Gibbs and Tsay Oust No. 2 & No. 4 Seeds at Dunlop Orange Bowl; Five* Players Defaulted for Altercation Tuesday Night
©Colette Lewis 2009--
Key Biscayne, FL--
The heat index hovered around 90 degrees all day during the second round of the Orange Bowl, and the emotional heat index was even higher. Arguments with the chair umpires, racquet smashing, and wails of anguish could be heard all over the spacious Crandon Park grounds, and given the stress levels, it was composure that often won out over seeding.
Three British boys, no doubt inspired by a visit to the grounds by world No. 4 Andy Murray, scored three big upsets in the 18s, with qualifier George Morgan defeating No. 3 seed Kevin Krawietz of Germany 6-4, 2-6, 6-4, Jack Carpenter putting out No. 4 seed and Eddie Herr finalist Marton Fucsovics of Hungary 7-6, 1-6, 6-1 and Oliver Golding coming back to beat No. 9 seed Tiago Fernandes of Brazil 6-7, 6-1, 6-4.
In the girls 18s, it was the Americans who scored comback upsets, with wild card Ellen Tsay beating No. 4 seed Silvia Njiric of Croatia 6-7(3), 6-3, 7-5 and Nicole Gibbs eliminating No. 2 seed Timea Babos of Hungary 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 in late afternoon matches.
Babos couldn't shake Gibbs, who began to get a better read on Babos's serve, and alos solved the problems she was experiencing off the ground.
"The first set my forehand wasn't there, actually both my ground strokes," Gibbs said. "I felt a little lackadaisical sitting around all day waiting. I tried to warm up before I got on the court, but I just wasn't match ready quite. But as the second set came around I got into a better groove and started to work the points better."
When Gibbs went up 3-0 in the third set, and the trainer, who Babos had requested after the first game, arrived on the court. Gibbs tried to stay warm, and stay focused, something she has not always done previously.
"That's always really tricky for me, because when I ice over I have a really hard time getting a groove back. I've gotten in a couple of really bad situations when someone calls a trainer for whatever reason and I can't hit a ball for the next two games, so I just tried to stay warm the whole time. I think I'm learning."
Gibbs succeeded in keeping her concentration and Babos became increasingly frustrated with everything, but especially the chair umpire. "So many mistakes," she screamed at the chair, and a few points later, after she'd lost another game "That was my bloody game."
With Gibbs leading 5-2 in the third, Babos hitting a ball into the water cooler as she got up from her chair to serve, and the umpire assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct point penalty. Down 0-15 to start the game, Babos couldn't summon any composure, and rarely got a serve near the service box in the next two points, and hit a backhand way long on match point.
"I think the calls were bad in waves, but you have to deal with it," Gibbs said. "I had a couple at the end of the first set, and you've got to try to bounce back, and play the next point."
Tsay and Njiric had a more subdued battle, but that didn't make it any less dramatic. Down 3-0 in the final set, Tsay changed her strategy, and it paid off.
"I started getting tired, because I was running around the whole time," said Tsay. "She's a pretty good, aggressive player, so I decided to just let loose and be really aggressive."
Tsay closed the net to volley often, and once she fought back from 0-40 down to hold for 4-3, she never trailed. Njiric handled the pressure of serving from behind until serving at 5-6. She had a game point to take it to a tiebreaker, but a netted forehand made it deuce and two more unforced errors put Tsay into the third round.
Tsay's quiet personality is evident on court, and she was asked how she maintained that calm demeanor in the difficult conditions, when tempers were flaring all around her.
"If it's really hot, why would you waste your energy yelling?"
There was a lot of energy expended in a nearby boys match between wild card Nick Chappell and No. 8 seed Arthur De Greef, which De Greef won 7-5, 5-7, 7-6(4). Down 5-2 in the third set, a cramping Chappell, who also frequently expressed his displeasure with the chair umpire's calls, served for the match at 6-5 and had a match point. Coming to the net, Chappell put the pressure on the Belgian, but the passing shot found its target, and Chappell fell to the court trying to get a racquet on it. De Greef played a better tiebreaker, and won the match, but he was obviously not pleased with his performance.
When he lost his serve at 5-5, he smashed a racquet, getting a warning from the chair. But that wasn't enough to ease his frustrations, as after the match he went behind the court and destroyed a couple more, unusual behavior for a winner.
The American boys reaching the round of 16 are Junior Ore, Bob van Overbeek, Denis Kudla, Sekou Bangoura Jr., Mitchell Frank, Dennis Novikov and Jack Sock. Sock, who is blogging for usta.com, plays Novikov, who won a dramatic match of his own over No. 13 seed Micke Kontinen of Finland 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(5).
The U.S. girls in the round of 16 are Madison Keys, Tsay, Lauren Davis, Robin Anderson and Gibbs. Only Keys is in the top half, and Anderson and Gibbs play on Thursday.
In the 16s, the U.S. girls dominated play on Wednesday. Unseeded Kyle McPhillips dismantled No. 4 seed Elisabeth Abanda of Canada 6-2, 6-0, and her opponent in the third round will be Catherine Harrison, a qualifier who defeated No. 13 seed Victoriya Tomova of of Bulgaria 6-4, 6-3. Kelsey Laurente and Stephanie Nauta play each other, as do Breaunna Addison and Sachia Vickery. Vicky Duval, Caitlyn Williams, Molly O'Koniewski and Denise Starr give the U.S. ten of the final 16 players remaining.
In the boys 16s, nine of the final 16 are Americans. Alexios Halebian defeated No. 5 seed Hong Chung in two tiebreakers to earn his third round berth, and Eddie Herr 16s champion Hunter Harrington, who was the last direct entry into the field, beat No. 6 seed Hugo Dellien of Bolivia 6-4, 6-1. Dan McCall eliminated No. 4 seed Mathias Bourgue of France by the unusual score of 5-7, 6-0, 6-0 and lucky loser Andrew Adams took out No. 9 seed Edward Nguyen of Canada 6-2, 1-6, 6-4. Terrell Celestine defeated No. 11 seed Yuki Muramatsu and Jeremy Efferding won over No. 15 Filip Peliwo of Canada by retirement. Harrison Richmond and Chase Curry beat unseeded opponents, and Marcos Giron eased past No. 8 seed Mitchell Krueger, also of the U.S., 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, in a long and grueling contest.
For complete results, see the tournament website.
And now the details on the Tuesday night incident that led to the defaults of five players*. I was not on site at the time, but back at the hotel working on my Eddie Herr recap, so this is information that I've gathered from conversations with those who were there, or who had accounts from the U.S. players themselves. If there are any eyewitnesses who wish to correct what I've heard, or dispute it, please leave a comment below.
Campbell Johnson and Shaun Bernstein of the U.S. were playing doubles together in Tuesday night's first round of matches, as were Victor Baluda and Richard Muzaev of Russia, against other opponents. When darkness necessitated that each of their matches be moved to a lighted court, both teams arrived at the same court, and apparently words were exchanged about who belonged there. The Russians said they would see the Americans after their match to settle things, and when Johnson and Bernstein finished (both teams won), the Russians were waiting for them. More words were exchanged, but Johnson said he was not going to get involved, telling the Russians they were lucky he was still in the tournament, or else he would take up the fight. As Johnson walked away, he heard footsteps behind him, and as he turned, he was kicked in the chest and hit in the face. Rodney Carey of the Bahamas entered the fray to help Johnson, who did not fight back, but did use profanity and was heard threatening to kill the Russians.
The police were called, and the tournament referee Brad Taylor defaulted the five players from the tournament. There was no official statement or announcement by Taylor or the USTA staff; the only information given was that the players were thrown out of the tournament for an off-court altercation. Johnson, Baluda and Muzaev were all still in singles; their opponents were notified of the defaults this morning, and their doubles opponents were also given wins due to defaults.
Tennis isn't immune from trash talking, but an incident like this is incredibly rare, and as I thought about it, I began to formulate a theory as to why. By this stage in a junior's career, they have seen and been through a lot, on the court, and off. They've all been cheated out of matches by opponents, been the victim of bad line calls by chair umpires, been frustrated by weather, by expectations, by opponents' gamesmanship, by incompetent tournament directors, by their own inadequacies. But they've either learned enough self-control by this time to deal with all this, or they've left the sport to others who have.
To see such small slight escalate into physical violence just doesn't fit the profile. Impulse control is just too much a part of a tennis player's life to break down so dramatically.
Additional action on the incident is expected by the ITF. I hope resolution of this doesn't take as long as it did in the Serena Williams case.
*This has been amended to three players defaulted. See statement from tournament referee Brad Taylor at the bottom of this post.