©Colette Lewis 2011--
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.