©Colette Lewis 2009--
Once the early tournament rain was safely in the rear view mirror, the USTA boys 18 & 16 National Championships were moving along in an orderly fashion until today, when the round of 32 produced shock after shock.
The first indication that Wednesday would be a day of surprises came before the morning low clouds and fog had burned away, when No. 29 seed Dane Webb blitzed through No. 2 seed Shane Vinsant 6-2, 6-2. Former training partners at the T Bar M Academy in Dallas, Texas, (Vinsant now trains with the USTA at Boca Raton), the pair have had so many battles and know each other's games so well that calling the result an upset would deny their long history.
"We've played like over 15 or 20 times," said Webb, who got out to an early lead and maintained his focus throughout the match. "We basically know each other's games perfectly, so it's usually whoever executes better that day. We usually switch off and it's usually pretty close, but I played well today."
As a 29 seed, Webb hadn't experienced the show courts at Stowe Stadium until today, but he was happy to play well on such an important stage.
"I got off to a better start and had some momentum from there. He had some trouble getting going. It was fun, I had a lot of fun."
Aside from Webb's big win, there were few other surprises in the 16s, with top seed Jack Sock and No. 3 seed Bjorn Fratangelo easing past their opponents in straight sets, as did No. 4 seed Jackson Withrow. No. 12 Spencer Simon survived a two-hour and forty-five minute ordeal with unseeded Michael Redlicki before emerging with a 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-1 victory. Simon's opposition in the fifth round, No. 8 seed Gonzales Austin, also had his hands full with unseeded Anthony Delcore, who trains with Withrow in the unlikely tennis hotbed of Omaha, Nebraska. Austin prevailed 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4 in the day's last singles contest.
There are a total of five unseeded players in the round of 16 in the younger division, all in the top half and three in Sock's quarter: Michael Rinaldi, Alexander Petrone, Nick Chappell; with Robert Stineman and Daniel Ho in the quarter with Fratangelo and Marcos Giron. Giron, the No. 7 seed, has lost only 12 games in three matches.
In the 18s, the result that had Stowe Stadium buzzing all afternoon and evening was No. 19 Kevin King's 6-7(0), 6-4, 7-6(2) win over top seed Alex Domijan.
The 18-year-old King, who already has a full year of college tennis under his belt at Georgia Tech, is a difficult matchup for many players. A left-hander who has no fear of the net and volleys well, King demonstrated the improvement in his ground strokes during the past year, staying with the 6-foot-6-1/2-inch Domijan in many baseline rallies before taking an opening and closing in on the net.
"I knew if I played too defensively, he'd run me around," said King, who last year lost a close match to top seed Ryan Harrison on the same Stowe court--No. 2. "I played pretty offensive, and I wanted to get him out of his comfort zone."
Domijan looked a step slow throughout the last half of the match, but his serve and his forehand kept King from breaking him in the third set, until 5-5. Domijan saved two break points in the 11th game, but lost the third when a forehand found the net, giving King the chance to serve out the match.
King earned two match points in that game, but Domijan hit a deep winner on the first and King made a nervous forehand error on the second. When Domijan got his first game point, he smoked a return winner off an excellent King first serve, leaving a tiebreaker to decide it.
"He played a good game," said King, who didn't show any signs of frustration or panic when he did not convert those two chances to end the match. "I was just trying to hang in there and make him beat me."
That sounds more defensive that King actually played, as he hit two winners to open the tiebreaker, and took a 4-2 lead on an exquisite touch volley winner. A King ace made it 5-2, and he earned four more match points on a forehand pass after he had forced Domijan into the net.
This time, King made good on his chance to complete the upset, scrambling after each passing attempt Domijan made, once even falling down and getting up again, before sending the ball back over the net, and finally, beyond Domijan's reach.
"He came to the net, and I got a little bit lucky," King said. "He tried to wrong-foot me and I was ready for it."
King credited both his experience last year against Harrison and his year in college for his readiness to win such a close match.
"Having a high level of practice every day, good competition in the ACC and two great coaches (helps)," King said. "I've just been spending a lot of time on my game."
"It was good experience last year, the same scenario, and I knew he (Domijan) wasn't going to roll over, and I'd have to play tough. I didn't want to lose another close one."
While Domijan and King were battling through their third set, No. 5 seed Evan King and No. 25 seed Justin Shane were doing the same over on court 4. After dropping the first set 7-5, Shane began to control the rallies with his forehand, winning the second set 6-3, and taking a 2-0 lead in the third set, but he gave the break back serving at 3-2.
"When I got up a break I started trying to be special," said the 17-year-old from Virginia. "After he broke back and we were on serve, I went back to the way I was playing. I just hugged the baseline and I'd take it early and hit it to the other corner, make him run a lot. If he can do that and beat me, then he's too good."
At 5-5, King was broken, and Shane had the changeover to think about serving out the match.
"I was a little nervous, excited," said Shane, who ranked his first encounter with King as his best win. "I almost fell down, my legs gave out."
With Domijan's defeat, No. 2 Chase Buchanan now assumes the position as favorite, after his 6-2 6-2 win over No. 29 seed Christian Schultz. No. 3 seed Denis Kudla was down an early break to No. 17 JT Sundling, but took control for a 6-4, 6-1 win and No. 4 seed Tennys Sandgren also had a routine victory, taking out No. 32 seed Sean Berman 6-3, 6-2.
Unseed Mousheg Hovhannisyan continues to roll, dominating No. 10 seed Mitchell Frank 6-1, 6-3 and Frank Carleton, also unseeded, breezed past Devin McCarthy 6-1, 6-2. The third unseeded player in the 18s fifth round is Clarke Spinosa, who defeated Sidarth Balaji 6-4. 6-4.
The 18s doubles quarterfinals were played on Wednesday evening, and the results were in keeping with the theme of the day's singles.
No. 2 seeds Matt Kandath and Ryan Lipman fell to No. 8 seed Sekou Bangoura Jr. and Nathan Pasha 7-5, 7-6(6). Kandath and Lipman failed in their attempt to serve out the second set, but still had a chance to even the match in the tiebreaker. One of the tournament's most memorable shots was the last one; with Lipman serving at 6-7, Kandath hit what appeared to be a certain volley winner, but Bangoura had anticipated it. He tracked it down, and in a split second his laser of a backhand down the line ended the match.
Bangoura and Pasha will meet the unseeded team of Hovhannisyan and Ryan Cheung in Friday's semifinals. Hovhannisyan and Cheung, who saved match points in their Tuesday night win, again came from behind Wednesday, defeating the No. 12 seeded team of Andrew Butz and Zachary Katz 6-7(6), 6-3, 7-5. Butz was serving for the match at 5-4, but was broken at 30-40, and the Californians broke Katz to secure the semifinal spot.
The other semi will feature top seed Daniel Nguyen and JT Sundling against No. 7 seeds Mitchell Frank and Junior Ore. Nguyen and Sundling beat King and Kudla 7-5, 6-4, while Frank and Ore got past No. 16 seed Christopher Mengel and Schultz by the same score.
The round of 16 in both divisions is scheduled for Thursday, as is the 16s doubles quarterfinals.
For complete results, see ustaboys.com.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009