Top 18s Seed Donaldson Opens with Tough Test; Qualifier Cernoch Downs No. 2 Seed Brumm in 16s First Round Play at Kalamazoo
©Colette Lewis 2014--
Down a break in the first set to Nicolas Podesta, top seed Jared Donaldson's opening round match on Stowe Stadium's court two was not going as he had hoped.
Podesta, an 18-year-old from New Jersey who has committed to Penn, has had an excellent summer on the ITF Pro Circuit, qualifying in two Futures and picking up his first two ATP points. On Sunday he had no trouble keeping pace with Donaldson, who has won three Futures titles this summer, and had fewer errors in the initial games.
Donaldson was broken in his second service game, but got the break right back, and although both of his next games went to deuce, the 17-year-old from Rhode Island didn't face another break point. Serving down 5-6, Podesta immediately went down 0-40. He saved one set point with a good serve and another when Donaldson made an unforced error, but Podesta couldn't save the third, hitting a wild backhand to give Donaldson the set.
The first two games of the second set were close, but once Podesta lost his serve to go down 3-1, the die was cast and Donaldson advanced to the second round by a 7-5, 6-1 score.
"He came out and played a really good first set," said Donaldson, who frequently gestured in the direction of coach Taylor Dent, the 1996 Kalamazoo 16s champion, who was sitting in the stands behind the court. "I hung tough and I battled out there and after the first set, well, I just won a few more key points in the second set, and that was the difference. I think I could have played better, but it's the first round of the tournament, and I'm just happy to get the win."
Although Donaldson lost in the final last year to Collin Altamirano, he has nothing but positive memories from his performance here last year.
"They're good, they're really good," said Donaldson. "This is where, honestly, I started playing really, really well, where I had my breakout last year. I basically went from being, you know, a good player, nothing amazing--I'm not saying I'm amazing right now--but I'm coming in here with a lot of confidence and playing really, really well. Last year I didn't have the same confidence, so hopefully I can do one better."
Although there are chair umpires for every match, Donaldson admits he hasn't had to call his own lines (which USTA rules require, even with chairs) since Kalamazoo last year.
"Obviously I've had my share of outbursts about line calls, and I'm not saying that that's right, but this definitely puts more responsibility on me," Donaldson said. "Honestly I think maybe I don't see it quite as quick, am not quite as sure, because I'm not used to calling them. And I think that has an effect. I think I give more calls to my opponent than I used to because I'm not sure, not really looking for it as much."
If Donaldson points to the 2013 tournament in Kalamazoo as his breakout, that certainly would go double for defending champion Altamirano, who had a considerably easier time in his 6-0, 6-0 win over lucky loser Nathan Brown on the newly christened George Acker court, the same court where he won the title last year.
"My coach (Joseph Gilbert), he knew I could do it," said Altamirano, the fifth seed in this year's tournament. "Me, I didn't always kind of believe it. I believed in him more, so when it happened, I was like, all right, I'm a good player. It gave me a little more confidence."
Altamirano's second round opponent is the same as last year, Kalamazoo's Paul Oosterbaan. Altamirano, who had a first-round bye, although he was not seeded, dropped the first set to Oosterbaan 6-4, but started his run to the title by winning the second set 7-5 and the third 6-1.
While there were no upsets among the 18s top eight seeds, with Ernesto Escobedo(2), Noah Rubin(3) and Stefan Kozlov(4) all posting routine straight set wins, the 2013 16s champion, Tommy Paul, was beaten by Adrian Chamdani 6-4, 6-3. No. 13 seed Paul, who won the 18s Clay Court championships last month, couldn't get on track against the Duke recruit, and was forced into playing much more defense than usual, with Chamdani's one-handed backhand proving particularly lethal.
The match of the day was undoubtedly Myles Schalet's 6-4, 6-7(9), 7-6(9) win over Ziqi Wang, which took three hours and 49 minutes to complete and featured treatment for cramping by both players, with the tournament referee and a trainer courtside for the final tiebreaker.
Six other seeds lost in the 18s, with No. 14 seed Jordi Arconada falling to Mitch Stewart 6-1, 6-2, No. 22 seed Daniel Grunberger losing to Reese Stalder 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(5) and No. 23 seed McClain Kessler lost to Daniel Rayl 6-1, 6-4. No. 29 seed Cameron Klinger was beaten by Jake Douglas 2-6, 6-1, 6-4, No. 26 seed William Griffith lost to Matthew Mendez 7-5, 6-3, and No. 16 seed Sameer Kumar lost to Michael Genender 6-4, 6-2. Kumar had also lost to Genender in the third round of the Easter Bowl B1 in April.
Although Cernoch is young, and making his debut in Kalamazoo this year, he has plenty of experience on a big stage, having won the 14s Nationals last year in San Antonio.
Cernoch, who trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Maryland, said his three qualifying matches helped him ease into the tournament.
"It helped me a lot, prepared me," said the left-hander from North Bethesda, Maryland, who turns 15 next month. "It helped me get used to the courts, find my game here."
Cernoch got a late break and hold to take the first set, and although he let a 4-2 lead slip away in the second, he broke and held to seal the win, citing his serve as a key to the victory.
"I was serving a lot of slice to his backhand and opening up the court," Cernoch said. "Plus I was using angles and going to the open court. I was trying to be as aggressive as I could."
Cernoch, who went through qualifying because he hadn't played many sectional tournaments, is not surprised by his four wins this week.
"I have confidence right now, so I felt I could play well here."
Seven other seeds lost in the 16s, although Brumm was the only one in the top eight, and one of only three eliminated seeds not to lose a tiebreaker.
No. 10 seed Ulises Blanch lost to David Horneffer 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(3), No. 11 seed Liam Caruana went out to Alexandre Rotsaert 3-6, 7-(6), 6-2, No. 15 seed Jordan Benjamin was beaten by Nikola Samardzic 6-1, 6-1, and No. 16 seed Sebastian Mermersky lost to Max Liu 6-0, 7-6(5). No. 17 seed Jason Liu was defeated by Nick Stachowiak 6-1, 7-6(5), No. 20 seed Chase Wood lost to Sean Sculley 6-3, 6-1 and No. 21 William Howells was beaten by Daniel Soyfer 7-6(1), 6-3.
Second round singles and third round doubles matches are scheduled for Stowe and Western Michigan University's Sorensen Courts, with the first round of the Feed-in consolation also beginning.
For draws, see the tournament website.