Wimbledon Champion Rubin Tested in Second Round; Riffice Survives Under the Lights in 16s Action at Kalamazoo Nationals
©Colette Lewis 2014--
Wimbledon champion Noah Rubin wasn't surprised when Martin Joyce stayed with him stroke for stroke in their second round match Monday afternoon at Stowe Stadium, with the No. 3 seed eventually claiming a 7-6(5), 6-4 victory.
"Everybody's going to play well against me," said the 18-year-old New Yorker. "The top five to eight seeds, everybody's going to gun. Stefan (Kozlov) and I have Wimbledon under our belts, Collin (Altamirano) is the defending champ, so people are going to gun."
Rubin was impressed by the pace on the serve of the 17-year-old from Illinois, who recently committed to Ohio State for 2015.
"Given that he doesn't have the smallest serve in the tournament, yeah, this kid had an interesting serve," said Rubin. "I didn't know it was going to be like that."
Joyce also moved forward and played aggressively throughout the first set, committing very few unforced errors, and soon erased Rubin's 3-0 lead in the opening set. Those two breaks were it in the first set, leading to the tiebreaker, which Rubin dominated, taking a 6-2 lead. He lost the first set point on his serve and the next two on Joyce's, but he ended any comeback thoughts by holding serve on the fourth set point.
"It would have made my life easier if I had kept that going at 3-0, but you can't," Rubin said. "It's Kalamazoo, you can't make your life easy here. There were a couple of close calls that I got a little upset about, but in the tiebreaker, I felt I played very well, I stepped up and I was focused for the second set, because I wasn't going to let it go to a tiebreaker again."
Rubin got the only break he need with Joyce serving at 2-all in the second and held on for the victory.
Rubin said having a tough match early in a tournament is good, "but this tough, I'm not so sure," he joked. "No, it's definitely good, because you don't want the early rounds to be too easy and get to the quarters and be like, wow, where was this? I'm ready for every match and there's five more to go, but you have to look at every point. Anything could have happened in this match. He's a very good player, a big serve, so I'm just happy I got through it."
Upsets were few in the 18s division Monday, with the top 11 seeds advancing to Tuesday's third round, including No. 1 Jared Donaldson, a 6-2, 6-3 winner over Jonathan Deautriell and No. 2 seed Ernesto Escobedo a 6-1, 6-2 winner over Kenneth Boykin. Only two seeds lost, with No. 12 seed and 2012 16s champion Henrik Wiersholm falling to Logan Staggs 6-2, 7-6(4), and No. 32 seed Korey Lovett eliminated by JT Nishimura 6-3, 6-2.
In the 16s, only two seeds were beaten in the second round. Qualifier Jackson Suh defeated No. 25 Timothy Sah 6-3, 7-5 and Oliver Crawford downed No. 24 seed JJ Wolf 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
Top seed John McNally, who played his opening round match at Western Michigan and his second round match on Court 5, defeated Kaden Funk 6-3, 6-4, yet was not particularly pleased with his performance.
"I was super nervous," said the 15-year-old from Cincinnati, Ohio. "I didn't play my game at all. He played well, but I didn't play that well. I was tight, and hopefully I'll get looser as the tournament goes on."
McNally has lost only one match all year, at the Intersectionals, and even he is not quite sure how to explain his record in 2014.
"This past year has been kind of unbelievable," said McNally, who has won Carson 16s, the Easter Bowl 16s, the 16s Clay Courts and the 18s Midwest Closed. "I didn't think I'd have this type of year, it's been unbelievable."
With a two-hour rain delay to start the morning, a long day was assured, and Sam Riffice, the No. 6 seed in the 16s, and his opponent, Ivan Thamma, extended it to just past 9 p.m, before Riffice came away with a 6-7(2), 7-6(6), 6-4 victory.
With all the other matches completed before 8 p.m., the few dozen spectators still on the premises gathered behind court 4 to see if Riffice could force a third set by winning the tiebreaker in the second. Although he didn't save any match points, the 15-year-old from Roseville, California was still tested mentally.
"In the first two sets, I think I was 0 for 9 on set points," Riffice said. "First set I was up 5-2, 40-15 and in the second set I was up about six set points before I finally got one."
During the ten-minute mandatory break between sets, Riffice consulted with his mother, who coached him when he was younger, about what he needed to do in the third.
"She said it was all legs," said Riffice, who said he was beginning to cramp at the end of the three-hour and 11 minute match. "And she said it was whoever wanted it more, who could stay out there longer, because we were both already really tired."
Riffice went up two breaks and had a 4-1 lead before Thamma, a 15-year-old from San Diego, broke back to make it 4-2. Riffice kept the second break however, and when it came time to close it out, his serve led the way.
"I was pretty nervous, but I got four first serves in," said Riffice. "I think that was the only time in the match that I got four first serves in. It came at a good time."
Although the crowd was sparse as darkness settled over the stadium, they were appreciative of the variety of shots, the quality of play and the composure of both Riffice and Thamma despite the tension. After one 30-shot rally featuring fierce hitting, slices, angles and top spin, applause was long and loud when Riffice finally ended the point with a Mach 1 forehand winner.
"I really wanted to win that match," said Riffice. "I just had to find a way to win, try to pull it out somehow."
The third round of doubles was played at Western Michigan University, and defending champion Paul Oosterbaan of Kalamazoo, who also lost in singles to Collin Altamirano earlier in the day, was denied a repeat. Oosterbaan and Joyce, the No. 11 seeds, were beaten by Kalman Boyd and Austin Rapp 4-6, 6-3, 10-5. Seven of the top eight seeds in the 18s are through to the fourth round.
In the 16s, No. 2 seeds Trent Bryde and Vasil Kirkov were beaten by Ryan Cheng and Max Pham 6-3, 4-6, 10-6.
Complete draws can be found at ustaboys.com.