©Colette Lewis 2009--
I'm not a veteran of many professional tennis tournaments, either as a writer or a spectator. Even when I'm in New York for the Open, I seldom see a pro match except the night ones on television back in the hotel room, so focused am I on the junior competition. So I didn't know quite what to expect from today's trip to the ATP 250 Indianapolis Championships.
With only one main draw match on the schedule, there wasn't much of the bustle and crowds that make the middle weekend of the U.S. Open so irritating and exhilarating, and many of the booths, tents and trailers were still being prepared for next week's spectators.
By the time I had my credential in order, Jesse Levine had taken the first set from Cecil Mamiit 7-5, although he was down an early break in the second when I settled in to watch the second round qualifying match. Levine, the top seed in qualifying, broke Mamiit at 3-2 to pull even, held, then broke again, using his exceptional speed to track down every shot, including one short volley on break point that Mamiit had no reason to imagine would ever come back over the net. Levine did get it a millisecond before the second bounce however, and directed the ball toward Mamiit, who netted the volley.
Serving for the match, Levine made a couple of errors and double faulted, giving Mamiit three chances to get back on serve. But Mamiit missed his best opportunity when at 30-40 he had a backhand passing shot lined up perfectly and pulled it into the net. Levine won his fourth and fifth straight points with two clutch lefty serves, one a second serve winner and the final a kicker that set up an easy volley putaway for the 7-5, 6-3 victory. Levine will meet fellow Bollettieri pro Xavier Malisse in the final round of qualifying.
Sunday didn't prove to be a good day on Stadium court for freshmen NCAA singles champions. Mamiit, who won the title at USC in 1996, was the last freshman champion until this year, when Devin Britton of Ole Miss captured the title.
Britton, playing his first match as a professional after receiving a wild card into the main draw, held his own with fellow wild card and 2003 NCAA doubles champion Rajeev Ram, but Ram's confident serving was the difference.
Ram, who is from nearby Carmel, Indiana, broke Britton in the third game of the match, when too few first serves and too many double faults had the teenager playing from behind. Serving at 4-3, Ram went down 0-40, but Britton couldn't get the break, and a well-considered Hawkeye Challenge by Ram, which overturned a shot of Britton's called good, gave the former Illini player the game. Britton was broken again in the next game, despite three game points, and Ram had the opening set 6-3.
In the second set, Ram really began to serve well, and in his first five service games, Britton didn't get more than one point. Although the baseline rallies were usually even, and there was more touch and net play than is the norm in an ATP contest, it came down to who served better, and it was unquestionably Ram. The one time Britton had a glimmer of hope on Ram's serve, at 5-5, 40-30, Ram cracked an ace, and playing with the confidence of a recent tour title winner, Ram then broke Britton to claim the match 6-3, 7-5.
It was less than ten minutes later that the skies opened up, and once the courts were usable again, only a few games were played in the remaining qualifying matches before it began to rain again.
Both current college players, Illinois's Dennis Nevolo and Ohio State's Matt Allare, lost their second round qualifying matches in straight sets. For results, see the tournament website.
In Pro Circuit news today, unseeded sophomore Irina Falconi of Georgia Tech captured the $10,000 Atlanta event with a 6-0, 6-4 victory over No. 7 seed Jennifer Elie and recent LSU Tiger Michael Venus won the $10,000 Peoria Futures, beating Vasek Pospisil 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-4. Neither player was seeded. In the Lexington Challenger qualifying, former Kalamazoo champions Tennys Sandgren and Austin Krajicek have played their way into the main draw. Krajicek will play fellow qualifier Tim Smyczek, and Sandgren will meet No. 4 seed Ryan Sweeting. For complete results, see the usta.com Pro Circuit page.
Sunday, July 19, 2009