Thursday, August 9, 2012

Oosterbaan Survives in a Thriller to Reach Semis in 16s Nationals; Halebian Ousts Second Seed Redlicki in 18s Quarterfinals

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Kalamazoo, MI--

In a quarterfinal match that took four and a half hours to complete, including a 90-minute rain delay, pinpointing exactly where the match turned might appear difficult. It wasn't.  At 4-4 in the third set with No. 7 seed Tommy Mylnikov serving to No. 2 seed Paul Oosterbaan, the two 16-year-olds played ten deuces, with Mylnikov saving seven break points and Oosterbaan dodging three game points.

The level of play was as high as the tension, as a hundred or so local fans braved the chilly and damp conditions, urged Oosterbaan on, even when yet another Mylnikov forehand winner saved yet another break point.  Finally, after more than 20 minutes, Mylnikov double faulted on the eighth break point, and his reaction--sending a ball into the stands in frustration--resulted in a 15-0 lead for Oosterbaan in his attempt to serve out the match. As brief as the previous game was lengthy, Oosterbaan held at love to record a 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-4 victory and a place in the semifinals.

"I definitely wanted a free point to start out serving for it," said Oosterbaan, who started the match up 2-0 and serving after Mylnikov was eight minutes late after warming up indoors at the nearby YMCA. "That 4-4 game was 15 minutes at least and the crowd was keeping me in it. I was getting ready to go for a dumb shot about every other point."

Oosterbaan resisted the temptation, and as he had done in the first set tiebreaker, eliminated unforced errors from the equation when the stakes were the highest. It was Mylnikov who made three unforced errors in the last three points of the tiebreaker, not Oosterbaan, and the same held true for that ninth game of the third set, although Mylnikov also hit plenty of winners.

"He's a great player," said Oosterbaan, who had just won the first set tiebreaker when the rain began. "He's hit some of the best shots I've seen all week. He could have gone deep into the 18s too I think. He's unbelievable, and it was a great match."

Oosterbaan's opponent in Saturday's semifinal is No. 32 seed Alexandru (Sasha) Gozun, who defeated unseeded Shane Monroe 6-1, 6-4.  Gozun was up 6-1, 4-3 serving when it started to rain. He dropped serve when he returned to the court, but immediately broke Monroe and held serve to claim his first semifinal berth at a USTA National Championship.

Gozun lost to Oosterbaan 6-4, 6-2 in the third round of the 16s Winter Nationals, which Oosterbaan went on to win, but since then Gozun has begun working with Craig O'Shannessy, developer of the Brain Game, a system that uses video analysis to formulate game plans and strategy.

"It's been really helpful," said Gozun, who is coached by Brandon Wagner in Tampa, Fla. "You know what patterns you have to play, which is the higher percentage shot when you're in defense, when you have to come in. It's been very helpful for me and that's one of the reason why I came up to the semifinals in this tournament."

Compared to his previous two matches, which included a nearly four-hour win over No. 4 seed Logan Smith and then a 7-6 in the third victory over Shawn Hadavi on Wednesday, the victory over Monroe was a breeze.

"It was a really good match for me, it's good to have two sets," said Gozun, who is looking forward to a day off on Friday. "It's good to have a day's break between semifinals or finals to rest up. You get four, five matches in a row and no rest, and you get sore, eventually, and you have to take a break to prepare for the semifinals."

Oosterbaan was one of two Midwest players to reach the semifinals on Thursday, with Illinois' Jared Hiltzik, the No. 6 seed in the 18s, avenging his loss last week to Shane Vinsant, seeded No. 30, in the final of the National Team Championships.

Vinsant defeated Hiltzik 6-7(2), 6-0, 6-2 at No. 1 singles, but Hiltzik turned the tables Thursday, taking a 6-4, 6-2 decision.

"I played him last week and won the first set there, then got destroyed in the second and third," said Hiltzik. "I wasn't trusting my body at all and I kinda tanked that match, I don't know how else to say it. It wasn't a good ending to it. So in the second set, I just got that out of my mind, said I'd leave it all out there on the table, because I hated that feeling last week. I'm not going to have that feeling again and I just went for it."

No. 8 seed Alexios Halebian prevented an all-Midwest semifinal when he took out No. 2 seed and 2010 16s champion Michael Redlicki 6-4, 7-6(7).

Redlicki had survived two three-setters in his past two victories over Mac Styslinger and Deiton Baughman, and it looked as if he'd have a chance for another when he led 6-3 in the second set tiebreaker. Halebian was preparing himself for a third set when some close line calls went his way.

"I thought it was going to go three unless I got it together really quick," said Halebian, who trailed 4-1 in the second set. "I played a couple of good games, and then in the tiebreaker I fell behind early and I was kind of playing from behind the whole time. I think he got a little nervous--he hit a double fault, which he had like only two the whole match--and that was on a set point. I hit a line to save set point, and it kind of shifted my way."

When Halebian worked his way to match point, and hit a forehand Redlicki thought was wide, but the line judge didn't.  For several seconds Redlicki stood with his hands on his hips, staring at the line judge, not saying anything, before he finally asked the chair umpire if he supported the call.

"He got a close call on the last point," said Halebian, an 18-year-old from Glendale, California. "Everything was really tightened up with the lines and the score and everything in that last set."

Hiltzik and Halebian will be playing for the first time in Saturday's semifinal.

"I've been watching him play, and we've known each other a little bit over the past couple of years," said Halebian. "He looks like he's been winning pretty handily and I know he battles hard, doesn't miss too many balls. I've just got to play the same way I've been playing and hopefully it'll pay off."

The quarterfinals in the top half of the draw are scheduled for Friday, but the weather forecast is calling for rain and cool temperatures to last for another 24 hours.

Three of the quarterfinals in the 16s doubles were completed outside in the rain-free window Thursday afternoon. No. 4 seeds Daniel Kerznerman and Henrik Wiersholm defeated No. 14 seeds Cameron Klinger and Nathan Ponwith 6-2, 3-6, 10-7. They will play No. 11 seeds Kial Kaiser and JT Nishimura, who defeated unseeded Sameer Kumar and Daniel Rayl 6-1, 7-6(5).  The unseeded Whitehurst twins advanced to the semifinals with a 7-6(5), 6-3 victory over unseeded Xavier Gonzalez and Peter Leung.

The fourth 16s doubles quarterfinal, delayed due to the length of the Oosterbaan-Mylnikov match, was moved indoors to the Markin Racquet Center, and top seeds Aron Hiltzik and Oosterbaan defeated Jordi Arconada and Tommy Mylnikov 6-4, 6-4. Even with the lateness of the day and the change in venue, Oosterbaan still drew scores of fans to watch him on the doubles court.

For complete results, see the tournament website.


Tim Board said...

Aron is the younger brother and No. 3 seed in the 16s. Jared is the older brother and the No. 6 seed in the 18s.

Colette Lewis said...

Thanks. I had just watched Aron's doubles match, so he was foremost in my mind I guess.

Austin said...

How on earth do you show up late to a quarterfinal match in the biggest junior tournament in the country? haha