Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Qualifier Lahey Upsets Top Seed Arconada to Reach ITF Pan American Closed Quarterfinals; McNally Outlasts Kypson in Battle of Kalamazoo Champions

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Tulsa, Oklahoma--

Ashley Lahey has finally healed, mentally.  After being out for over seven months with broken bones in both her feet, the 15-year-old Californian returned to competition this spring, but didn't feel confident against good players in tight situations.  In Wednesday's 6-3, 6-4 win over top seed Usue Arconada in the third round of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed, she overcame those doubts to reach her first Grade 1 quarterfinal.

"Honestly, I've been really struggling, because I know physically I can compete with these amazing players who I felt were so far ahead of me," said Lahey, who turns 16 later this month. "I've seen myself really, really close to the finish line and then thinking, I'm not good enough; I didn't train for the last year, they've been training harder than me.  Mentally, getting over that barrier was so much harder than the physical component. So this is huge for me, a really big breakthrough, because now I know physically and mentally, I can play against these players."

Although the score line may have looked routine, Lahey, a qualifier this week, faced several tests in the match.  After getting the first break to take a 4-2 lead, Lahey saved a break point in the next game, and when serving for the first set at 5-3, was down 0-40.  But she won the next five points, continuing to play aggressively, and benefitted from a net cord on on set point.

With her powerful serve and willingness to come forward to finish points, Lahey is not easy to get a rhythm against, and Arconada was even finding it difficult to outlast Lahey in long rallies. Lahey quickly went up 3-0, but Arconada got one of the breaks back and had time to turn the match around, but Lahey kept the pressure on.

"Naturally, I love to stay back and hit my heavy forehand, stay behind the baseline and grind," said Lahey, a high school junior who has verbally committed to Pepperdine. "That's my game, from when I was the little kid out there, but now that I'm tall and big, I need to use my strength and come forward...I kind of realized that would be the next step in my game, to move forward, and I've been trying to incorporate that.  It puts a lot of pressure on the other player when they know you are not going to just stand back there and get every ball. If they know you'll come forward, they have to find a way to pass you."

Up 5-2 and serving for the match, Lahey was broken, mostly due to unforced errors, but she continued to go for her shots in the next game and earned three match points. She didn't convert them, making errors on all three, so again Arconada had hope.  Serving for the match a second time, Lahey went up 40-15 and on her fourth match point, tried a serve and volley on an excellent first serve. Arconada got the volley back however, and Lahey couldn't handle the ball at her feet.  On match point No. 5, Lahey netted a backhand and let out a scream of frustration and pain.

"That was super frustration," said Lahey, who had lost to Arconada in the first round of the Easter Bowl this year. "In the past, I've had trouble finishing tough matches...Lately I've been doing a better job of it, but this one, she's such a tough competitor. And everything that I'd put in the back of my mind came back, oh, she's so good. I just told myself to relax, play the right way, but it's really hard to tell yourself that, because your body doesn't really listen to you. I had to think how did I get here and play that same way, don't just make a ball and hope she'll miss."

On match point No. 6, Lahey hit another superb first serve and when Arconada's forehand went wide, she could declare herself back, physically and mentally.

Lahey will play another Southern Californian, No. 9 seed Kelly Chen, who defeated unseeded Hanna Chang 6-2, 6-2.

Unseeded Meibel Chi defeated No. 3 seed Maria Mateas, coming from 7-5, 4-1 down to take a 5-7, 6-4, 6-2 decision.  She will play No. 12 seed Abi Altick, who won a three-hour and 27 minute marathon with No. 7 seed Sofia Sewing 7-6(4), 2-6, 7-5. After such a battle, the ending was anticlimactic, with Sewing double faulting down 0-40 serving to take the match into a final set tiebreaker.

Abigail Desiatnikov defeated fellow 14-year-old Natasha Subhash 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-2 and will play No. 13 seed Morgan Coppoc of Tulsa in the quarterfinals. Coppoc beat wild card Dalayna Hewitt 7-6(3), 6-3.  In the only girls quarterfinal that contains two seeds, No. 6 Kylie McKenzie will play No. 2 Kayla Day.  Day has been dominant this week, losing only six games in three matches, and today she defeated No. 14 seed Carson Branstine 6-0, 6-2.  McKenzie has struggled at times, and needed three sets again on Wednesday, beating No. 10 seed Dominique Schaefer of Peru 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.  All eight quarterfinalists are Americans.

On the boys side, six of the eight quarterfinalists are Americans, with the top two seeds, Benjamin Sigouin and Jack Mingjie Lin, representing Canada in the final eight.

Sigouin defeated unseeded Brian Shi 6-4, 6-3, winning the final six games of the match, and will play unseeded Oliver Crawford, who defeated unseeded Johnathan Small by the same score.  Lin needed three sets for the second straight day, but advanced to a meeting with JJ Wolf with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over Kyrylo Tsygura.  The unseeded Wolf beat unseeded Jake Van Emburgh 6-3, 6-2.

In the only all-seed matchup in the boys quarterfinals, No. 7 Zeke Clark will play No. 16 seed Nathan Perrone.  Clark, a Tulsa resident, beat fellow training partner at Tucker Tennis Academy William Genesen 6-1, 6-1, while Perrone eliminated the last boys qualifier, Max Mendelsohn, 7-5, 6-2.

In the only quarterfinal featuring two unseeded players, wild card Brandon Holt will play John McNally.  Holt again had little difficulty advancing, beating wild card Danny Thomas 6-1, 6-2, while McNally needed three hours and 15 minutes to beat reigning Kalamazoo 16s champion Patrick Kypson, the No. 10 seed, 6-7(8), 6-3, 6-3.

In the 90-minute first set, Kypson had two set points at 6-4 in the tiebreaker, then McNally, last year's Kalamazoo 16s champion, had two set points at 7-6 and 8-7. It was Kypson converting his third set point at 9-8, with a forehand return winner, but McNally barely reacted, despite how much he had invested and how close he had come to winning the set.

"I know he wants to beat me really badly," said McNally, who qualified for the main draw of the Mansfield Futures last week in Texas. "And I want to beat him really badly. I was just telling myself, you're going to win this match, you're going to win this match.  I get a break early in the second set, right off the bat, and that helped a lot. I didn't serve very well, so it helped me to get an early lead."

There were no breaks in the third set, but McNally again got the first one to take a 4-3 lead.

"I started to serve a little better, make a higher percentage of first serves," said McNally. "That always helps, especially against Patrick, because he's going to run down a lot of balls. I got one break, and that was all I needed."

McNally said his friendship with Kypson made the match emotionally difficult.

"Patrick's a great player and he's a really good friend also," said McNally, who will be 17 in four days. "It's tough playing him. I'm here with the USTA, and he is too. We eat with each other, wake up with each other, so it was rough. It was a really competitive match, and I didn't expect anything different; he's a great player and it was a good match."

The doubles quarterfinals are set for Thursday, with only two seeded teams remaining in the boys draw: No. 3 Kypson and Trent Bryde, and No. 6 Sebastian Arcila of Puerto Rico and Gerardo Penchyna Cardenas of Mexico.

In the girls doubles quarterfinals, top seeds Arconada and McKenzie are through to the final eight, as are No. 3 seeds Mateas and Coppoc, No. 5 seeds Branstine and Taylor Johnson and No. 8 seeds Madison Battaglia and Chang.  Due to an error in reporting, the No. 2 seeded doubles team of Chen and Alexandra Sanford were shown as losing their first round match Tuesday night, but they actually won it. They did fall today however, to unseeded Ann Li and Subhash, 6-3, 6-3.

Complete results and Thursday's order of play are available at the ITF junior website.