Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fritz, McCarthy Join Top Seeds in ITF B1 Pan American Closed Semifinals

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Tulsa, OK--

Both unseeded Taylor Fritz and No. 13 seed Kaitlyn McCarthy dropped the first set to their higher-seeded opponents Thursday at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center, but fought back to reach their first Grade 1 semifinal at the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed.

McCarthy lost the opening set to No. 7 seed Maria Shishkina, who lives and trains in the US but plays for Kazakhstan, but came back to win a tight second set, saving a break point serving for it at 5-4, then going on to post a 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory.

McCarthy sensed Shishkina's disappointment when she failed to finish the match in two sets.

"I was able to hold onto that break, and I think it frustrated her a little bit, that she wasn't able to close out the second set," said McCarthy, who, like Shishkina, is 15. "She had her chances--she got up 3-2, and she was probably seeing the finish line by that point. I think it frustrated her that I was able to come back and get that set."

McCarthy said the third set hinged on the outcome of just one point, when she was up 2-0 with Shishkina serving.

"There was one point, in the third game that was literally somewhere between 50 and 75 shots," said McCarthy. "It was the longest point I think I've ever played. It was so taxing on the body, but I knew whoever won the point was going to win the set.  It was totally momentum changing. It was quite the point."

McCarthy said she came to Tulsa for the competition, but also with the goal in mind of getting back into the main draw of the US Open Junior Championships, where this year, as a wild card, she won her first round match before falling to eventual champion Ana Konjuh of Croatia in the second round.

"I want to qualify for US Junior Open next year. That was such an amazing experience," said McCarthy, who is from Cary, North Carolina. "I have to play there again, I just absolutely have to."

McCarthy will play unseeded 14-year-old Katherine Sebov of Canada, who saved two match points in her second round match, and took down her third seed of the tournament Thursday, defeating No. 16 seed Sofia Kenin 6-1, 6-4.

The other girls semifinal on Friday will feature top seed Tornado Alicia Black against No. 4 seed Renata Zarazua of Mexico.  Black surrendered the most games she has all tournament to unseeded Yolimar Ogando of Puerto Rico today, and needed nearly 90 minutes to record the win, but Black prevailed 6-3, 6-2.  In Zarazua's match with unseeded Jessica Ho, service holds were hard to come by, with the first five games of the second set going to the returner, but Zarazua, a 16-year-old who reached the semifinals here two years ago, picked up two service holds late in the set to claim a 6-4, 6-2 victory.

Fritz earned his way into the boys semifinal with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 win over No. 2 seed and 2012 semifinalist Spencer Papa.  Fritz started slowly, trailing 3-0 in short order, a deficit he attributed to going for too much too early in the point.  Fritz held and got the break back, but again fell behind, with Papa serving for the set at 5-3. Papa didn't earn a set point in that game, but he did have four in the next game, which Fritz finally won after five deuces.  Papa held for 6-5, and again Fritz was in a hole on his serve, saving a fifth set point with a backhand winner, but losing the sixth when his forehand went long.

"I was so tired after the first set," said Fritz, a 15-year-old from Rancho Santa Fe, California. "We had a long game on his serve at 5-all. And then at 5-6, the set point he won, I ran side to side about ten balls and I was about to pass out. So I just wanted to hold my serve to start the second set. I knew I was too tired to break and hold."

Fritz got the first break of the second set to go up 3-2, but gave it back to make it 4-4.  Papa, who had certainly won the ace contest with Fritz on the day, couldn't get the big serve when he needed it in the next game, and he was broken.  Fritz evened the match with a forehand winner on his second set point, and got off to a good start in the third set, breaking Papa in the opening game.  Fritz began to hold his serve more easily as the set went on, with his forehand, a lethal stroke when he spots an opening for it, the source of most of his winners.

After breaking Papa for a 5-2 lead, Fritz ran out to a 40-0 lead, and after a backhand error on his first match point, converted the second with a forehand winner.

"I didn't change anything, I pretty much played the same through all three sets," said Fritz. "Except in the first set, when I just started out trying to kill the ball and got tired."

Fritz, who won the ITF Grade 4 last week in Wichita Falls, but still is ranked in the 400s, admits to surprise at his showing this week.

"It's great, but it's really surprising that I'm able continually pull these matches out when I know I shouldn't be the one winning it," said Fritz. "It's great, and I'm just going to see if I can keep going."

In the semifinals, Fritz will meet No. 4 seed Danny Kerznerman, who has been impressive all week, recording a fourth consecutive straight-set win, this time over No. 7 seed Alex Rybakov 6-1, 6-4.

The top half will feature No. 1 seed Michael Mmoh against his doubles partner and fellow 15-year-old Francis Tiafoe, the No. 3 seed.  Tiafoe downed unseeded Logan Smith 6-4, 7-5, while Mmoh needed over two hours to get past qualifier Aron Hiltzik 7-6(5), 7-6(7).

Mmoh was serving at 5-2 in the second set and had four match points in that game, but three errors and a winner by Hiltzik kept the game going, and Hiltzik took it.  Mmoh, who was making a lot of errors, didn't get to match point the next time he tried to serve it out, but he had another opportunity after breaking Hiltzik to go up 6-5. Mmoh earned his fifth match point in that game, and a long rally with lots of changes of pace and spin ensued, but Hiltzik didn't blink, with Mmoh eventually netting a backhand. After another deuce, Mmoh was broken for the third straight time, and was in danger in the tiebreaker, after two consecutive double faults gave Hiltzik a set point at 6-5. Hiltzik didn't convert it, sending a forehand long, but got another one after a big first serve made it 7-6. He missed three forehands in a row, however, netting the last to give Mmoh the hard-won victory and a place in the semifinals against Tiafoe.

The last time Tiafoe and Mmoh met was in the finals of the Aegon Teen Tennis tournament in Bolton, with Tiafoe winning that contest 6-3, 6-3.

As the top seeds in the doubles, Tiafoe and Mmoh saved two match points in the quarterfinals Thursday afternoon against unseeded Kyle Mautner and Eduardo Nava. Trailing 9-7 in the match tiebreaker, Tiafoe and Mmoh won the last four points in a 6-4, 4-6, 11-9 victory. They will play the unseeded team of Smith and Fritz in Friday's semifinals.  Smith and Fritz defeated No. 5 seed Jordi Arconada and Nathan Ponwith 6-2, 6-1.  The other semifinal will feature unseeded Grayson Broadus and Jake DeVine against No. 2 seeds Papa and Kerznerman. Broadus and DeVine downed unseeded A.J. Catanzariti and Thomas Mayronne 6-3, 4-6, 10-3, while Papa and Kerznerman defeated the unseeded local team of Zeke Clark and William Genesen 6-4, 6-4.

The girls doubles semifinals will also feature two unseeded teams. Ellyse Hamlin and Madison Westby play No. 4 seeds Black and Mia Horvit, and Gabby Andrews and Dasha Ivanova will play No. 2 seed Marie Norris and Rianna Valdes.  Hamlin and Westby defeated No. 6 seeds Claudia Wiktorin and Kenin 6-1, 6-2, and Andrews and Ivanova beat No. 3 seed McCarthy and Cassandra Vazquez 5-7, 6-4, 10-4.

For complete draws, see the USTA ITF tournament page.