JC Aragone thought he had blown it. Leading 16s top seed Connor Farren 4-1 in the final set of their quarterfinal match Friday at Kalamazoo College’s Stowe Stadium, the 16-year-old from Yorba Linda, Calif., missed three chances to take a 5-1 lead.
“I thought when I lost that game the match was going to slip away,” said No. 13 seed Aragone, who is making his debut in Kalamazoo this year. “He was returning really well, and it really bugged me. I had no confidence going into that last game.”
If he was nervous, Aragone didn’t show it when he stepped up to serve for the match at 5-3. Although his double fault may have been a giveaway, that came at 30-0 and he immediately shook it off by taking the next point to set up two match points. He only needed one, hitting a forehand winner behind a scrambling Farren to take a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory.
Aragone, who moved to California from Argentina when he was 8, is in Kalamazoo without his coach or parents, but he is staying with the Hassevoort family, which provides him with a built-in cadre of supporters.
“I’ve got all the ball boys (and girls) rooting for me, so that’s good,” Aragone said. “I’m staying at the house of the lady who runs it.”
In Friday’s first 16s quarterfinal match, 16s Clay Court champion Luca Corinteli’s impressive winning streak looked to be over. No. 32 seed Stephen Watson was up 6-3, 5-4 40-30 and Corinteli didn’t see his 12th consecutive victory on the horizon.
“At 30-30 I played a bad point and he hit an easy overhead winner to make it 40-30,” said the 16-year-old Virginian, who trains at the USTA’s Boca Raton facility. “I thought, this is it, this is where my run ends, 11 matches in a row again, because I had an 11-match streak in May. But I thought okay, make him play, and I pushed him out to his forehand side and he dumped one into the net. I kind of got momentum from that.”
Corinteli recovered for a 3-6, 7-6(1), 6-2 win that took nearly three hours to complete. In the second set, there were eight straight breaks of serve, and Corinteli admitted the quality of tennis wasn’t high.
“I knew it was going to be tough, but I didn’t know I was going to play the way I played,” said Corinteli. “I don’t think he played very well either. It was a pretty ugly match, to be honest. I consider my serve one of my weapons, so to play a match like this when I’m not holding serve was kind of weird, and I didn’t know how to handle it."
Corinteli did manage to protect his serve better in the final set, suffering only one break, but he was more relieved than encouraged after the match.
“Every single one of these tournaments that have this big of a draw, you’re going to have one or two matches when you’re not feeling great, so it’s the people who get out of these matches who are the ones who win the tournament. So I’m fortunate to get out of this, and hopefully tomorrow, I can play a little bit better.”
In the first of the two 18s quarterfinals, No. 4 seed Marcos Giron fought off a tough challenge in the second set from No. 5 seed Dennis Novikov to collect a 6-0, 7-6(5) victory, his third over Novikov this year.
Giron won the first seven games of the match, with Novikov failing make enough first serves to stay competitive. Novikov held and broke to take a 2-1 second-set lead however, and had three game points for a 3-1 lead, but Giron got the break back, and both held the rest of the way.
In the tiebreaker, Giron hit a forehand winner and a first serve winner to make it 6-3. Novikov saved two of those match points, both on his serve, making it 6-5, but Giron ended the suspense quickly, hitting a serve winner out wide that Novikov barely got a racquet on.
“Most of the time you want to make sure you make a first serve,” said Giron, an 18-year-old from Thousand Oaks, Calif. “It doesn’t always work out every time that you come up with a serve like that in that situation. I’m really happy I did, because it made my life easier. You never know with Dennis. He’s tough, because you never know if he’s going to hit a winner out of nowhere. You never know what to expect.”
That’s definitely not the case with Jack Sock. The top seed reached the semifinals with his fourth consecutive 6-1, 6-1 victory, this one coming over No. 8 seed Alexios Halebian.
“It’s nice that it’s happening. I’m playing pretty well, doing the right things,” said Sock, the defending champion, who won his first match 6-3, 6-1. “It’s more just a coincidence I guess.”
Asked if a few close matches would be beneficial, Sock denied he hasn’t been pushed.
“It’s not that these aren’t challenges. The points are long, the games are close, I came back from a 0-40 game once,” said the 18-year-old from Lincoln, Neb. “The matches could easily not be 1 and 1. I just try to stay in every point, play every point as hard as I can, and it’s turned out to be 1 and 1.”
Giron and Sock last played over two years ago, in the third round of the 18s Clay Courts, which Sock went on to win.
“Someone brought that up to me, I don’t even remember playing that match,” said Sock, who usually recalls previous matches without needing any reminders. “Someone told me I won in three sets. Obviously we played then, but I didn’t remember it. It’s been a long time, and this is a hard court.”
The weather forecast for the weekend is showing a 60% chance of rain for Saturday’s semifinals and doubles finals. So there’s a possibility that indoor tennis could figure into the equation as well.
The doubles finals are set, with No. 1 seeds Yale Goldberg and Ronnie Schneider facing No. 5 seeds Joseph Di Giulio and Gregory Garcia in the 16s championship match. Goldberg and Schneider defeated unseeded Conrad Harron and Samuel Shropshire 6-4, 6-4 in one of Friday’s semifinals. In the other, Di Giulio and Garcia downed No. 12 seeds Christopher Vrabel and Anton Zykov 6-4, 6-3.
The US Open main draw wild card will go to a Texas A&M Aggie; which one will be decided on Saturday. Texas A&M’s Junior Ore, who is partnering Mitchell Frank, will play Texas A&M’s Jackson Withrow, whose doubles partner is Jack Sock.
Frank and Ore, the No. 5 seeds, beat No. 7 seeds Nick Chappell and Marcos Giron 6-2, 6-4, while top seeds Sock and Withrow got past No. 8 seeds Emmett Egger and Mac Styslinger 7-6(4), 6-4 in Friday’s semifinals. Sock and partner Matt Kandath lost in the 2010 18s doubles final to Sekou Bangoura Jr. and Nathan Pasha.
For complete results, see ustaboys.com.