Rubin's Comeback Earns Him Another Shot at Top Seed Krueger in ISC Semis; Townsend Fights Back For Three-Set Win; 16s Finals Set for Saturday
©Colette Lewis 2012--
Trailing 4-1 in the third set of his International Spring Championships quarterfinal match with wild card Ronnie Schneider, No. 3 seed Noah Rubin hadn't yet let go of his hope for a semifinal berth against top seed Mitchell Krueger.
"I remembered the last time I played [Schneider] at Clays," said Rubin, who won the final five games to take a 5-7, 6-0, 6-4 victory Friday afternoon. "I lost the first set, like I did here, and then came back and won 2 and 1, I believe, so I knew I had an opportunity in this match, knew I had the potential."
For the second match in a row, Schneider lost a second set 6-0, but despite dropping serve to start the third set, he was able to recover to break Rubin the next two times, building his 4-1 lead. Schneider, who won the USTA Spring National Championships three weeks ago, had three game points for a 5-2 lead, but Rubin got back on serve, converting his only break point when Schneider netted a forehand.
Rubin, the 2011 International Spring Championships 16s winner, held at love, then again capitalized on his only break point to put himself in position to serve for the match. At 30-30, Rubin hit a forehand winner the ultra-quick Schneider could only lunge at, and on his first match point, Rubin put away an overhead for the victory.
The 16-year-old New Yorker now gets a second shot at top seed Mitchell Krueger, who beat him 6-4, 6-1 in the final of the ITF B1 Pan American Closed last fall in Tulsa.
"I was at the Futures with him in Texas, and he's playing very well as always," Rubin said.
Asked whether he learned anything in Tulsa that he could employ in Saturday's match, Rubin said, "We'll find out tomorrow."
The 18-year-old Krueger, who has been hitting with pros from Indian Wells to Zurich to his home in Dallas in the past month, reached the semifinals with a 7-6(5), 6-2 win over his doubles partner Alexios Halebian, the No. 5 seed.
Krueger was twice up a break in the first set--at 2-1 and 4-3-- but both times immediately gave the break back. He also had a 4-2 lead in the tiebreaker before Halebian came back to make it 4-4. Krueger was steadier in the later stages however, with Halebian hitting a backhand way long to make it 5-4 Krueger, who then forced an error with a deep backhand, giving himself two set points. Halebian saved the first with a forehand pass that Krueger argued was wide, but he double faulted on the second to give Krueger the 70-minute first set.
"It was a good set, he was hitting some good shots," said Krueger, who was a regular hitting partner with Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic during the BNP Paribas Open last month. "It was a pretty close tiebreaker, and other than that double fault, it was a pretty good tiebreaker."
Krueger was immediately broken to open the second set, with his unforced errors the primary cause, but he got the break back immediately and got his opportunity with Halebian serving at 2-3. After a long rally on break point, Halebian missed, and the left-hander from California pounded his racquet into the court, drawing a point penalty (he had received a warning for ball abuse at the end of the first set). That point came in handy in the next game, as Krueger needed four game points before he could finally convert, but he held his lead, then broke Halebian again to end the match.
With his recent stint at the Zurich Open with the ATP Champions tour, Krueger is not accustomed to being the oldest player on the court, but that is his position in this tournament, his first junior tournament of the year.
"I'm not used to it," said Krueger. "It feels weird."
The other boys semifinal will feature 14-year-old Stefan Kozlov, the No. 12 seed, who beat No. 4 seed Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, and 16-year-old Luca Corinteli, the 14th seed, who defeated qualifier Ernesto Escobedo 6-3, 7-6(3).
Girls top seed Taylor Townsend looked lethargic at the start of her 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 quarterfinal win over No. 9 seed Stephanie Nauta, but Townsend credited Nauta for taking charge of the first set.
"Stephanie came out playing really well, she played really aggressive, she came out firing her shots," said Townsend, playing in her first tournament since winning the Australian Open girls championship in January. "I wasn't doing enough with my ball, and she was taking advantage of it. She was taking the balls, but also, I was giving her a lot of shots."
Townsend began to play better in the second set, and although she gave back an early break, she held after a late one to even the match at a set apiece.
The third set was 3-3, with Nauta serving when Townsend showed the variety that sets her apart in the junior ranks. Nauta's first serve began to fail her, and after a double fault it was 30-30. On the next point, Townsend approached and converted a backhand volley winner to give her break point, which she won with an perfectly executed drop shot that Nauta barely reached but couldn't handle. Townsend held to make it 5-3, with a rare ace assisting in that hold, and Nauta couldn't force another game, double faulting on match point to put Townsend in the semifinals.
Townsend's opponent will be No. 7 seed Allie Kiick, who ended the California run of qualifier Mayo Hibi 7-5, 6-0. Townsend knows she will have to be sharp against Kiick, who beat her last fall en route to the title at the $10,000 Pro Circuit event in Amelia Island.
"She's a great competitor, a great opponent, very, very skilled," said Townsend. "She can do pretty much everything and she's really fit. She gets to a lot of balls, so I have to be ready, she can put a racquet on anything."
In the other semifinal, No. 3 seed Chalena Scholl meets No. 8 seed Jennifer Brady, neither of whom have lost a set in their runs to the semifinals. Brady rolled over No. 2 seed Kyle McPhillips 6-2, 6-1, and Scholl, who won two tournaments in South American last month, eased past No. 6 seed Christina Makarova 6-3, 6-2.
The doubles finals are set for Saturday, with No. 1 seeds Townsend and Gabby Andrews against No. 2 seeds Nauta and Scholl for the girls title.
Townsend and Andrews recovered from an abysmal start to defeat No. 3 seeds Kiick and Ayaka Okuno 2-6, 6-3, 10-5, while Nauta and Scholl downed No. 4 seeds Samantha Crawford and Josie Kuhlman 6-2, 7-6(2).
In the boys final, unseeded Thomas Colautti of Great Britain and Josh Hagar will play No. 2 seeds McDonald and Trey Strobel. Colautti and Hagar defeated No. 4 seeds Lucas Gomez and Ricky Medinilla of Mexico 6-3, 7-6(6) in the semifinals, while McDonald and Strobel, who have yet to play a match tiebreaker this week, beat No. 8 seeds Carter Lin and Mohd Merzuki of Malaysia 6-4, 6-3.
In the girls 16s final, unseeded 14-year-old Emma Higuchi will meet unseeded 15-year-old Jessica Ho. Higuchi beat unseeded Raquel Pedraza 6-2, 6-2 in the quicker of the two semifinals, with Ho needing nearly three hours to get past No. 9 seed Andie Daniell 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.
Unseeded qualifier Roman Safiullin is putting the international in the International Spring Championships, as the 14-year-old Russian defeated No. 10 seed and last week's Claremont ITF champion Logan Smith 6-1, 6-3 to advance to the final against Les Petits As champion Frances Tiafoe.
Tiafoe trailed rival Sameer Kumar 6-4, 4-5 0-40 in their semifinal, but the 14-year-old from Maryland saved all three of those match points, the third on a difficult cross court overhead, and went on to post a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory.
"After that he kind of folded on the next two points, and the match turned around," said Tiafoe, who had lost to Kumar in three sets in December of 2011 and beaten him in three sets at a National Open in February. "I started playing well, sticking to routines, playing smart and really going for my shots."
Although Safiullin is a qualifier, Tiafoe is familiar with him from the Eddie Herr and Junior Orange Bowl competitions in 2011.
"He's a tough player and he's got a big game, doesn't go away," said Tiafoe. "I'll have to attack, because he's got really good offense, and I can't be up and down."
Tiafoe will also be going for the doubles title Saturday, when he and Yancy Dennis play Augustus Ge and Jean Thirouin in a championship featured two unseeded teams. Tiafoe and Dennis beat unseeded Carsten Fisher of South Africa and Anudeep Kodali 6-1, 6-7(2), 10-4 in the semifinals, with Ge and Thirouin defeating No. 3 seeds Tommy Paul and Aron Pierce 3-6, 6-4, 10-4.
The girls 16s doubles final also features two unseeded teams, with Yuki Asami and Ilana Oleynik playing Natalie Da Silveira of Brazil and Ena Shibahara for the title. Asami and Oleynik beat top seeds Nicole Frenkel and Ndindi Ndunda 2-6, 6-3, 10-8. Da Silveira and Shibahara defeated unseeded Kenadi Hance and Alexis Pereira 6-4, 7-5.
For complete draws, see the tournament page at usta.com.