Rain Dampens Opening Day of Boys 18s at Kalamazoo; Knowles Splits Sets with Junior Partners in Exhibition
©Colette Lewis 2013--
Rain that moved into Kalamazoo just minutes before the scheduled start of play Friday morning caused the cancellation of the first round of the boys 18s singles, but two round of doubles were played indoors at three sites. Skies had cleared by the time the opening ceremonies for the USTA Boys 18 and 16 National Championships began Friday evening, but by that time five of 16 seeded doubles team had already lost their opening matches, including the second-seeded team of Luca Corinteli and Stefan Kozlov, who lost to Michael Kay and Pally Ray 1-6, 6-4, 15-13.
Four-time grand slam winner Mark Knowles was able to secure a win in the RX Optical/Greenleaf Trust Opening Night Exhibition at Stowe Stadium when paired with Boys 18s top seed Gage Brymer, but he and local favorite Paul Oosterbaan dropped their set as partners to the top-seeded doubles team of Martin Redlicki and Noah Rubin.
Oosterbaan and Knowles were twice up a break against Redlicki and Rubin, but couldn't hold on, with the junior pair taking a tiebreaker 7-6(3).
A partner switch for the next set saw Redlicki and Oosterbaan, the reigning Boys 18s Clay Court champions, take a 4-2 lead, but Knowles began to demonstrate some of the experience and wisdom accumulated over his long professional career, deftly handling good returns with even better first volleys. He and Brymer broke Oosterbaan at love to level the set at 4, then broke Redlicki to take the set 6-4.
The exhibition was filled with the usual levity, with two ballrunners playing a point against Knowles, and winning it easily, to the delight of the crowd. When playing with Brymer, Knowles also tried to get a group of Oosterbaan's high school friends, who were loudly encouraging their classmate, to do the collegiate "break time" cheer, when Redlicki was serving.
"Mark was trying to trick them to cheer against me," Oosterbaan said of his friends, one of whom was dressed in a banana costume. "They don't understand the scoring, so they're pretty gullible with that stuff. But tell them a time and a place, and they'll come out and be rowdy. I think everyone thought they were pretty funny. They just like to have a good time and kept the crowd laughing."
The 90 minutes of tennis the exhibition provided was all most fans were able to see Friday, with the first two rounds of doubles sent to the Markin Racquet Center, West Hills Tennis Club and the Kalamazoo YMCA. Several matches didn't finish until well after the exhibition had begun, but both rounds were completed.
In addition to the upset of Corinteli and Kozlov, four other seeded teams lost their opening matches (seeded teams receive first-round byes). No. 5 seeds Mackenzie McDonald and TJ Pura lost to Christopher Eubanks and Korey Lovett 7-5, 7-6(2). No. 9 seeds Walker Duncan and John Mee were beaten by Karin Arem and Ian Dempster 6-4, 6-7(6), 10-8. Trevor Johnson and Logan Smith defeated No. 12 seeds Miguel Alda and Benjamin Donovan and Nicholas Crystal and Chase Perez-Blanco beat No. 16 seeds Jared Donaldson and Connor Farren.
The weather forecast for Saturday (and Sunday) is much better, and the 16s first round will begin, with the 18s first round matches originally scheduled for today mixed in.
Two rounds of 16s doubles are scheduled for Saturday as well, with Clay court champions Tommy Paul and Alex Rybakov the top seeds.
For all draws and the schedule for Saturday, see the tournament website, ustaboys.com. Friday saw the website suffer intermittent outages due to problems with the hosting company's servers, but the live stream, with commentary, will function independently of the website, so bookmark both, just in case the problems continue.