©Colette Lewis 2009--
USTA Winter Championship 18s finalist Connor Smith is one win away from duplicating that feat in the next seasonal USTA championship, but girls Winter champion Hanna Mar isn't going back-to-back, as the No. 2 seed fell to unseeded Monica Turewicz in Thursday's quarterfinal play.
Smith, the No. 2 seed, hasn't lost a set this week in Mobile, and today, in his 6-3, 6-2 victory over Christopher Mengel, a No. 17 seed, I was fortunate to see the turning point in the match. (Again, all matches were played simultaneously, so I was watching eight at once). With Mengel serving at 3-4 in the first, Smith went up 15-40, but after missing two second serve returns, it looked as if he might have let Mengel off the hook. As the deuces and ads piled up, the significance of the game grew, until Smith finally got the break.
It took a spectacular shot to do it, however, a reflex stop volley after retrieving a couple of sure volley winners from Mengel.
"I didn't even know," said Smith, who had been turned in every direction fending off Mengel's attempts to pass him. "I just felt something hit my racquet. I might as well have been blindfolded."
With a 5-3 lead, the 18-year-old Smith served out the set, and agreed that taking that game was a psychological advantage.
"That was a game to distance myself, definitely and I think it might have gotten into his head a little bit too."
In the semifinal, Tampa's Smith will face a frequent sectional foe, 17-year-old Frederick Saba of Ft. Lauderdale, the No. 11 seed, who defeated unseeded Dennis Novikov 6-4, 7-5. The third Floridian, No. 13 seed Sekou Bangoura Jr. of Bradenton, also advanced in straight sets, beating No. 17 seed Spencer Wolf 6-3, 6-3.
"It's the opposite of Winters, which seemed like was all SoCal," said Smith, who lost to JT Sundling of Thousand Oaks, Calif. in the final. "It's good to see the Florida guys doing well in Alabama."
The fourth semifinalist is No. 4 seed Jack Sock, of Lincoln, Neb., who won the Winter Nationals in the 16s division. Sock put an end to the run of Max Ando Hirsh of Texas 6-4, 6-4 in a hard-fought, and at times contentious, match.
In contrast to the boys semifinalists, of the girls remaining, only one is a seed, No. 1 Beatrice Capra. Capra played a very clean match against No. 10 seed Alexandra Anghelescu, who made too many errors to challenge the 16-year-old from Maryland, and fell 6-1, 6-2. Capra's opponent in the semifinals is unseeded Mary Clayton, who defeated Alina Jerjomina, a No. 17 seed, 6-4, 4-2 ret. Jerjomina had been having problems with her feet throughout the tournament and her long three setter with Kristin Norton and a three set doubles match on Wednesday probably contributed to her retirement today.
Unseeded Chichi Scholl continued her strong play, eliminating Chanelle Van Nguyen 6-1, 6-3. Scholl was dictating from the baseline throughout the match, moving Van Nguyen from side to side and forcing her to play defensively. An unseeded finalist is assured from the bottom half, with Turewicz's win over Mar.
Turewicz and Mar were the last match to finish, and when I arrived it was 4-4 in the second set, Turewicz having won the first 6-4. Turewicz held for 5-4 and Mar was under pressure to extend the match. After three unforced errors, leaving the score at 15-30, Mar pounded a forehand into the corner that produced an error from Turewicz. At 30-30, Mar tried to force the action, but when she got into the net, she couldn't volley the high ball Turewicz gave her and it was match point. Mar saved one with another forehand that forced an error after a lengthy rally, but her next forehand caught the tape for match point number two. Mar never got her teeth into that point, and her backhand moonball went well long to give Turewicz the win.
The doubles are still underway, but the semifinalists will be decided by the end of the evening. For complete results, including the doubles and consolation draws, see the TennisLink site.
Thursday, March 19, 2009