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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Tiafoe and Paul Book Semifinal Meeting in Kalamazoo 18s; Wolf and Kypson to Face Off in 16s; US Girls Reach World Junior Tennis Final

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Kalamazoo, MI--

Form held in the top half of both the 16s and 18s draws Thursday, with 18s top seed Frances Tiafoe and 16s No. 1 JJ Wolf advancing to Saturday's semifinals with straight-set wins.

Tiafoe defeated No. 6 seed and Wimbledon boys champion Reilly Opelka 6-4, 7-6(3) in front of a crowd of over 1,000 fans enjoying a cool and partly cloudy day at Stowe Stadium.

"It was unbelievable," said Tiafoe, who the week prior to Kalamazoo had played a main draw match against Australian Sam Groth at the ATP tournament in Atlanta. "It was way more people than in Atlanta. Atlanta crowds are getting better over the years, still not great, and also I'm a wild card, not from Atlanta, but way more people here. And this has been the most since I've been here. I guess people were really looking forward to this match, and that's when I play better. I like when there's a lot of people there. I interact with the crowd, I was talking to Reilly's dad a lot; George[Opelka's father] is a great guy."

The match could hardly have started worse for the 6-foot-10 Opelka, as he dropped the first game on serve, and was unable to pressure Tiafoe on his serve.

Opelka slowed down in the second set, and held serve throughout, although he was not as dominant on serve as Tiafoe was.  Using his slice to coax errors from Opelka, Tiafoe made very few of his own, cruising through most of his service games.

"I didn't break in the second, but I knew, after playing Groth last week, I knew the importance of holding serve," said Tiafoe. "His serve is going to be one of the best when he gets older. But I returned well, served well. The guy's so tall, you want to keep the ball low. I got a lot of errors from the slice, and I wanted to play with a lot of variety to keep him moving a lot. I didn't let him take too many big cuts today, which is good."

Tiafoe went up a mini-break to open the tiebreaker, but immediately lost his two points on serve.

"I was a little tight after I went down 2-1 in the breaker with him serving," said Tiafoe, who won the next two points when Opelka double faulted and missed a volley. "That's never good when you're playing a big server, but he dropped in a couple of doubles in the breaker rushing, and that's what I was hoping for. Reilly does that a lot, especially when he gets nervous, starts rushing, starts playing mindless tennis, and that's what I was waiting for. But I played solid today, really served well and I'm happy to get through."

While Tiafoe was closing out Opelka, who had beaten him the last two times they'd played in 2013 and 2014, Paul was deep into the second set with No. 7 seed Alex Rybakov. Unlike Tiafoe, Paul couldn't recover from a few loose points in a second-set tiebreaker, but went on to record a 6-3, 6-7(3) 6-1 win.

Paul had won four straight games after trailing 2-1 in the first set, and overcame his recent difficulties in serving out a set, although he did need to save three break points to do it.

Both players held serve throughout the second set, but a 3-3 at the change of ends, it was Paul who lost the plot, hitting a forehand long and making two backhand errors to give Rybakov three sets points, the first of which he converted.

Paul, who has been struggling with an illness all week, said he finally felt better today, and in the third set he demonstrated it, dictating points and keeping Rybakov on defense.

"In the third, I just told myself, all right, we're going to get his serve back and try to play deep and hard, make him take balls on the rise and move me," said the reigning French Open boys champion. "I though I did a pretty good job of keeping him on the run."

Tiafoe defeated Paul in three sets at the Weston Futures in January of this year, but it's a match in Kalamazoo when Paul won the 16s title in 2013 that immediately came to mind.

"Two years ago, same exact day, semis," Paul recalled of his 6-2, 6-4 win. "We'd played six times before that match and he'd beaten me all six times. And before the match, he was talking so much crap, and I was like, no, Frances, this time I'm going to let you talk all the crap you want, but right before we shook hands, I said I've got this one. And he got so mad. It'd be nice if it goes that way again, but it's going to be tough. He's playing very good tennis right now, but you never know what to expect with him, he can come out playing really well, so you've got to expect him to play his best tennis."

After dropping the first set he played in Kalamazoo as the 16s top seed, JJ Wolf has cruised in his next four matches, including Thursday's 6-4, 6-2 win over No. 25 seed Trent Bryde.

"I think I just had to get the nerves out, said the 16-year-old from Cincinnati. "The first round is always very tough, but I've just tried to have fun and play my game. I playing these matches, but not specifically trying to win them. I'm trying to build my game for the future. So every match I'm improving a little bit and that's helped me a lot."

Wolf said he knew that Bryde had won a qualifying match last month in the ATP event in Atlanta, calling it "really impressive," but he wasn't intimidated by that.

"I try not to think about him too much, just focus on myself," said Wolf, who learned tennis at the same club as last year's 16s champion John McNally.

Wolf opened up a 3-0, two-break lead in the first set, but Bryde got one break back to get on the board. Bryde couldn't dent the consistency that  Wolf demonstrated, which he says is definitely new facet of his game.

"When I was little, I was very impatient and that's what I've been working on lately, being more what my coaches and I like to say relentless," said Wolf. "Not giving up any points and hitting to the bigger spots and that's helped me a lot the past few years."

As so many of the fans and other players and coaches here this week, Wolf has watched the stellar 18s field with interest.

"I do like to watch them," said the 16-year-old Wolf. "You can see that their tennis minds have matured a lot. They know their game, they know what they need to do to win. So when you have a specific game plan like that, you're usually pretty successful. And they're all very talented also."

Wolf will play No. 3 seed Patrick Kypson, who defeated No. 15 seed William Howells 6-3, 6-2.

Kypson and Wolf last met in the back draw of of the Kalamazoo 16s last year, with Wolf winning 6-4, 6-3.

"He beat me pretty easily, in straight sets, but I'm playing pretty well right now," said the 15-year-old, who is just returning to competition after a ruptured appendix kept him in the hospital for 12 days in June. "If he plays well, he's going to win, if I play well, I'm going to win and if we both play really well, it's going to be a good match."

Kypson mostly scouts his opponents himself.

"Pretty much everyone here, I know exactly how they play, everything they do well, everything they don't do too well," said Kypson, who trains both at home and with the USTA in Boca Raton. "I just like watching tennis so I pick a lot up off from that."

As for Wolf, Kypson has gotten advice from his father and his coach Chris Cloer, as well as his own observations.

"He's really solid from the ground, really good when you put the ball in his strike zone," said Kypson, who, like Tommy Paul, is from Greenville, North Carolina. "But I think once you get him on the defense, that's how I'll play most of the match. It's going to be hard, because he starts out the point pretty solid, a good serve and when you put it in play, he goes for it, so I'm going to have to mix up the paces, try to get him on the defense. If I can do that, I can play a good match."

Friday's quarterfinals will decide the semifinalists in the bottom half of both draws.  No. 2 seed Taylor Fritz will play No. 5 seed Michael Mmoh and No. 3 seed Stefan Kozlov faces No. 12 seed Eduardo Nava in the 18s.  In the 16s, No. 5 seed Sean Sculley will meet No. 4 seed Alexandre Rotsaert and No. 8 seed Kyrylo Tsygura will play No. 16 seed Jason Lui.

The 16s doubles quarterfinals were played Thursday afternoon, with the semifinals in both divisions scheduled for Friday afternoon.

No. 14 seeds Jackson Allen and Carson Haskins defeated unseeded Arnav Dhingra and Trey Hilderbrand 5-7, 6-3, 10-5 and will play No. 8 seeds Bryce Pereira and Ivan Thamma.  Pereira and Thamma beat No. 4 seed Zummy Bauer and Cotter Wilson 6-2, 6-4.

In the bottom half, unseeded Cody Lin and Andrew Ton advanced to the semifinals with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over No. 12 seed Blake Croyder and Joseph Gandolfo. They will play No. 7 seed Howells and Danny Thomas, who beat unseeded Alexander Brown and Brady Draheim 6-2, 7-5.

Complete results of the day's action can be found at ustaboys.com.

At semifinals of the girls 16s and the quarterfinals of the girls 18s in San Diego are set for Friday. Full draws are at the TennisLink site.

G16s quarterfinal results:
Natasha Subhash (1), Fairfax, Va., def.  McCartney Kessler (17), Calhoun, Ga., 6-2, 6-2
Marlee Zein, Sugar Land, Texas, def.  Victoria Flores (2), Fort Dodge, Iowa, 7-5, 6-4
Abigail Desiatnikov, Atlanta, def. Clarissa Hand (6), Moorestown, N.J., 2-6, 6-3, 6-4
Whitney Osuigwe (15), Bradenton, Fla., def. Hannah Zhao (10), San Diego, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2

G18s Round of 16:
Tornado Ali Black (1), Boca Raton, Fla., def. Kelly Chen (14), Cerritos, Calif., 6-1, 6-2
Usue Arconada (2), Rio Piedras, P.R., def. Jada Hart (17), Colton, Calif., 6-3, 6-2
Sofia Kenin (3), Pembroke Pines, Fla., def. Kennedy Shaffer (17), Rossford, Ohio, 6-1, 6-3
Raveena Kingsley (5), Fulton, Md., def. Kayla Day (9), Santa Barbara, Calif., 6-7 (8), 6-1, 6-4
Kylie McKenzie (17), Anthem, Ariz., def. Francesca Dilorenzo (6), New Albany, Ohio, 6-3, 6-3
Ingrid Neel (7), Bradenton, Fla., def.  Ena Shibahara (11), Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., 6-1, 7-5
Claire Liu (8), Thousand Oaks, Calif., def. Taylor Russo (17), Deerfield Beach, Fla., 7-5, 6-4
Sara Daavettila (16), Williamston, Mich., def. Brienne Minor (17), Mundelein, Ill., 6-1, 4-6, 7-6( 5)

At the ITF World Junior Tennis competition in the Czech Republic, the US girls have advanced to Saturday's final against Russia with a 3-0 win over Poland in today's semifinals.  The US boys lost to Spain 2-1, losing both singles matches. Spain will play Korea in the boys final.  For more on the semifinal action, see the ITF junior website.


Brent said...

Random observations from a very enjoyable day at the Zoo today...

- this group at the top (Fritz, Paul, Tiafoe, Kozlov, Opelka, Mmoh, Rybakov) have a chance to be really special. I think having the friendly rivalries to push each other has to help as well, but wow, there is a lot of talent there - and the results already to prove it

- thought Tiafoe came in with a great game plan that Colette highlighted in her piece. He really played pretty conservative in rallies and many of Opelka's errors off the ground didn't come off being forced or hurried but came off off-speed stuff

- it is ridiculous for a national championship quarterfinal that you wouldn't have a full slate of line judges. The poor people being asked to call the center service line and then race over to catch the sideline were really struggling

- General things I was impressed with - Tiafoe's wheels and variety, Opelka's serve, Paul's backhand, the improvement in Rybakov's oney, Wolf's forehand, the potential of Kirkov

- there is a big delta right now between the top of the 16s and the top of the 18s, not that some of those 16s don't have very bright futures

Should be fun to see how the tourney wraps up. Can't beat a day at the Zoo! Should be on any tennis fan's bucket list.

Dave said...

It's really amazing that these guys consider a crowd of just 1,000 at a big tournament like this huge. What does that say about the popularity of tennis. Not much.

Em said...

I think a crowd of 1,000 at a junior tennis tournament is fantastic. No matter how prestigious this is still a junior tournament. At many challengers in Europe you won't even have a 100 spectators in the final rounds.

AR Hacked Off said...

Brent: Watch the DC tournament what you are talking about on officials moving from center to sideline is used their as well in the early rounds, common practice in officiating. It is actually nice that Kalamazoo is able use a Chair +5 from QF's on.

Doctor in the House said...

Once Again…the Back Draw Flu is effecting players at the Nats in Kzoo….Always Happens this time of year:)
1000 Spectators at a Junior Tournament? Fantastic! Most Futures and College Matches never have 1000 spectators in the stands..So Congrats to Kalamazoo , Michigan for getting Fans in the Stands!

Curious said...

Would the USTA/Zoo ever add a second camera or just a GPO, so someone could watch more than one of the main 3 courts? Perhaps, set up one or two cameras on a YouTube Channel the way Baylor did at the NCAAs?

Colette Lewis said...

Talk of 2 cameras for the front courts for next year, but nothing firm. The money would have to raised for anything else.