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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Wolf Takes Out Second Seed Lin to Advance to ITF Pan American Closed Semifinals; Altick Fights Back to Beat Chi

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Tulsa, Oklahoma--

JJ Wolf is not concerned about his ranking or his standing against more experienced ITF Junior competitors.  The unseeded 16-year-old from Cincinnati is determined instead to "have fun," and this week at the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed, that mindset has led to four straight-set wins, including Thursday's 6-4, 6-1 defeat of No. 2 seed Jack Lin of Canada.

With temperatures over 90 degrees and no clouds to provide any relief, Wolf had to be pleased about minimizing his time on court. The match may have turned on two games in the first set, when Wolf held from 0-40 down at 2-3, then broke Lin in the next game.  Wolf then broke the 16-year-old right-hander twice to take a 3-0 lead in the second set, and although Lin got one of the breaks back, he could not overcome the combination of power and defense that Wolf exhibited.

"He's a super hard competitor, solid everywhere and he has a really good serve for his size," said Wolf, who will be playing in his first ITF Grade 1 semifinal on Friday. "He hit his spots well. These matches, if you look at the stats, I might have won five more points than him this match. The score was not as close in the second but all the games were close."

Wolf has made some changes to his serve, which he mentioned as a key to his success this week.

"I'm hitting it a little harder now," said Wolf.  "I'm not making it very much, but I'm just trying to have fun."

After qualifying at the US Open Junior Championships and winning his first round match, Wolf proved he could compete with the top juniors, but that is not his focus.

"I think that gave me a little bit of self-assurance, that if I play my game, maybe I can play with some of these kids," Wolf said. "But I don't think too much about how good the other guy is if I'm having fun and playing the right way for the future."

Wolf will play No. 7 seed Zeke Clark, who defeated No. 16 seed Nathan Perrone 6-2, 6-2.  Clark, who had lost to Perrone at last year's Orange Bowl, said he is very comfortable on the Michael D. Case Tennis Center courts, with the 17-year-old Tulsa resident already having played this tournament five times. 

Wild card Brandon Holt continued his run this week, defeating unseeded John McNally 6-2, 6-4.  Down 0-40 serving at 4-3 in the second set, Holt won five straight points to keep his lead and closed out McNally two games later with a forehand volley winner. The 17-year-old from Rolling Hills, California will face top seed Benjamin Sigouin of Canada, who beat unseeded Oliver Crawford 6-3, 6-4.  All four of the boys semifinalists have not dropped a set in their first four wins this week.

That is not true of girls No. 12 seed Abi Altick, who has had two grueling three-set matches, particularly in yesterday's third round and then again today. 

After dropping the first set 6-0 to unseeded Meibel Chi, Altick didn't look as if she would be spending much time on the court Thursday.  But as quickly as Chi took the first set, Altick took the second, and went up 5-0 in the third before closing out a 0-6, 6-1, 6-3 win.

"She came out playing really well," said the 17-year-old from Louisiana, who needed three hours and 27 minutes to defeat No. 7 seed Sofia Sewing on Wednesday. "Her serve was really on and she has a really good forehand, which she wasn't missing much. In the second set, I sort of changed my mindset. I started going for more and being more aggressive because it just wasn't working, not at all."

Altick said her slow start was also a result of the previous day's marathon.

"It took a while to warm up," Altick said. "I'm still a little sore, but I'm taking ibuprofen, so that's helping."

Up 5-0 in the third, Altick had two match points with Chi serving, but Chi got on the board and broke Altick for 5-2.  Chi saved another match point in her nextvservice game, but she held and Altick had another chance to serve it out.  Chi made too many unforced errors to pressure Altick in the final game, with Altick going up 40-0 and converting her fourth match point when a Chi backhand went long.

"I was really on a roll, but I started getting a little nervous," said Altick, who trains in Boca Raton, Florida. "She really went after her forehand in those last couple of games, so I just tried to get it to the backhand. I still thought I was going to win, that I could do it, but yeah, I was relieved."

Altick will face No. 9 seed Kelly Chen in the first ITF Grade 1 final for both, after Chen ended qualifier Ashley Lahey's run with a 6-1, 6-4 quarterfinal win. 

No. 2 seed Kayla Day, a quarterfinalist here last year, reached her first Grade 1 semifinal with a 6-2, 6-3 win over No. 6 seed Kylie McKenzie. Day and Chen have both reached the semifinals without dropping a set, while Day's next opponent, 14-year-old Abigail Desiatnikov, has had her share of tough matches.  In the quarterfinals today, the unseeded Desiatnikov managed to get through in straight sets after two long three-setters the previous two days, beating No. 13 seed Morgan Coppoc 6-4, 7-6(3), but it will be interesting to see if the many more hours spent on court compared to Day will have an impact in their semifinal Friday.

The doubles semifinals are set, with only one seeded team remaining in the girls draw.

Top seeds Usue Arconada and McKenzie lost to unseeded Chi and Hurricane Tyra Black 2-6, 7-5, 10-8, and No. 5 seeds Carson Branstine and Taylor Johnson were defeated by unseeded Elysia Bolton and Clarissa Hand 7-5, 6-4.  Bolton and Hand will meet unseeded Natasha Subhash and Ann Li, who defeated No. 8 seeds Madison Battaglia and Hanna Chang 6-1 ,7-5, while Chi and Black play No. 3 seeds Coppoc and Maria Mateas.  Coppoc and Mateas defeated unseeded Mimi Levine and Layne Sleeth of Canada 6-4, 6-3, their third consecutive straight-set win.

Two seeded teams remain in the boys final four.  No. 3 seeds Trent Bryde and Patrick Kypson won a contentious match against unseeded Robert Hammond and Sebastian Mermersky 3-6, 6-2, 10-4 and will face unseeded Vasil Kirkov and Holt, the only player still remaining in both singles and doubles, in the semifinals. Kirkov and Holt beat unseeded Fernando Ramirez Lascurain of Mexico and Christopher Vleeming Ortiz of Guatemala 6-1, 7-6(2).

No. 6 seeds Sebastian Arcila of Puerto Rico and Gerardo Penchyna Cardenas of Mexico defeated Keenan Mayo and Danny Thomas 6-3, 6-2 to advance to a meeting with unseeded Lane Leschly and Max Mendelsohn. Leschly and Medelsohn won their third consecutive straight-set match Thursday, beating unseeded John Jorgeson and Jakub Wojcik 6-3, 6-0.

Play will begin at 9:30 am Central Time on Friday, with Holt and Sigouin in singles and the girls doubles semifinals. The three other singles are to follow, not before 11,  with the boys doubles semifinals after the singles, not before noon.

Complete draws can be found at the ITF Junior website, where there is also coverage of this week's Grade A Osaka Cup in Japan.