Top Seeds Sail into Third Round at USTA Boys Nationals, but 18s Clay Court Champion Kerznerman Upset
©Colette Lewis 2013--
Top seeds Gage Brymer and Sameer Kumar went back-to-back on Court 3 at Kalamazoo College's Stowe Stadium, with the 18s and 16s favorites getting straight sets wins in the second round of the USTA Boys Nationals in Kalamazoo.
Brymer led off with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Terrance Whitehurst, but the 18-year-old from Irvine, California needed five match points to secure the win.
Serving for the match at 5-2, Brymer couldn't close the deal, and Whitehurst saved in a match point in the next game to make it 5-4. Up 40-0 in the game, Brymer's forehand went awry, aided by Whitehurst's ability to keep the ball in play. After three more match points came and went, Brymer finally converted with a good first serve.
"I got a little tight and let it slip," said Brymer, who hasn't lost a junior match since the falling to Noah Rubin in the Carson ITF Grade 1 in April. "There's first round nerves and it's hard to kind of get adjusted in any tournament. But this is a little different, the crowd and everything adds a little bit more, but you just have to go out and get business done and move on to the next one."
Brymer said his all-around game is better than a year ago, when he lost in the third round as the No. 17 seed.
"I worked on everything," said Brymer, who had one of the best high school careers in Southern California history at University High. "I built up my game from all directions--both my forehand and my backhand are better, my serve. I'm playing more aggressively, but also being smarter on the court. I know when I need to go in and put away the point and when I need to stay back and grind it."
Another Irvine resident, Konrad Kozlowski, didn't have much chance to grind or go in against Kumar, who cruised to a 6-0, 6-0 win in 51 minutes.
"I'm glad to start off such a big tournament with a good match," said Kumar, who won the Easter Bowl 16s title in April by the same score. "In the Easter Bowl final that was pretty crazy what I was able to do. But I played very well that match and I also felt I played very well today."
Kumar, from Carmel, Indiana, was not put out by the unusually cool and breezy conditions. "I used the wind to my advantage," Kumar said. "I have all these tactics to use when the wind's with you, when the wind's against you, when it's blowing sideways. I figured it out well today."
The 6-foot-6 Eubanks cited his 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 win over Francisco Colunga in the first round as a important factor in Friday's 6-1, 6-4 victory over Kerznerman, which he called the "biggest win he's ever had, by far."
"Yesterday I played a really tight match and I feel like it helped me today," said the 17-year-old, who has been training with two-time Kalamazoo champion Donald Young, Jr. in Atlanta the past 18 months. "Now I could come out here and just play free. I came out going for my shots. Danny wasn't playing his best, so I had to make sure I didn't let my focus leave me just because he wasn't playing well. I had to still go for my shots."
After taking advantage of Kerznerman's many unforced errors in the first set, Eubanks got a break in the opening game of the second set. He was up two breaks before Kerznerman closed the gap, but Eubanks stuck to his aggressive play and completed the upset.
Eubanks hits a one-handed backhand, which he switched to several years ago, anticipating his height.
"I started that when I was about 14," Eubanks said. "I kind of knew I was going to be tall and the strike zone for a one-hander is pretty low, so I really like that. When I play people like Danny today, who is a lefty, when he started playing better, he started getting it up to my backhand, which made things a lot harder. So I tried to fight over that and get as many forehands as I could."
In addition to his first round singles win on Saturday, Eubanks cited his second round doubles victory as important in establishing his confidence. He and partner Korey Lovett defeated No. 5 seeds Mackenzie McDonald and TJ Pura 7-5, 7-6(2).
"When I got out against them, I realized I could play with those guys," Eubanks said. "Korey was amazing in that match and we both came up with some unbelievable shots to take those guys out. So it was a really good win for me there too."
The No. 2 seeds in both the 16s and 18s division played at Western Michigan University with Noah Rubin taking out Hayden Sabatka 6-1, 6-1 in the 18s and Francis Tiafoe posting a 6-0, 6-4 win over Kyle Barr in the 16s.
In addition to Kerznerman, four other seeds in the 18s division were beaten in their first matches of the tournament, including No. 11 seed Elliott Orkin, No. 19 seed William Little, No. 24 seed John Mee and No. 31 seed Logan Smith.
Trevor Johnson defeated Spring Nationals champion Orkin 6-3, 0-6, 6-1, Christopher Vrabel downed Little 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, Logan Staggs beat Mee 6-4, 6-2, and wild card Maxx Lipman squeezed past Smith 2-6, 6-3, 7-5.
The only seed to lose in the 16s was No. 16 Alfredo Perez, who fell to Lane Leschly 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-3.
Monday's schedule will feature third round singles matches in both 16s and 18s at Stowe Stadium, with the consolation tournament beginning for both division at Western Michigan University, weather permitting. There is rain in the forecast. There are no doubles on Monday.
For complete draws and results, see the tournament website.