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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Defending Champion Austin Moves Into Spring National 18s Quarterfinals After Three-Setter; Unseeded Fennell Wins Third-Set Tiebreaker to Advance

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Mobile, AL--

As top seed and defending champion, Brooke Austin expected to get every opponent's best effort in returning to the USTA 18s Spring Nationals, but until Wednesday she hadn't been truly tested.

Monica Robinson, the No. 11 seed, pushed Austin to the limit before falling 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 on another cool and breezy day at the Mobile Tennis Center.

"I thought she played really well," said Austin, who had never played Robinson before. "I tried to keep her moving, but it seemed her movement was one of her strengths. I just thought overall, she played really well."

Austin was up a break in the third set three straight times, but couldn't hold her serve, with a particularly rough game surfacing when she was serving for the match at 5-4. Two double faults put her in a hole, and although she saved two break points, Austin never reached match point, and two errors after getting back to deuce gave Robinson new life.

Austin, who said she returned well throughout the match, got another chance to serve for the match after breaking Robinson for the fourth consecutive time to go up 6-5. This time Austin got more first serves in, and seemed more determined to hit through the court, and with a blistering forehand winner, she went up 40-15.

She missed a backhand long on the first match point, but Robinson, who will be joining the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the fall, netted a backhand on the second to end it.

Austin will play No. 16 seed Keisha Clousing in the quarterfinals, after Clousing defeated unseeded Terri Fleming 2-6, 6-1, 6-1. Like Austin, Clousing is from the Midwest section, and the two have played many times, with Austin undefeated against the junior from Illinois.

"I'm excited to play her, just because she's from the Midwest," said Austin. "It's nice to have two girls from the Midwest get this far."

As for the pressure of being the top seed, Austin said she is accustomed to the position, after so many years as the player to beat in Midwest tournaments.

"I'm sort of used to having pressure on me at tournaments," said Austin. "At Midwest tournaments, there's always pressure on me. So this is not anything that different."

The only unseeded player remaining in the girls draw is Caroline Lampl, who will play No. 13 seed Chloe Ouellet-Pizer in the top half of the draw's other quarterfinal.  Lampl defeated unseeded Melissa Lord 6-3, 6-3, while Ouellet-Pizer outlasted Bianca Moldovan, a No. 17 seed 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 in a long, loud and intense match. Moldovan let a 4-1 lead get away before she recovered to take the second set, but in the third set, Moldovan took a medical timeout for her back, and the final few games went much more quickly than expected after the battle of attrition that marked the first two sets.

Second seed Rachel Pierson, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament, reached the quarterfinals with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over No. 9 seed Zoe Katz. Pierson will play Kristen Wiley, the No. 14 seed, who  eliminated unseeded Alexandra Letzt 6-3, 6-3.

No. 4 seed Taylor Davidson also continued her stroll through the draw, downing No. 12 seed and 2012 quarterfinalist Madeline Lipp 6-0, 6-2. Davidson will face doubles partner and fellow North Carolinian Kaitlyn McCarthy, the No. 15 seed. McCarthy defeated No. 6 seed Spencer Liang 6-4, 7-5.

Boys top seed David Hsu was down a break at 2-1 in the opening set, then won the next 11 games from Christian Garay in his 6-2, 6-0 win. It was the second consecutive match Hsu had finished with a 6-0 second set.

Shue will play No. 11 seed Thomas Mayronne, who beat No. 7 seed Andrew Schafer 6-3, 6-4.

No. 3 seed Elliott Orkin has yet to concede more than three games in any of his eight sets won this week, and he advance to the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Eliot Sprecher, a No. 17 seed. Orkin will face another 17 seed, Strong Kirchheimer, who defeated No. 13 seed Christian Langmo 6-1, 6-7(8), 6-3.

No. 6 seed Roy Lederman, who is a wild card because he had not met the Florida sectional requirements for sanctioning, will play Aron Hiltzik, a No. 17 seed and younger brother of last year's finalist Jared. Lederman defeated Will Showers, a 17 seed, 6-3, 6-1, while Hiltzik downed Chase Perez-Blanco, also a No. 17 seed, 7-5, 6-1.

An unseeded semifinalist was assured yesterday, when the bottom quarter of the draw had four unseeded players reach today's round of 16.

Sasha Gozun continued his impressive play, defeating Collin Altamirano 6-3, 6-2, and he will play Alex Fennell in Thursday's quarterfinals after Fennell eked out a 6-3, 6-7(5) 7-6(4) win over Grayson Goldin.

Goldin served for the match at 6-5, after Fennell missed a volley on break point. Goldin, who had also served twice for the second set before winning it in a tiebreaker, again failed to close, and a tiebreaker would decide the last quarterfinalist.

Fennell led 5-2 and had had the match on his racquet, but he double faulted, then netted a backhand pass to give Goldin an opportunity to take the lead on his serve. Goldin missed an overhead badly on the next point to give Fennell two match points, and he only needed one, with Goldin going for a drop shot that landed well wide to end the three-hour and ten-minute contest.

Fennell, who recently moved, credits a new training situation with his first national Level 1 showing.

"Before I moved, my backhand was a huge liability and my movement was pretty bad," said the Penn State recruit, who now is at High Performance Tennis Academy in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. "I've been able to clean those two things up and I'm playing well. My best result at a Super National before this was round of 64, so this is by far the best I've ever done."

Fennell has beaten Gozun in a previous meeting, but he is careful not to put too much into that result.

"I played him three years ago, before he got tall and got all these results," said Fennell, a left-hander. "I beat him 2 and 2, an easy match, but he's gotten a lot better since then, so I'm going to have to play my best tomorrow."

The doubles semifinals are set, and in the boys draw, three of the teams advancing today were unseeded.  In the top half semifinal, No. 7 seeds Lederman and Ryan Smith will face Will Adkisson and Ian Dempster, and in the bottom half it will be Walker Duncan and Showers against Altamirano and Mitch Stewart.

The girls doubles semifinals  has No. 9 seeds Lampl and Sophie Chang facing Lindsey Hodge and Allison Miller, also a No. 9 seed.  In the other semifinal, No. 3 seeds Davidson and McCarthy take on Brooke Broda and Liang, a No. 9 seed.

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.