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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tiafoe Ousts No. 3 Seed McDonald in Third Set Tiebreaker; Qualifier Yee Saves Match Point to Reach Quarterfinals at ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Carson, CA--

Qualifier Kimberly Yee has already played plenty of tennis this week at the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships.  Her request for a wild card denied, Yee won three matches in the two days of qualifying, including one 7-6 in the third set, to reach the main draw. After a welcome day off on Monday, the 16-year-old from Las Vegas won two more singles and two doubles matches on Tuesday and Wednesday.

In her third round match Thursday against unseeded Nicole Frenkel, Yee was down a break in the final set of the two hour and 55 minute match, and faced a match point at 5-6 in the deciding tiebreaker, but she felt unexpectedly nerveless as she completed her 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(6) victory.

"I didn't feel too much pressure, I thought it was fun," said Yee, the 2012 USTA 16s champion. "I was trying to take it as a little adventure. It was very close, but I wasn't too nervous. I was pretty calm actually."

Frenkel, a 14-year-old left-hander who trains at the USTA's National Center in Boca Raton, was serving at 4-3 in the third set, but she was broken at love to give back the advantage. Both girls held their next two service games to send it into the tiebreaker, and Frenkel led there as well, taking a 4-2 advantage at the change of ends.  She immediately double faulted to make it 4-3, but went up 5-4 on a deftly executed lob in the breezy conditions. Frenkel had the match on her racquet with two serves coming, but her forehand went wide to make it 5-5.

Frenkel held her next serve to make it 6-5, when her big forehand forced Yee into a desperate defensive lob which went long. Facing match point, Yee didn't play tentatively, cracking a backhand winner to save it.  Another well-struck backhand on the next point rushed Frenkel into netting a backhand, and now it was Yee's turn to hold the match point.  After a brief rally, Frenkel netted a forehand, and Yee was into her first Grade 1 quarterfinal.

"I was happy, thought oh good it's done and now I can rest for doubles," said Yee, who said Frenkel's counterpunching style led to fatigue-inducing rallies.  "That's really what the goal was at that point. I need this match to be over, so I can just chill. But no, it was good. It was fun."

Yee will play unseeded Peggy Porter in the quarterfinals. Porter, who was the 16s champion in 2011, defeated Maegan Manasse 6-1, 6-2 Thursday, and will look to get her second win in two weeks over Yee, whom she beat last week in the Claremont Grade 4 ITF 7-5, 6-3.

Just moments after Yee completed her win on court 8, 15-year-old Francis Tiafoe stepped to the line on adjacent court 7 to serve out the match against No. 3 seed Mackenzie McDonald, leading 5-4.  The No. 14 seed was unable to get any closer than 30-40 however, with McDonald getting the break with a rocket return off a good first serve that Tiafoe couldn't handle.

Serving at 5-all, McDonald needed two deuces to hold, but closed out the game with two consecutive aces.

Serving at 5-6, 30-all, Tiafoe caught a break when McDonald's backhand return, which looked to be inside both lines in the corner was called out, a call that gave Tiafoe a game point rather than McDonald a match point.  McDonald protested to the chair umpire, and even looked at the roving official supervisor for help, but the call stood, much to McDonald's dismay.

"The ref called it out, and it was a very bad call actually," said Tiafoe, who was up two breaks at 3-0 and 4-1 in the third set before McDonald clawed his way back into the match.  "The ball was clearly in, I'm not going to say it wasn't. If he hadn't called it out, I definitely could have lost the match."

Tiafoe won the next point with a backhand volley winner, and a tiebreaker would decide who moved into the quarterfinals.  McDonald took a 3-1 lead, but Tiafoe used his forehand effectively in the next three points, forcing McDonald into errors after lengthy rallies. With Tiafoe leading 4-3, McDonald had two serves, but he lost both of them, with Tiafoe hitting a forehand pass for a winner for 5-3, and McDonald sending a wild backhand way beyond the baseline to give Tiafoe three match  points. Tiafoe had no trouble closing out the match in his second opportunity, hitting a good first serve that McDonald couldn't get back into play.  With a loud c'mon and fist pump, Tiafoe celebrated a big victory in his young career.

"It's a big win. He's semi-ed at the Australian Open, he won Easter Bowl," said Tiafoe, aware of McDonald's accomplishments in 2011. "He's struggling a little bit, but it's still a very big win for me.  The rallies were great, and I think I played the way I wanted to, using the forehand a lot, staying solid with the backhand cross court.  He's got really good volleys coming forward. It was just a good match. It definitely could have gone either way."

Tiafoe will play No. 10 seed Daniel Kerznerman in the Friday's quarterfinals. In contrast to Tiafoe's match time of 2:26, Kerznerman needed barely an hour to defeat unseeded Grant Solomon 6-1, 6-0.

No. 6 seed Spencer Papa downed No. 9 seed Tommy Mylnikov of Canada 7-5, 6-4 to earn a spot in the quarterfinals against fellow USTA Boca Raton student Stefan Kozlov. Kozlov defeated unseeded Alex Rybakov 6-1, 7-5.

Top seed Noah Rubin survived some impressive play by unseeded JC Aragone, taking a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory that featured some of the best rallies of the tournament. Rubin, back to competition after a long injury layoff, used his speed to hang with Aragone's big ground strokes, raising his game as the match reached its conclusion.  Rubin will play unseeded Henrik Wiersholm, a 6-0, 6-3 winner over unseeded Ciro Riccardi.  Rubin defeated Wiersholm in straight sets in the second round of last fall's Pan American Closed.

The other quarterfinal features No. 4 seed Naoki Nakagawa of Japan against No. 11 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany. Nakagawa defeated unseeded AJ Catanzariti 1-6, 6-4, 6-2, and Zverev blew past unseeded Andres Alfonzo Paredes of Venezuela 6-0, 6-2.

Girls top seed Christina Makarova advanced to the quarterfinals, defeating unseeded Ines Vias 6-0, 6-4. Makarova's opponent on Friday will be No. 8 seed Madison Bourguignon, who advanced with a 6-4, 3-0 ret. win over No. 12 seed Ellie Halbauer.  Unseeded Mayo Hibi, a 6-2, 6-4 winner over unseeded wild card Spencer Liang, will play No. 3 seed Alejandra Cisneros of Mexico in the quarterfinals. Cisneros beat unseeded Ellyse Hamlin 6-2, 2-6, 6-0.

No. 2 seed Victoria Rodriguez of Mexico advanced with a 7-5, 6-1 win over unseeded Adeliya Zabirova of Russia, and will face No. 5 seed Jamie Loeb.

Loeb, who had lost only one game in her previous two matches, led No. 11 seed Maria Shishkina of Kazakhstan 6-3, 5-1 on Thursday, but was broken in two consecutive attempts to serve out the win. Shishkina wasn't sharp throughout most of the match, making unforced errors early in rallies, but once the end was near, she began hitting out, eliminating mistakes and pressing Loeb.

Loeb was broken serving at 5-1 and at 5-3, but she kept calm and put with the pressure back on Shishkina. Down 15-40 after netting a forehand, Shishkina thought Loeb's shot was beyond the baseline, but it was Shishkina's reply that was called out, giving Loeb the win, despite Shishkina's protests.

"I was kind of on the defense and not stepping up and controlling the points," Loeb said of her failure to end the match earlier. "The last game I focused in on one point at a time and she was making the errors, so I pulled through."

Loeb admits that in addition to her goal of winning here in Carson and at next week's Easter Bowl, she hopes to gain enough points to play the junior slams this summer.

"I do want to get my ranking high enough so I can make main draw of junior French and junior Wimbledon and junior US Open," said Loeb, who has committed to play for the University of North Carolina this fall. "I'm not going to be playing any other ITFs before those."

Loeb lost in the first round of both tournaments last year, and she believes she is a much better player now than she was then.

"I feel like I'm a different player from last year," said Loeb, who trains at the John McEnroe Academy in New York. "Overall, I've improved, and I feel I'm much better than I was, even a couple months ago. Right now I feel pretty good, especially playing the women's (Pro Circuit) tournaments. It's definitely helped me, and since I've been playing against them and getting experience there, coming here, I feel good about how I'm playing."

The semifinals are set in the 16s division.  The top half of the boys draw will have No. 7 seed Catalin Mateas facing unseeded Kalman Boyd. Mateas downed top seed William Blumberg 6-4, 6-2, while Boyd ousted No. 5 seed Robert Levine 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-3. The semifinal from the bottom half will feature No. 4 Jake Devine against No. 12 Kyle Seelig.  Devine defeated unseeded Alexander Lebedev 6-3, 6-0 and Seeling outlasted No. 2 seed Jean Thirouin 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.

The girls 16s semifinals also consist of three seeds and one unseeded player.  Wild card Claire Liu defeated unseeded Sydney Van Alphen 6-4, 6-1 and will play No. 14 seed Carolina Dolehide. Dolehide defeated unseeded Angela Kulikov 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.  Winter National 16s champion Ena Shibahara, seeded No. 13, will play No. 12 seed Samantha Martinelli in the other semifinal. Shibahara downed No. 7 seed Kylie McKenzie 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, and Martinelli beat No. 2 seed Jada Robinson 6-4, 6-4.


Boys' 18 Singles (Round of 16)
Naoki Nakagawa (4), Japan def. AJ Catanzariti, Pittsburgh, PA 1-6, 6-4, 6-2
Francis Tiafoe (14), College Park, MD def. Mackenzie McDonald (3), Piedmont, CA 7-6(4), 1-6, 7-6(3)
Spencer Papa (6), Edmond, OK def. Tommy Mylnikov (9), Bradenton, FL 7-5, 6-4
Stefan Kozlov (2), Pembroke Pines, FL def. Alex Rybakov, Coral Springs, FL 6-1, 7-5
Henrik Wiersholm, Kirkland, WA def. Ciro Riccardi, Los Angeles, CA 6-0, 6-3
Daniel Kerznerman (10), Brooklyn, NY def. Grant Solomon, Dallas, TX 6-1, 6-0
Alexander Zverev (11), Wesley Chapel, FL def. Andres Alfonso, Paredes, Venezuela, 6-0, 6-2
Noah Rubin (1), Rockville Centre, NY def. JC Aragone, Yorba Linda, CA 2-6, 6-4, 6-4

Boys' 18 Doubles (Quarterfinals)
Luca Corinteli / Martin Redlicki (1) def. Justin Butsch / Lucas Gomez (6) 7-5, 7-6(6)
Spencer Papa / Alexander Zverev (3) def. JC Aragone / Mackenzie. McDonald (5) 6-2, 6-0
Walker Duncan / John Mee def. Michael Mmoh / Francis Tiafoe (4) 2-6, 7-6(4), 10-7
Tommy Mylnikov / Naoki Nakagawa (2) def. Jordi Arconada / Tommy Paul 6-4, 7-5

Girls' 18 Singles (Round of 16)
Jamie Loeb (5), Ossining, NY def. Maria Shishkina (11), Bradenton, FL 6-3, 6-4
Victoria Rodriguez (2), Weston, FL def. Adeliya Zabirova, Pembroke Pines, FL 7-5, 6-1
Madison Bourguignon (8), Boynton Beach, FL def. Ellie Halbauer (12), Daniel Island, SC 6-4, 3-0 Ret.
Peggy Porter, Dallas, TX def. Maegan Manasse, Redondo Beach, CA 6-1, 6-2
Kimberly Yee, Las Vegas, NV def. Nicole Frenkel, Winchester, MA 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(6)
Mayo Hibi, Irvine, CA def. Spencer Liang, Potomac, MD 6-2, 6-4
Alejandra Cisneros Gomez (3), Mexico def. Ellyse Hamlin, Fairfield, CT 6-2, 2-6, 6-0
Christina Makarova (1), San Diego, CA def. Ines Vias, Germantown, MD 6-0, 6-4

Girls' 18 Doubles (Quarterfinals)
Brooke Austin / Kimberly Yee def. Tornado Ali Black / Sandra Samir (3) 6-2, 6-1
Mayo Hibi / Denise Starr (7) def. Nicole Frenkel / Rianna Valdes (4) 6-3, 3-6, 12-10
Alejandra Cisneros Gomez / Victoria Rodriguez (1) def. Mingxiu DU / Johnnise Renaud 6-3, 2-6, 10-6
Jamie Loeb / Maegan Manasse def. Usue Arconada / Jessica Cortes (8) 6-4, 6-3

Boys' 16 Singles (Quarterfinals)
Kalman Boyd, Rancho Santa Fe, CA def. Robert Levine (5), Bedford, NY 6-1, 6-7(3), 6-3
Kyle Seelig (12), Hatfield, PA def. Jean Thirouin (2), Houston, TX 6-3, 4-6, 7-5
Jake Devine (4), Boca Raton, FL def. Alexander Lebedev, Island Park, NY 6-3, 6-0
Catalin Mateas (7), Braintree, MA def. William Blumberg (1), Greenwich, CT 6-4, 6-2

Boys' 16 Doubles (Quartefinals)
Chase Colton / Kyle Seelig (5) def. Michael Genender / James Wasserman 6-3, 3-6, 10-7
Taylor Fritz / Daniel Gealer (8) def. Hady Habib / Max Pham 6-1, 6-3
Grayson Broadus / Jean Thirouin (2) def. Jake Gabay / Alan Sweet (7) 6-3, 6-3
Emil Reinberg / Brian Tsao (6) def. Robert Levine / Evan Zhu (4) 7-5, 6-2

Girls' 16 Singles (Quarterfinals)
Caroline Dolehide (14), Hinsdale, IL def. Angela Kulikov, Sun Valley, CA 6-1, 3-6, 6-3
Claire Liu, Thousand Oaks, CA def. Sydney Van Alphen, Laguna Beach, CA 6-4, 6-1
Ena Shibahara (13), Rancho Palos Verdes, CA def. Kylie McKenzie (7), Anthem, AZ 2-6, 6-4, 6-4
Samantha Martinelli (12), Denver, CO def. Jada Robinson (2), Reisterstown, MD 6-4, 6-4

Girls' 16 Doubles (Quarterfinals)
Madison Appel / Rebecca Weissmann (1) def. Aliya Alenikov / Kalani Soli 6-4, 2-6, 10-3
Ena Shibahara / Savannah Slaysman def. Abigail Chiu / Madison Tedford 6-1, 6-1
Caroline Dolehide / Alexis Nelson (8) def. Marjorie Antohi / Rylie Cox 6-0, 6-0
Paulina Ferrari / Jada Hart (6) def. Alexa Corcoleotes / Vanessa Nommensen (2) 6-2, 6-4