©Colette Lewis 2012--
Coral Gables, FL--
Grant Solomon, the top seed in the boys 18s at the Tennis Plaza Cup, a USTA National Level 3 Regional tournament, won his opening round match this morning against Lucas Dages 6-0, 6-0. But as a beautiful day in South Florida transformed into a lovely night, Solomon found himself in a much tougher battle with fellow 16-year-old Sam Swank, and when the match finally ended, after nearly three hours of play on the Har-Tru courts of Salvadore Park, Swank had the upset 5-7, 6-1, 6-3.
Swank, from Bedford, New York, served too well for Solomon in the first set, with the top seed having difficulty getting returns in play. Swank held on to his break until serving for the set at 5-4, but was broken at love.
"I choked. I was playing well, serving well and then at 5-4 I choked, didn't make any first serves," Swank said. "But I'm a always a fighter, so I always try to dig in."
Swank had four chances to serve for the set again when Solomon went down 0-40 and then add out in the next game, but some excellent serving on the Texan's part, including two service winners and an ace got him out of that mess.
With his forehand continuing to give him trouble, Swank was broken at love again in the next game, but any frustration he felt at the missed opportunities didn't erupt to the surface.
In the second set, he took a 4-0 lead, which he attributed to Solomon relaxing a little too much.
"He eased up, and that happens a lot after winning the first set," Swank said. "I got a big lead in the third, and that was it."
Although Swank did lead 4-1 in the third set, it was only one break, and Solomon got it back to 4-3, only to be broken in the next game. At 30-40, a long and often brilliant point ended with Swank finally putting away his second overhead, and he would serve for the match. Asked if the disaster of the first set went through his mind, Swank was philosophical.
"One thing I've learned about tennis is that you can't dwell in the past," Swank said. "I messed up that first set, but I cleared it out of my mind, and I have enough belief in myself that I can do it for sure."
Swank fell behind 15-40 in that final game, but hit an ace to save one break point, and a soft touch volley off an awkward net cord to save the second. At deuce, Solomon netted a backhand pass to give Swank his first match point, and he converted it with a forehand volley winner.
Swank said he believes he has underachieved on the national stage.
"I was playing really well in my section, but when I would get to the national level, I would struggle. It's something I'm focusing on, to play more of these tournaments, get more experience."
Stefan Kozlov was in the draw as the No. 3 seed but was still competing in the Grade 1 in Colombia and so was replaced by an alternate. No. 2 seed Ognjen Samardzic and No. 4 seed Jake Albo won both their matches today.
In addition to the boys 18s, the boys and girls 14s are also being played at Salvadore Park. Top seeds Sofia Kenin and Jean Thirouin had byes in the opening round, and advanced to the third round with routine wins this afternoon.
The girls 18s are being played at the Riviera Country Club, and the top seed there, Frances Altick, is through to the third round, where she will play Junior Orange Bowl 14s champion Katerina Stewart. The unseeded Stewart beat No. 8 seed Natalia Janowicz 6-2, 6-3 in today's second round.
In the 16s, at Biltmore Tennis Center, top seeds Tommy Mylnikov and Marie Norris are through to the quarterfinals, as are 12s top seeds Boris Kozlov and Alyvia M. Jones at Tropical Park.
Full draws at the TennisLink site.