Domijan and McHale Fall in Three Sets at Plantation; Plaza Cup Draws Released, with Play Beginning at 8 am Saturday
©Colette Lewis 2010--
Teenagers Christina McHale and Alex Domijan started out well in their quarterfinal matches at the Pro Circuit tournaments in Plantation, but neither was able to recover from poor second sets, and the pair failed to advance to Saturday's semifinals. McHale fell to No. 1 seed Maret Ani of Estonia 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, while Domijan was defeated by fellow qualifier Jean-Noel Insausti of France 2-6, 6-0, 6-3.
Much balmier weather was a welcome relief from the record cold that has gripped South Florida for the past 12 days, but with it came some gusty winds that made for adventurous service tosses, and both McHale and Ani struggled to hold serve throughout the match.
McHale fell behind 2-0 to start the match, but reeled off six straight games, making virtually no errors during that stretch, and running Ani from side to side. The 27-year-old Ani on the other hand, couldn't find the court, or rather couldn't find anything but the net, as many of her errors didn't reach McHale's side of the court. Ani didn't help her cause by double faulting away two service games, the last double fault coming on set point.
At the set break, it was as if the two players swapped games, in some sort of bizarre tennis version of duplicate bridge. McHale's errors began to pile up, with her forehand sailing long, and her first serve nowhere to be found. She lost eight straight points early in the second set, and when she got one of the breaks back, she was immediately broken; there was a series of five straight service breaks to close out the second set.
In the third set, Ani saved a break point in the opening game, but McHale couldn't overcome two double faults in her first service game. Then McHale picked up her game, winning eight straight points to take a 0-40 lead with Ani serving at 2-2. But Ani saved all three of those break points and another one in the three-deuce game, playing much more assured tennis when she was on the brink. Trailing 2-3, it was then McHale's turn to save three break points, but unlike Ani, she couldn't save a fourth, with a double fault at deuce contributing to the break. Ani saved another break point in the next game, taking a 5-2 lead, but McHale suddenly began to recognize that she had to play more aggressively. She stepped in more often, held for 5-3--only her third hold since the first game of the second set--then broke Ani at 15 to get back on serve.
McHale quickly fell behind 0-30 and a forehand wide, with the wind assisting it, left her staring at three match points. She saved the first with a service winner and the second with a forehand winner down the line, but on the third, her forehand went just long, putting Ani in the semifinals, where she will meet No. 3 seed Johanna Larson of Sweden.
Domijan's match with Insausti was beginning as McHale's was drawing to a close, and unlike his second round match of Thursday, Domijan was off to a flying start. Domijan broke the 25-year-old from France in the third game and in the seventh, and was serving so well that it looked as if Insausti would need to win a tiebreaker in the second set to have a chance.
But after a bathroom break, Insausti returned a different player. He began to read Domijan's serve, and his returns were more offensive than defensive. Unable to get any free points from his serve or from weak returns, Domijan had to stay in long rallies, and Insausti, who had made a slew of unforced errors in the first set, simply outlasted him. So clean was Insausti's play in the second set that Domijan didn't even have a game point on his own serve.
Domijan, like Insausti playing in his seventh match in eight days, didn't look tired, but he couldn't match Insausti's quickness, and Domijan had particular trouble when Insausti served into his body. Domijan had a chance to turn the momentum in his favor in the second game of the third set, but he couldn't convert his game point and a double fault and a forehand into the net gave Insausti his eighth game in a row. He extended that to nine, taking a 3-0 lead, and it was all he would need, as Domijan would not get a break point chance the rest of the way.
Serving for the match at 5-3, Insausti showed off his variety at 30-30, hitting a tricky slice volley that Domijan had no chance to reach. The subsequent match point also found Insausti at the net, and he hit a more conventional deep volley to earn his spot in the semifinals. He will play fellow qualifier Marco Mirnegg of Austria. The other semifinal features Morgan Phillips of Great Britain and No. 3 seed Benoit Paire of France.
While the two American teens were not able to reach the semifinals, 16-year-old Alja Tomljanovic of Croatia managed to come back from the loss of the first set for the second straight day, defeating wild card Ahsha Rolle 2-6, 7-5, 6-2. Tomljanovic, a qualifier, will play No. 4 seed Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia, a 6-2, 6-2 winner over Karolina Kosinska of Poland in Friday's other quarterfinal.
For complete draws, see the Pro Circuit results page at usta.com.
The Tennis Plaza Cup, which is a regional level 3 USTA tournament for four age divisions, begins tomorrow, and I'll be at the Salvadore Park site in Coral Gables most of the time. That site, where the girls 12s Junior Orange Bowl is held, has the boys and girls 18s and the girls 14s on its 13 courts. Floridians Danny Riggs and Bianca Sanon are the top seeds in the 18s. I will also try to get to the Biltmore, where the boys 16s are being played, as that field is chock full of the U.S. players from the boys 14s Junior Orange Bowl, with one who wasn't at the Junior Orange Bowl, Gordon Watson, the top seed.
For complete draws, see the TennisLink site.