©Colette Lewis 2011--
Flushing Meadows, NY--
As I mentioned last month when I went to Cincinnati, I don't see much of the highest level of tennis live. Tonight, due to no more than luck, since I'd bought my plane tickets long before there was any inkling who might be playing the Friday night matches on Arthur Ashe, I got to see two young Americans, who I'd watched play countless matches in the juniors, perform on the biggest stage in tennis.
Both Christina McHale and Jack Sock lost, with McHale losing to No. 25 seed Maria Kirilenko of Russia 6-2, 6-3, and Sock falling to No. 21 seed Andy Roddick 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, but it took very good tennis from their more experienced opponents to beat the teenagers.
McHale stayed in most of the points, but Kirilenko approached the net to finish with more regularity and lost her serve only once all night, when McHale converted her only break point of the match with Kirilenko serving for the first set at 5-1. The Russian certainly wasn't overpowering on serve, but she made few errors when it mattered, and was willing to come to the net and finish the points. McHale didn't serve particularly well and stayed on the baseline, but her defense was outstanding and she forced Kirilenko to hit another shot, which unfortunately for McHale, she did.
I didn't see the first couple of games of the Sock - Roddick match, because I was watching Taylor Townsend and Donald Young finish their mixed doubles match (they lost to Natalie Grandin and Jean-Julien Rojer 6-7(6), 6-2 10-8, but Young had won his singles match against Stan Wawrinka in a fifth set tiebreaker, and Townsend and Jessica Pegula had advanced to the third round of women's doubles, so they still had a very good day). I heard Sock had gotten off to a good start and had break points against Roddick early, but missed one forehand in particular that kept him from taking an early lead.
Sock looked comfortable and served well, hitting 130, 132, and 134 mph on the radar gun during the match, but he converted only one of his 7 break points, and that was in the third set. Roddick on the other hand, was 5 for 5 on break points.
In the press conference afterward, Sock said he enjoyed the match, calling it the best tennis experience of his life, but seemed frustrated by Roddick's ability to serve his way out of trouble. Sock said he felt he was dictating a lot of the points, and getting the forehands he wanted, but Roddick was too steady and got too many balls back.
After two sets, Sock adjusted his tactics slightly, coming into the net more often and playing more touch shots, but although it made for some very entertaining points, it never shifted the balance of power to his side of the court.
In two hours flat, it was over, and as the two shook hands, Roddick invited Sock to train with him in Austin later this year, an invitation Sock said he would probably accept.
Roddick, who has extended that invitations to dozens of US players over the past several years, was full of praise for Sock, who won the US Open boys title last year, just as Roddick had done in 2000.
Asked what impressed him about Sock's game, Roddick replied:
"Serve's gotten a lot better. I think he's grown about a foot in the last year. His forehand's got some serious rpms on it. You can't teach that. You can't teach 135 in your arm. You can't teach the ball jumping off the court. So that's good. He's going to have to learn some of the subtleties in the game. But, you know, those are things that you can teach and can learn. Between him and Ryan (Harrison), I think we got a couple of legit prospects. Like I said the other night, my favorite thing about them is that they compete. They really, really, really compete."
The final round of qualifying in the juniors is set for tomorrow and among the 16 boys vying for the eight qualifying spots are Michael Redlicki, Emmett Egger and Noah Rubin. Nine US girls are still in contention, with two assured spots as Julie Elbaba and Blair Shankle play each other, as do wild cards Jennifer Brady and Nicole Gibbs. Wild cards Chalena Scholl and Kimberly Yee advanced to the final round with wins today, as did Lauren Herring, Tristen Dewar and Natalia Maynetto.
The order of play is available at usopen.org.
The results from today's first round of qualifying can be found here.
Tomorrow's night match on Arthur Ashe will feature Sloane Stephens against No. 16 seed Ana Ivanovic of Serbia.