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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Unseeded Altamirano Makes History in Winning Kalamazoo 18s Championship; Paul Captures 16s Title

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Kalamazoo, MI--

When Collin Altamirano returns to Kalamazoo next year to defend the USTA Boys 18s National Championship he won Sunday afternoon at Stowe Stadium, he won't be an underdog, and he won't be rooting for one either.

After defeating No. 14 seed Jared Donaldson 6-1, 6-2, 6-4 in a best-of-five match that secured him a US Open main draw wild card, Altamirano is in the record books as the only unseeded player ever to win a singles title in the 71-year history of the Kalamazoo National Championships.

"There's a first time for everything, right?" said the 17-year-old right-hander, who lives and trains at the Arden Hills Tennis Club in Sacramento, California. "I've got to root for all the seeds now."

Altamirano secured his place in Kalamazoo history on a partly cloudy and cool afternoon, displaying impressive power, touch and defense against the 16-year-old Donaldson, who struggled on nearly all of his service games.

"He was very aggressive on the return, so I knew he could break me, but I knew I could break him," said Altamirano, who felt his own serve was also a bit erratic. "I wasn't too worried about it. I knew he wasn't holding, so it made me feel like I was going to be ahead in every set."

Altamirano actually lost his first service game in both the first and second sets, saying he was nervous to start the match, but he never trailed by more than one game. After taking six consecutive games to claim the first set, Altamirano broke Donaldson to go up 1-0, but gave the break right back. After Donaldson finally saved a break point to hold for the first time in the match, he took a 2-1 lead, but Altamirano continued to play more controlled and error-free tennis on the important points.

Having surrendered only one game to top seed Gage Brymer in Saturday's semifinal, Altamirano was not as pleased with his performance against wild card Donaldson, and several "gosh darn its" surfaced when he double faulted or committed an unforced error. But he managed to come up with big shots when the occasion called for it, such as the ace he hit on set point in the second set.

Donaldson began to look discouraged at 2-2 in the third set, with two double faults--one to start the game and one to end it--contributing.

"My serve has always been a little streaky," said Donaldson, who had quit tennis for three months back in February, but returned to the game after consulting with a sports psychologist. "It's come and gone throughout this entire tournament, usually actually it's been pretty good. I didn't serve well, I didn't return well. I didn't make that extra ball, win those few key points that I had done earlier in the week. He played really well."

Donaldson expressed disappointment at the result, despite his recent success at Futures and this week against the nation's best juniors.

"You come to tournaments to win," said the Cumberland, Rhode Island resident, who has trained in Argentina the past three years. "You don't come to tournaments to say you had a good tournament or you had good wins. Second place obviously isn't something to be ashamed of, but it's definitely something you don't come here for. Now, if someone had told me, back in February, when I thought I was done with tennis, that if you could take second in Kalamazoo, would you, of course I would say yes, but now that you're here, you always want more."

Donaldson will receive a wild card into men's qualifying at the US Open later this month, and he already had heard that Mackenzie McDonald, who lost in the round of 16 to Brymer, qualified Sunday into the ATP Masters event in Cincinnati, defeating Nicolas Mahut and Steve Johnson to do so.

"Mackie is obviously a really great player and he had a tough one in the round of 16 here," said Donaldson. "Tennis is a funny game. Mackie can lose round of 16 here, and the player he lost to lost 0 and 1 to the guy who won the tournament, then Mackie goes and beats No. 77 in the world (Mahut) and Steve Johnson."

Altamirano admitted that choking crossed his mind when he stepped to the line to serve out the match at 5-4 in the third, but then made every first serve, converting his first match point on a service winner. The 17-year-old, who played junior tennis in Northern California, just as McDonald did, is confident his game can measure up at the US Open in two weeks.

"I know my level's up there," said Altamirano, who is coached by Joseph Gilbert. "I've just got to believe it, and do it day in and day out. I know this tournament's tough, and to win it is huge."

Boys 16s winner Tommy Paul is also heading to New York for the first time after he beat roommate and close friend Jake DeVine 6-3, 6-1 in Sunday's first final.

No. 3 seed Paul and No. 4 seed DeVine were staying in the same hotel room all week, and have played countless practice sets at the USTA Training Center in Boca Raton, Florida in the past months. That made for a subdued atmosphere, especially when DeVine lost his serve to open the match.

Although he held to get on the board at 2-1, DeVine struggled on serve all day, as double faults plagued him, while Paul was holding without much difficulty.

"I was disappointed with a lot of things, serve being one of them," said DeVine, 16. "In my round of 16 match I experienced similar nerves. I pulled that one out, obviously, then yesterday against Sameer (top seed Kumar), I was relaxed, but today nerves were a little more of a factor."

Paul, who also won the 16s Clay Court championship last month, admitted that the big-serving DeVine was not at his best.

"In practice, it goes either way all the time," said the 16-year-old right-hander, who was a finalist at the Orange Bowl 16s last December. "That's not usually him. He plays a lot better than that usually. I don't want to say he was playing bad, but he wasn't on top of his game today. I think he came out a little nervous, so I kind of took advantage of that, as fast as I could."

Paul pointed to the final game of the first set, when he finally converted on his seventh set point with DeVine serving, as a key to his victory.

"That was really important to me," Paul said of the six-deuce game. "When the first deuce came up, I was like, all right, this game is really, really important, so focus on every point you can."

Showing no sign of discouragement when DeVine saved set point after set point, often with good serves, Paul finally took the set when DeVine sent a forehand long.

Paul took a 5-0 lead in the second set before DeVine got on the board, and, despite an overhead into the net on his first match point, closed it out when DeVine netted a forehand.

"I don't think it's sunken in yet," said Paul, who also won the USTA 12s Clay Courts in 2009. "It feels good. Getting the wild card (into the US Open Junior Championships) was a huge factor in this tournament, because based on my ITF ranking, I wouldn't have gotten into qualies at the US Open. Getting into the main is great. It gives me the opportunity to show the world."

DeVine was making his debut at the Kalamazoo tournament, with an injury keeping out of the draw last year, but after his first experience in the Zoo, he is looking forward to coming back in 2014.

"I've played a lot of junior tournaments, so I wasn't really sure what would make this tournament incredible in particular," said DeVine. "None of the matches are behind, it's very well organized and players are treated professionally. Fans, it's sweet playing in front of this many people. I'm personally patriotic, so I love that they play the national anthem here. I think that's something that they should do everywhere."

For complete results, including the consolation finals and the third and fourth place match, see the tournament website.


TennisFan76 said...

How do you guys think Collin will fair with the top pros at the US Open compared to the previous years winners who have won rounds i.e Novikov and Sock? I feel like he doesn't have a very good chance as he is 0-12 in futures in winning a main draw match, does this just mean futures are getting tougher or that kalamazoo this year was weaker than previous years? Also who do you guys think will be getting Main draw WC's into the open and qualies?

Austin said...

No one has mentioned this I don't believe, but why was Altamirano not seeded?

Here are his most recent junior results:

2012 Winter Nationals: lost to Henry Craig(#17 seed at Zoo) in Round of 16, lost to Mitch Stewart(#12 seed at Zoo) in backdraw quarters

2013 Spring Nationals: lost to Alex Gozun(#23 seed at Zoo) in Round of 16, then won backdraw without dropping a set, also won dubs title

Based on those results, two of the last three nationals where he went far in both, why was he not seeded. Anyone?

Austin said...

Aren't most of the top American juniors only 16 or 17yrs old? Tough to judge for another couple years. It may seem like a weak crop, but maybe because the majority are still going to be playing juniors for another couple years.

USA Tennis said...


US Open Mens Main Draw Wildcards

1. Australian Trade
2. French Trade
3. Kalamazoo Winner - Altamirano
4. Ryan Harrison
5. Brian Baker
6. Rhyne Williams
7. Tim Symczek
8. Bradley Klahn - Winner of Pro Circuit

Dr Love said...

"To Play...or not to play (the backdraw)...that is the question..." Here's a novel idea that is the basis of the game of tennis...Integrity....Now that is the Answer...:) "The integrity of the game is everything. ... it stays with you the rest of your life, and there's going to be a life after tennis that's a lot longer than your tennislife." -Anonymous "I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to
succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”
― Abraham Lincoln
Tennis....the Game of Life- me

Austin said...

I think the USTA should give a wildcard to an American college kid if they win the singles title OR if they finish #1.

Eeyore said...

Altamarino wasn't seeded because he really isn't that good. Winter Nats is by far the weakest of the National Tournament circuit and most of the top-tiered players don't waste their time playing. In my opinion, that tournament should be dropped from the schedule. Altamarino hasn't faired much better in the other tournaments he's played, especially the Futures where I think he only qualified ONCE out of 12 attempts.

I believe he will win one game at best during his first round match at the billie jean king US Open, even if he's lucky enough to play a qualifier or another wild card. Altamirano has a long way to go in improving his game. Of course anybody can look stellar against weak competition. Time will tell but I've rarely been wrong in my predictions.

College Fan said...


Normally, I would agree with you. However, in this case, I think it's clear that Rola is the best college player. He simply didn't play enough quality matches in the computer's eyes. There are two reasons for this. He spent last fall playing (and winning) Futures events last fall instead of playing college events. Secondly, Tucker played Rola at #2 about 8-9 times during the season.

Jenkins will still get a Qualifying WC which is as it should be.

Local guy on the Zoo stream said...

On Thursday or Friday, there was a older, local guy on the Zoo stream. I believe he said he was a coach, but not sure if HS or college. Clearly, he had been to many tournaments. In reference to value of playing the backdraw, he mentioned that if you're looking for competition, the backdraw is really the 2nd best American tournament. Since the Zoo is the best event, the back draw the same event minus 4 guys. It can only help someone to face that level competition.

Tennis Dude said...

One uninformed commenter mentioned that Collin was 1-12 in qualifying for futures main draws.

A quick look at his ITF profile shows that he quallied on his 2nd attempt, winning 4 matches (3 vs players with current atp points, 1 with previous point), then drew #2 seed, Dan Kos, who won 3 consecutive futures starting with the match with Collin and shot up to atp 230.

He lost his next future quali to Clay Thompson 4 in 3rd, then lost to Daescu (peak atp 650) and Ryan Thatcher in Challenger Quals. That was a while ago and he's a whole different player since then.

He qualied for the next 2 futures (4 matches each)and lost in 3 to Aubone (peak atp 475) and seeded Frantangelo (French Jr Champ in nasty wind) on clay (atp 333). Lost in the next 2 quals, then qualied again and lost to atp 670 in 3 sets (best shot at first point,first nonseeded draw), lost in next qual.

More recently he qualied in Spain, Bakio hardcourt, including a win over atp 1200 and lost 4 in the 3rd to 4th seed atp 450, then qualied again in France (3 wins) on clay and lost to 3rd seed atp 290 who won the event and was finalist at the next. So thats 6/10 on making main draw and he's barely losing to atp 450. He may not win a round at the Open but he has a lot of physical maturing to do and we haven't heard the last of Collin by any means.

Tony said...

Once again, I think people look at the back draw from an incorrect angle. Why people withdraw and make up excuses not to play it is beyond me. It's another opportunity to play good competition In a high stress environment. How can that not be productive for the player? People complain all the time about not having anyone good to practice with or always running into the same couple players in tournaments. Well here's a good opportunity to fix that. Kudos to Kozlov, Schneider and everyone else who played the back draw.

Eeyore said...

Tennis Dude is missing some key stats on Altamirano's ITF Men's results. He may have close loses to some of the "better" players, but he also lost to very low ranked players: Janis Podzus - #1505, Babor Borsos - #1478, Winston Lin - #1615, Ryan Thacher - #1083, Double bagle by Andrei Daescu - #1325, and Jean Yves Aubone - #937. In most of these loses, Altamirano only won a total of 4 games!!!!

Tennis Dude said...

Eeyore really nailed it. Statistician maybe? Except for the 1-12 qualification gaffe (pretty close to 6-10) he must be right, the kid just isn't that good, despite losing 17 games in the last 13 sets, winning the biggest jr. tourney in the country and only losing to guys with atp points. Point taken.

russ said...

Gee, Eeyore I guess you didn't read my response to your previous comment asking me if I had seen Altamirano's futures results.

Here's an excerpt: "In the Claremont future from last year, for example, when he was 16, he won four matches in qualies, He beat John Lamble, who plays #1 for Santa Clara, he beat Michael Grant who played an occasional six for USC, and he beat Charles Boyce who has a few points. In some other futures, he had close three set losses to Clay Thompson, Aubone, and Winston Lin. All three of those guys are/were good college players. Aubone just made the semis of this week's future in illinois, btw. Finally I actually saw him play against Ryan Thacher in Tiburon last year. Although he lost 1 and 2, the match was more competitive than that. He showed some weapons (serve and forehand, of course) and often had Thacher on his heels. What I didn't like about his performance was his temperament. Way too whiny for my taste."

Now I've already mentioned Lin, Aubone, and Thacher: all good college players who have played at the number one position at Columbia, Florida State, and Stanford. Podzus, is not a bad player, though I don't think he'll ever break 500 hundred in the rankings. But he does have some wins in his resume that you can compare USTA wise: Styslinger for one. But mentioning Daescu as a horrifying loss is definitely tempered by the fact that the kid was 16 1/2 playing against a guy who was once ranked as high as 126.

Now I'm not predicting a top ten for the kid based on his results thus far, nor will I predict pro greatness for McDonald because he beat Mahut, currently ranked #77, and Steve Johnson, the dominant college player in his junior and senior year, to be the first unranked player EVER to make the main draw of a masters; nor I will say that Noah Rubin is destined for greatness either because he beat Evan King, an All American at Michigan, a couple of weeks ago and Mitchell Krueger last year at Kalamazoo, but Altamirano and this group of Kalamazoo 18's have talent and potential. This is not a weak group.

tennisFan76 said...

This years kzoo was a fluke, just based on his scores doesn't prove hes a "great" player it just proves that the field was weak this year, he seemed to lose to majority of older guys that are a little more mature than he is since they probably figured out his game fairly easily.

Tigger said...

Eeyore... Thacher, Daescu, and Aubone were all very strong college guys. All three had been ranked in the top 30, and sometimes even the top 15. These are guys that on a good day are at the level of someone ranked 500. So it's not that poor for a 17yr old to lose routinely to them like you're implying.

Zooooo said...

Whether this is the weakest champion in a while or not, let's face it none of the champions of the last 15 years or so have made much of an impact on the pro tour: Buchanan, Krajicek, McClune, Young, Jenkins, Yim, Amritraj, Bogomolov, King, Park and Rake. You can even go further if you want.