Top Kalamazoo 18s Seeds Survive After Anxious Moments; Wiersholm Defeats No. 8 Seed Blumberg, Stalder Ousts Riffice
©Colette Lewis 2015--
Not much came easy for the top seeds as they took to the Stowe Stadium courts for the first time in round two of the USTA Boys 18s Nationals.
Although No. 1 seed Frances Tiafoe picked up a routine 6-1, 6-3 win over Billy Rowe, No. 2 seed Taylor Fritz was just two points into his match with Alex Ross when something went awry with his knee.
"I don't know what shot I did it on," said Fritz, who won the match 6-1, 6-2. "It was one of two shots. One shot I jumped up and back for a deep forehand, so I could have landed funny on it, and then later on that point I went up and stop-started on that knee, so that might be what did it. I think I just jammed my knee in. I felt this weird pain on the next shot I hit on that point, it was bad actually. It was so painful when I went to serve, so I asked for a medical timeout."
The trainer wrapped the knee, and Fritz won that game and the next two, without being able to use his normal service motion.
"When I got back on, I still couldn't put any weight on it," Fritz said. "Any bending and pushing hurt. With the pain I was having, there was no chance I could play, but I was winning, so I kept playing. He was missing a lot of first serves, so I could move around his second serve and go for a winner. In the second set, he made more first serves and in the second set it started feeling better and better. I still couldn't do my full serve. But I'm not too worried about it."
No. 5 seed Michael Mmoh, who won a Futures title last week in Illinois, had his hands full with Sam Turchetta, but Turchetta blinked in the first set tiebreaker and Mmoh took advantage, closing out the match 7-6(0), 6-3. Nick Bollettieri, who is an honorary referee at the tournament, has mentored Mmoh throughout his five years at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, and watched Mmoh's performance while enjoying a picture-perfect midsummer day in Kalamazoo.
Wimbledon champion Reilly Opelka, the No. 6 seed, also had some nervous moments in the first set, falling behind Paul Barretto 3-1 before recovering for a 7-6(6), 6-3 win. No. 7 seed Alex Rybakov also was down early against Aron Pierce, with Pierce having four set points serving at 5-4, but Rybakov saved them all, won the subsequent tiebreaker and went on to a 7-6(4), 6-1 win.
No. 4 seed Tommy Paul needed only one set, which he won 6-2, to advance to the third round, with Lane Leschly retiring with a leg injury. No. 3 seed Stefan Kozlov was tested by Ole Miss rising sophomore Grey Hamilton, but last year's semifinalist hit some clutch backhand winners late to take a 6-4, 6-4 decision.
No. 8 seed William Blumberg was the only top 8 seed failing to advance, with Henrik Wiersholm defeating him 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. Wiersholm trailed 4-2 in the final set, but played error-free tennis in the final four games to get the win. A stunning running forehand winner at 4-all in the third got him the break, and he had no difficulty serving it out.
"It really came down to a couple of points here and there," said Wiersholm, the 2012 16s champion. "There was one point where I just hit a great passing shot. He should have won that. If he wins that point, you're probably talking to Will right now, to be honest."
Wiersholm knew Blumberg had been ill and pulled out of doubles on Friday, but thought that may not have been an advantage for him.
"He has a sinus infection, so he was breathing heavy at points, but I think that made him actually go after his shots more," said Wiersholm. "And when Will's going after his shots, he's really tough to play, because he has such good timing. The first set was kind of a blur. He was teeing off, I was hitting a little bit short and he was playing good ball. Fast tennis and 6-1 just like that. I told myself you have to recognize he's firing on all cylinders and you have to step it up now, hitting the ball deeper, moving him up and back and I was able to do that in the second set."
Wiersholm, who was seeded No. 12 last year, but is unseeded this year after a year at the University of Virginia, was philosophical about that position. And in teammate Collin Altamirano, who won the tournament unseeded in 2013, he has a blueprint if he needs one to inspire him.
"Collin is a great example of how seeding doesn't really matter," Wiersholm said. "If you want to win the tournament, which is the goal of all these players here, you have to beat everybody. So if I have to start early--first round was just as tough as this one, I played another great player--so be it. Just get after it."
Blumberg was the highest seed to fall in the second round, but far from the only one.
At a match played late in the afternoon at Western Michigan University, Reese Stalder defeated No. 9 seed and Clay Court champion Sam Riffice 6-4, 2-6, 7-6(6). According to those at the match, the last twenty minutes of the match featured great tennis and great sportsmanship by both players, with both playing to win until Stalder collected the final point of the match.
No. 15 seed Eric Rutledge lost to Michael Genender 6-2, 6-1, No. 16 seed Zeke Clark lost to Logan Smith 6-3, 6-4 and 2014 16s finalist Connor Hance, the No. 21 seed this year in 18s, lost to Grayson Broadus 6-2, 5-7, 6-3. No. 26 seed Kalman Boyd lost to Jack Turchetta 6-4, 7-5, No. 27 seed Andrew Heller was beaten by Vincent Lin 6-2, 6-2 and No. 32 seed Matthew Gamble lost to Ryan Dickerson 7-5, 6-4.
First round action in the boys 16s began Saturday, with all seeded players and doubles teams starting their tournament on Sunday. The boys 18s have only the third round of doubles on Sunday.
Complete draws with results can be found at ustaboys.com