Altamirano Comes Back to Beat McDonald; Black, Chirico Reach Quarterfinals at US Open Junior Championships
©Colette Lewis 2013--
Flushing Meadows, NY--
Louis Armstrong Stadium could overwhelm the most seasoned junior competitor, but the venue wasn't the problem for Kalamazoo champion Collin Altamirano. It was his opponent, Mackenzie McDonald, who was the source of his difficulty, which lasted until the 19th game of their third round US Open Junior Championship match, when Altamirano finally earned his first break point.
When Altamirano converted the 30-40 point, with McDonald sending a forehand wide, suddenly a match that was entirely in McDonald's control was now completely up for grabs, and four games later, Altamirano had a two-break lead on his way to a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory.
McDonald's serve, forehand and drop shot had kept Altamirano on the defensive throughout much of the first set, but his confidence grew as he stayed in front in the second set.
"Early on, I felt like I had zero chances," said the 17-year-old from Sacramento, California. "I got to 30-all once, and I was getting really frustrated by that. I was trying to scoot back, I was trying to step in, and nothing was working. He was serving really good, hitting his spots. I felt I needed to sneak out one game, break him once, and he would kind of freeze up and stop hitting such good serves."
Altamirano credited McDonald for keeping him on his heels during the first two sets.
"He did a really good job of rushing me and making me feel uncomfortable," Altamirano said. "Even in the second set, I felt like rushed. I felt like my serve kind of got me through it, and I played the one good return game at 5-4, made him earn it. That finally gave me a lot of confidence in my strokes, and next thing you know I started hitting a bigger ball and he started making a lot more errors. That three or four games in the third set, I felt he was just trying to adjust to the ball--he was trying to hit the winners he was hitting in the first set, going for huge shots when I was hitting a big ball and he was making tons of errors."
Although Altamirano didn't suspect it, and neither did most of the spectators in the match, McDonald said after the match that he was suffering with cramps near the end of the second set. The weather was cool, with a slight breeze, and the match took less than two hours to complete, so none of the usual factors were responsible.
"I cramped up a little bit in the second and my mind kind of got into that," said McDonald, who has been on the road competing for five weeks, including in the main draw appearance in the Cincinnati Masters and the qualifying draw at the US open two weeks ago. "I had to catch up, and it was a little bit too late at the end."
McDonald's father Mike returned home to Piedmont, California after watching McDonald win his second round match Tuesday, but once he heard that his son would be playing on Louis Armstrong Stadium Thursday morning, he caught a red-eye, arriving this morning at 6 a.m. and sleeping on a bench near the famous Unisphere until the gates opened at 9:30 a.m.
"My dad is my biggest supporter," McDonald said. "He's always been there for me, no matter where I am or what's been going on. He's my biggest role model and has helped me out the most."
Altamirano received a warning for coaching after holding for a 4-3 lead in the second set, but he was puzzled by what that was all about, although he acknowledged he saw a gesture.
"I don't even look at him, I look at my Mom," said Altamirano. "He scares me. So that kind of made me laugh. When that happened, I looked over at him on the next break and we laughed about it. He did once do something with his hands," Altamirano said, pushing both his hands down to demonstrate. "But I didn't know what he meant by it. The lady(umpire) looked at me kind of strange, but I was like, I don't know what that is."
Although Altamirano was puzzled by that, he played much better afterwards, winning six of seven games to take a 4-0 lead in the third set. McDonald got one of the breaks back, and Altamirano needed four match points before he could close out the match on his serve, but he eventually got the job done, reaching the quarterfinals in his second ITF junior tournament, where he will face top seed Alexander Zverev of Germany Friday. Zverev defeated unseeded Martin Redlicki 6-4, 6-3 Thursday.
No. 2 seed Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy, the reigning Wimbledon boys champion, defeated wild card Gage Brymer 6-2, 6-3 to join Roland Garros boys champion Christian Garin of Chile in the quarterfinals. Garin, the No. 3 seed will play No. 6 seed Johan Sebastian Tatlot of France, while Quinzi meets unseeded Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis, who reach the Australian Open boys final this year. No. 4 seed Borna Coric meets a third unseeded player in the quarterfinals, Quentin Halys of France, who beat 2012 semifinalist Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan 6-2, 6-0.
While France leads the boys in numbers, with two players in the quarterfinals, the US is the only country with two girls in the quarterfinals. Wild card Tornado Alicia Black continued her outstanding play, defeating qualifier Jasmine Paolini of Italy 6-3, 6-3. Paolini, despite being small in stature, ripped the ball in the late stages of the match, and made a match of it by breaking Black at 5-1 in the second set while saving four match points in that game and holding to force Black to serve it out. She did, and will play unseeded Iryna Shymanovich of Belarus, who beat unseeded Sara Sorribes Tormo of Spain 6-1, 6-2.
No. 11 seed Mayo Hibi continued her stellar play, defeating unseeded Katie Boulter of Great Britain 6-1, 6-0, and the Easter Bowl champion will play No. 3 seed Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic Friday.
Top seed Belinda Bencic eased past No. 13 seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine 6-2, 7-5, and will play No. 7 seed and 2012 semifinalist Antonia Lottner of Germany. Lottner came from behind in both sets to defeat No. 12 seed Camila Giangreco Campiz of Paraguay 7-6(5), 7-5.
The only seeded American advanced to the quarterfinals, with No. 10 seed Louisa Chirico defeating unseeded wild card Michaela Gordon 6-7(2), 7-5, 6-2.
Chirico, who lives only 25 minutes away in Harrison, NY, and trains at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, felt some jitters at the beginning of the match against her 14-year-old opponent.
'It was a very complicated match, I think," said the 17-year-old, who reached the semifinals at both the French Open and Wimbledon juniors this summer. "I started off very nervous, I was tight starting the match, and I wasn't hitting my shots, just going through the motions without really executing or having a purpose behind my shots. I think [Gordon's age] was one of the factors of why I was so nervous in the beginning, but I tried not to think about it too much. I had never really seen her play or know how she played. But she's a good player, and she's young still."
Chirico's serve is much stronger than Gordon's but it wasn't easy for either player to hold serve, with 17 breaks of serve in the 33 games played. After breaking Gordon for a 3-2 lead in the third set, Chirico found herself in a long game, saving two break points before consolidating for a 4-2 lead. Gordon saved two break points of her own in the next game, another lengthy one, but double faulted to give Chirico a 5-2 lead, and despite getting less than 50% of her first serves in the match, Chirico held in the crucial last game.
Next up for Chirico is Australian Open champion Ana Konjuh of Croatia, the No. 2 seed.
"I've seen her play a bunch, but never actually played her myself," said Chirico. "She has a big game, she has a lot of shots, so I am going to have to go out and play my game. That's all I can really do. I have my family and friends all out here supporting me, so that's really nice."
The top four seeds in the girls draw all advanced to the semifinals, but none of the four teams in the boys doubles are seeded.
Martin Redlicki and his partner Kamil Majchrzak of Poland will play the German team of Johannes Haerteis and Hannes Wagner for a berth in Saturday's final.
For complete draws, see usopen.org.