©Colette Lewis 2009--
The drizzle and rain of the past three days finally subsided, allowing all of Thursday's matches to be played outdoors at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Tulsa. It was cold and cloudy, but Sekou Bangoura Jr. pronounced it a "good day", as the No. 9 seed ousted top seed Denis Kudla 7-6(6), 6-3 in the boys quarterfinals.
Kudla was serving for the first set at 5-3 but Bangoura broke twice in succession, only to lose his serve up 6-5.
"It was a weird set," said the 17-year-old Floridian. "I went up a break, then he went up a break, then in the tiebreak, I went up 4-1 and he brought it back and it was 8-6. It was just a momentum changing match, one after another."
Usually calm and unemotional on court, Bangoura gave an emphatic first pump and "c'mon" when he converted his third set point to win the tiebreaker. He had lost to Kudla the last three times they had played, so was obviously eager to end that streak, sensing that Kudla was not at his best.
"I just wanted to go out and grind my way through it," Bangoura said, although with his relaxed and fluid strokes, that verb doesn't seem apt. "Keep the ball in play and look for my opportunities. On these courts, the ball doesn't bounce very high and I hit really flat, so I would be on the run and hit a flat ball and it would kind of skid, and he'd make an error. In some instances, I got pretty lucky."
Bangoura admitted that he was having trouble with his serve throughout the match, so he was a bit nervous when serving for it at 5-3 in the second. Down 0-30, he won the next three points with help from his first serve, but hit a backhand into the net on his first match point. A long forehand gave Kudla a break point, but Bangoura saved that with a sharply angled cross court forehand winner after a long rally. Two Kudla forehand errors later, Bangoura had sealed the victory.
Bangoura's semifinal opponent is No. 4 seed Raymond Sarmiento, who continued his cruise through the draw with a 6-1, 6-3 win over No. 6 seed Dennis Novikov. In the other semifinal, also between two Americans, No. 3 seed Mitchell Frank will face unseeded Nick Chappell.
Chappell reached his second consecutive Grade 1 semifinal with a 6-3, 7-5 win over No. 5 seed Junior Ore, and the Indiana junior has yet to lose a set in the tournament. Frank, a junior from Virginia, is also 8 for 8 in sets this week, although he did need tiebreakers in Wednesday's third round and in today's quarterfinal, where he came back from 4-1 down in the opening set for a 7-6(2), 6-3 win over No. 7 seed Bob van Overbeek.
In the girls quarterfinals, every match featured a seeded player against an unseeded player, and in all four instances, the favorite prevailed.
Number seven seed Ester Goldfeld, the sole American remaining in the girls singles, defeated Blair Shankle 6-4, 6-3. Shankle had upset No. 2 seed Madison Keys in the second round on Wednesday. Goldfeld will face No. 4 seed Katarena Paliivets of Canada, who ended the run of Oklahoma's Mia Lancaster 6-2, 6-3.
Puerto Rico's Monica Puig, seeded fifth, defeated Kaitlin Ray 6-3, 6-4 in a match that featured lengthy point after lengthy point, and was much tighter than the score indicates. Number eight seed Eugenie Bouchard of Canada beat Rachel Kahan 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-3. Kahan, who had taken out top seed Beatrice Capra in third round play Wednesday, was two points from victory serving at 5-4 30-15 in the second set, but two double faults in that game proved her undoing. Bouchard picked up her game late in the tiebreaker, staying in points longer, and Kahan made more ground stroke errors than she had against Capra.
At 3-3 in the third set, Kahan's serve continued to give her trouble, and as the double faults piled up, Bouchard had only to hold her serve once to record the win.
The doubles semfinalists were determined Thursday afternoon, with six of the eight matches decided by match tiebreakers.
No. 2 boys seeds Kudla and Ore lost to No. 6 seeds Nikolai Haessig and Edward Nguyen of Canada 6-3, 1-6, 10-5. The Canadians will face No. 8 seeds Emmett Egger and Shane Vinsant, who defeated No. 3 seeds Pavel Krainik and Dennis Novikov 4-6, 6-3, 10-7. No. 4 seeds Brandon Burke and Darian King beat unseeded Damien David and Samuel Monette 3-6, 7-6(4), 10-7 to move to the semifinals against unseeded Alexis Carlos and Marco Aurei Nunez. Carlos and Nunez defeated unseeded Chase Curry and Jeffrey Offerdahl 6-4, 6-3.
The TennisLink website hasn't updated the scores, so I won't give them for the girls, but No. 7 seeds Brooke Bolender and Lauren Herring were the only team to advance to the semifinals in straight sets. Bolender and Herring defeated No. 4 seeds Bouchard and Monica Turewicz in their second match of the day. They will play top seeds Beatrice Capra and Alexandra Cercone, who dropped the first set, but came back to win the match tiebreaker against No. 8 seeds Khristina Blajkevitch and Kate Fuller.
Unseeded Elizabeth Abanda and Elianne Douglas-Miron won a match tiebreaker from No. 6 seeds Fausthyara Pietersz and Sachia Vickery to earn a semifinal contest with No. 2 seeds Gabriela Dabrowski and Nicole Gibbs. Dabrowski and Gibbs were down 6-2 in the match tiebreaker against Goldfeld and Annie Mulholland, seeded fifth, but won the final eight points to end the match.
For draws, see the TennisLink site.