©Colette Lewis 2010--
It's been years since Jack Sock and Bob van Overbeek have played, but when they take the court for the USTA National Boys 18 title on Sunday, they'll have a similar experience to draw on. After Sock saved two match points in his quarterfinal win over Dan Kosakowski on Thursday, van Overbeek topped that, saving three match points in his 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(5) victory over No. 2 seed Denis Kudla Saturday afternoon.
Van Overbeek was searching for words after his draining win over Kudla.
"I don't know what to say right now," said van Overbeek, the No. 9 seed. "I'm glad to be in the finals, but that was definitely one of the toughest matches I've played in a long time."
With van Overbeek leading 4-3 in the first set, a rain shower stopped play for nearly two hours. When the players returned to the court, van Overbeek broke Kudla and served for the set. But Kudla broke back, and went on to win the next four games to secure the set.
In the second set, van Overbeek again served for the set, also at 5-3, and again he was unable to close it out. The 18-year-old from Boca Raton, Fla. did recover in time to reach a tiebreaker and he had three set points at 6-3. Kudla saved two on his serve, but van Overbeek's reliable second serve came through for him and when Kudla's backhand found the net, the match was even.
"In the third he served big," a disappointed Kudla said. "I had opportunities at 5-4 and 6-5 and in the tiebreak, even though I was down. I feel I had plenty of opportunities, I just didn't capitalize on them."
There were no breaks in the third set, but van Overbeek was in the precarious position of serving from behind. At 4-5, 30-30, Kudla hit an overhead winner to earn his first match point. On the next point, he got the short ball that he wanted, but his forehand approach shot was feet, not inches long. Van Overbeek got out of the game, but was quickly back on the hot seat. Kudla held at love, and three errors by van Overbeek in the next game made it 15-40. Van Overbeek saved the first with a service winner, but Kudla had another chance to end the match with a forehand. This one was just long, but it was out, and van Overbeek then began a stretch of hot serving that saw him put six consecutive first serves in play, from the end of that game through the beginning of the tiebreaker.
Kudla led 4-2 in the tiebreaker, but three straight errors gave van Overbeek the advantage. Kudla missed another forehand to give van Overbeek his first match point, and he converted when Kudla's backhand found the net.
"I served well when I got down in my service games," said van Overbeek. "And on one of the match points, he missed a forehand short, which I thought the match was over. I was getting ready to pack it up, but fortunately it went long. Just a couple shots here or there...obviously three match points down, it could have gone either way."
Van Overbeek appeared very calm throughout the match and although there were errors, none seemed to be the result of nerves.
"Since my second round match when I went three sets, and I was definitely not behaving well, and it was a really close match. Then I played on the center court against (Emmett) Egger and I was very calm in that match. Each match is just one I feel like I'm lucky to be playing. So I'm playing like there's nothing to lose and whatever happens, happens."
In the other 18s semifinal, Jack Sock waited nearly two hours to play the two points that would earn him his second consecutive appearance in a Kalamazoo final. Serving for the match against top seed Jordan Cox, Sock, the third seed, was down 15-40. The 17-year-old from Lincoln, Neb. saved the first break point with a forehand winner; Cox made a return error on the second and at deuce, play was suspended. When they came back to court 3, nearly two hours later, Sock used his kick serve to win the two points he needed.
"I knew I wanted to go out there and put in two heavy kick serves to his backhand and try to get a forehand off the next ball," said Sock. "The first point, that was exactly what happened. I actually thought I missed the forehand into the net, but it barely went over. Then on match point, I hit another good kick serve out wide, and he hit a slice about six inches long, but they didn't call anything. I just hit the ball back when they didn't call it, and then he did the same thing--it hit in the same exact spot--and they called it out the second time."
Sock had lost to Cox 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of the Godfrey Futures last month, but he considers that loss to have been a positive, not a negative.
"I think it was an advantage for my coach(Mike Wolf) to watch him and see how he plays, cause I hadn't played him since I was 12," Sock said. "I had a strict game plan that he set for me, and so I think it was an advantage to have played him just a couple of weeks ago."
Sunday's final, which is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., will be the best of five sets, to prepare the winner for what he'll face in the first round of the U.S. Open later this month.
"I think it actually might be an advantage for me now," said Sock, who had some physical problems with dehydration earlier in the tournament. "Because I know what I'm doing now with the hydrating, the fluids and stuff. All I've been doing since I got back from Godfrey is conditioning and conditioning, getting in a lot better shape. So hopefully that will pay off."
"I've played in practice a lot of three-out-of-five set matches for this specific reason," van Overbeek said. "Not ever in a tournament though, obviously. It's going to be a long day, so I've got to be prepared to play as long as they let us."
For complete results, see ustaboys.com.
Saturday, August 14, 2010