©Colette Lewis 2010--
Jordan Cox, Denis Kudla and Jack Sock, the top three seeds in the 18s division, played their first matches Saturday at Stowe Stadium, and all three advanced in straight sets. Kudla, seeded third, had the most emphatic win, defeating Axel Bouillin 6-0, 6-2. Cox had more difficulty with Christopher Cox, (no relation), taking that second round win 6-4, 7-5. Jack Sock, the only player of the three not yet a professional, drew the most college coaches to his match on Court 6, and they watched the 17-year-old from Nebraska take down Aaron Pfister of Grand Blanc, Michigan 6-2, 6-4.
Fourth seed Bjorn Fratangelo had considerably more trouble with Brandon Fickey, who held a match point in the second set against the 2010 Spring, Easter Bowl and Clay Court champion before falling 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-2.
When trying to close out a win over a player with Fratangelo's credentials, a little luck never hurts, but Fickey's luck on that match point was bad, not good. After missing his first serve at 6-5, 40-30 in the second set, he was about to take his second serve when a ballrunner from the adjacent court threw a ball behind the court to another ballrunner two courts away. The umpire and Fratangelo saw the throw, but Fickey, with his back to it, did not. He asked for a first serve, but the chair umpire ruled he had not started his service motion, and although he argued briefly, he hit a second serve, which he netted. Although several observers thought Fickey was entitled to a first serve, Fratangelo was not among them.
"As he was putting his arm up for the toss, the ball came over. The toss hadn't come out of his hand yet," said Fratangelo. "Then I guess he got tight, double faulted. He kept thinking about that, kept talking about that, and I guess his mind went away."
By the end of the second set, neither player looked at full strength. Fratangelo had the trainer out between the second and third sets for his back, while Fickey appeared to be limping, perhaps from cramps. But it was Fratangelo who got the early advantage in the third set, breaking Fickey in the opening game, and he protected that lead to the end.
Fickey, a rising senior from Tennessee, put Fratangelo on the defensive early with both consistency and a willingness to try some different strategies. He went to the drop shot often, sliced regularly and volleyed occasionally, especially in the first set.
Fratangelo admitted that he had difficulty adjusting to both Fickey's game and the speed of the Stowe Stadium courts.
"Coming from the clays and going to the hard courts, your body isn't used to the surface," Fratangelo said. "The courts are playing pretty quick this year too. He'd come in on random balls, even in no man's land, and he'd jump and hit a drop shot, which was something I wasn't expecting. He's a good player though. I scouted him before and he's pretty tough."
With all the success that Fratangelo has had in USTA 18s tournaments this year, the 17-year-old arrived in Kalamazoo with his confidence high.
"I feel good, I feel confident, although I don't know if today I showed it," he said. "In my game, I'm finding another gear that I can go to. It's something that I know I can do in the back of my mind. It gives me a lot of confidence to go three sets, to keep playing and fighting."
The only top 16 seed to lose in the opening round of play was clay court finalist Alexios Halebian, the 16th seed, who was beaten by Shaun Bernstein 6-3, 6-2 at the Western Michigan site. Evan Song, the 24th seed, needed 3 hours and 43 minutes before finally getting past Ashok Narayana 7-5, 2-6, 7-6, also at Western Michigan.
There will be no back-to-back Kalamazoo titles for 2009 16s champion Gonzales Austin, the 22nd seed, who fell to Austin Smith 7-6(4), 6-3. Other seeds losing in their first matches (in the second round) were No. 27 Casey McMaster, who lost to Christopher Mengel 6-1, 6-1, and No. 32 Nathan Pasha, who lost to Michael Alford 6-3, 6-2.
In the 16s, the seeded players will take the court for the first time in Sunday's second round. The 18s singles players take the day off with the round of 32 for 18s doubles scheduled for Sunday.
Several seeded 16s doubles teams were ousted in the second round, including No. 3 seeds Anthony Delcore and Mackenzie McDonald, who lost to Robbie Bellamy and Abraham Hewko 10-6 in a third set tiebreaker. For complete results, see ustaboys.com.
Saturday, August 7, 2010