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Friday, August 10, 2012

Rubin Upsets Top Seed Krueger to Reach 18s Semifinals; All-Pacific Northwest Semi Set for 16s

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Kalamazoo, MI--

Noah Rubin wouldn't say it was the best he's ever played, but he was willing to call his 6-2, 6-4 quarterfinal win over top seed Mitchell Krueger "a match to remember."

When heavy rains all day Friday forced the four quarterfinal matches--two in 16s and two in 18s--indoors to the Markin Racquet Center, the fifth-seeded Rubin wasn't exactly disappointed.

"It was to my advantage that we played indoors," said Rubin, who is from New York. "I play indoors about ten months out of the year, so it was a little lucky I guess. I played well and I couldn't ask for anything more."

The 16-year-old Rubin, two years younger than Krueger and 0-2 against him in the past ten months, roared out to a 4-0 lead in the opening set. Dictating play with his speed and forehand as well as his first serve,  Rubin didn't let Krueger get any momentum throughout the match.

When Krueger dropped serve to open the second set after being thoroughly outplayed in the first, the normally composed Texan smashed a plastic chair near his bag on the change of ends, sending pieces of it flying onto the court. After the obligatory point penalty, Krueger managed to break Rubin in the next game, but dropped his serve again in the third game, and never got another look at a break point.

Serving out the match at 5-4, Rubin netted a forehand to make it 30-all, but confidently put away a forehand for his first match point. After a lengthy rally, Krueger netted a backhand, and Rubin had booked his place in the semifinals.

"He's a great player so you really have to take your opportunities," said Rubin, who had lost to Krueger in the final of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed last October and in the semifinals of the International Spring Championships in April of this year. "I stepped up on balls I normally wouldn't step up on, because I knew I had to take some chances against him because of the good player he is, and it worked out today."

Rubin will play No. 3 seed Dennis Novikov in Saturday's semifinals, after the UCLA freshman defeated No. 6 seed and 2011 16s champion Ronnie Schneider 5-7, 7-5, 6-4.

Novikov led 5-2 in both the second and third sets, but Schneider wouldn't let him serve out either set easily.  Schneider broke Novikov at 5-3 in both sets, but Novikov didn't blame nerves or himself for his inability to put Schneider away.

"The games that he broke me, he did return well," said Novikov, who played No. 3 for UCLA this spring. "I missed a couple of first serves and that was the difference. Every other game that I served, I held at love or 15, it was just those two games. He played two good games to break. My return game is good, I can always return, so I'm not worried about that."

Novikov was especially lethal when Schneider gave him a second serve, and he broke to win both the second and third sets. He said it took him some time to get accustomed to the indoor conditions and to Schneider's style of play.

"I got into a little rhythm, kind of getting used to his shots," said Novikov. "He takes everything early, and I haven't played anyone who takes everything early yet, so it took about a set of getting used to it. Once I got it, I felt I was returning well, hitting it well."

Novikov, who will be 19 in November, aged out of the ITF juniors just as Rubin was beginning to play them, so the two will be meeting for the first time in Saturday's semifinals.

The other 18s semifinal, which was decided on Thursday, will feature No. 8 seed Alexios Halebian against No. 6 seed Jared Hiltzik.

In the 16s quarterfinals, played prior to the 18s on Markin Racquet Center courts 2 and 3, two Pacific Northwest competitors came through in straight sets.

Top seed Mitch Stewart overcame a slow start to beat No. 13 seed Logan Staggs 6-4, 6-2, while No. 12 seed Henrik Wiersholm wore down No. 15 seed William Griffith 7-6(5), 6-2.

Stewart trailed 3-1 in the opening set, but reeled off five of the next six games to take control of the match.

"I thought he was actually grinding pretty well," said Stewart, who is from Federal Way, Washington. "He was playing my game with me and he was playing it just a little bit better at the start of the match."

"But the whole time, I felt comfortable. My strokes didn't feel bad at all, they were just going a little bit out, and I made that small adjustment and they started going in. I think I started to wear him down a little bit too, which is tough to do on an indoor court. But it was a fun match overall, and 4 and 2, I can't be happier, and in the semis."

Staggs, a 16-year-old left-hander, doesn't usually make many errors, but as the games ticked by in the second set, Stewart's defense began to take its toll. Staggs couldn't put enough pressure on Stewart or end points quickly enough, and he fell behind 4-1, and was broken serving at 5-2 to end the match.

Like Stewart, Wiersholm trailed early in the first set, with Griffith taking a 5-2 lead. Griffith failed to serve out the set at 5-3, but recovered in his next service game to take a 6-5 lead. Wiersholm held to force a tiebreaker and took a 5-1 lead at the change of ends, but Griffith fought back to 5-5. The next two points probably decided the match, as two long, high-quality rallies ended with Griffith errors, one a netted forehand and, on set point, a netted backhand.

"He was up in the first set, and felt he should have won the first set," said Wiersholm, 15. "I kind of snuck my way in and grabbed it from him--a little bit of competing on big points got me that set. I think that kind of mentally drained him, and he came out in the second set not playing the same level as he was in the first."

Wiersholm jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the second set, and kept his focus, ending the match with a break of serve to set up a meeting with Stewart.

"We've played probably almost ten times," said Wiersholm, recalling his junior history with Stewart, who is 18 month younger. "He used to beat me, when I was really young, quite easily, but then for a while there I had a streak when I started winning matches, all of them in third sets. I want to say like five straight in third sets. But he's definitely been playing way better and that was a long time ago, so it's going to be a different match from back then."

Stewart is looking forward to the chance to play Wiersholm again.

"There's a little bit of a rivalry, I think it will be a fun match," said Stewart. "We've been good friends forever and a PNW matchup in the semis will be pretty fun."

The other semifinal, decided on Thursday, will feature No. 2 seed Paul Oosterbaan against No. 32 seed Alexandru Gozen.


The doubles finals are set for Saturday, after both semifinals in the 16s and 18s were played Friday afternoon at Markin Center.

Top seeds Paul Oosterbaan and Jared Hiltzik defeated the unseeded pair of Terrance and Terrell Whitehurst 6-4, 6-0 and will meet No. 4 seeds Daniel Kerznerman and Henrik Wiersholm. Kerznerman and Wiersholm beat No. 11 seeds Kial Kaiser and JT Nishimura 6-1, 6-4.

Mitchell Krueger's day didn't get any better, when he and Shane Vinsant, the top seeds in the doubles, lost to No. 3 seeds Mackenzie McDonald and Trey Strobel 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-3.

McDonald and Strobel will play No. 4 seeds Dennis Novikov and Michael Redlicki, who survived a spirited comeback from No. 8 seeds Brendan McClain and TJ Pura to post a 6-4, 7-6(4) victory. McClain and Pura trailed 5-1 in the final set before winning five games in a row, but Novikov and Redlicki proved just a little too strong on serve in the tiebreaker.

For complete results as well as the schedule for Saturday, see the tournament website.


tony said...

Krueger gets manhandled by Rubin... ouch. On a side note, Evan King took down Fratengelo in straight sets this week in a Futures and Mallory Burdette not only won the Vancouver Challenger but also the US open Wild Card. Who says college is such a bad route?

Frank said...

As predicted Krueger doesn't get past quarters. So he is turning pro with no ATP points, has never won his national junior tourney, and doesn't posses a huge serve, forehand, and without exceptional speed! He is in for a rude awakening. The pro game is getting more and more physical, these juniors just aren't ready yet. If your not ATP 500 by 18 don't go pro! I don't get it, why would he give up getting paid to play college rather than flying to 3rd world countries to scrape up 6 to 15 ATP points at a time????

get real said...

To tony anbd frank. I have never seen either Brueger or Fratengelo play but so few players from any country make the leap from top junior to top 100 pro and the players who do tend to focus on tennis as a career from an early age.

Just because King took out Fratengelo so what, King is several years older, which is huge in tennis years, so who knows where Fratengelo will be at King’s current age. As for Kruger, everyone has off days, again look at Gabby Douglas in individuals after winning the all-around, not the same gymnast. Ruban’s win over Kruger means nothing unless he can have those sorts of wins consistently going forward.

Looking at college tennis, few programs train at a particularly high level, and playing one or two dual matches a week, unless you play 1 or 2 for the SEC, or for USC, is not great competition on a consistent basis to take your game to the next level.

All I am saying, if pro is the goal, I don’t see college tennis the best route unless the player is a late bloomer like Isner who arguably would not be where he is today if not for his height/serve.

For Kruger turning pro it will be clear in the next few years whether he has it or not and hearing about his game it may it may be a crap shoot. Curious how tall is he? Cleary it’s best to find out sooner rather than later if you got the game to play pro tennis. Many student athletes at top D1 programs take the easiest majors possible to play their sport and what is the point of that. They graduate with unmarketable majors and not good enough to play pro tennis.

Everyone acts like these guys who go pro after juniors can never go back to college and get a real degree. With the support system from the USTA and sponsors they will have every oprtunity to see what they can do. I have seen too mnay good juniors game slide downward after a couple of years at college tennis as well.

tennis said...

Get Real, king is 1 1/2 years older, not several, FYI

tony said...

While I understand that you do not see college tennis as a viable pathway to professional tennis (although I disagree) , the point I'm ring to make is 1) what was the hurry in going pro, why not be part of what could have been a very strong squad at A&M (and thus great practice every day) and 2) what results on the "pro" circuit did he have to warrant the decision. While you are right, there have been a number of players who's level did not increase in college, there have been as many, if not more, players who have flamed out of pro tennis as a result of getting beat down on a weekly basis.

Doc said...

Anybody care to comment on the number of seeds bagging the back draw? Kudos to Krueger for having high integrity and playing the back draw after losing to Rubin. That tells me he's a cut above the other players. The same can't be said for Srobel and Redlicki, who both quit the back draw due to alleged injuries although they were both playing in the doubles finals. Miraculous recovery??? These types of quitters will make good college players and I'm sure their respective coaches will be more than happy to take them. Can't wait for them to tank college matches when things are t going their way. Maybe that's why Krueger may be pro material. He understands the hard work required and from the way it appears, has never quit at any tournament. That type of attitude is being overlooked. We all figured Rubin couldn't pull off another victory after the best match he has ever played, and now he too pulls out the injury card so he doesn't have to play off for third place.

Take a look at the number of top ranked college recruits who have pakyed the injury card or no showed for their back draw matches. I'm sure their future college coaches will feel proud for quitters playing for them.

Austin said...

The topic of of backdraw withdraws has been a discussion on here for years. I think it is highly lame and as a coach it would be a turn off for me, but it is what it is.

Brent said...

Doc, hard to paint with that broad of a brush but agreed that not nearly all of the players who bowed out were really hurt. If you default out of back draw, you should automatically be defaulted from main draw doubles. These guys think back draw is beneath them and it is really ridiculous. You should play a tournament through to its conclusion. You knew the rules when you signed up for the tournament. I completely echo that Krueger should be lauded for not taking the easy way out. Would have liked to have seen that Kozlov/Krueger match today.

fan said...

what does the 'integrity' of playing the back draw has to do with going pro or college? Ridiculous lol.

love-tennis said...

The reason that playing the backdraw is important is because it shows that:

1. You are able to come back mentally from a tough loss (critical in college tennis, e.g. when you lose the doubles point)

2. You are not a prima donna

3. Your parents had/have the guts when you were little, to make you go back, play the backdraw. That shows that they were good parents in that aspect, which hopefully helps translate into you being a better person (humble, willing to work hard, fight a 2nd time with dignity).

To parents who let their kids pull out: you are making a bad parenting choice & should be ashamed

4. You have a chance to end the tournament with some positivness, instead of that lousy 'I lost' mental feeling.

get real said...

To tony
Think about it, Krueger will get much better training/hitting/coaching etc. sparring with pros within the USTA support system he has and his sponsors then at A&M.. Two questions? How tall is Kruger and what college players are currently in the top 100 besides Isner?

Oh my guess is that Kruger plated the back draw because of hsi relationship with the USTA becasue there is really no point to it.

Colette Lewis said...

Kevin Anderson is Top 100

Mitchell Krueger played the back draw because his coach, Dave Licker, believes it is important for his players to come back from tough losses. It has nothing to do with the USTA.

Krueger is 6-foot-1

tennisforlife said...

It appears that the USTA made all the PD kids play the backdraw - would have been kinda awkward for them all to pull out of their sponsor's tournament!

not uptight said...

I don't understand how some of you appear to know all about the players' characters and attitudes just from the fact that they withdrew from the back draw (which doesn't even exist in Pro tennis, and only exists for first round losers in college). You guys could be talking bad about some of the nicest, humblest, hardest working people ever and not even know it.
Although I do think participating in the back draw after a tough loss is a beneficial experience... It's really not that big a deal. Not participating in it doesn't make the player a Prima Donna. It hardly does anything to make them a better person or have any impact on what kind of person the player will be. And the parents are not bad parents for it. Honestly, it seems pretty silly to me to think so.

p.s. I have no relation to this tournament other than being a tennis fan. This is my 2 cents.

Stephen said...

Former college players currently in ATP top 100:

John Isner (Georgia) - 10
Kevin Anderson (Illinois) - 34
Jesse Levine (Florida) - 88
Benjamin Becker (Baylor) - 90
Rajeev Ram (Illinois) - 100

get real said...

To Stephen...Who stayed 4 yrs besides Isner... Levine left after one yr. My questoins is after winning the zoo will Novikov turn pro. If so its hard to know how to count his college experience as he went a yr early.

Austin said...

Novikov needs to go back to college. He was playing #3 last year for UCLA. Cant make it on tour if you aren't your own teams #1 guy at least...unless the #1 guy is the best player in the country, which I dont think anyone would argue that for Clay Thompson or Nick Meister who played above him.

Tony said...

Novikov obviously did not win the zoo last year. He enrolls at ucla, plays for a semester and wins it this year. Not saying that playing college tennis was the only reason he was able to win this year, but it absolutely did help him with his development. On a side note, steve Johnson, who played four years of college ball, is now ranked 233 in the world after winning the aptos challenger yesterday. Want to talk about someone who really developed into a strong player as a result of college tennis, look no further than steve. He will be top 50-100 very soon.

hoo fan said...

Devvarman, who graduated from UVa reached the 60s last year before a shoulder injury sidelined him for nearly a year. His first tournament back was the Olympics. He's entered in the US Open using a protected ranking in the 80s.

Stephen said...

Benjamin Becker stayed four years and even played #2 most of the time behind Dorsch at Baylor.

Kevin Anderson played three years at Illinois and played primarily behind Ryler DeHeart and GD Jones in the line-up his first two seasons before moving to #1 his Junior year.

Austin said...

Ben Becker actually played #1 half the time, then behind Dorsch for two years. Dorsch was the best player in the country, so he fits the one example I listed.

If anyone saw Kevin Anderson his freshman or sophomore year, his current ATP ranking was FAAAAAAR from a reality. I am very surprised, in a good way, about his rapid improvement.

Novikov was my pick to win Kalamazoo specifically because of his freshman year at UCLA.