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Friday, August 14, 2009

Hovhannisyan's Dream Run Continues in 18s; Sock Rolls into Semifinals in 16s

©Colette Lewis 2009--
Kalamazoo MI--

Unseeded Mousheg Hovhannisyan claimed another big win in Friday's quarterfinals at the USTA Boys 16 & 18 National Championships at Stowe Stadium, taking out No. 14 seed Bob van Overbeek 6-2, 6-7(3), 6-3.

Unwilling to settle for one upset, Hovhannisyan has taken down four seeds in his march to the semifinals, and against van Overbeek he looked ready to breeze through after a very composed and error-free first set. The 17-year-old from Los Angeles was down 3-1 in the second set, but broke right back, and both players held serve the remainder of the way. Hovhannisyan took a 3-0 lead in the tiebreaker, but van Overbeek, perhaps remembering a similar situation in his match against Sandgren on Thursday, reeled off seven straight points to even the match. But because van Overbeek played so well, Hovhannisyan didn't panic.

"He just started hitting his shots, everything went perfect for him, I couldn't really do anything." said Hovhannisyan. "Usually I get mad when I'm up and I start losing, but he played well, I've got to give him credit. He was serving really big."

Until the eighth game of the third set, anyway, when van Overbeek double faulted three straight times to give Hovhannisyan the game and an opportunity to serve out the match.

What followed in that final game was some of the most entertaining tennis of the tournament, with long points and great patience by both players. Hovhannisyan joked that the two were pushing "like 10-year-old girls," but the dozens of times the ball went over the net on each point only heightened the tension, and the appreciative lunchtime crowd was solidly behind the underdog.

Hovhannisyan had his first match point at 40-30, but van Overbeek played aggressively and pounded an overhead winner. Match points two and three slipped away, and on match point number four, Hovhannisyan tried to end a 30-odd stroke rally with a drop shot/lob combination. When the lob drifted wide, he let out a shriek, but on the next point blasted a forehand that produced an error from van Overbeek. The final point was another lengthy rally of deep but safe ground strokes until Hovhannisyan finally got the backhand down the line he wanted and he ripped it for a winner. The fans, perhaps expecting yet another deuce, waited a beat before breaking into prolonged applause for the efforts of both players.

Hovhannisyan's next challenge is a formidable one, with No. 2 seed Chase Buchanan playing at the top of his game this week. Buchanan, who has yet to lose more than four games in a set in the tournament, got an early break against No. 7 seed Jarmere Jenkins and cruised to a 6-3, 6-3 win over his longtime friend and rival. Buchanan and Hovhannisyan have never played in competition, although they know each other's games from practice matches at the Evert Academy in Boca Raton.

"I know his game from practicing down at Evert's when he was there and I was with the USTA. He's not to be underestimated--he's a hell of a player."

No. 8 seed Ryan Lipman spent his morning practice hitting session with his mother Lisa working on his running forehand and it paid off at 5-4 in the first set of his win against No. 3 seed Denis Kudla. After a seven-deuce game that lasted over ten minutes, Lipman tracked down a blistering shot of Kudla's and hit a Sampras-like running forehand to claim the set. Kudla never recovered, and Lipman continued his dominance over the 2008 Kalamazoo 16s finalist.

"It's my patience, I think," Lipman answered when asked what about his game matches up well with Kudla's. "I make him play so many balls and he's used to wearing people down, and I don't he's used to having people wear him down. The slice just irritates him, he can't really dictate points, he has to work points, which allows me to get into the match and frustrate him."

Lipman's opponent in the semifinals is No. 13 seed Raymond Sarmiento, who overcame No. 19 seed Kevin King 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. Sarmiento was down 5-3 in the final set, but he didn't let it affect his mental state or his passing shots, breaking left-hander from Georgia Tech the last two times he served.

"He played a great match," Sarmiento said. "I just told myself to hang in there in each point and it fell my way. I made a lot of returns (in the first set), but I got on top of his serve more. He serves and volleys to mix it up, so it's tough to get a rhythm."

King has excellent feel around the net, a talent that Sarmiento also displayed, helping keeping King off balance. And if King didn't putaway the first volley, he was unlikely to get a chance at a second, with Sarmiento's passing shots finding their targets regularly.

Lipman, who will be 19 in October, and Sarmiento, who turned 17 last month, haven't played often, the last time in the second round of the Grass Courts in 2008, a match Lipman won in straight sets. Although Sarmiento feels he knows what to expect from Lipman, whom he described as "crafty," he knows it won't be easy.

"He does have tricks up his sleeve," Sarmiento joked.

Even an emergency root canal on Thursday couldn't throw 16s top seed Jack Sock off his game, as he rolled past unseeded Nick Chappell 6-0, 6-1 in under an hour. Sock, who had accidentally taken a putter in the mouth from his older brother Eric during a round of golf, was out practicing only a few hours after a local dentist performed the procedure, and it was Sock who was surgical Friday morning. Chappell has been consistent and powerful all week, but couldn't find the court often enough, and Sock made sure to attack when he got a high or short ball.

Sock will play No. 3 seed Bjorn Fratangelo, who has also sailed through the draw without dropping a set. Playing on court 4 on Friday, Fratangelo took out No. 7 seed Marcos Giron 6-4, 6-4, getting a late break in both sets to secure the victory.

The other 16s semifinal will feature No. 8 seed Gonzales Austin against No. 4 seed Jackson Withrow. Austin defeated giant-killer Dane Webb, seeded 29, 7-5, 1-6, 6-2, his third consecutive three-setter. But the 16-year-old from Miami, who admits that no one he meets for the first time ever gets his name in the correct order, feels he's in shape for that kind of challenge.

"I just came from Clay Courts, and I had about 10 matches there. It was in Delray Beach, where it's 95 degrees and 100 percent humidity, so I think I'll be okay here."

Withrow, who lost his opening set for the second straight match before taking out No. 21 seed Morgan Mays 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, just wanted to stay out of the back draw.

"Going into the semis, that was the goal," said the 16-year-old from Omaha. "It's a lot more of a grind, people don't want to go home in the back draw, so it's always nice to stay in the main."

The 16s doubles final on Saturday will feature No. 2 seeds Emmett Egger and Shane Vinsant against No. 15 seeds Chappell and Giron. Egger and Vinsant breezed by No. 13 seeds Ashok Narayana and Michael Riechmann 6-2, 6-0 and Chappell and Giron cruised past No. 9 seeds Tyler Gardiner and Alexios Halebian 6-1, 6-3.

The 18s doubles semifinals were much more dramatic, with a third set deciding both.
Top seeds Daniel Nguyen and JT Sundling came back for a 4-6, 6-0, 6-4 win over No. 7 seeds Mitchell Frank and Junior Ore. At one stage, Nguyen and Sundling captured nine straight games to take a 3-0 lead in the third set, but Frank and Ore fought back and hung tough until Ore was broken serving at 4-5.

Challenging Nguyen and Sundling for the title and the US Open main draw wild card will be No. 8 seeds Sekou Bangoura Jr. and Nathan Pasha, who defeated unseeded Ryan Cheung and Hovhannisyan 6-1, 4-6, 6-2 in the last match completed on Friday evening.

For complete results, including consolation matches, see ustaboys.com.


wow said...

david holliner has gotten 5 defaults and a retirement. How can anyone say the backdraw of kzoo is for real?

Austin said...

So funny looking at the states of all the semifinalists. Obviously they dont all train in the towns they represent, but still its cool to see states other than just Florida and California.

In the 16's we have:

Omaha, NE
Lincoln, NE

In the 18's we have:

Los Angeles
Fontana, CA
New Albany, OH

*so there are more players from Nebraska than Florida, haha

bobbyd said...

Does anyone know if the USTA will remove the wild card for winnning kzoo? It really doesnt make much since wasting a spot in one of the biggest tournaments in the world to somebody who wont have a chance at winning.

changes needed said...


Very valid point. A qualifying wildcard would be better use for that player and the US Open instead of a main draw beating. Doubles as well.

Also, please get rid of the feed-in backdraw. The defaults are getting out of control. Still, very impressive to those players who pour their hearts into the back draw.

Austin said...

My thoughts on US Open wildcards for Kalamazoo finishers:

Winner: maindraw wildcard
Runnerup: qualifying wildcard
3rd Place: qualifying wildcard
4th Place: qualifying wildcard
Backdraw winner: qualifying wildcard

getreal said...

to bobbyd

if domijan was stil in the draw would you make the sa,me suggestion?

greg said...

to getreal: was your question about wildcard of backdraw? If re: wildcard: if he can't win here what would he be looking for @ US Open?

getreal said...

to greg

bobbyd suggested that the USTA was throwing away a main draw open WC on the zoo 18s players. So I asked bobbyd if his or her opinion would hold if Domijan, the favorite, had won it. In my opinion to eliminate the main draw Open WC would be a huge break with tradition and take away the magic of winning the zoo. That is why the zoo has always beeen so special and the best juniors the US has play it, which was the case this year except for Ryan Harrison, I believe, and Devin Britton who alreayd as a main draw open WC. Its a tough tournament to win and not all the top players do great in Kalamazoo but that is what the zoo is all about and what makes that stage so special. win who

bobbyd said...

Its not that the players arent good, they certainly are. Im just saying that they are not good enough to beat top 75 players. I would like the see the winner get 2 main draw w/c at challenger events. That would give them a very realistic shot at winning matches and not ruin a year of thier career getting embarrassed by a del potro or roddick in front of the whole world.

getreal said...

to boddyd

agree with your suggestion...how about 2 main draw WC to challengers and a qualie WC to the open. that would still keep the zoo magic alive

wildcard said...

is they take away the wildcard it will lose a ton of players, guaranteed. no chance any of the top players would play it. it would be left up to the USTA grinders such as connor smith, fred saba, and jt sundling for the title, each of whom got rocked in the zoo.

usopen said...

collette-do you have any idea when the wild cards for the us open will be announced? thanks.

hoops said...

the usta grinders are sundling, saba, and smith? Smith and sundling didnt play clay courts. Sundling has hardly played any usta events. The only tournament he has played different than any other itf american is winters and he won it. Saba got to the round of 16 so i would say thats a solid effort. Sundling won the doubs and conor smith didnt have his best tournament. I think everyone should try to look at the potential of all these kids instead of looking at all the negatives. I believe alot of these kids tennis games are going to take massive leaps once they start college. Congrats to Chase and wish him the best of luck at the open.

wildcard said...

im saying the only people who would show up are people like sundling(who showed up for winters), smith and saba(both played springs) which are jokes of supernationals. if they take the wildcard away kalamazoo will become no different then any other supernational