©Colette Lewis 2009--
Boca Raton, FL--
It might not have been the weather the hundred or so spectators were hoping for, but the cool and cloudy conditions that greeted Thursday's competitors in the Champion Porsche Pro Circuits events at the Swim and Racquet Center were ideal for long and dramatic matches. The top seed in the men's $10,000 Futures, Gabriel Moraru of Romania, survived a three hour and forty minute test, trailing throughout the entire match, until he won it, 6-7(5), 7-6(3), 7-6(3), over Stefano Ianni of Italy. Ianni was up 5-0 in the second set and 5-2 in the third, and although I didn't watch it carefully enough to count exactly, he must have served for the match at least five times. Late in the tiebreaker, the good-natured Italian, who had required at least two visits from the trainer, let loose with a long shout in Italian, and from the grabbing of his neck, I took it to refer to choking, a comment few in the mostly full show court bleachers would disagree with. Moraru, on the other hand, looked calm and unperturbed throughout the ordeal, and looked fit enough at the end of the match to play another three hours if necessary.
The 26-year-old top seed's opponent in the quarterfinals will be 17-year-old Chase Buchanan, who had a rollercoaster of a match with Simeon Ivanov of Bulgaria before recovering for a 6-1, 0-6, 7-5 victory. Buchanan lost the first game, on his serve, then reeled off the next six to take the first set. I took the opportunity to look in on the Kim Couts - Lauren Albanese match a few courts away, and when I returned, with Albanese leading 4-3 in the first set, in a match that started at the same time as Buchanan - Ivanov, Buchanan was double faulting to give Ivanov the second set. He then lost his seventh and eighth games in a row to go down 2-0 in the third, got back even, then broke Ivanov to take a 5-4 lead. Buchanan didn't come close to serving it out however, but got a second chance with a break in the next game, and made no mistake that time.
Meanwhile, Albanese had taken the first set from Couts, but Couts was leading in the second set, and after nearly two hours, it looked as if a split was inevitable. But the third seeded Albanese dug out from a 5-3 deficit and took the subsequent tiebreaker to claim a 6-4, 7-6(5) victory that took more than two-and-a-half hours to complete.
While that battle was raging, qualifier Gabriela Paz of Venezuela was grinding down Aurelie Vedy of France 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Although I could hear the pair, with Paz's distinctive squeal usually audible, I couldn't see them, as I was perched outside court 5 watching the Tim Smyczek - Alex Domijan match. I joined with wild card Domijan serving at 5-6 in the first set, and he held to force a tiebreaker, which Smyczek, a qualifier, but the No. 4 seed, would go on to dominate, winning the last five points to take it 7-6(1). Smyczek broke Domijan to start the second set, but the hard-hitting 17-year-old got it back immediately, and then broke Smyczek in the sixth game for a 4-2 lead. Smyczek got that break right back and a much different tiebreaker decided the match.
Domijan had a set point serving at 6-5, but a Smyczek shot landing right on the baseline handcuffed him. He didn't get another opportunity, although he did fight off two match points, before Smyczek, who had some success bringing Domijan in and passing him, forced a wild forehand volley from Domijan to end it.
Smyczek, who turned 21 last month, will face former USC Trojan Adriano Biasella of Italy, who handily defeated Phillip Simmonds 6-2, 6-1. Biasella, 28, is a qualifier.
Croatia's Alja Tomljanovic, who had upset top seed Angela Haynes on Wednesday, was outlasted by Heidi El Tabakh of Canada 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 Thursday afternoon.
For complete results, visit the Pro Circuit home page at usta.com.
Thursday, January 15, 2009