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Thursday, October 11, 2012

Top Seeds Pushed to the Brink but Survive to Reach Semifinals of Pan American Closed

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Tulsa, OK--

Top seeds Carol Zhao and Noah Rubin, playing side by side on courts 1 and 2 at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center, appeared to be headed for the sidelines Thursday, with Zhao trailing No. 9 seed Rasheeda McAdoo 4-2 in the third set, and Rubin down 4-5, 0-40 to unseeded Roy Lederman in the third set.

Rubin was obviously in the most dire circumstances, facing three match points before coming back to win 6-2, 0-6, 7-6(3), but said the score didn't really cross his mind.

"I never think about that stuff, especially since I saved two match points in Barcelona about a week and a half ago," said Rubin, who played No. 1 singles for the third-place US Junior Davis Cup team in Spain late last month. "I felt that I could do it again, that it could happen, so I stayed focused, did my same game plan, went forward and it came out in my favor."

Rubin had led 4-2 in the final set, but Lederman held and broke, then held at love. By the time Rubin faced his first match point, Lederman had won nine straight points, while Rubin was telling himself to "just hit the ball."

On the first match point, Lederman netted a routine backhand, a rare occurrence for him. On the second match point, Rubin hit a good first serve, forcing a netted forehand return from Lederman. The third match point is probably the one Lederman will regret the most, again failing to clear the net on a forehand, although the next point will probably loom even larger in his memory. At deuce, Lederman tagged a backhand down the line that was called out by the chair umpire, while Rubin, apparently not hearing the call and seeing the ball as good, returned the shot before Lederman incredulously informed him that the chair had called it out. 

"Some tough calls," said Rubin, who felt he received his share of bad calls in the second set. "No matter how good or bad the chair umpire is, it's unfair for the rules to be that they call every line. We should call every line and if they have a different point of view on it, and feel like they should overrule it, then they can, but we should call the lines."

Rubin lost the next point for a second deuce, but hit two good serves to make it 5-5. Lederman, still rattled by the line calls that went against him, lost the next game, double faulting on break point. But Rubin was unable to to serve it out, due to a combination of some big forehands by Lederman and his own errors, including a forehand wide at 30-40.

The next call that upset Lederman came with Rubin serving up 3-2 in the tiebreaker. Lederman thought he had lined up his forehand pass into the corner perfectly, but the chair called it out, and Lederman won only one point after that, with Rubin benefiting from Lederman's backhand return hitting the tape and bouncing wide on Rubin's first match point.

Lederman, who did not shake the umpire's hand after the match, continued to verbalize his displeasure as he left the court, still angry that the calls went against him at such crucial moments in the match.

"It's tough," said Rubin. "There's a lot of calls that went my way in the third and a lot of calls that went his way in the second. You have to stay calm, and I just think I stayed a little more calm than he did."

Rubin will play No. 3 seed Thai Kwiatkowski, who had the least trouble in the quarterfinals, defeated No. 5 seed Brayden Schnur 6-2, 6-2.

Rubin remembers last playing Kwiatkowski five years ago at the Junior Orange 12s, when he was 11 and Kwiatkowski was 12.

"He kicked my butt pretty well, I think it was like 1 and 0 in three minutes," said Rubin. "I blinked at it was over, so hopefully tomorrow will be a little bit different story."

The bottom half semifinal will feature No. 4 seed Hugo Di Feo of Canada against No. 2 seed Spencer Papa.  Di Feo won a 75-minute first set in a tiebreaker, then came back from a break down in the second set to beat No. 6 seed Martin Redlicki 7-6(9), 6-4.  Papa trailed unseeded Tommy Paul 4-0 in the second set, but won the final six games to post a 6-4, 6-4 win.

Zhao credited her mental strength for her 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 win over McAdoo.

"It definitely wasn't my best performance today," said the 17-year-old Canadian, who led 2-0 in the third before losing four straight games. "I didn't feel very good on the court, especially when I was down 4-2. But I started to focus on how to play her and how to execute to win instead of the score. I think by the end of the match, I won by my mental toughness. Hopefully tomorrow I can have a better performance."

At 5-5 in the third, Zhao survived a four-deuce game, with McAdoo, the daughter of NBA Hall of Famer Bob McAdoo, serving to force a tiebreaker. Zhao took the first three points, on one winner and two errors by McAdoo, but missed a backhand on her first match point. On her second match point, Zhao snapped off a backhand volley winner to set up her first meeting with No. 3 seed Christina Makarova.

Makarova, the 2010 Pan American finalist, beat fellow 16-year-old Louisa Chirico 6-3, 6-4.  Chirico trailed 3-1 in the second set, won three straight games and had game points for a 5-3 lead, but Makarova broke, held and broke to advance to the semifinals.

In the semifinal in the bottom half of the draw, 14-year-old Maria Shishkina, the only unseeded player still alive, will play No. 2 seed Francoise Abanda of Canada in Friday's semifinals.

Shishkina defeated No. 5 seed Jennifer Brady 7-5, 7-6(3). Trailing 3-1 in the second set tiebreaker, Shishkina won the final six points of the match.

Abanda downed No. 6 seed Jamie Loeb 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, in a match that featured some spectacular shot making and quite a few unforced errors. Both players struggled both with the gusty winds and their second serves, but game after game feature multi-deuce games with no clear advantage to either player.  Up 2-0 in the final set, Abanda lost a five-deuce game on her serve, but showed not the slightest frustration or irritation, and patiently waited for her next chance, which came in the sixth game, when the 15-year-old from Montreal broke Loeb, then held for a 5-2 lead. Loeb's unforced errors in the final game gave Abanda an opening, which she seized on her first match point.

The doubles semifinals are also scheduled for Friday, with Zhao and Rubin also still at the top of those draws with partners Erin Routliffe and Martin Redlicki respectively.  Redlicki and Rubin will play No. 3 seeds Jorda Arconada of Argentina and Luca Corinteli in one semifinal, while No. 2 seeds Hugo Di Feo and Brayden Schnur of Canada will face the unseeded team of 14-year-olds Michael Mmoh and Francis Tiafoe.

Zhao and Routliffe's opponents will be unseeded Jessica Cortes of Mexico and Ellie Halbauer, while the other girls semifinal will feature No. 6 seed Charlotte Petrick of Canada and Denise Starr against the unseeded team of Jamie Loeb and Mia King.  Loeb and King defeated No. 2 seeds Tornado Ali Black and Rasheeda McAdoo 6-3, 4-6, 10-4.

Results from all of today's matches can be found at the ITF Junior website.


Wondering said...

Why did Maria withdraw?

Colette Lewis said...

I won't have the official reason until Friday, but it's because of an injury, I'm hearing.