Friday, September 24, 2010

Six USTA Juniors Start Land Rover Napa Valley Classic with Victories

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Napa, Calif.--

If the 24 college players at the Land Rover Napa Valley Classic weren't taking the USTA juniors seriously prior to the opening round robin matches Friday, they will on Saturday, after the juniors went 6-2 against players from Cal-Berkeley, USC, Illinois, Kentucky, and Texas. Florida, the other college team playing at the Meadowood resort, did not have any matches against juniors.

Mitchell Krueger, the 16-year-old from Texas, recorded the first win for the USTA players when he defeated University of Southern California senior Jaak Poldma 7-6(3), 6-2. He was soon followed by Marcos Giron, who also took out his opponent in straight sets, defeating Vasko Mladenov of the University of Texas 6-3, 6-4. Giron admitted that playing against older, more experienced players comes with some advantages.

"I feel less pressure because these guys want to win and they don't really want to lose to guys who are so much younger than them," said Giron, a 17-year-old from Thousand Oaks, Calif. "But this is only one match, so we'll have to see how I do in the rest of the tournament."

Mitchell Frank scored a 6-2, 6-7(3), 7-5 win over 17th-ranked Pedro Zerbini of Cal, when Zerbini cramped and having already received the sole medical timeout he is allowed, could not receive treatment. Serving at deuce at 5-6, Zerbini was given a point penalty for a time violation, and he could barely move on the subsequent match point. Although it was in the upper 80s and sunny all day, there was no humidity, and Frank was still energetically bouncing around as the match ended nearly three hours after it had begun.

The youngest player on the Meadowood courts, 15-year-old Mackenzie McDonald, agreed with Giron that the pressure was all on his opponent, Maks Gold of Kentucky. Gold, a late replacement for the Wildcats, who had originally planned to bring Brad Cox and Alberto Gonzales, is a freshman, so his advantage over McDonald was not as great. Gold also had trouble keeping balls in play, according to McDonald.

"I played all right," said McDonald, who lives about 90 minutes from Napa in Piedmont, Calif. "I'm working on my serve now, so it's getting better. From the ground I was pretty good, but my opponent just made too many errors today."

Perhaps the least surprising junior winner on Friday was USTA 18s champion and U.S. Open boys champion Jack Sock, who beat Illinois senior Johnny Hamui 6-4, 6-3. But Sock, who arrived late Thursday evening, said he had been concentrating more on catching up on school work than on tennis since returning from New York.

"I didn't really play much at all last week, doing a lot of schoolwork and resting the body. It's been a long summer for me," Sock said. "I could have served a lot better today, definitely, but overall I think I played pretty solid."

Sock broke Hamui at 4-5 in the opening set, seizing his first opportunity at 30-40. In the second set, after a couple of sloppy errors, he hit two consecutive forehands so hard the several dozen spectators watching from the observation deck gasped. Hamui somehow got the first one back, but he had no chance on the second. After taking a 4-1 lead, Sock let Hamui back on serve, but broke Hamui at 3-4 by using the drop shot/lob combination several times. Sock then held to give himself a welcome 18th birthday gift.

"I'm glad I won. You can't ask for a better site, you can't ask for a better day. It was really nice out. It's really fun having these guys here...I get to know them a little bit better, playing on the team is pretty fun."

Alexios Halebian rounded out the USTA junior wins, taking a 6-7(5), 7-6(3), 6-4 decision from USC's Daniel Nguyen. Nguyen had a chance to go up 5-1 in the second set, but couldn't take it, with Halebian fighting back to level the match. Halebian then took a two-break lead in the third set, but Nguyen came back to force Halebian to serve for it at 5-4. It was a struggle, but some good serving in the final game gave the 16-year-old from Glendale, Calif. the win.

"I was a little nervous," Halebian admitted of that final game. "I had my chances, should have held a little easier. At 30-love I had an easy forehand and I missed it, and I got a little nervous but it was a good ending. It was a good match."

Halebian was happy that his USTA team got off to a good start. "I hope we can keep it up. I hope tomorrow we can go 7 for 8."

Cal-Berkeley coach Peter Wright, who has hosted the event for ten years, but invited juniors to compete for the first time this year, was impressed by the juniors' performance on the opening day.

"Some of the juniors are playing an incredible level of tennis. It’s great. I think after one day every one is encouraged," Wright said. "I think the juniors are happy, the USTA is happy and the college guys are happy. Someone asked me how I would feel if the juniors beat the college guys and I said that it would actually be a good thing. It’s good for American tennis.”

Complete singles results from Friday below:
Eric Quigley (Kentucky) def. Bjorn Fratangelo (USTA), 7-6(8), 6-7(9), 6-1
Carlos Cueto (Cal) def. Raymond Sarmiento (USC), 7-6(6), 7-6(4)
Abe Souza (Illinois) def. Anthony Rossi (Kentucky), 7-5, 6-2
Jean Andersen (Texas) def. Nassim Slilam (Florida), 6-1, 6-2
Mitchell Krueger (USTA) def. Jaak Poldma (USC), 7-6(3), 6-2
Nick Andrews (Cal) def. Bruno Abdelnour (Illinois), 6-4, 6-2
Mitchell Frank (USTA) def. Pedro Zerbini (Cal), 6-2, 6-7(3), 7-5
Marcos Giron (USTA) def. Vasko Mladenov (Texas), 6-3, 6-4
Ed Corrie (Texas) def. Hunter Harrington (USTA), 6-4, 6-1
Alexandre Lacroix (Florida) def. Christoffer Konigsfeldt (Cal), 6-1, 6-3
Bob Van Overbeek (Florida), def. Alex Musialek (Kentucky), 6-4, 6-3
Jack Sock (USTA) def. Johnny Hamui (Illinois), 6-4, 6-3
MacKenzie McDonald (USTA) def. Maks Gold (Kentucky ), 6-4, 6-2
Dennis Nevolo (Illinois) def. JT Sundling (USC), 6-4, 6-2
Sekou Bangoura (Florida) def. David Holiner (Texas), 2-6, 6-0, 6-1
Alexios Halebian (USTA) def. Daniel Nguyen (USC) 6-7(5), 7-6(3), 6-4.

The schedule for the weekend:
DAY 2: Saturday’s Schedule
10:30 a.m.
Eric Quigley ( Kentucky ) v. Carlos Cueto ( Cal )
Bjorn Fratangelo (USTA) v. Raymond Sarmiento (USC)
Dennis Nevolo ( Illinois ) v. MacKenzie McDonald (USTA)
JT Sundling (USC) v. Maks Gold ( Kentucky )
Bob Van Overbeek ( Florida ) v. Vasko Mladenov ( Texas )
11:30 a.m.
Pedro Zerbini ( Cal ) v. Abe Souza ( Illinois )
Bruno Abdelnour ( Illinois ) v. Hunter Harrington (USTA)
Alex Musialek ( Kentucky ) v. Marcos Giron (USTA)
1:00 p.m.
David Holiner ( Texas ) v. Mitchell Krueger (USTA)
Ed Corrie ( Texas ) v. Nick Andrews ( Cal )
Alexandre Lacroix ( Florida ) v. Johnny Hamui ( Illinois )
2:00 p.m.
Christoffer Konigsfeldt ( Cal ) v. Jack Sock (USTA)
Anthony Rossi ( Kentucky ) v. Mitchell Frank (USTA)
3:00 p.m.
Daniel Nguyen (USC) v. Jean Andersen ( Texas )
Nassim Slilam ( Florida ) v. Alexios Halebian (USTA)
4:00 p.m.
Jaak Poldma (USC) v. Sekou Bangoura ( Florida )

DAY 3: Sunday’s Schedule
8:00 a.m.
Alex Musialek ( Kentucky ) v. Vasko Mladenov ( Texas )
Bob Van Overbeek ( Florida ) v. Marcos Giron (USTA)
Alexios Halebian (USTA) v. Jean Andersen ( Texas )
Jaak Poldma (USC) v. David Holiner ( Texas )
Sekou Bangoura ( Florida ) v. Mitchell Krueger (USTA)
Ed Corrie ( Texas ) v. Bruno Abdelnour ( Illinois )
9:15 a.m.
Christoffer Konigsfeldt ( Cal ) v. Johnny Hamui ( Illinois )
Eric Quigley ( Kentucky ) v. Raymond Sarmiento (USC)
Pedro Zerbini (Cal) v. Anthony Rossi (Kentucky)
10:30 a.m.
Daniel Nguyen (USC) v. Nassim Slilam ( Florida )
Nick Andrews ( Cal ) v. Hunter Harrington (USTA)
Alexandre Lacroix ( Florida ) v. Jack Sock (USTA)
Carlos Cueto ( Cal ) v. Bjorn Fratangelo (USTA)
Abe Souza ( Illinois ) v. Mitchell Frank (USTA)
Dennis Nevolo ( Illinois ) v. Maks Gold ( Kentucky )
JT Sundling (USC) v. MacKenzie McDonald (USTA)

For more on the tournament, see Steve Pratt's articles and photos for usta.com.