©Colette Lewis 2009--
When they last met, Chase Buchanan and Ryan Lipman needed a third set tiebreaker to decide their third round qualifying match in a Florida Pro Circuit Futures event seven months ago, with Buchanan posting the victory.
The prize on the line Sunday is significantly more important--the national junior title, and with it, a main draw wild card into the U.S. Open.
Buchanan and Lipman arrived at that coveted destination in vastly different ways on a day that saw the heat index exceed 90 degrees on the Stowe Stadium courts. Second seed Buchanan could do no wrong in his 6-0, 6-1 destruction of unseeded Mousheg Hovhannisyan, while the eighth seeded Lipman had to come from behind to eliminate No. 13 seed Raymond Sarmiento 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Buchanan has rolled to the finals without dropping a set, or even needing a tiebreaker, and he was at the top of his game in Saturday's semifinal. Hovhanniysan, who had eliminated the No. 10, 6 and 14 seeds in his previous three victories and also reached the doubles semifinals, appeared fatigued from all that tennis, and the unforced errors that he avoided in those previous rounds surfaced often against a relaxed Buchanan.
Like Buchanan, Lipman had faced no serious challenge in his first five matches, but he played much more nervously against Sarmiento who came out firing, breaking Lipman in the opening game and holding that advantage throughout the set.
In the second set, it was Lipman who got an early break and made it stand up, and with the heat rule in effect, there was a 10-minute rest period before the start of the third set.
"My coach (Bill Tym) just rolled in from Nashville, and I knew if I had him in the ten minutes, he'd really help me out," said Lipman, who will begin classes at Vanderbilt this fall. "That was the 'trick up my sleeve' that Raymond was talking about yesterday."
Sarmiento double faulted on game point in to open the third set, and trailing 2-1, he asked for the trainer for a calf muscle cramp. The delay didn't affect Lipman, and he maintained his lead. Trailing 5-3 in the third was a familiar position for Sarmiento, as he had come back from that to beat Kevin King in the quarterfinals Friday, but in the final game against Lipman, his forehand let him down. Lipman couldn't make anything happen on his first two match points, but he didn't have to do anything on the third, as Sarmiento double faulted to end the match.
Lipman said that he had been practicing best of five sets at home to prepare, although neither he nor Buchanan had played that format in competition.
"I definitely don't have a problem going three sets," Buchanan said. "I'm sure for everybody here five sets is a different beast."
Lipman is looking forward to his rematch with Buchanan.
"We always have tight matches, I'm excited, it should be fun," Lipman said. "He is playing good, but I don't think he's played anybody like me, that are crafty, with finesse; he's played guys who hit right in his strike zone, so I'll mix it up a little bit."
Two other players who had cruised through their draws met in the 16s semifinal Saturday, with top seed Jack Sock and No. 3 seed Bjorn Fratangelo engaging in a very entertaining battle before Sock emerged with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 victory.
Fratangelo served very well in the opening set, and had his chance to take the lead when Sock was down 0-40 serving at 3-3. But Sock saved five break points, a theme that would be repeated throughout the match, held for 4-3, then broke Fratangelo to earn the first set.
"He came out firing and pretty much kept it up for three sets, which is pretty rare actually," said Sock. "I thought if I moved him a lot, he would try to go for broke, miss more than he made. I played too far behind the baseline, too defensive, let him play his own game. I don't know how I won. I was serving awful."
After being broken three times in the second set, Sock came back from the 10-minute break and was broken again. But he got the break back immediately and started to serve better, especially when he got down 0-40 at 3-3 and had aces on two of three points.
Fratangelo, who had played so well for so long, finally wilted in the third, with two double faults contributing to his demise. He saved one match point with a blistering forehand, but on the second, his forehand didn't make it over the net, and Sock had survived.
While Sock and Fratangelo were each playing in their first three-setter, the other 16s semifinal featured two veterans of extended play. No. 8 seed Gonzales Austin had played deciding sets in three previous rounds, while No. 4 seed Jackson Withrow had come back from a set down in his fifth round and quarterfinal matches.
So when Austin finally claimed a 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 6-3 victory over a cramping Withrow, the large weekend crowd voice their appreciation for the energy and intensity that both players displayed during their nearly three-hour encounter.
Withrow appeared to be fighting off cramps late in the third set, when he was desperately trying to get back the break he'd surrendered at 2-2. Austin held firm, however, and with Withrow serving to stay in the match at 3-5, the cramps got worse. Withrow saved the first match point with a good second serve, and another with an overhead, but after that shot, he fell to the ground in pain near the net and a trainer was called to assist him. He eventually resumed play, but Austin showed effects of the delay, winning the next two points to take the match.
"I was thinking I should have finished the match already," Austin said of his thought process during Withrow's treatment. "I wasn't sure if he was going to quit, I didn't think he would, but I wondered if it was a tactic to break my momentum. But apparently he actually was cramping."
Against Sock, whom he lost to in three sets in the National team competition last week, Austin has a definite strategy.
"Keep it away from Sock's forehand. His forehand is just huge, he hits winners off that side all day long. But if I can do that and serve well, I think I can beat him."
The left-hander from Miami has never been beyond the round of 16 in a National Championship before, but says that he has seen big improvement in his game this summer. Sock will have an obvious advantage in the big match department, having won 17 gold balls already.
"It might be a pretty big factor, actually," said Sock, envisioning his opponent as being "pretty nervous starting out. I'll be a little nervous, but I'm used to it, so we'll see."
The 16s finals are scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m., with the 18s final following at approximately 1:30 p.m.
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Saturday, August 15, 2009