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Monday, August 5, 2013

Shropshire Shocks Kozlov in 18s; Knight Saves Seven Match Points in 16s at USTA Boys Nationals

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Kalamazoo, MI--

When Samuel Shropshire twice barely missed backhand passing shots at 6-4, 5-4 40-15 against No. 3 seed Stefan Kozlov, then followed a double fault with an unforced error on the forehand side, most Stowe Stadium court 1 spectators thought he'd missed his opportunity for the upset.

But betraying no sign of discouragement, he regrouped to force a tiebreaker, and hit two consecutive winners at 5-5 to collect what he admitted was one of the biggest wins of his junior career.

Shropshire, who will begin his collegiate career at Northwestern next month, had never played the 15-year-old from Florida before, so he and coach Chris Racz did some scouting on Sunday, when Kozlov defeated Tyler Lu 6-0, 6-0.

"He's definitely good at anticipating," said Shropshire, who is from Philadelphia. "Yesterday [Lu] was right there, but he was having a hard time closing it out, even though the score didn't really look like it. So we were really trying to focus on when I had him on the ropes, keeping him there."

Kozlov gave Shropshire more free points than he usually provides an opponent, and the netted forehand return that made it 5-5 was especially costly.  Shropshire came up with a big forehand winner on the next point to earn his third match point, and this time it was Kozlov who was unable to come up with passing shot, as Shropshire picked it off and feathered a drop volley winner that Kozlov had no chance to reach.

Shropshire admitted his hands were shaking as he hit that drop volley,  yet knew his willingness to try a variety of shots was critical.

"Being able to change things, especially when one thing's not working, doing something else, that's definitely one of the strengths that I have."

Shropshire will play unseeded Christopher Vrabel in Tuesday's fourth round.

Top seeds Gage Brymer and Noah Rubin advanced with no difficulty on a cool and overcast day that produced only one minor rain delay late in the evening.  Brymer defeated Artemie Amari 6-3, 6-1 and Rubin rolled past Marshall Sharp 6-1, 6-0.  No. 4 seed Connor Farren struggled in his first match at the Stowe Stadium courts, but advanced past Charles Shewalter 4-6, 6-4, 6-0.

Kozlov was the only Top 16 seed to lose in Monday's third round, but five seeds in the 17-32 range lost.

Benjamin Donovan defeated No. 27 seed Trey Yates 7-6(5), 6-2. Colin Altamirano won his second straight match from a set down, defeating No. 25 seed Deiton Baughman 2-6, 6-1, 6-0. Samuel Tullis beat No. 22 seed Thomas Mayronne 7-5, 6-4, Harrison O'Keefe outlasted No. 26 seed Robbie Bellamy 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(1), and TJ Pura downed No. 28 seed Chase Perez-Blanco 1-6, 6-4, 6-3.

The match of the day came early in the 16s, with No. 27 seed Alexander Knight saving seven match points in his 4-6, 7-6(13), 7-6(2) win over James Wasserman.

Six of those came in the second set tiebreaker, with Knight saving four of them on his serve and two when Wasserman was serving.

"I think most of the match points I was down, with the exception of two, I was serving," said the 16-year-old left-hander from Miami Shores, Florida. "So I knew if I sliced it out wide or put some goofy spin on it, he was tight, he was just going to get it back and leave a short ball, so I was pretty confident on my match points. I was just trying to stay focused and not think about the situation."

Knight saved another match point in the third set at 5-6, 30-40, but Wasserman sent a backhand long on his seventh attempt to close out the match.  Knight dominated the tiebreaker, with Wasserman unable to keep the ball in play; after taking a 6-1 lead, Knight converted on his second match point, with Wasserman netting a backhand to end the three-hour and 45-minute match.

"I'm more relieved than I am happy," said Knight. "Although I'll probably be happier later. It's just the round of 64. You're trying to keep on grinding, keep the dream going, staying in the tournament."

Knight survived but five other 16s seeds did not, including No. 10 seed Alex Rybakov and No. 13 seed Emil Reinberg.  Rybakov lost to Asher Hirsch 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 and Reinberg was beaten by Jacob Hansen 6-2, 6-2.  Evan Zhu beat No. 17 seed William Blumberg 7-5, 6-1, Austin Hussey defeated No. 30 seed Henry Gordon 6-3, 2-6, 6-1 and Nick Stachowiak beat No. 18 seed Grayson Broadus 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

Fourth round in singles and the round of 16 in doubles is scheduled for Tuesday.

For complete results, see the tournament website.


Austin said...

So, does Kozlov show up for the backdraw?

Blazing Saddles said...

"Backdraw....ha, we don't do no stinkin' backdraw...."

Brent said...

Austin, I was wondering the same thing. He is out of doubles so that increases the chances but he played all the way through in the back draw last year, losing a tight one to Krueger if I remember right, so maybe he will stay. Would be a good experience for him and well worth his time, despite some voices in the opposite direction. I did notice that Oosterbaan dropped out of the backdraw. I didn't think you were allowed to do that and stay in the doubles main draw. Anyone know the rule on that?

Austin said...

Oosterbaan claimed injury according to the draw. He can say he hadn't recovered from his singles match the previous day. If he had "no showed" then he would not be allowed to compete. That is a super shady withdraw, I have made my feelings on this topic known enough times.

Yes, I think Kozlov will show as well since he is still young, complete guess.

On a side note, Joseph DiGuilio, didn't he used to be one of the top players in his division? I saw he no showed in the backdraw and went back to California. Also was surprised to see he was never seeded in four years at Kalamazoo. I admit until they get to the 18's I really don't pay much attention, but I know he was Top 10 in the 12's and 14's every year, what happened?

Brent said...

He did. I think he may have been injured for a stretch in the 14s/16s time period but just never recovered to a top 20 player. He was one of the subjects of the 50,000 Balls documentary if you remember that. Interesting that this will be the last year of junior tennis for those kids (time flies). TJ Pura is a little bit in the same category as well in terms of falling back a bit as they got older. They are obviously still great players as evidenced by their scholarships to UCLA and Duke respectively. Hard to predict who will end up being the best players in a class from the list in 12s.

Austin said...

Reminds me of Mika DeCoster, he was right with Jack Sock in the 12's & 14's.