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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Heat and Humidity Take Toll, but Top Eight Seeds in 18s Advance to Third Round

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Kalamazoo, MI--

Although temperatures did not rise much above the 90s for first round play in the 16s and second round matches in the 18s, the heat and humidity produced retirements, illness and post-match ambulance rides Saturday at the USTA Boys 18 and 16 Nationals.

The younger age division, playing their first round matches, seemed to suffer the most, with no fewer than four needing the attention of tournament doctors and leaving on stretchers to an ambulance waiting behind court 8.

The top seeds in the 18s, most of whom played at Stowe Stadium rather than Western Michigan University, kept their time on the court to a minimum, with all eight top seeds advancing in straight sets.  Top seed Mitchell Krueger defeated Jeremy Lynn 6-2, 6-1, No. 2 seed and 2010 16s champion Michael Redlicki beat Alex Giannini 6-3, 6-1 and No. 3 seed Dennis Novikov won the last nine games of the match to get past Keaton Cullimore  6-3, 6-0.

One of the seeds who struggled a bit Saturday was No. 11 Stefan Kozlov, who dropped the first set to Nicolas Crystal 6-4,  but came back to take the second by the same score, then advanced when Crystal retired with cramping trailing 2-0 in the third.

"It was pretty tough, the conditions," said Kozlov, who is playing Kalamazoo for the first time at age 14. "Thank god I didn't cramp, because you really can't control that. It could happen to anyone. The conditions are very tough."

Kozlov's match was on Court 11, the most remote court on the Stowe Stadium complex, so he still has his debut on the famous three show courts to look forward to.

"It doesn't matter," Kozlov said. "I know if I win a couple of matches, I'll be there. That always helps me."

No. 6 seed Jared Hiltzik, who has reached the finals of the past three USTA National 18s Championships, also played his opening match on the back courts, where he defeated Austin Kaplan 6-2, 6-1.  This is Hiltzik's third and final appearance here in Kalamazoo, and he admits he has a different perspective on it now.

"The first time I was here, I was so nervous out there I couldn't swing at a ball," said Hiltzik, who joins the University of Illinois team in just a few weeks. "I couldn't crack an egg. But now, with all these tournaments I've played this year, with added pressure, you get the feeling you're not going to be as nervous. It kind of sets the stage."

Hiltzik won the Winter Nationals, lost in the finals of the Spring Nationals and just a few weeks ago, left Delray Beach, Florida without knowing who had won the 18s Clay Courts. Hiltzik led George Goldhoff 6-4, 3-1 when rain washed out play for the day, and for the tournament. No winner was declared, and Hiltzik is still not sure what will become of the wild card to the US Open Junior Championships that the USTA awards to the 18s Clay Champions.

"I'm coming in here with positive thoughts, playing very well," Hiltzik said of his mindset after that frustrating end to a tournament. "I'm taking a lot of positive energy from the last couple of tournaments. It was tough at first, but I've talked to people about it, and it's a lot better now. I don't think too much of it now, and just move on, look toward the future."

Goldhoff, the other clay finalist, was the No. 14 seed here in Kalamazoo. He was one of four seeds to lose their second round matches, falling to Jonathan Carcione 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.  Goldhoff was not moving well even early in the match and several times had the trainer out during changeovers. In the third set, Goldhoff hardly moved to a ball, never did a split step, but was dangerous when he could line up a backhand, because his strategy was to hit it as hard as he could. That was hard enough to produce several clean winners, but Carcione, a rising freshman at Princeton, played it safe in the final game and that was enough. It took four match points, but Carcione finally maneuvered for a forehand winner to finish the last singles match of the evening at Stowe Stadium.

Earlier in the afternoon, No. 12 seed Connor Farren lost to Mihir Kumar 6-4, 6-2, joining Goldhoff as the only Top 16 seed on the sidelines. Farren, who has played very little since a wrist injury kept him off the courts from February to June, didn't serve well, while Kumar attacked at every opportunity, putting a lot of pressure on Farren.

Two other seeded players lost at Western Michigan University, with No. 19 Brendan McClain falling to Brett Clark 6-0, 6-4 and No. 24 Jonathan Ho losing to Tyler Lu 7-6(0), 0-6, 6-4.

Rain arrived Saturday night while several second round 16s doubles matches were still on the courts at both sites, and they were moved indoors.

For complete results, see the tournament website.