Friday, October 16, 2015

Day Saves Two Match Points to Reach ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Final Against Chen; Unseeded Holt and Wolf Meet for Boys Title

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Tulsa, Oklahoma--

For four days, No. 2 seed Kayla Day methodically took out her opponents at the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed. The weather changed overnight and along with cooler temperatures, drama was also in the air for the 16-year-old from Santa Barbara, California, who saved two match points to defeat unseeded Abigail Desiatnikov 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) to advance to Saturday's final.

Down 3-0 with Desiatnikov serving in the final set, Day won the next three games, only to be broken in the next game, giving the unseeded 14-year-old a 4-3 lead.

"I decided at 3-all just to start going for more," said Day, who felt her mental and physical energy drop at the start of the third set. "I was playing too tentative. At 4-3, she played a pretty good game, a better game than I did."

With Kay serving at 3-5, Desiatnikov had two match points. She missed the first on a netted forehand early in the point, but the second, which ended with another Desiatnikov forehand error, came after a long rally, with Day refusing to flinch.

"I got a little bit lucky," said the left-hander. "I just rallied and she missed on those."

Prior to serving for the match at 5-4, Desiatnikov took a medical timeout, with the trainer working on her lower back.  In obvious pain when play resumed, Desiatnikov went down 15-40. She saved one break point with a forehand winner, but Day hit a forehand return winner at 30-40 to even the match.

Both players held, the only back-to-back holds of the set, for the deciding tiebreaker. Desiatnikov had already claimed her second round win over No. 5 seed Jade Lewis of New Zealand by taking a third set tiebreaker, but she was not up to the task this time, with several unforced errors giving Kay a 5-2 lead.  A good first serve made it 6-2, and although Day netted a forehand on her first match point, she converted the second with a forehand forcing an error from Desiatnikov.

"I was just solid in the tiebreaker and she was, I think, just tight," said Day, who showed little emotion throughout the nearly three-hour match, but did voice a loud c'mon at its completion.  "She missed some easy balls that she wasn't missing before. I went for two forehands and it worked out."

Day's opponent in Saturday's final is No. 9 seed Kelly Chen, who defeated No. 12 seed Abi Altick 6-2, 6-3. Chen has yet to lose more than four games in any set this week, but the 16-year-old from Cerritos, California said her win over Altick was a difficult one.

"I'm working on my volleys and trying to be more aggressive on the court," said Chen, who has trained at the USTA's Boca Raton Center the past three weeks. "So that's how I've tried to play here. She played very well today, and I was a bit defensive. I felt she was taking control of most points, but I thought I handled it well. My defense was pretty good so I stayed in there most of the time."

With her goal for next year set on playing the junior slams, Chen realizes her performance here can go a long way to achieving that.

"I'm pretty excited," Chen said. "It's my first Grade 1 final. I've worked pretty hard the past few weeks and I'm ready to do my best in the final."

The boys final will feature two unseeded players, with Brandon Holt and JJ Wolf both dismissing seeds in straight sets.

Holt has played only four ITF Junior events in his career, and the bulk of the points that make up his ranking of 714 come from his recent US Open Junior Championships doubles final.  But in his 6-0, 6-1 dismantling of top seed and 83rd-ranked Benjamin Sigouin of Canada in Friday's semifinals, Holt proved his ranking doesn't reflect the level of his game.

"I've haven't played many ITF tournaments, so I don't think I should be seeded or anything," said the 17-year-old University of Southern California recruit. "My ranking's like 700 or something. But I feel really comfortable playing with any of the kids out here. I've been working hard and playing well recently and I've been using my wild cards pretty well."

Holt, who reached the US Open Junior doubles final as a wild card, and won a Futures doubles title (both with Riley Smith) as a wild card, is also a wild card in this tournament, but a spectator would have had suspected he was the No. 1 seed, not Sigouin. 

Although he had not lost a set in the tournament until today, Sigouin was unable to find the court in the first set, and he was down 3-0 in the second set before he won a game.

"He plays really aggressive and takes a lot of chances," said Holt. "He is bound to make a few more errors, but he has a lot of upside too if he's playing well."

But getting any feel in a match when your opponent is off can be tricky as well, which Holt acknowledged.

"It was tough for me to get a rhythm for sure," said Holt. "Definitely in the beginning he was making a lot of errors, so I was just trying to make balls. That's not normally my game, I like to play aggressive, and so by the time he started getting his energy a little bit in the second set, it was tough for me to play well, especially to close out the match at the end. I wasn't really feeling I could really hit the ball offensively because the whole match I was just making the ball in, making him play. So it was hard to change that, but I played well."

Although the first set of JJ Wolf's 6-1, 7-5 win over No. 7 seed Zeke Clark could have been mistaken for a set in the Holt-Sigouin match, Wolf knew better.

"He's never going to give up," said Wolf, who won the first four games of the match. "He's the biggest fighter probably in junior tennis right now, so I was lucky to pull that match out."

In the second set, Wolf led 4-2 and had two break points with Clark serving at 15-40. But to the delight of several dozen local supporters, the 17-year-old Tulsa resident won the next four points and broke Wolf in the next game for 4-4.

After holding for 5-4, Clark had a set point at 30-40, but netted a forehand, and Wolf went on to hold.

"That's a shot that he doesn't miss, it never happens," said Wolf, a 16-year-old from Cincinnati. "It was just unlucky. There's so much wind out here, whenever you get a high ball it just floats around, so it was a tough shot."

Clark was broken in the next game, missing an overhead on a good lob from Wolf, and Wolf reached his first Grade 1 final by holding to 15 in the final game.

Wolf and Holt haven't played before, but Wolf has seen Holt's results this week.

"He has really good timing, hits the ball solid every time," said Wolf, who like Holt, was a sportsmanship award winner this year in Kalamazoo. "I haven't gotten to watch him play much, but he's a great competitor also. He's been taking it to some people this tournament, so I'll be ready to fight."

Holt will also be playing in the doubles final, after he and Vasil Kirkov, who are unseeded, defeated No. 3 seeds Trent Bryde and Patrick Kypson 7-5, 6-3.  After the boys singles match on Saturday morning, Holt and Kirkov will face No. 6 seeds Sebastian Arcila of Puerto Rico and Gerardo Penchyna Cardenas of Mexico for the doubles title.  Arcila and Penchyna beat unseeded Lane Leschly and Max Mendelsohn 7-6(4), 6-3.

The girls doubles final will feature two unseeded teams, with Hurricane Tyra Black and Meible Chi facing Ann Li and Natasha Subhash.  Black and Chi took out No. 3 seeds Morgan Coppoc and Maria Mateas 6-4, 7-5, while Li and Subhash defeated the unseeded team of Elysia Bolton and Clarissa Hand 6-2, 3-6, 10-8, winning six of the last eight points after trailing 6-4 in the match tiebreaker.

The boys singles final and the girls doubles final are scheduled for 9 a.m. Central time Saturday morning, with the girls singles to follow the doubles and the boys doubles to follow the singles.

Complete draws can be found at the ITF Junior website.