First No. 1 Seed Exits at International Spring Championships; Vinsant Saves Four Match Points in Third Set Tiebreak Win over Cutura
©Colette Lewis 2011--
The four No. 1 seeds at the International Spring Championships hadn't lost a set prior to Wednesday action at the Home Depot Center, but girls 16s top seed Katrine Steffensen ended that streak by losing two, dropping a 7-6(4), 6-2 decision to Yuki Chiang. Chiang, who had beaten No. 14 seed Caroline Doyle in three sets in Tuesday's second round, had never played Steffensen before, but she had a good idea what to expect.
"A lot of my friends played her, and a few of them lost to her in three sets, and they told me what they did, so I knew what I needed to do to beat her in two sets," said the 15-year-old from Ojai, Calif. "They said to start fast with her, and not give her any loose errors. I needed to keep my intensity up. Once she realizes she's getting you down, she just keeps going and going and going."
Unlike Tuesday, when Chiang lost sight of her strategy against Doyle in the second set, she was able to keep the pressure on Steffensen, force a few errors and get the break she needed at 2-3 in the second set.
Chiang, the 2009 Junior Orange Bowl 14s champion, is confident in her ability to win the title, despite some changes she is making in her game.
"I really wanted to win today, so I went away from practicing what I needed to do. I'm not an all-around player, so I want to come up to the net more, but today I didn't do that much, because I was tight on winning. But tomorrow my coach says it's all about practicing what I need to do, in the long run."
Chiang will play No. 11 seed Shannon Hudson in the quarterfinals, and she may have an advantage because Hudson and Yuki Asami played three hours and thirty-one minutes before Hudson posted a 6-2, 3-6, 7-5 victory. No. 4 seed Nicolette Tran will play No. 9 seed Kimberly Yee; Kiah Generette faces No. 13 seed Lauren Marker and No. 8 seed Marie Norris meets No. 13 seed Alyza Benotto in the other 16s quarterfinal matches.
In the girls 18s, the top five seeds are through to the third round, but No. 6 seed Lauren Herring was brushed aside by Brooke Austin 6-1, 6-1. Austin, who beat Herring in the final round of qualifying at the US Open junior championships last year, was in top form during the games I watched. Going for every line as usual, Austin simply didn't miss in the opening set. Hitting it flat and on the rise, she gave Herring no opportunity to attack, and there wasn't much Herring could do as the winners sailed by her.
I watched the first set and a half of the No. 6 seed Mitchell Krueger's 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 win over Michael Redlicki before I had to leave for the Orange Bowl conference call, and when I returned Redlicki was serving to stay in the match, down 2-5 in the third set.
Redlicki got down 15-40, saved those two match points and got a game point when Krueger netted a backhand, but it went back to deuce when an improbable Redlicki backhand pass from way deep in the court was called out by the chair umpire. Redlicki, both distraught and incredulous, said, "I hit the shot of my life and you called it out." He also wasn't happy with the service line calls, but there was no controversy on the double fault at match point number 3, and Krueger had revenge for his loss in the Kalamazoo semifinals last year.
"I cleaned it up in the third," said Krueger, who mentioned he thought the chair umpire had done a good job. "I played a lot smarter and I was making a lot more first serves. I picked it up and I thought I was playing pretty well at the end of the third. I got the win, so I'm pretty happy."
Krueger's longtime friend and doubles partner Shane Vinsant, the No. 4 seed, got off to a dismal start against Mate Cutura of Croatia but thanks to a big forehand and a fortunate net cord at the very end, came away with a 0-6, 7-5, 7-6(7) victory.
Vinsant couldn't finish when he was serving at 5-4 in the third set, squandering a match point with what he termed his "dumb" play. Vinsant did hold on his next chance, but fell behind 6-3 in the tiebreaker. Cutura made a couple of unforced forehand errors on two of those points, and earned another on his serve after the change at 6-6. Vinsant stepped up with a gutsy forehand winner to save his fourth match point, to bring it back to 7-7, and then a piece of good luck came his way. His shot hit the net very close to the singles stick and dropped over, practically underneath the umpire's chair. Cutura didn't react at all, a remarkable piece of self-restraint given the circumstances, but on the next point he hit a routine forehand into the net, and Vinsant had survived.
"I thought I was done," said the 17-year-old Texan, who called the third set one of the craziest he'd ever played. "I hit a lucky shot at 7-all, but sometimes you need that stuff to get through." Speaking of his forehand winner on the point prior to that lucky netcord, Vinsant said, "I was nervous, I think we were both nervous, but I had my chance in the point, and sometimes you just have got to go for it. You can't pass up opportunities at that level, so I went for it."
Top seed Bjorn Fratangelo, No. 2 seed Nikola Milojevic of Serbia and No. 3 seed Alexios Halebian all advanced in straight sets.
In the boys 16s, top seed Luca Corinteli will play No. 6 seed Nikko Madregallejo in the quarterfinals Thursday. No. 13 seed Martin Redlicki, Michael's younger brother, faces No. 10 seed Stephen Watson; Stefan Kozlov and No. 14 seed Noah Rubin will meet in a rematch of their 2010 Easter Bowl 14s semifinal, won by Kozlov, and No. 2 seed Spencer Papa will face Ciro Riccardi in Thursday's quarterfinals.
For complete results and Thursday's order of play, see the tournament page at usta.com.