Thursday, September 5, 2013

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.

8 comments:

Brent said...

A couple random thoughts...

- that is a really cool story about McDonald's dad. As a junior tennis dad (with kids playing at nowhere near that level), I could totally empathize with trying to balance other life priorities (like a job) while supporting his kids - and the 'sleeping on a park bench' thing just paints the perfect picture of a supportive dad. Love it

- I am just blown away by what Altamirano is doing. I keep picking this guy to lose and he keeps proving me wrong. I'm not sure we are fully grasping exactly the run this guy is on. I know there were some previous poster debates about exactly how impressive or unimpressive his prior record was. My take - better junior results than his ranking would indicate because he had allocated most of his time to Futures, but still nothing to suggest a run like this was in him. And the Futures results - not impressive. Not buying the story about close losses or tough draws - just no evidence whatsoever to suggest this. He tore through KZoo at a borderline unprecedented rate - at least in terms of beatdowns in the later rounds. Granted, had he lost one of those early rounds where he was down a set to Oosterbaan or Baughman, we would not even be having this conversation (he wouldn't have even gotten in to USO Jrs). To then validate the crazy KZoo run with a quarterfinal USO Jrs. performance, just darn impressive. My hat's off to him. Anyone know what schools he is looking at?

- hope Kozlov can right the ship. Tough run for him with a bad loss at KZoo (credit to him for hanging all the way through the backdraw. Saw his match against McDonald - good battle) and a couple bad losses at USO Jrs. I still have the most hope for him in terms of pro potential of anyone in this class of juniors ('95s - '98s)

Colette Lewis said...

@brent
An article on Altamirano at usopen.org lists Virginia and Wake Forest as options, as well as turning pro, which he has mentioned several times.

Austin said...

Let me start by saying I am basing this off yesterday's match only, nothing more, nothing less.

McDonald, great game, has a bunch of tools I saw that if they can be developed he could become a top college player in no time. His one flaw may be mental based on the quick collapse once his shots weren't going in.

Altamirano, I don't get it. He has a weak serve, forehand that seemed like nothing but spin and not a great backhand. It almost looks like he doesn't swing until the ball is almost to him. I saw countless forehands he hit into the net because it looked like he swung so late the ball was about to hit him. I was expecting to see someone at a much higher level, but I saw a kid who just keeps it in play. I positive though, he is quite the fighter, looks like he is ready to outbattle his opponent, which is key.

All of this is based on nothing but yesterday's match, but not what I was hoping to see from our current Zoo champ in terms of developed game. Bottom line though, he is in the quarterfinals, and I will take a winner over someone who looks skilled every day.

Taking It All In said...

McDonald should have won that match. He's the superior player but inexplicably started making unforced errors on his backhand and gave the match away. Sounds like he may have been cramping.

Altamirano can win in juniors since he hacks and pushes well enough to break down junior players and seems to get in their heads. A good strong pro player (who has no history with him) would blow him off the court! His defensive game (with lack of foot speed) will go nowhere in the pros. I've only been around juniors a bit lately but I immediately observed at a NorCal junior tourney how his coach Joseph Gilbert/JMG Academy seems to coach all their players to hack and push and strategize (that part is good)...and the other juniors seem to get mentally psyched by this so it works in the younger age groups..But this type of game will NOT work against a strong, more mature player! I think Altamirano is the best player they'll ever have --since he started playing somewhere else where he learned at least a little offense before he moved over to the hack market. But his big success will be limited to junior tennis.

Colette Lewis said...

I don't agree with these assessments at all. I appreciate Austin's caveat, but I've learned long ago how dangerous it is to "type" a player from one match. That said, I haven't seen Altamirano play more than 3 tournaments, so my experience is limited too, but his game is big and his competitive instincts excellent in the matches I've watched him play.

Martyn Collins said...

Awesome commentary folks. I am a big Mackie supporter. The family is quietly gracious and ferociously competitive. That said, Altamirano has a ridiculous winning attitude. I concur with just about every observation made on nearly all counts, except I respect Collin's serve. Taking It All In - you really helped me regarding what is happening at JMG. My son's nemesis in 12s plays same style but with effective bad serve. Need to help the boy employ a better game plan.

The Dude said...

"Altamirano can win in juniors since he hacks and pushes well enough to break down junior players and seems to get in their heads. A good strong pro player (who has no history with him) would blow him off the court! His defensive game (with lack of foot speed) will go nowhere in the pros. I've only been around juniors a bit lately but I immediately observed at a NorCal junior tourney how his coach Joseph Gilbert/JMG Academy seems to coach all their players to hack and push and strategize (that part is good)...and the other juniors seem to get mentally psyched by this so it works in the younger age groups..But this type of game will NOT work against a strong, more mature player! I think Altamirano is the best player they'll ever have --since he started playing somewhere else where he learned at least a little offense before he moved over to the hack market. But his big success will be limited to junior tennis."

Sounds like the same thiughts I had when I first watched a young Andy Murray at the US Open. So wrong as I as Andy developed his game.

Best Junior Pathway said...

It is refreshing to see a late blooming junior, Altamirano breaking out to be an elite junior while coming through the Sectional and National tournament system.

This is the way ALL the US juniors should be. Altamirano finished higher and better than ALL USTA PD players while staying at home, not playing ITF tournaments and developing the way American juniors have all succeed, through Sectional and National tournaments.

I only hope Altamirano does not get suckered into any training by the USTA now that is he showing tremendous progress.