Sunday, August 10, 2008

Krajicek and Cox Earn National Championships in Kalamazoo

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Kalamazoo MI--

Austin Krajicek overcame a rough start, Jordan Cox overcame a rough middle, but both ended by adding their names to the long list of champions at the USTA Boys 18 and 16 National Championships in Kalamazoo.

Cox, the 7th seed, downed No. 6 seed Denis Kudla 6-1, 6-7(2), 6-3, recovering from the disappointment of failing to convert four match points in the second set to dominate in the third set. Krajicek, the fifth seed, defeated No. 8 seed Ryan Thacher 2-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-0 in the first battle of left-handers in 18s finals history.

The jacket and sweater clad crowd began to warm to the 16s contest when Kudla and Cox engaged in a gripping game with Cox leading at 5-3 in the second set. Kudla, serving to stay in the match, had his first game point at 40-30, but an aggressive chip of a second serve and a charge to the net by Cox got him to deuce, the first of eight in the game.

Kudla saved his first match point with a first serve winner, the second when his backhand up the line caught the net and eluded Cox, the third with another first serve winner and the fourth when he retrieved an overhead and Cox's putaway volley went wide. It took six more points before Kudla held, but once he did, the crowd support and the momentum shifted to him.

"I tried to forget that it ever happened," said Cox, from Duluth, Ga. "But you could tell in the next game that I didn't. I threw it away really quickly, got broken at love. I think the crowd just wanted to see more tennis, to urge him on to make it a really good match, and I think it helped him."

After a nervous start to the match, Kudla began to find his form midway through the second set.

"I was telling myself to start playing with my feet instead of trying to hit winners and everything, making him play," said Kudla, from Arlington, Va. "And I ended up doing that and coming back in that big game which was a little bit lucky and I started feeling it a little bit.

"In the third, he sort of surprised me a little bit. I thought he'd think about it and maybe let go, but he regrouped and he really showed a true champion, so all credit to him."

In the ten-minute break after the tiebreaker, which was all Kudla, Cox took a two-pronged approach to handling the disappointment of the second set.

"I let out a little anger," said Cox, who had displayed none of that on the court. "I had my water jug, my gallon of water and I threw that against the wall. Pablo (Mayorga, a coach at the IMG Bollettieri Academy) really helps me out at the break. He tells me the stuff I'm doing right, he focuses on the positives, gets me back up and ready to play the third set."

Cox was serving for the match at 5-1 in the third set, but Kudla broke and held to make it 5-3. In his second attempt to finish, Cox was down 15-30, but Kudla missed a backhand then saw a forehand volley catch the tape to give Cox his fifth match point. When Kudla's forehand sailed out, Cox gave a subdued fist pump and trotted to the net for the handshake, having earned not only the 16s National title, but a main draw wild card into the U.S. Open Juniors.

"I'm looking forward to it a lot," said Cox, who has never played the junior qualifying or main draw in Flushing Meadows. "I've already seen the acceptance list, and it looks pretty strong, so I'm looking forward to playing some of those guys. It's going to be great."

Austin Krajicek will receive an even bigger prize, and he's not running scared from any potential opponent in the U.S. Open main draw.

"I wouldn't mind playing Roger or Rafa," said Krajicek, who started his college career at Texas A & M in January. "I just think it would be fun to play on a big court and get that experience, but whoever I play is fine. I'm just looking forward to the opportunity."

The best-of-five set format gave Krajicek ample time to recover after a shaky first set. Thacher, who will start school at Stanford next month, had played in the finals in the 16s in 2006 and last year in the 18s, so he had an edge in experience and it showed.

Krajicek was missing not by a little, but by a lot in the first set, with Thacher's serve and ground strokes setting the table for him. But somewhere in the middle of the second set Krajicek began to get a read on his fellow left-hander's serve.

"He has a really good serve, first and second serve," Krajicek said. "In the beginning it was tough for me, with the wind too, adjusting a little bit. But I think I started to see a little better, move a little more, toward the middle of the second set."

In the third set, Krajicek got an early break, and with that cushion began to play more aggressively. At 5-2, still just one break down, Thacher was at 30-40 on his serve when Krajicek hit a perfectly placed forehand winner deep in the corner to take the set. Thacher's ability to return nearly any shot was in evidence throughout the match, but Krajicek was always ready to hit a second winner.

"I knew coming into the match that Ryan's a really good athlete," said Krajicek, a distant relative of 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek. "That he was going to get to balls and make me hit another shot. I did a good job of staying focused throughout the point and being ready for the next ball. That's something you have to do against good players."

Thacher was disappointed in his inconsistency off the ground in the final three sets.

"He was a little steadier off the ground," Thacher admitted. "Normally that's not my problem, being aggressive off the ground. But today I never really found a groove, never felt like I was hitting it clean, and he was taking advantage of that. Hats off to him, he really played well, especially down the stretch."

Speaking to the spectators after the match, Thacher joked that most people disliked change, but he wouldn't mind it in this case, as it was the third time he was giving his remarks as a runner-up in Kalamazoo. And then he added, "I still can't believe I lost the last set 6-0."

Down 3-0 but only one break, Thacher needed to win the fourth game to have any chance to reverse his fortunes, but he didn't even get to deuce, although he saved six break points before double faulting to make it 4-0 for Krajicek. Sensing the trophy would soon be his, Krajicek finished his service game with an ace for 5-0 and in the next game, on his first match point, planted a forehand winner into the corner for the match.

Krajicek stood facing the crowd with his arms raised in celebration, and in his speech after the match expressed regret that it was his last year in Kalamazoo, but "a pretty good way to go out."

Then Krajicek remembered another way to play in Kalamazoo--at the Opening Night Exhibition.

"I really enjoy this tournament, it's kind of tough to leave knowing that I might not be back," Krajicek said. "Maybe I'll get to be in the exhibition, you never know. That would be cool."

But first, there's that U.S. Open main draw match to play in two weeks.

In other action on Sunday, third place in the 18s went to Ryan Harrison, the No. 1 seed, who beat No. 6 seed Ty Trombetta 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-2. No. 2 seed Evan King took third in 16s singles when No. 5 seed Bob Van Overbeek withdrew due to injury. Raymond Sarmiento, seeded ninth, finished fifth in the 16s with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Mitchell Frank, the No. 14 seed. No. 2 seed Chase Buchanan took fifth in the 18s with a 6-3, 4-1 ret. inj. win over No. 9 Jarmere Jenkins.

For complete draws, see ustaboys.com.

For coverage of the girls 18s, where No. 1 seed Gail Brodsky took the title today, see Marcia Frost's collegeandjuniortennis.com.


Anonymous said...

As always, great coverage Colette. Congrats to Krajicek, he's a great kid. I am looking forward to seeing him play in the big show. I'm surprised his father wasn't there, was he Collette.

Colette Lewis said...

No, his father and mother weren't there but were watching via the webcam.

Anonymous said...

I didn't expect krajicek and cox to win the tournament but they did it. Both of them did an amazing job and achieved a great title. I hope Krajicek can win a round or two at the US open and Cox can do really well in the junior us open. Congratulations to them and keep the hard work!!!
who knows what other wild cars would the usta give? to whom?

Anonymous said...


I saw that Jordan Cox said that he already saw the acceptance lists into the Junior U.S. Open. Could you put up a link if you can find the acceptance lists?

And of course, great coverage as always.

Anonymous said...

Colette, thanks as always for the great coverage. Congrats to the champion. Can't believe Van Overbeek and King went down in the semis. Totally called that one wrong. Congrats to Cox for a series of gutty performances. In addition to Cox and Krajicek, who from the US is likely to get into the Open main draw? Harrison and Buchanan, I assume. Is Klahn playing? Probably depends on when Stanford starts?

Anonymous said...

What happened to Asia Muhammad and Jamie Hampton at the Girls 18's? I dont follow girls much so I dont know the facts with them. Were those results just a one time thing or has this been a trend with them lately? I figured Muhammad would have won the tourney.

Anonymous said...

To say I was stunned that Krajicek won the Zoo would be an understatement. The only person I thought that could beat Thacher would be Klahn if they met in the finals. The score was what made it even more surprising. Good job to him.

Maybe now everyone knows who I am since I just won the Zoo...just joking. I couldnt pull off that facial hair.

Anonymous said...

Any word on whether or not Thacher will accept his wild card into the U.S. Open qualies this time. Is the U.S.T.A. going to give a couple of more to the deep field at Kalamazoo? The Aussies take care of their kids in Australia. The French take care of theirs in the French and the English take care of theirs at Wimbeldon so i would hope that we will take care of our on. Harrison would be the obvious wild card after Thacher and I would think they would take care of Buchanan as well. Buchanan had the guts to play and win the backdraw after losing to Thacher and Harrison finished 3rd over a very good Ty Trombetta. Whats up with Jenkins quitting in so many matches as he did against Buchanan.

Anonymous said...

Anyone see Asia Muhammad's matches in Berkeley? She lost both in the main and backdraw preety solidly to players that for her is surprising.

Anonymous said...

Are they going to be handing out wild cards into the junior us open to kids like Kandath, Mcmorrow, Carleton, Sundling, or will they be giving the wc's to 92 and 93 only. I think there are a number of us juniors who would be able to go and qualify at the us open. Soo i hope they are not handing the wc's out to 93's. The 90's and 91's should get a couple because they will be more prepared to compete mentally and physically at that level.

Anonymous said...

To tennisthinker: you are either a coach of a'90 or '91 or someone who never played the game at a high level. The reason they give wcs to the 92s and 93s is to give the talented kids exposure to the big game in a big atmosphere. They will only give 1 or 2 anyway, so no need to whine about it.

Anonymous said...

Well here's the question regarding main draw wildcards. Do we give them to our 16,17,18yr olds who have very little chance to win a match or give them to the guys who are actually out there on tour who need the money and the chance at a big event? We currently have 10 players ranked between 100-200 and another 10 ranked between 200-300. I personally think those are the more deserving guys.

Now I think the USTA could/should/does give wildcards into the qualies to our juniors. That in itself is a good experience.

Anonymous said...

There was no shortage of great matches in Berkeley, so I didn't get to sit and watch one match until the end. Asia Muhammed played great, but Julia was even better. Until Saturday, she was my pick baaed on the way she was playing. Unfortunately, it didn't last for her and by Sat. she was wiped. Her mom said they had been traveling for seven weeks and were skipping the Open.

Colette Lewis said...

I did want to point out that technically, the Levine vs. Young final in 2006 was left-hander against left-hander, but due to Levine's illness, that match was not played.

Anonymous said...

yeah, Donald Young won the title twice, yet never actually played the normal way.

He beat Querrey in the '05 final when they shortened it to best 2 of 3 sets because they thought it might rain, then the next he didnt even have to step on the court against Levine.

There havent been many close finals in recent history. I personally think they should only play best of three.