©Colette Lewis 2009--
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.
Friday, August 14, 2009