Friday, April 8, 2011

Austin, Norris Provide Drama in Day Five Action at International Spring Championships


©Colette Lewis 2011--
Carson, CA--

The six boys singles matches at the International Spring Championships may not have gone exactly to form, but they were decided without so much as a third set. It was up to the girls to inject some drama into the proceedings, with 15-year-old Brooke Austin and 13-year-old Marie Norris leading the way.

The crisp air was more reminiscent of fall football than spring tennis, but the showers forecast didn't materialize and the winds, while tricky, were not at the 20 mph levels reached on Thursday. Austin and 18s top seed Vicky Duval, only a couple of months older than Austin, took the court promptly at 9 a.m. and it was after noon when Austin had claimed the 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 upset.

Trailing 4-0 in the third set, Austin felt a change come over after she fought her way back to 4-4.

"When I got to 4-all I was calm," said Austin. "I don't know why, but I was like, okay, you're going to win this. It was weird. Normally, I'm screaming, but for some reason I was calm and composed."

Even when she was broken in a very lengthy ninth game, giving Duval the opportunity to serve for the match, there was no shaking Austin's confidence. Duval fell behind 15-40 serving at 5-4, managed to get to deuce, but couldn't get any closer, as Austin's aggressive play continued.

Austin kept blasting away in the next game, holding to 15 to put the pressure back on Duval. Unable to get a first serve in, Duval had difficulty taking charge of the first several points, and Austin even hit a non-swinging volley winner, unusual for her, to make it 15-30. An aggressive Austin forehand forced another error from Duval, and Austin had a match point. Duval did get a first serve in, but Austin had no trouble with it, and Duval's forehand reply found the net.

Austin's semifinal opponent will be No. 3 seed Madison Keys, a 6-1, 6-4 winner over No. 9 seed Stephanie Nauta, although she is impressed with Keys' recent third-set tiebreak loss to Patty Schnyder at the Sony Ericsson, Austin likes her own form right now too.

"I'm playing some of the best tennis I've ever played," said Austin, who will be facing Keys for the first time. "My ground strokes are really strong, they're really helping me right now."

The other girls 18s semifinal will be another unseeded player against a high seed, with wild card Samantha Crawford taking on No. 2 seed Grace Min. Crawford fell behind quickly against Gabrielle Andrews, but found her first serve and forehand in time to post a 1-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory. Andrews had won 32 straight matches since her loss to Min in the quarterfinals of the Orange Bowl, including the 18s Winter National Championship and last week's Claremont ITF.

Min inexplicably lost her form in the middle of her match with Sabrina Santamaria, but the 2009 ISC finalist regained it in a hurry to record a 6-2, 2-6, 6-0 victory and set up the first meeting between the two USTA Boca Training Center residents.


In the girls 16s final on Saturday, unseeded Yuki Chiang will face No. 8 seed Norris, who came back from 5-2 down in the third set to beat 2010 ISC 16s semifinalist Kiah Generette 6-1, 2-6, 7-6(4). Norris, who trains in Wichita, Kansas and Norman, Oklahoma, was so far down that she couldn't quite recall how many match points she saved in her victory.

"I think it was four," said Norris, one of the youngest players in the tournament. "Every game since I was down 5-2 she had match points. But when I got down 5-2, I tried to get rid of the nerves, I said, okay, I'll just play now. I was relaxed, and then I noticed I was coming back in the match."

Norris has won three tiebreakers already in the tournament, so once she got there again, she was comfortable. Generette can generate some serious pace on her forehand, but she missed by inches on a couple of them to give Norris a 4-1 lead. After she failed to get two returns in play, Generette was looking at three match points against here, and although she saved one with a forehand winner, she couldn't save the second, and for the second year in a row fell one match short of the final.

Chiang beat No. 9 seed Kimberly Yee 6-2, 6-4 to earn her spot in the final.

The boys 16s final will feature No. 6 seed Nikko Madregallejo and No. 14 seed Noah Rubin. Madregallejo beat No. 10 seed Stephen Watson 6-4, 6-4 for his fifth consecutive straight set win, while Rubin matched that with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over unseeded Ciro Riccardi.

In the boys 18s, the No. 2 and No. 4 seeds were swept away, with unseeded Marcos Giron ousting second seed Nikola Milojevic of Serbia 6-3, 7-5. Giron, who won the Claremont ITF last week, used his bigger serve to put Milojevic on the defensive, and wasn't broken until the seventh game of the second set. Giron was broken in his next service game as well, but Milosevic's serving troubles and some stellar play by Giron kept the 15-year-old Serb from forcing a tiebreaker. After a Giron backhand winner made it 0-15, the future UCLA Bruin hit an athletic overhead winner off a very good lob by Milojevic for 0-30. A double fault gave Giron three match points and he only needed one, when Milojevic made a backhand error to end it.

Giron's opponent in the semifinal is the only non-American still remaining, Slovakian Patrik Fabian, the No. 13 seed. Fabian, who trains at the Weil Academy in Ojai, beat unseeded Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan 6-4, 6-2.


The top half semifinals contains the only No. 1 seed still in the tournament. Bjorn Fratangelo, a 6-2, 6-4 winner over No. 6 seed Mitchell Krueger, will play No. 10 seed Mac Styslinger for a spot in Sunday's final. Styslinger beat No. 4 seed Shane Vinsant 6-2, 6-2, and the 17-year-old, who trains at the IMG/Bollettieri academy, believes his quarterfinal showing as a qualifier at the Australian Open Junior championships this year has made a big difference in his outlook.

"It was a huge step forward for me, and it definitely boosted my confidence," said the 6-foot-3 right-hander, who has a one-handed backhand. "Everything started to come together in Australia, and I grew a little bit into my body, and I don't know, I'm playing pretty good tennis now."

Both Styslinger and Fratangelo remember playing each other in the distant past, but both agree it's been too long ago to matter.

"I know he's a good player and I'm just going to have to play really well," said Styslinger. "It should be a good match."

The four doubles finals are on the schedule for Saturday. In the boys 18s, No. 2 seeds Krueger and Vinsant will face the unseeded team of Mate Cutura of Croatia and Mikhail Vaks of Russia. The girls 18s doubles final will feature unseeded Andrews and Taylor Townsend against No. 3 seeds Ellen Allgurin of Sweden and Rio Kitagawa of Japan.

The only player left in both singles and doubles is Chiang. She and partner Alexis Pereira, who are unseeded, face the top seeded team of Alexandra Miller-Krasilnikov and Julia O'Loughlin for the girls 16s doubles championship.

The boys 16s doubles championship match will be between top seed Joseph DiGiulio and Spencer Papa and No. 7 seeds Robbie Bellamy and Gregory Garcia.

For complete results, see the tournament page at usta.com.

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