©Colette Lewis 2012--
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.