Sponsored by IMG Academy

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pan American Closed Kicks Off with Kwiatkowski Beating Top Seed Novikov

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Tulsa, OK--

Overnight rains caused a two-hour delay at the start of ITF Grade B1 Pan-American Closed, but in less time than it took to dry the stubborn shaded areas behind the baseline, wild card Thai Kwiatkowski eliminated top seed Dennis Novikov 6-3, 6-3.

Novikov, who has been competing in Pro Circuit events since reaching the quarterfinals of the U.S. Open Juniors last month, looked sluggish from the start, while Kwiatkowski was sharp, earning an early break in the first set. Kwiatkowski, a 15-year-old from North Carolina who trains at the USTA Center in Boca Raton, knew he needed to be on top of his game from the beginning if he was to be competitive with Novikov.

"I thought my chances were minimal," Kwiatkowski said. "But that's why we play I guess. I heard about those (US Open) results, and I knew he was a good player, so there was no chance I would take him lightly."

Kwiatkowski often played patiently, waiting for a Novikov error or a short ball he could put away. When he got an opportunity, Kwiatkowski finished the point, yet rarely took himself out of a rally by going for too much.

Novikov didn't have the same power on his shots that he displayed at the Open, and Kwiatkowski didn't have much difficulty getting Novikov's serve back in play either.

"I started the match thinking I would just try my best and see how it goes," Kwiatkowski said. "After I got on top an early break, it just hit me that I can stay with this guy. I've seen him play, and I know he can play a lot better than he did today."

Serving for the match at 5-1, Kwiatkowski was broken, and Novikov held, but there was no more drama. Kwiatkowski held, hitting an ace on match point, to earn a much-needed victory.

"This is a good confidence booster for me, because I hadn't been doing well in my last few ITFs. To come here as a wild card, playing the one seed the first round, to get a win here is nice. It's definitely a good win for me."

Novikov was one of three seeds to fall in the opening round of boys competition, all in the top half. No. 9 seed Wilfred Gonzalez of Guatemala was eliminated by Spencer Simon 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-4, and No. 13 seed Daniel McCall was beaten by Richard Del Nunzio 5-7, 6-3, 6-0.

The girls draw had no major shocks, with top seed Lauren Davis and No. 2 seed Ester Goldfeld getting through easily in their opening matches, their victories coming under the lights of the Michael D. Case Tennis Center at the University of Tulsa.

Two seeds did fall in evening play. No. 15 seed Giuliana Olmos and Catherine Harrison had the most exciting contest of the girls first round, with Harrison saving three match points in her 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(8) victory. Olmos saved two match points at 3-5 in the third set, after she had come back from 4-0 down in the final set, and also saved two match points in the tiebreaker, at 5-6 and 6-7. Both girls were playing aggressively, with Harrison upping her pace as the pressure rose. She also found the net occasionally with her two-handed forehand and backhand, and she double faulted twice in the tiebreaker, once on match point. But none of those errors convinced her to play more conservatively, and she converted her fifth match point with a devastating forehand winner that Olmos had no chance to reach.

"I thought I played pretty well, especially in the second set," said Harrison, who recently reached the finals of a Pro Circuit event in Amelia Island, Florida. "The third set was pretty even--she played well and I played well. It was tough."

In the rematch of the 2010 USTA Girls 18s Clay Court final, Whitney Kay got revenge for her loss, defeating No. 14 seed Caroline Price 7-5, 6-4. There were multiple breaks thoughout the match, but when Kay got one to take a 5-4 lead in the second set, she was able to hold serve to earn the victory over her neighbor in Atlanta.

Second round play begins Tuesday with girls singles, then boys singles, followed by the first round of doubles for girls and boys.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.


TennisRules said...

Colette, did you happen to speak to Novikov after the match on why he thought he played the way he did? Also why do you think the reason for him coming out so slow and playing this bad was?