Saturday, August 9, 2008

Thacher Meets Krajicek, Kudla Faces Cox for National Titles Sunday

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Kalamazoo, MI--

Ryan Thacher in the finals is becoming something of a fixture in Kalamazoo, perhaps not quite as familiar as the blueberries and yogurt he was gobbling down in the press conference following his 6-0, 6-1 victory over Ty Trombetta, but close.

The left-hander from Studio City, Calif. will make his third consecutive appearance on Court One at Stowe Stadium Sunday afternoon when he faces Austin Krajicek, who upset top seed Ryan Harrison on a jacket-weather Saturday in Kalamazoo 7-5, 6-1.

As runner-up in the 16s in 2006 and in the 18s last year, Thacher, seeded eighth, knows the path to the finals well. He showed no mercy against the No. 6 seeded Trombetta, who couldn't find the game that earned him four straight three-set wins, two requiring third set tiebreakers.

"I think he was really beat up," Thacher said of Trombetta, whom he had beaten two years ago in the quarterfinals of the 16s. "He played an unbelievable tournament, you can't fault him for anything. It's just unfortunate he made it this far and just didn't have his stuff."

Like Trombetta, Krajicek had played multiple three-setters this week, needing the final set against both No. 5 seed Steve Johnson in the fifth round and No 12 seed Rhyne Williams in the quarterfinals. But against Harrison, Krajicek played his best tennis of the week in the second set, knocking the 16-year-old from New Braunfels Texas off his game with confidence and controlled aggression.

"It was my goal to make this match a little bit shorter," said Krajicek, who turned 18 in June. "I think I did a better job of staying focused at the beginning of the second set than I did in the other matches, and that was the difference."

Krajicek got his first break of Harrison at 3-3 in the first set, but was immediately broken back. Both players held for 5-5, and Harrison was at 40-15 serving, but Krajicek drew even, then got the game with a forehand passing shot winner. He held at love to close out the first set, then broke Harrison to start the second, when Harrison double faulted at 15-40. Krajicek had two easy holds of serve, and when he broke Harrison at 1-3, giving himself a two-break lead, the Texas A & M freshman displayed a big roundhouse fist pump.

"I was never comfortable with one break on Ryan," said Krajicek, the co-freshman of the year in the Big 12 and an All-American in doubles. "In the first set, I got a break and he broke right back. I knew pretty much any time he could play a good game and break me, so I was really looking to get that second break. It was a confidence boost for me and helped me loosen up a little bit on my service game, the next one, and play a little bit more aggressive. I played a pretty solid match and that's what I was looking for."

The two left-handers' meeting in the best-of-five final will be their first since the round of 16 at the 2006 Easter Bowl 16s, which Thacher won 6-3, 7-6(5).

By coincidence, the T-shirt that Thacher was wearing in the semifinal was from that very tournament, and when that was pointed out, Thacher joked he was "psyching him (Krajicek) out. I'll go find him after this."

In the 16s semifinals, No. 6 seed Denis Kudla came out firing against No. 2 seed Evan King and never let up in his convincing 6-2, 6-2 victory.

Admitting that he battled nerves throughout his three set quarterfinal victory over Jack Sock Friday, Kudla was determined not to let his game be overwhelmed by them against King.

"I knew what my mistake was, being very nervous, and I saw what a good player is capable of when I'm very nervous," said Kudla, who turns 16 next Sunday. "I knew if I was nervous against Evan King, he would just take that and probably beat me pretty easily, 2 and 2 the other way. But controlling my nerves definitely helped me."

Kudla, who lives in Arlington, Va., hit out on every shot, with his two-handed backhand particularly effective throughout the match. He closed the net often, recognizing quickly when he had stung King with a shot, and the more confidently he finished the point, the more error-prone King became.

Assessing his performance, Kudla was satisfied.

"I think I might have played better once or twice, but I definitely played very well today."

Kudla's opponent Sunday will be No. 7 seed Jordan Cox of Duluth, Ga., who managed to hold his head after seeing a 5-1 second set lead melt away to defeat No. 5 seed Bob van Overbeek 6-4, 7-6(0).

Cox knows his reputation for becoming emotionally unglued was giving his opponents hope, so he made a conscious decision to avoid that path against the big-serving right-hander from Boca Raton, Fla.

"That's what I stayed focused on today," said Cox, 16. "Not only Bob but everybody sort of knows me and expects me to at some point crack, get a little upset and frustrated. But today I focused on not letting anything upset me, to stay positive, not give them what they were waiting for, and that was the key to the match today."

Cox approached the net to finish points often while building his 6-4, 5-1 lead, and even had two match points serving at 5-2, but he remained calm, even when his errors were responsible. He also credited van Overbeek for forcing the tiebreaker.

"He started to get a little bit of rhythm, he started to make more balls," Cox said of van Overbeek's comeback. "I don't think it was our best match today, we both sort of had to fight through it. Win ugly. I know it wasn't his best day, but I was happy to pull through."

The schedule for Sunday is the 16s singles final at 11:30 a.m. followed by the 18s singles final at 1:30 p.m.

For complete results, see ustaboys.com