|Mitchell Krueger in action Saturday|
©Colette Lewis 2012--
Mitchell Krueger figured the odds were with him this time.
In his first round matches at Wimbledon the past two years, Krueger had lost an advantage set that kept him from advancing, one of them by a eye-popping 16-14 score.
Saturday, on a breezy and cool afternoon at the All England Club, the eighth-seeded Texan turned that trend to his favor, beating the dangerous Kyle Edmund of Great Britain 4-6, 7-6(6), 10-8.
"I was hoping I could have a seemingly guaranteed first round win finally, and then I see that draw, and oh my god," said Krueger. "He's one of the one or two guys you don't want to play in the first round--he's definitely one of the top eight seeds (in ability). He won a round in qualies here, so he's definitely playing well. I knew it was going to be tough and I had to dig it out."
Both players had difficulty adjusting to the gusty wins as the first three games went to the returner, with Edmund ending that string when he held for 3-1. After that, both boys held serve, with neither facing a break point and Edmund finishing off the set.
There were no breaks in the second set, as both players adjusted to the conditions, which included people standing four deep around tiny court 9, with the only seating six or seven wooden benches on each side of the court.
Krueger had struggled returning Edmund's second serve, often doing more with his first serve return, but he began to find the range late in the second set. Krueger also began to close the net with more frequency, hitting several dazzling volleys that elicited the very British "well-played" comment from the spectators, even though they squarely backing Edmund. At 4-4 in the second set, Krueger saved a break point when Edmund missed a backhand, and the second set would be decided in a tiebreaker.
Edmund got out to a 4-2 lead at the change of ends, but couldn't cling to that advantage. With Krueger leading 5-4, Edmund had a forehand lined up and Krueger slipped and fell, giving him no chance to return it, but Edmund sent it a few inches long, and Krueger had two set points. Edmund saved the first with a good first serve, and Krueger missed a backhand badly to make it 6-6, but there was no anger or frustration visible. Krueger got his third set point when Edmund netted a backhand, and this time he converted with a strong and deep return of a good first serve that caused Edmund to send a backhand wide.
Every game in the third set also went to the server until the 17th game. Points and games were much longer than they had been in the second set, and the wind continued to cause problems. Both players caught their tosses numerous times while serving, when a particularly vicious wind gust would make a normal toss impossible.
Serving from behind throughout the final set, Krueger faced a tough moment at 6-7, 15-30. Several good shots brought Edmund to an advantage position at the net, but Krueger hit a perfect lob despite the tricky wins. Instead of facing two match points, it was 30-all. Never particularly demonstrative on the court, Krueger did let out a "c'mon" after that point, then won the next two to make it 7-7.
"That was a good shot," Krueger admitted, after saying he was lucky to win some of the big points in the match's later stages. "He made a couple of errors when I needed them."
The lowlight of the 15th game was an overhead smash that Edmund hit on ad-in after four previous deuces. Hit so hard that it was difficult to track, neither the baseline umpire nor the chair saw it out, although it was more than a foot behind the baseline. Krueger protested briefly to the chair umpire, but he did not let it bother him.
"I wasn't even mad, I was just kind of shocked that no one called it," Krueger said. "I think the chair umpire knew she missed it--I was asking her if she saw it in or out and she said she thought she saw it in, but then told me I might have been right, which was not really what I wanted to hear. I actually thought it was pretty funny, given the situation."
Putting that gaffe aside, Krueger held for 8-all, and it was Edmund who saw his level drop. Two good returns by Krueger and two backhand errors by Edmund and Krueger had his break, but the drama wasn't quite over.
Serving at 9-8, Krueger got to 30-15, but a good volley by Edmund and a netted backhand gave Edmund a break point and a chance to continue the match. Edmund couldn't convert, netting a backhand, and on the next point he shanked a forehand return of a good second serve high into the air, giving Krueger a match point. A forehand volley winner sealed it for the 18-year-old, who had lost to Edmund at the 2011 US Open Juniors and in the final of a junior exhibition tournament in Zurich this spring.
"I love grass," said Krueger, a semifinalist at Roland Garros earlier this month. "It suits my game better than clay, and I was playing well in Paris, so I'm glad to get this one out of the way."
|Kyle Edmund in Saturday's match|
The 17-year-old Edmund, who had reached at least the quarterfinals of the past three junior slams, wasn't happy with his performance.
"I thought I could have made a few more shots at the key moments, but they didn't come off today," said Edmund. "I knew it wasn't going to be pretty tennis out there, not many winners, just gutsing it out in the long rallies and key points, which I didn't do as well today as I have done in the past. He played well and when he came to the net, I struggled to pass him today. In the end, it was just one break."
Edmund talked of his desire to play well at his home slam, where he lost in the second round last year.
"You want to win, because you're British, playing in Britain," said Edmund, who was watched today by both Greg Rusedski and Paul Annacone, as well as many others with an interest in British player development. "It's frustrating--you want to give something back. But to play at Wimbledon and get a chance to do that, it's really nice."
The Krueger - Edmund match may have gone the distance, but it wasn't the longest junior match of the day. That distinction went to Mathias Bourgue's 6-7(4), 6-4, 14-12 win over Alexios Halebian, in which the Frenchman saved four match points.
As the sun began to drop behind Court 3, leaving Court 7 in shadows and any spectators in their summer clothes shivering in the chilly breeze, Bourgue was serving at 6-7 in the third set when the first match points surfaced. A wide forehand from the 18-year-old from Avignon gave Halebian his first chance to end the match, but Bourgue saved it with a forehand winner. The second match point was saved with a good first serve that Halebian blocked back into the net, and the next two points went to Bourgue by virtue of a forehand winner and a lob smack on the baseline.
Halebian dug himself out of a 0-40 hole at 11-11, with his serve coming to his rescue there, and seemed to have the momentum when Bourgue fell behind 15-40 serving at 11-12. Bourgue's knee, bleeding from a dive in the previous game, didn't hamper him on his serve, and a good first serve saw another Halebian return find the net. At 30-40, Halebian sliced a forehand into the net, and that was the last match point he would have.
Broken on a double fault to give Bourgue a 13-12 lead, Halebian saved one match point with a fine backhand pass. Bourgue saved two break points to get back to match point again, and with a forehand volley winner he converted it, raising his hands in a gesture that seemed as much with relief as joy.