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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Top Seeds Tested but Survive Wet Tuesday at USTA Boys 18 and 16 Nationals

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Kalamazoo, MI--

The top two seeds in the 16s division needed three sets to advance to Wednesday's round of 16, while the top two seeds in the 18s division also found themselves in close contests Tuesday, with rain delaying the start and interrupting the afternoon action at Kalamazoo College's Stowe Stadium.

Due to wet courts from overnight precipitation, matches began more than an hour late.  Sameer Kumar, the top seed in the 16s division, took some time to find his form, but managed to finish his 3-6 6-3, 6-0 victory before a short but heavy shower interrupted play.

One of the few 18s matches on the court before the rains came featured Samuel Shropshire and Christopher Vrabel. Shropshire, who had recorded the tournament's biggest upset with his straight-set win over No. 3 seed Stefan Kozlov on Monday, was up 6-1, 1-0 serving, which made the two and a half hour delay more palatable.

"I was looking at the clouds and thought, hmm, it's probably going to rain sooner or later, so I tried to get a strong set under my belt," said Shropshire, who went on to 6-1, 6-4 victory. "I got ahead a little bit in the second set, so I wanted to make sure I was always on top."

After his upset of Kozlov, Shropshire, who has never been this deep in a USTA National Level 1 tournament, was determined not to have a letdown.

"It's not really hard, at this kind of a tournament, to stay pumped," said Shropshire, who will be playing for the Northwestern Wildcats this fall. "It's definitely a thing that has happened in the past for me and for a lot of people, so I was aware of that, and I think that definitely helped."

While Shropshire was the first player into the round of 16 in the 18s division, he was followed shortly by two other unseeded players: Trevor Johnson, whom Shropshire will play next, and Collin Altamirano.

Johnson has now beaten two USTA gold ball winners this tournament, taking out Spring Nationals singles champion Elliott Orkin in the second round and today defeating Winter Nationals singles champion George Goldhoff 6-3, 6-4. Altamirano eliminated the last Michigan player in the draw, defeating unseeded Michael Dube 6-1, 6-0, and will play Notre Dame sophomore Quentin Monaghan. Monaghan, seeded 32, defeated No. 16 seed David Hsu 6-3, 6-2.

Due to the rain, top seed Gage Brymer's match with No. 18 seed Thomas Fawcett was relegated to court 8, and didn't finish until nearly 7 p.m., but the UCLA recruit earned a match with another incoming Bruin freshman, Mackenzie McDonald, the No. 9 seed. McDonald defeated 2012 16s finalist Alexandru Gozun, the No. 23 seed, 7-5, 6-2.

2012 16s champion Henrik Wiersholm kept his Kalamazoo winning streak alive, but it wasn't easy.  No. 30 seed Stephen Watson won the final four games of the first set, but the 13th-seeded Wiersholm ultimately posted a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory. He will play No. 5 seed Ernesto Escobedo, who beat unseeded Benjamin Donovan 6-2, 6-2.

Perhaps the day's biggest surprise came late on court 7, with unseeded Logan Staggs ousting No. 7 seed Martin Redlicki 6-4, 7-6(4).  Staffs, who beat No. 24 seed John Mee in the second round, gives away 10 inches and at least 50 pounds to Redlicki, but his quickness and precision trumped Redlicki's size advantage.

Staggs will play Northern California rival William Griffith, the No. 20 seed, after Griffith defeated No. 12 seed and 2012 bronze ball winner Mitch Stewart 6-2, 6-4.

No. 17 seed Henry Craig, a 6-4, 7-6(1) winner over unseeded Adam Steryous, will play No. 6 seed Luca Corinteli, who blanked unseeded Samuel Tullis 6-0, 6-0.

The most anticipated round of 16 match since the draw was released will be played, but both Noah Rubin and Ronnie Schneider were tested en route.

Rubin led unseeded wild card Maxx Lipman 4-0 in the first set, but the match got considerably closer from that point on, with Rubin eventually posting a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 victory. Lipman hit a tweener winner serving to stay in the match at 5-1 in the third, but it was too little too late for the incoming Florida Gator.

Schneider also dropped his first set of the tournament, but claimed a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 victory over TJ Pura.

In a match that didn't finish until 9:23 p.m., No. 4 seed Connor Farren managed to get by Jose Gracia 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(5).  Gracia served for the match at 5-4 in the third, but didn't get to match point, and Farren won the two critical points with the tiebreaker at 5-5, with Gracia coming in on the match point, but missing a forehand volley into the net. Farren will play doubles partner Jared Donaldson, the No. 14 seed, who beat unseeded Harrison O'Keefe 6-2, 6-2.

In the 16s, Francis Tiafoe, the No. 2 seed, made his debut on the Stowe Stadium courts, taking a 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-2 decision from No. 29 seed Martin Joyce.  Tiafoe faced a set point serving at 5-6, 30-40 in the opening set, but Joyce's running forehand was just long and Tiafoe won the next two points to force a tiebreaker.

Leading 5-3 in the tiebreaker, Joyce hit a routine backhand wide, and that unforced error cost him a chance for three more set points. Three more unforced errors later, Tiafoe had the first set in hand.

"I got lucky in the breaker," said Tiafoe. "He made a couple of mistakes. And in the second set I let little things get to me and I played really stupid, ended up playing really poorly. But after the 10 minute break, I relaxed a little bit and started playing well."

Tiafoe did not play Kalamazoo last year because he was representing the United States in the ITF World Junior Tennis championships in the Czech Republic, which the US won. But the chance to represent his country was an opportunity he did not want to pass up, and that kind of international experience in pressure situations makes him comfortable on the Kalamazoo stage.

"If anything I play better with crowds," said the 15-year-old Tiafoe, who won Les Petits As championship in France last year. "I try to impress people when I'm playing in front of crowds. To me it's pretty fun."

Tiafoe will play No. 26 seed Daniel Gealer in the round of 16, after Gealer defeated No. 15 seed Victor Pham 6-3, 6-4.

Pham was one of three Top 16 seeds to fall on Tuesday, along with No. 5 seed Taylor Fritz and No. 8 seed Kyle Seelig.  Fritz was beaten by Nathan Ponwith 6-4, 6-2 and Seeling lost to No. 24 seed Zeke Clark 6-4, 6-2. The only unseeded player remaining in the 16s is Jacob Hansen, who defeated No. 28 seed Johnathan Small 6-1, 6-3. Hansen, a 16-year-old from Austin, Texas, has lost only nine games in his three victories, two of them over seeded players.

For complete results, including the late doubles, see the tournament website.


Brent said...

Well, we predicted this a little bit but with all the upsets in the 18s, it is solidified - the best 4 players left in 18s play each other in the round of 16. Bummer. I expect to see the two winners in the finals with Wiersholm the most likely candidate to interrupt that.

As Expected said...

Terrible that the seeding committee made these two match ups possible this early in the tournament: Rubin/Schnieder and Brymer/McDonald. These are the 4 best in the tournament. All have been USTA #1 ranked in 18s.

Austin said...

Escobedo, is he new to the USTA? I wasn't familiar with his name, looked him up and saw last year in the 18's was his first appearance at the Zoo, and he was unseeded, now all the sudden he is the #5 seed. Can anyone explain?

Brent said...

Seems like he has been around for a while. I know he had good results in the couple junior tournaments he has played this year (lost 6-4 in the 3rd in the first round of Int'l Springs to Kozlov and made the quarters of Easter Bowl) but has been playing mostly Futures (including a semis showing in Mexico earlier this year).

Russ said...

I saw Escobedo at the Easter bowl a few years back when he played weirsholm in the finals. He was very impressive in that match and I have kept my eye on his results ever since. He doesn't seem to travel much, money might be a concern; but when he does play he posts really good scores. In the futures he took nick meister to three and when I last saw nick play at San Jose his game had improved considerably since his senior year at ucla. He also went three with nevolo and benneteau and beat Conner Farren handily. So my guess is that the overall incredibly solid and talented game that I saw years ago is developing quite nicely.

Fed up said...

If any one is using USTA kids as a benchmark for good players, this tourney should expose those flaws. These kids knocked out all over the place. The difference is these kids were identified way too early and based on results at like age 12 not potential.

End USTA PD Leadership said...

There needs to be a change in USTA PD.

The USA has never been in worse shape from a Professional and Junior Standpoint.

Professional Men - No one will be in the ATP Top 20 on Monday

Junior Boys - Zero Grand Slam potential in any junior Boys.

USTA PD Coaching Staff - Over 12 American coaches have resigned based on leadership and direction of program and replaced by mostly foreign coaches.

Director of Coaching, Jose Higueras does not work at National Training Center and only visits 3-4 weeks a year.

USTA should not be in coaching juniors privately. Because 1) Take players from their private coach 2) take players away from their homes and parents 3) Players are taught to play the same way under USTA system.

USTA should only coach pros privately. Bring in juniors for camps and assist with trips. Also step up a tournament structure to where all of our National tournaments have the best players playing. The results at Kalamazoo show that the USTA PD players are not the best players.

We need to change the system IMMEDIATELY!! We are currently going down the wrong path. Tom Gullikson ran the best USTA program and he is currently on staff not being used.

The USTA wants to hold everyone accountable but who is holding them accountable?

Brent said...

Colette, are they going to try to get all main draw singles in yet today? Is that even possible? Or do you think they finish tomorrow and all the quarterfinals end up being Friday?

Colette Lewis said...

We will probably get the singles in today. The 18s doubles quarterfinals seem unlikely to be played at this point.