Kudla Wins Denis Battle in Third Set Tiebreaker; Girls Quarters Decided in Straight Sets at ITF Pan American
©Colette Lewis 2008--
Straight sets were the rule during the ITF Pan-American B1 quarterfinals, but the exceptions provided ample excitement under the brilliant blue sky over the Michael D. Case Tennis Center at the University of Tulsa.
No. 11 seed Denis Kudla and unseeded Denis Lin needed a third set tiebreaker to decide their encounter, with Kudla using all the experience he has gained as a Kalamazoo finalist and as the No. 1 player on the U.S. Junior Davis Cup championship team in Mexico to earn a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(2) victory.
"In Mexico I definitely established that I was able to control my nerves," said the 16-year-old from Fairfax, Va. "It helped me a lot in the third set to hold onto my nerves and depend on my serve."
After Kudla took the second set with a break at 3-4, he faced the precarious position of serving from behind throughout the third, but he held throughout what he called a "definitely tense" situation to force a tiebreaker. Lin had kept his errors to a minimum during the set, and Kudla admitted that Lin just didn't let up. "He never had moments when I had nice easy points--he made me play for every single point."
At one stage, when Kudla's coach voiced an encouraging "C'mon Denis" after a Kudla winner, Lin turned to the coach and good-naturedly informed him that his name was Denis too. Subsequent support from the coach was directed at "Kudla" instead, while Lin had only doubles partner Walker Kehrer as an audience and he refrained from any vocal displays.
In the tiebreaker, Kudla eliminated virtually all errors from his game, while Lin caught the tape several times in their ground stroke exchanges, and on match point sailed a forehand wide, putting Kudla in the semifinals against the highest remaining seed in the draw, No. 4 Ryan Lipman. Lipman downed No. 7 seed Bob van Overbeek 6-3, 6-1, using an effective return to frustrate the 16-year-old from Boca Raton.
The top half of the draw also featured a very tight match, with JT Sundling squeezing by Campbell Johnson 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. At the same time that Lin and Kudla's match was drawing to a close, Johnson was serving at 5-6 in the third set. Down 15-40, Johnson not only fought off those two match points but two more after that, and earned a couple of game points as well, but on his fifth opportunity, Sundling finally put away the determined 16-year-old qualifier.
Sundling, himself a qualifier, will meet No. 12 seed Alex Domijan, who won the battle of the baseline with No. 3 seed Bo Seal 6-2, 6-0.
The top two seeds in the girls draw--No. 1 Pamela Montez and No. 2 Lauren Embree--both posted straight set quarterfinal victories. Montez, from Mexico, used change of pace and an effective drop shot to subdue unseeded Rachel Kahan 6-3, 6-1, while Embree fought past unseeded Monica Turewicz 6-2, 6-3. Embree was down a break point serving a 0-3 in the second, but once she secured that game there was no stopping her, and the 15-year-old left-hander from Illinois couldn't turn the tide back in her favor.
Embree's semifinal opponent will be a familiar one, as she and No. 10 seed Beatrice Capra met for the girls 18s Clay Court title in July, with Embree prevailing 6-4, 6-2. Capra earned another shot at Embree with a 7-6(3), 6-2 victory over No. 3 seed Ester Goldfeld. The first set was full of long points and service breaks--six in all--but Goldfeld's backhand let her down in the tiebreaker, allowing to Capra to win the first difficult set she's had in the tournament.
Montez will face No. 6 seed Sachia Vickery, who emerged with her first win over Madison Keys in their last three meetings 6-2, 7-6(3). The much taller Keys was determined to use her height and reach at the net, but Vickery passed extremely well throughout the match and with her speed and anticipation very few volleys from Keys were outright winners. Keys' serve, which is superior to Vickery's, did not prove to be much of an advantage because of the low percentage of first serves she made.
The doubles quarterfinals had their share of excitement too, with three of the four boys matches going to the 10 point tiebreaker. No. 2 seeds Jordan Cox and Evan King escaped with a 6-2, 6-7(3), 10-5 win over unseeded Frank Carleton and Sundling. No. 4 seeds Mauricio Astorga and Jose Gerardo Meza-Paniagua of Mexico downed No. 6 seeds Kudla and Raymond Sarmiento 6-2, 3-6, 10-3. Top seeds Matt Kandath and Lipman saved two match points in their tiebreaker, eking past the unseeded pair of Kehrer and Lin 6-1, 5-7, 13-11. They will play unseeded Sekou Bangoura Jr. and Nathan Pasha, the only team that had a stress-free semifinal, as they downed No. 5 seeds David Holiner and Tennys Sandgren 6-0, 6-1.
One girls doubles semfinal will feature No. 7 seeds Kate Fuller and Monica Yajima, who took out No. 1 seeds Eugenie Bouchard and Nicole Smith of Canada 6-2, 6-4, against No. 6 seeds Jessica Alexander and Embree, who prevailed in a tiebreaker over No. 4 seeds Capra and Alexandra Cercone. The other semifinal has No. 2 seeds Cierra Gaytan-Leach and Montez taking on unseeded Goldfeld and Ellen Tsay.
For complete results, see the TennisLink site.