©Colette Lewis 2013--
Rain on Friday's opening day meant seeded players in both divisions won't take the courts until Sunday at the USTA Boys 16 and 18 National Championships at Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University.
But while the seeded singles players remained safe from upset, not so in the doubles, where three seeded teams in the 16s division, including No. 2 seeds Francis Tiafoe and Jordi Arconada fell in second round action on a partly cloudy and cool day in Southwestern Michigan.
Nathan Griffin and Alex Ross defeated Arconada and Tiafoe 6-2, 6-4, after having barely survived their first round match earlier in the day against Maxwell Cancilla and Chasz Downing 6-1, 1-6, 10-8. It looked as if the No. 2 seeds from the Junior Tennis Champions Center would start their comeback when Griffin failed to serve out the match at 5-3. But Arconada, the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl champion, and Tiafoe couldn't keep the pressure on the Midwestern pair. Tiafoe, who had struggled throughout the match, was unable to hold serve, with Griffin and Ross needing to do little more than make a few returns to pull off the upset.
No. 8 seeds Sameer Kumar and Reilly Opelka lost to Henry Gordon and Reese Stalder 1-6, 7-6(8), 10-5, and No. 14 seed Konrad Kozlowski and Brandon Yeoh were eliminated by Adrian Chamdani and Cameron Klinger in another close match, 6-4, 4-6, 11-9.
Top seeds Tommy Paul and Alex Rybakov, who won the Clay Court championships two weeks ago, looked sharp in their opener, beating Daniel Langston and Joseph McAllister 6-1, 6-1.
Singles matches featuring Michigan players did produce some exciting tennis for the fans enjoying the pleasant weather at the Stowe Stadium courts. Kalamazoo's Davis Crocker, who has verbally committed to the University of Michigan for 2014, used his serve-and-volley skills and the home crowd support to post a 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 win over Drew Dawson. Crocker had leads in all three sets, losing the last four games of the opening set, but firmly controlling the second set. In the third set, Crocker was up 4-2, but Dawson broke and held for 4-4. After a relatively easy hold for Crocker, Dawson had to serve to stay in the match, and wasn't able to hold up under that pressure. At 15-30, Dawson dumped a backhand into the net to give Crocker a match point, and seconds later put a forehand into the net to give Crocker the victory.
While Crocker was on Court 3, another Kalamazoo player, Paul Oosterbaan, a semifinalist in the 16s last year, was trying to close out Jake Douglas on Court 1. After getting a break in the opening game of the match, Oosterbaan ended the first set with a second break to take it 6-3. Another early break in the second set gave the 6-foot-8 University of Georgia recruit a 3-1 lead, but he wasn't able to hold on to it this time, failing to serve out the match at 5-3.
"I felt like I could have been a little more aggressive," Oosterbaan said of his play in that game. "He started to play a little better and the wind started to pick up in that game at 5-3."
Oosterbaan got to match point, but Douglas came up with a good return that Oosterbaan couldn't handle, sending the ball wide. A strong forehand by Douglas gave him the advantage and when Oosterbaan sent a forehand long, he had surrendered his first break of the match.
"He continued to return right at my feet every time I hit a good serve, " said Oosterbaan. "It was almost better when I'd take some pace off it and kick it over his head. I don't know if he's a really good returner or if he was on today, because normally people don't do that to me."
A tiebreaker decided the match, and Oosterbaan had a comfortable lead in it from the beginning, with Douglas unable to get any first serves in play. Oosterbaan's backhand did most of the damage, although he did send one wide on his second match point of the day, making it 6-3. On the third, and what turned out to be his final match point, Oosterbaan sent Douglas from on corner to the other with good backhands, ending it with a winner.
"When the backhand went crosscourt at 6-3 in the tiebreaker and he stopped running, I think I had the match there," joked Oosterbaan when asked if he ever felt the match was safely in hand. "Otherwise, I didn't feel that good until it was done. He's a good player who's had some good results, so it was a tough first round."
Edward Covalschi, another Michigan player, came from 4-1 down in the final set to defeat Terrell Whitehurst 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4. Covalschi will be starting his college career at Notre Dame in the fall.
Sunday's schedule will feature second round singles matches in both the 16s and 18s divisions as well as third round doubles matches.
For complete draws, see the tournament website, ustaboys.com.