Three Unseeded Players Reach 18s Quarterfinals at USTA Nationals, Top Seeds Brymer and Rubin Survive Tough Tests
©Colette Lewis 2013--
Unseeded Logan Staggs, Collin Altamirano and Trevor Johnson may not have been familiar names prior to the USTA Boys 18s Nationals, but they have all reached the final eight with victories Thursday at Stowe Stadium.
After rain allowed only one main draw match to be completed on Wednesday, the weather improved considerably Thursday, with low humidity, partly sunny skies and a cool breeze. Both Staggs and Johnson had started their matches Wednesday, with Staggs up a set over No. 20 seed William Griffith, but trailing 4-2 in the second set. The left-hander from Tracy, California returned to the court and took five of the next six games, posting a 7-6(5), 7-5 win over his Northern California rival.
Johnson, a 17-year-old from Las Vegas, was in trouble when Shropshire served for the match at 6-5 in the second set, and was up 30-0, but netted a volley he had set up perfectly, and Johnson went on to take the game and the subsequent tiebreaker.
"I got really fired up at 5-6," said Johnson. "And I really felt it in the tiebreaker."
"In the third set, I knew it was going to be a close set again," said Johnson, who lost his first match (after a bye) in Kalamazoo last year. "So when I went into the tiebreaker, I really wanted to win it 7-0. I was up 6-0 and lost two points, but I knew if I focused I would still stay in it. And that last backhand was really solid."
The normally quiet and undemonstrative Johnson let out a loud roar, but said he was not surprised by his results this week, which included beating Winter National champion George Goldhoff(21) and Spring National champion Elliott Orkin(11).
"I see a lot in myself," said Johnson, who occasionally hits balls along side Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf at the Darling Tennis Center in Las Vegas. "And a lot of people tell me I have a big game and it's really possible. I think focusing and staying confident really helps."
An unseeded semifinalist is assured with Johnson playing Altamirano in Friday's quarterfinal match. Altamirano defeated No. 32 seed Quentin Monaghan 6-1, 6-1. Staggs' opponent is No. 2 seed Noah Rubin, who trailed No. 15 seed Ronnie Schneider 6-3, 4-4 when the rain postponed their match Wednesday. Schneider won that game, but Rubin held and then broke Schneider for a 6-5 lead. The long rallies in that game, one of which must have lasted 40 strokes, were not as prevalent on Wednesday, with Rubin admitting he was not sharp.
"It's Kalamazoo and we're here for the wild card and sometimes that can get in your head," said Rubin, who went on to win the match 3-6, 7-5, 7-5. "I came out a little jittery, a little anxious, and Ronnie's not a bad player at all, as we all know, and if you're even the slightest level down, he will take advantage of it, which he did."
Rubin was down 3-0 in the third set after two costly double faults contributed to his being broken in the second game, but Schneider couldn't close out a service game in which he led 40-0, which put Rubin back on serve at 2-3, instead of trailing 1-4. Last year in the quarterfinals of the ITF Grade 1 in Carson, California, Rubin trailed Schneider 4-1 in the third set and won the final five games, but he wasn't quite as confident in this situation.
"That was a crucial break at 3-1," Rubin said. "I'm sure if I'd lost that, it would have been a tough one to come back from."
Rubin began to pick up his serving and eliminate his errors and had no difficulty holding serve in the tense 4-5 game. At 5-5, Schneider had a 30-15 lead, but double faulted and hit a forehand wide to give Rubin a break point. He didn't squander his chance, hitting a top spin forehand winner past Schneider to get the break.
Serving for the match, Rubin dominated, forcing a lob error and hitting two backhand winners for a 40-0 lead. There would be no suspense, with Rubin hitting an ace on his first match point to reach the quarterfinals.
Rubin said that Schneider had a premonition about their Kalamazoo meeting when they were both at the recent Godfrey Futures, where Schneider reached the quarterfinals and Rubin the finals.
"He said, 'you know, I bet we play in the quarters or the round of 16,' and when I wake up a week before this tournament and I had a text (from Schneider) saying 'we're playing in the round of 16.' We're good friends, it was a tough battle and he always plays good, so it was a good show for the rest of the people."
Top seed Gage Brymer had an even tougher path to the quarterfinals, beating future UCLA teammate Mackenzie McDonald, the No. 9 seed 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) in a riveting match going on at the same time as the Johnson - Shropshire thriller.
Brymer lost serve to open the second set, but McDonald was broken back immediately and there were no other breaks until McDonald netted a forehand at 4-5, 30-40. Brymer was again down an early break in the third set, but leveled the set at 2. Serving at 5-5, Brymer faced a break point after McDonald was the beneficiary of a net cord winner at 30-30. But the 18-year-old from Irvine picked up his serving in that stretch, hitting three good first serves that McDonald couldn't get back in play to take a 6-5 lead. McDonald held easily for the tiebreaker, which was 3-3 at the change of ends. After a disputed let call that went against McDonald, he lost the next point on a fine pass by Brymer.
Brymer's ground strokes are the strength of his game, and they were even deeper and more accurate in the tiebreaker. A big Brymer forehand close to the line forced an error for 5-3 and a forehand volley on the line gave him three match points. McDonald was serving on the first two and held for 6-5, but another deep forehand forced an error from McDonald and Brymer had survived.
He will play No. 5 seed and fellow Southern Californian Ernesto Escobedo, who ended Henrik Wiersholm's 19-match Kalamazoo winning streak with a 6-3, 6-3 victory. Escobedo led 6-3, 3-1 when play began Thursday morning, and he used his forehand to keep Wiersholm from starting any comeback.
The last time Escobedo played Wiersholm was in the 2011 Easter Bowl 14s final, a match Escobedo won 6-4, 6-1.
"It was a long time ago," said Escobedo, 17. "I'm mentally tougher (now), I'm stronger, I got bigger and I'm faster on the court, and that helps a lot."
Escobedo believed he had the advantage with his forehand.
"I know what his strengths and weaknesses are already, so I just attacked his weakness," Escobedo said. "It's my forehand to his forehand."
Escobedo has been playing Futures events and was one of two players who had Top 1000 ATP rankings coming into the tournament.
"In those tournaments, it's just so tough to win just one match," said Escobedo. "They're in their 20s and they have more experience than me. But when I come here, I'm very confident."
The other quarterfinal will feature No. 6 seed Luca Corinteli and No. 14 seed Jared Donaldson. Corinteli, the 2011 16s finalist, completed his suspended match with No. 17 seed Henry Craig Thursday morning taking a 7-5, 6-4 victory. He will play No. 14 seed Jared Donaldson, who beat No. 4 seed Connor Farren 5-7, 7-6(4), 6-2 in a match that finished after 6 p.m. Farren led 5-2 in the second set, and served for the match at 5-3, but never got to a match point. Donaldson, 16, dominated the tiebreaker and the third set to take the win over his doubles partner and fellow wild card.
There was a big upset in the boys 18s doubles, with top seeds Martin Redlicki and Rubin falling to unseeded William Griffith and JT Nishimura 6-2, 6-2.
Friday's schedule will include all the quarterfinal matches in singles and the semifinals of the doubles in both divisions.
See the tournament website for the draws and results.