©Colette Lewis 2010--
Just three weeks ago, Michael Redlicki was collecting his first gold ball at the 16s Clay Courts. On Sunday he's taking aim on a second, and the coveted U.S. Open junior wild card that goes with it.
"Ever since last year, my first year in Kalamazoo, when I figured out that the winner gets a wild card, my whole year has been revolving around that," said the 16-year-old from Hawthorn Woods, Ill., who beat No. 2 seed Mitchell Krueger 7-6(6), 6-4 in Saturday's semifinal. "I'm trying to get better, more fit and mentally prepared for big stages like this. Hopefully, tomorrow I can accomplish that goal."
Redlicki, a 6-foot-7 left-hander, served ten aces in the match and many more service winners, most of them coming when he was down.
"Especially when I was down in my service games, I started to see a pattern, and I started hitting a lot of service winners," Redlicki said. "I don't know, it just seems that under pressure, I was serving better, which isn't typical."
Redlicki also didn't make many unforced errors, although Krueger had his opportunity to take the lead with a set point at 6-5 in the tiebreaker, after Redlicki had lost both his serves. Krueger, who had played so well up until the semifinals, seemed tentative in the opening set and early in the tiebreaker. The 16-year-old from suburban Dallas seemed determined to play more aggressively, and he hit out on that set point, but his forehand volley went just long. After Krueger lost the next point on a forehand wide, Redlicki had his first set point, and converted it quickly, with an ace.
Krueger fell behind 2-0 in the second set, but he got back in the match, only to be broken again in the eighth game. Redlicki couldn't serve it out at 5-3, but he stayed close in the next game, and on his third match point he forced a defensive lob from Krueger that went wide.
Redlicki's rival for the U.S. Open junior wild card is top seed Shane Vinsant, who cruised past No. 3 seed Nolan Paige 6-0, 6-4.
Paige had difficulty finding the court in the opening set, and Vinsant, who has yet to lose a set in the tournament, was sharp and relaxed.
"I didn't miss much but I also played aggressive, and that's a good combo right there," said Vinsant, who is also from suburban Dallas. "That's the least nervous I've been. I had really good talks before with my coaches, and I was feeling really good in warmups, so it carried over to the match."
Paige made some adjustments in the second set, and actually led 2-0 before Vinsant regained control of the match.
"He didn't do anything special, but he changed his game a little bit, and it took me a little bit to adjust to it," Vinsant said. "He started pressuring me more, not hitting big shots, but taking time away, coming to the net, and I didn't pass him until later, after I was down 2-0."
Vinsant and Redlicki played this April in at the Carson ITF Grade 1, with Vinsant winning 6-4, 6-2.
"I think he's improved and feeling pretty confident since he just won Clays," said Vinsant.
"I'm very prepared for tomorrow," Redlicki said. "And I'm very impressed with how I'm playing."
Saturday, August 14, 2010