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Friday, November 5, 2010

Defending Champions Still in the Hunt for USTA/ITA Indoor Titles

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

There wasn't much that went according to form Friday at the USTA/ITA Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, but after over 12 hours of tennis, defending champions Jana Juricova of Cal-Berkeley and Steve Johnson of USC still have hopes of repeating. The tournament's field was whittled from 16 to 4 in both men's and women's singles, and Johnson, the seventh seed, is the only seeded player remaining among the men's semifinalists.

Johnson, a junior, collected an easy 6-1, 6-0 victory over Denver's Enej Bonin in the second round, but he had a much tougher go of it in the quarterfinals against 2010 NCAA Austen Childs of Louisville, who had upset No. 3 seed Henrique Cunha of Duke 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 earlier in the day. Childs took the first set from Johnson in a tiebreaker, but in the next two sets Johnson's forehand began finding its mark, resulting in a 6-7(3), 6-2, 6-4 victory. Johnson's opponent in the semfinals is freshman Blaz Rola of Ohio State, who completed Friday's action at 9:20 p.m. with a 6-4, 7-6(1) win over Austin Krajicek of Texas A & M.

Krajicek's first match, a 7-6(3), 5-7, 7-6(6) serve-and-volley-filled marathon with Baylor's John Peers, didn't finish until after 6 p.m., and by 7:30, Krajicek was out on court again. Rola took the first set with a late break, but Krajicek took an early lead in the second, only to see Rola break back and eventually force the tiebreaker. Rola lost the first point on his own serve, but then the left-hander from Slovenia caught fire. He hit two wicked forehand passes for winners, then hit two more blistering forehands to make it 4-1. Krajicek double faulted for 5-1, and then Rola really deflated the net-rushing Krajicek with a perfect lob winner that the Aggie could only wave at. On his first match point, Rola hit yet another forehand winner, earning his second win over Krajicek in the past month, having also beaten him at the All-American championships in Tulsa.

Another rematch of a memorable All-American contest is Saturday's other semifinal between Rhyne Williams of Tennessee and Alexandre Lacroix of Florida. In the third round in Tulsa, the two battled nearly three and a half hours, and Lacroix saved a match point in his dramatic 3-6, 7-6(3), 7-6(7) win over Williams. Lacroix had the easier path to the semifinals on Friday, beating NCAA champion and No. 4 seed Bradley Klahn of Stanford 6-2, 6-2 and handling Texas Tech's Gonzalo Escobar with equal ease in a 6-3, 6-3 victory.

Williams looked sharp against Duke's Reid Carleton in the second round, taking it 6-1 6-3, but he was tested by Kiryl Harbatsiuk of Sacramento State in the quarterfinal nightcap before emerging with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-3 decision.

In the women's draw, Juricova has been her usual dominant self this weekend, and today the junior from Slovakia posted a pair of 6-2, 6-1 wins over Alex Cercone of Florida, and in the final women's match of the evening, over No. 5 seed Denise Dy of Washington. Juricova's semifinal opponent will be Texas sophomore Aeriel Ellis, who upset No. 3 seed Kristy Frilling of Notre Dame 7-5, 6-1 in the second round, then fought back against another Kristie, Stanford's Ahn, to record a 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 win. Ellis's one-handed backhand is the shot that gets most noticed, but the effortless pace she generates from her forehand wins her a lot of points. Against Ahn, she failed to serve out the match at 5-4, despite a match point, but kept her composure, broke Ahn again, and on her second opportunity finished the job.

The top half's semifinal will feature No. 6 seed Allie Will of Florida against No. 7 seed Maria Sanchez of USC. Will earned a spot in the quarterfinals against top seed Hilary Barte of Stanford with a hard fought 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Northwestern's Maria Mosolova, while Barte had had her own three-set struggle with Cal's Mari Andersson before taking a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 decision.

Will had beaten Barte once before, in last year's All-American championships, and she was able to post another straight-set victory over the senior, who is the reigning All-American champion. Will played good defense and got offense from her forehand to earn a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Barte.

"I'm rather excited right now," Will said after the match. "Hilary's a great player and I always enjoy playing her. I have a lot of respect for her. Today I just went out there and had fun, and I think that's why I was successful. I hit my forehand great and I hit a high percentage of first serves, and it was a really good day. I couldn't ask for a better performance from myself."

Sanchez also had a pair of impressive wins on Friday, taking out Josipa Bek of Clemson 7-6(5), 6-2 and No. 4 seed Denise Muresan of Michigan 6-2, 6-2. Muresan, who had come back from 5-1 down in the final set of her 3-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) win over Penn's Connie Hsu in the second round, was no match for Sanchez in the quarterfinals. Sanchez picked the right spots to go for her shots, and when she was patient during a point, she often got the gift of an unforced error from Muresan.

The doubles semifinals will also be played on Saturday after Friday's quarterfinals. Florida's Will and Sophie Oyen will play No. 4 seeds Alexa Guarachi and Courtney McLane in one women's semifinal. In the bottom half, two teams that saved match points on Friday will meet. Clemson's No. 3 seeds Bek and Keri Wong survived match points against USC's Valeria Pulido and Alison Ramos to take a 9-8(2) victory and will face Juricova and Andersson of Cal, the No. 2 seeds. Juricova and Andersson saved a match point in their 9-7 win over Anna Maria Constantinescu and Alice Radu of Oklahoma.

The men's doubles semifinals have, like the singles semifinals, only one seed. No. 4 seeds Marcel and Chris Thiemann of Ole Miss will play the Texas team of Jean Andersen and Ed Corrie in the bottom half. In the top half, Georgia Tech's Juan Spir and Kevin King will play Jeff Dadamo and Krajicek of Texas A & M. Spir and King upset top seeds Cunha and Carleton of Duke 8-5.

For complete results, see the ITA tournament website.

For additional coverage, see usta.com.


gsm said...

Shabaz over Nishikori on UVa's fast courts. Into the semis.

Anonymous said...

wow! Go Michael...