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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Ore Surprises Third Seed Fratangelo in 18s; Top 16s Seeds Farren and Schneider Survive Tough Tests at Nats

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Kalamazoo, MI--

On Monday, it was Texas A&M’s Jackson Withrow who posted the day’s biggest upset, taking out 2010 National 16s finalist and No. 6 seed Shane Vinsant in the third round of the Boys 18s National Championships. Withrow’s teammate, No. 29 seed Junior Ore, recorded an even bigger win in Tuesday’s fourth round, defeating No. 3 seed and 2011 French Open junior champion Bjorn Fratangelo 6-2, 6-4.

Ore, who began his collegiate career in January, completely revamped his game after last year’s US Open junior championships.

“After the Open last year, I went down to Tampa to work with Steve Smith, and basically I just rebuilt my strokes,” said Ore, who turns 19 next month. “All I did was hit off the cone for hours and hours. I didn’t play points or anything. That’s all I’ve been doing really.”

The left-hander still has his elegant one-handed backhand however, and although Fratangelo hits a potent forehand, it wasn’t working to his advantage in the first set. Ore seemed as if he might be expending too much emotional energy with some very loud eruptions of “allez” on key points, but he managed to find the right balance.

“I’ve been away for such a long time, and I had my ups and downs,” said Ore who played No. 2 doubles for the Aggies this year. “I was at my low when I took the year off. I had no confidence and since I had to rebuild, I almost quit tennis sometimes. I knew this was an important match for me, it’s really emotional for me.”

In the second set, the pressure mounted as both players held serve in the first nine games. Fratangelo was in the precarious position of serving to stay in the match at 4-5, and he was unable to reenact his third round comeback, where he came from a set and a break down to win in three sets.

Ore has had big wins in the past, having beaten defending French Open champion Daniel Berta of Sweden, the 2009 International Tennis Federation World Junior Champion, in the first round at Roland Garros the following year, losing to the eventual champion Agustin Velotti of Argentina.

“I’ve beaten two French Open champions and I lost to one, so that’s not so bad,” said the Gaithersburg, Md. resident, smiling broadly.

Ore will play unseeded Charles Depaolo, who outlasted Dominic Cotrone, also unseeded, 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) in a match that lasted over three hours.

Alexios Halebian, the No. 8 seed in the 18s, hadn’t won a main draw match in his two previous appearances in Kalamazoo, but winning the Clay Courts gold ball last month helped change that.

“I had a lot of confidence coming in,” said Halebian, who defeated No. 26 seed Harrison Adams 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in a well-played and entertaining match on the backcourts at Kalamazoo College’s Stowe Stadium. “It felt good to win there and come here, even though I’d never won a match here, I had confidence, more than I usually do.”

Halebian trailed 2-0 in the third set, but got the break back early and broke Adams at 3-4 to earn an opportunity to serve for the match. Halebian saved two break points in the final game, employing his effective drop shot to finish his first match point with a winner.

“I could have kept it a little safer, but he was hanging in the match, he never went away, which was surprising, because he was getting upset,” said the 17-year-old, who recently turned pro. “But he never went away. It was a great match, I thought, both ways. I could have won, could have lost. It went my way today.”

Top seeds Jack Sock and Mitchell Frank continued their stroll through the early rounds, although No. 2 seed Frank leads the games surrendered competition, having dropped only 3 games in his three wins, compared to 8 for No. 1 Sock.

Frank defeated 2009 16s National Champion and No. 31 seed Gonzales Austin 6-0, 6-1 in just over an hour, while Sock beat No. 17 seed Anthony Tsodikov 6-1, 6-1.

Marcos Giron, the No. 4 seed, also advanced, taking out No. 19 seed Robert Stineman 6-3, 6-4. Hunter Callahan, seeded 23, surprised No. 7 seed Mitchell Krueger 6-4, 6-4 in one of the afternoon matches on the backcourts.

The longest match of the day was No. 21 seed Hunter Reese’s 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-6(5) win over No. 12 seed Gordon Watson. Reese and Watson battled for three hours and 43 minutes before deciding who would move to the round of 16.

In the 16s, top seed Connor Farren again struggled in the opening set, this time losing it to No. 18 seed Elliott Orkin, but bounced back to claim a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 victory.

“I’ve got to start getting off to a little better start in the next rounds. It’s got to be something about this city,” he said, adding that he was just kidding.

“He played really well in the first set, came out and didn’t make any errors, and I just wasn’t putting enough balls in play. I started playing my game more in the second set, and in the third, I felt the best I had in a while.”

In the 10-minute break between the second and third sets, the 16-year-old from Hillsborough, Calif., called his coach Sandy Mayer, who won the doubles title in Kalamazoo back in 1970.

“He told me some things,” said Farren who mentioned an increase in his energy level in the third set. “He was actually watching the match on the webcam. I had some family back home watching it too.”

Second seed Ronnie Schneider also lost his first set of the tournament, but he advanced when No. 30 seed Henry Craig had to retire with cramping down 4-3, 40-0 in the third set, having won the first 6-4 and lost the second 6-3. Craig had battled back from 3-0 deficit in the final set, with one of the games a penalty awarded to Schneider when Craig was late returning from the break.

Number 3 seed Noah Rubin had the local crowd against him when he took the court Tuesday morning, but it didn’t faze the 15-year-old, who beat Kalamazoo’s Paul Oosterbaan, the No. 31 seed 6-3, 6-2.

“I played in France in the final (of Les Petits As) and I had French people booing me,” the New Yorker said. “This is basically nothing compared to it. That was just negative. This is fine. They’re clapping for his good shots.”

Oosterbaan never served well enough to challenge Rubin, who teed off on the much bigger player’s second serve.

“I expected to just take it on the rise, and dictate the point,” said Rubin, who was surprised to see his own serve read 118 on the radar gun.
“I knew he was a big kid, so I was expecting a big serve. The clock said I was bigger, but I don’t know how that is possible.”

Unseeded John Carswell continued his impressive run, defeating his second seed in as many days Tuesday. Carswell, a 16-year-old from Wisconsin, breezed past No. 23 seed Daniel Kerznerman 6-2, 6-0, and is the only unseeded player remaining in the 16s field.

For complete results, including the doubles results from Tuesday, see ustaboys.com.