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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sock Repeats as 18s Champion, Schneider Battles Back for 16s Title as Soggy USTA Nationals Conclude

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Kalamazoo, MI--

The 2011 USTA National Boys 18s Championships ended Sunday the same way they started—with a rain delay and Jack Sock as champion.

Sock, the defending champion and top seed, defeated second seed Mitchell Frank 6-3, 6-0 on a cool and damp afternoon at Kalamazoo College’s Stowe Stadium. In order to get his chance to repeat, Sock was required to complete his semifinal match with No. 4 seed Marcos Giron at 9 a.m. Leading 7-6(5), 3-2 and serving when rain halted play on Saturday, Sock negotiated past his toughest opponent of the tournament in 20 minutes Sunday morning, securing the 7-6(5), 6-3 victory.

“I was fortunate to get on the court and get off the court pretty fast to conserve some energy,” said the 18-year-old from Lincoln, Neb. “But it was still a lot of matches for me in a row with the doubles last night, the singles this morning, getting up early again and playing another match today against a guy who doesn’t usually miss much.”

Frank, who will begin his college career at the University of Virginia in just a few weeks, had beaten Sock the last time they played, in the quarterfinals of the 2009 Orange Bowl. In that match, Frank had controlled the points with his groundstroke depth and lack of errors, while Sock was erratic, especially on his serve.

In Sunday’s final, which was delayed nearly three hours by two separate showers that interrupted the 16s final and was shortened from best-of-five sets to best-of-three due to the weather, Sock’s serve was both big and reliable. He reached the mid-120s on the radar gun multiple times, and his forehand had its usual pop. Frank’s opportunities came early—he had a 0-40 lead with Sock serving at 1-1—but Sock hit three forehand winners and an ace to get out of that tight spot.

“Things obviously could have been a lot different if I had gotten broken there,” said Sock, who needed only an hour to retain his title and collect his 23rd gold ball. “I was fortunate to get out of that game.”

Frank also had two break points with Sock serving at 3-1, and there were several questionable service line calls overruled and replayed—or not—in that game.

“I had a break point and he double faulted,” said Frank, who won the Allen B. Stowe sportsmanship award. “They didn’t call it and I couldn’t quite get that one out of my head for a bit, and it cost me. With a player like him, you have to be focused the whole time, and I kind of lost my focus there.”

Sock went on to hold, and Frank did not get another break point opportunity in the set, or the match.

“I felt I was dictating a lot of points and I feel when I’m dictating a lot of points, hitting a lot of forehands in the middle of the court, I’m going to do pretty well,” said Sock, who ended the match with a 125 mph ace. “With serving well, and putting a lot of returns back in play, getting in points, I think I was able to force some errors, and the momentum just took it.”

Frank, who had battled back to win fifth-round and quarterfinal matches after losing the first set, made too many uncharacteristic errors against Sock to climb back into the match.

“In the second, I just couldn’t find the court,” Frank said. “He’s too good of a player. If you can’t find the court, he’s going to capitalize on it.”

Sock will play his first grand slam as a professional with the US Open wild card the USTA awards to the National 18s winner, and after losing a four-setter to Marco Chiudinelli of Switzerland last year, Sock would like another shot at him.

“That would be great,” said Sock, although Chiudinelli would have to make his way through the qualifying draw first. “I think my overall game is probably a bit more polished this time. Last year, there were definitely a lot of nerves starting that match. This year, I’m obviously going there to try to win some matches, not go there and settle for a first round loss. That’s not what I want to do.”

Frank will also be in New York, a week earlier than Sock, as he intends to use the qualifying wild card that goes to the 18s finalist.

In the 16s final, No. 2 seed Ronnie Schneider was serving for the first set against No. 4 seed Luca Corinteli at 5-3, but proceeded to lose six straight games. That didn’t stop him from collecting the title however, as the Bloomington, Ind. resident came back for a 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-2 victory.

“I got down 4-1 30-love on his serve,” Schneider said of his precarious position in the second set, ”and I was just thinking to myself, if you make him play, he’ll get tight, and I ended up just playing better.”

Corinteli, who at 6-foot-3 and 200 pounds has at least seven inches and 70 pounds on Schneider, still served for the match twice in the second set, at 5-4 and 6-5, but neither time did he get to match point. He double faulted at 6-5, 30-40 to send the set to a tiebreaker, and Schneider raised his level there, while Corinteli struggled with his serve, double faulting twice, including on the second set point.

After a 10-minute break, the match resumed, yet there was no change in momentum, as Schneider broke Corinteli to start the third. Schneider was leading 1-0 when a light rain caused a 40-minute suspension of play, but again Schneider continued to dominate, moving out to a 4-0 lead before another delay of nearly an hour.

“I didn’t mind the first one,” said Schneider. “But the second one, I was surprised by it. I was up 4-0 and I was rolling, and I was like, oh man, I just want to get this done.”

Corinteli got on the board in the first game after play resumed and saved four match points serving at 1-5, but Schneider closed it out on his serve, saving one break point in the process, as Corinteli hit several eye-popping winners to pressure Schneider.

“I think if I would have started the third set with the way I ended the match, it could have turned out to be even better,” said Corinteli, a 16-year-old from Alexandria, Va. who trains at the USTA National Center in Boca Raton. “I have to work on closing out matches like this. I thought I was serving pretty well, so keeping my emotions and nerves in check I think would have won me the match for sure.”

Schneider credited his experience in the 2011 Easter Bowl final with helping him collect his first singles gold ball on Sunday.

“Even though that didn’t go well, it really helped,” said Schneider, who lost in three sets to Gage Brymer. “I was a little more sure of myself.”

Despite his top national ranking, Schneider is convinced he needed to win the 16s title to receive a wild card into the US Open junior championships.

“I’m not one of those USTA kids,” Schneider explained. “He and Nikko (Madregallejo) and Thai (Kwiatkowski) are going to get wild cards into either the main draw or qualifying, no matter what. I knew this whole week I can’t leave it in their hands. I had to take care of it. I felt like I deserved it anyway, but who knows?”

Schneider has never been to the US Open or to the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center, and is excited about the prospect.

“I could not be happier,” said Schneider, after confirming it was indeed a main draw wild card for singles. “Main draw check in is Saturday, so I’m sure me and my coach will be out there Wednesday or Thursday to take it all in. Hopefully I can get Yale (Goldberg) into the doubles. I know that’s not guaranteed,” said Schneider, who won the doubles title Saturday night.

“I think it’s going to be a great experience.”

Third place and consolation winners were decided on Sunday as well, with Spencer Newman and Connor Farren taking fifth place. Newman, the No. 14 seed, beat No. 8 seed Alexios Halebian, avenging his main draw loss, by a score of 6-1, 7-5 to win the 18s. Farren, the top seed in 16s, beat No. 3 seed Noah Rubin 7-5, 6-1.

The bronze ball in the 16s went to No. 6 seed Nikko Madregallejo, who beat No. 13 seed JC Aragone 5-7, 7-6(3), 6-4. Ninth seed Mac Styslinger took third place in the 18s, when Giron was unable to play due to injury.

Complete results can be found at ustaboys.com.


Brent said...

Any thoughts on the 3 TBDs in the wild card playoff? What would the logic of that be? Winning two straight futures should get Sandgren one, shouldn't it?

anon said...

Am I the only one that is super inspired by Ronnie Schneider's performance? The guy makes David Ferrer look like John Isner and is gritty as heck, hits the crap out of the ball, and a nice and humble kid. I wish him the best in his future and am happy to see such a nice story.

Junior Tennis said...

Anon-I agree with your comment except the part about the "nice and humble kid." Perhaps he's changed but check out some of his earlier interviews on youtube.

anon said...

I saw one video of him when he was in 9th grade. He seemed like he had a level head and was a bit camera shy. Not sure if I am watching the same video you are? I just have a lot of respect that the kid comes from the heartland, doesnt appear like a spoiled, entitled academy brat, and goes tooth and nail against a guy that looks about twice his size. I'm sure you've got to have a healthy self assurance to tough out two national championships, but I say more power to him.

Junior Tennis said...

Anon-You must be a relative of the kid or something, because the video I saw of him when he was in ninth grade showed quite the opposite. Rather than camera shy he seemed to crave the attention and he kept bragging about how great he did and how he beat all the upper classmen in high school tennis (which isn't hard for a top nationally ranked player) and took his opponent "out of his game." He may be from Indiana but I don't see anything "heartland" about him. I would have assumed that he was from NYC or L.A. if I didn't know any better.

I also thought that his scream when he won the 16's at KZOO was really over the top and rubbing it in.

I'm very impressed with the kid's competitiveness, talent and tenacity as a tennis player but let's not also give him the Miss Congeniality Award. I encourage anyone else to see that video and tell us your opinion.

Colette Lewis said...

@ Junior Tennis:
I think you're mistaken regarding Schneider. He was refreshingly honest in his interviews in Kalamazoo, but that never veered into anything resembling arrogance.
You are entitled to your opinion of course, but I have observed nothing that would confirm it.

Junior Tennis said...

Colette: I really do appreciate your opinion and I am honestly happy to hear that because I am otherwise very impressed with this kid and am relieved to know that he is not what I thought. You know him a lot better than I do and so I defer to your opinion.

It sounds like that earlier interview was just an aberation or perhaps he has matured a lot since then. However, just so you know that I'm not crazy I encourage you or anyone else to view that interview and tell me if they can understand my reaction.

observer said...

@junior tennis - If I had just won the most prestigious junior tournament, I would not only scream, but I would kiss the ground and god knows what else. The scream wasn't arrogance(or rubbing it in) it was just jubilation.

Junior Tennis said...

Observer-I'm a former Division 1 college player and so I don't need a lecture from you on what is jubilation and what is rubbing it in. There are limits to when a celebration crosses the line. I've seen some players pump their fist while simultaenousely screaming and glaring in the face of their vanquished opponent after winning match point. I know that the kid didn't do this but not all celebrations are jubilations that don't cross the line which is what you seem to be saying.

I think that every player should be aware of this distinction and show some restraint. It's a sign of human decency, common courtesy to your opponent, and class which I find often lacking in some (but thank goodness not all) of today's juniors.

Tennis said...

Junior Tennis- you have obviously never won a tournament such as Kalamazoo before. I can't possibly imagine how Ronnie was feeling after his journey that led him to winning the title. I was there, and it wasn't as though the fist pump and celebration was directed toward Luca at all, he seemed to be looking towards his coach, who was sitting near the front. Even if his celebration wasn't so modest, how can you blame a kid when he has just won Americas greatest junior tournament that he's obviously worked extremely hard towards?

Junior Tennis said...

Tennis-I have two responses to your comment.

First of all, you need to re-read my last comment and the one before that where I have deferred to Colette's opinion of Ronnie that he's a good guy who is not arrogant and who behaves appropriately. So, give it a rest, that point is now moot. I am not criticizing him.

Furthermore, in my last comment I made clear that I wasn't talking about Ronnie's celebration I was talking in more general terms about others who cross the line and gave an example of an inappropriate celebration of another player, not Ronnie.

Second, to your gratuitous and unnecesary comment that I "have obviously never won a tournament such as Kalamazoo before," my response to that is that neither have you.

Hello said...

I live about 20 minutes from Ronnie Schneider, and my son played him in High School tennis. Ronnie is a very classy kid, in a day when many aren't. He beat my son, but was very respectful to him. He is a very hard worker and again this year is playing for his high school, when he has already won the state championship and has nothing else to accomplish, other than he says he loves to play in a team environment and that says alot for him, when many kids choose not to represent their high school. I wish Ronnie all the best as he deserves the attention he is getting.

player said...

Ronnie is one of the nicest kids you will ever meet. He totally deserves everything he got. I train with Ronnie a lot in Central Indiana and am looking forward to seeing him play in the junior US open.

And I have won a USTA Level Two National Tournament and came in fourth in a supernational. And yes when I won that tournament I did scream on the final point. You have NO idea how it feels to win something that big!