control the point. So what the heck, I'm going to go for it. I did double fault once, but I also had four service winners, so it worked today. Sometimes when you get in rallies, when you are serving for the match, things can happen you don't even want to deal with. Obviously, you need to be able to, but it's something that you'd rather not. Fortunately I do have enough confidence in my serve to go for it, because when a ball gets into a rally, you don't know what can happen."
Thacher's opponent in Saturday's semifinal will be No. 6 seed and 2007 semifinalist Ty Trombetta, who outlasted No. 3 seed Adam El Mihdawy 6-7(3), 7-6(4), 6-3 in a two-and-a-half hour battle on Court Three. Trombetta, who won third set tiebreakers in his past two victories, finished off the New Yorker a bit more easily, thanks to a let cord.
Earning his break with El Mihdawy serving at 2-3, Trombetta got down 0-30 serving for the match at 5-3, but worked his way back to ad-in. El Mihdawy, in control of the final point, approached the net and was in position for Trombetta's passing shot, but it clipped the net, bounced over his head and into the middle of the court behind him.
With the Thacher - Buchanan match concluded, the midday crowd's attention was focused on Court Three, and Trombetta could feel the support.
"When I won that second set, they really started cheering," Trombetta said. "I think it was for me--I don't know. But I made myself think it was," he said with a laugh.
Thacher and Trombetta have played twice before, once two years ago in Kalamazoo and once last year in Carson, with Thacher taking both contests.
"He's a great player," said Trombetta, who credits Muscle Milk with helping him get through his long, tense matches. "He beat me both times, but I'm feeling good, and I love it, playing here."