Both Boys and Girls Second Seeds Come Up Short in Third Round of USTA 18s National Spring Championships
©Colette Lewis 2011--
The USTA 18s National Spring Championships lost two would-be finalists in Tuesday's third round, with second seeds Whitney Kay and Evan Song losing long three-setters on another perfect afternoon for tennis at the Mobile Tennis Center.
Unseeded Sherry Li dropped the first set to Kay, who finished fourth last year at this tournament, but came back to post a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over the future North Carolina Tar Heel.
In the later stages of the match, Li saw her game go to a level she knew she had, but seldom produced in tournament play.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, maybe it was like an 8," said Li, a 16-year-old from Florida. "I don't usually think I play my best, so that was pretty good. I don't think I play my best in tournaments. This time was pretty good, almost perfect."
Li sensed that her mental outlook contributed to the victory.
"I was relaxed the entire time," said Li. "She started to make some mistakes later, and I just kept doing what I was doing. I started hitting behind her a little more in the second and third sets, and my serve was pretty good the whole time. I just played really good."
Garrett Gordon, a 17 seed, immediately put Song on notice, quickly taking the first set, but needed to counteract Song's change in strategy before recording his 6-1, 3-6, 6-4 upset.
Gordon was confident that his game matched up well with Song's, with his recent good play giving an added boost to his prospects.
"He's a grinder, so I just wanted to make a bunch of balls, and when I got the right opportunity to put the ball away" said the 17-year-old from Georgia. "I had to step up and play my own game. I wasn't too worried about him."
Song adjusted in the second set, and began to serve and volley more often, avoiding the rallies that had ended in Gordon's favor throughout the opening set. But after the 10-minute break between sets that is now standard in the 18s age division, Gordon made his own adjustment and ran out to a 5-1 lead. The third set obviously did not end as straightforwardly as the first, with Song winning three straight games to force Gordon to try to serve it out for a second time at 5-4.
"I kind of let up a little bit, and he stepped up pretty well," Gordon said. "I had to get my composure back and just focus."
A double fault on the first point of the final game didn't bode well for Gordon, and at 15-30 he was in a dangerous spot. But Gordon won the next two points, and on his first match point, it was Song who forced the action. Charging to the net after returning Gordon's second serve, Song was in position for a volley winner, but Gordon's forehand pass was just a little too much for him to handle and Song netted the volley.
"It was one of my best wins," said Gordon. "I adjusted in that third set and took care of business."
While Song was battling to stay in the main draw against Gordon, top seed Robert Stineman was also forced to a third set against another 17 seed, Gordon Watson. Stineman had looked ready to roll after taking the first set 6-1, but Watson forced a third set by hanging with Stineman throughout the second, taking a tiebreaker 7-6(3). Stineman took the third set 6-3, but could only be relieved that he had avoided Song's fate.
Girls top seed Kyle McPhillips came through with less drama, beating Katie Goepel, a 17 seed, 6-1, 6-3. Brooke Austin, the No. 3 seed, has rolled to a 6-0, 6-2 victory over wild card Blair Martin, and defending champion Danielle Collins also advanced to the round of 16, with a 6-4, 6-2 win over No. 17 seed Skylar Morton. Aside from Li, there are two other unseeded girls in the round of 16, Mia King, who defeated No. 10 seed Julia Vrabel, and Taylor Townsend, who beat No. 15 seed Madeline Lipp.
The boys draw also has three unseeded players remaining: Austin Smith, Jared Hiltzik and Brian Page.
For complete draws, including doubles, which are now down to the quarterfinals, see the TennisLink site.