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Monday, February 22, 2016

Teens Crawford, Ambrozy Qualify for Plantation Futures; Emory Wins Men's Division III Team Indoor; Nanda, Corley Claim Titles in Guatemala Grade 4

 ©Colette Lewis 2016--
Plantation, FL--

Oliver Crawford may give up a foot or more in height to Reilly Opelka, but the 16-year-old from South Carolina did not consider that a disadvantage at all, and he proved it Monday afternoon, with a quick 6-3, 6-4 victory over the reigning Junior Wimbledon champion in the final round of qualifying at the $10,000 Plantation Futures.

"I enjoy playing big people like that, big servers and guys who hit the ball hard," Crawford said of the 6-foot-11 inch Opelka. "I had fun today. I enjoyed figuring out how to beat someone taller, who had a lot of power, and I managed to get a few sneaky returns and stuff, so that was good. I played the best tennis that I've played in a while, so I was pleased."

After taking the first set in approximately 20 minutes, Crawford continued to return well, often catching Opelka off guard, while getting Opelka's volleys and smashes improbably back in play.  When Crawford held for 3-3 in the second set, Opelka, who frequently provides a running commentary on the state of his game during his matches, said, "this is the best player I've ever been on a court with, ever," and with the shots that Crawford was making, Opelka didn't appear to be exaggerating.

Opelka held at love to make it 4-3 in the second set, and had two break points to serve for the set, after Crawford ran into the back corner attempting to retrieve a ball and crashed to the Har-Tru court.  Opelka immediately asked if he was ok, and asked a second time as Crawford stumbled a bit on his way back to the baseline. Opelka told Crawford to take his time, but Crawford showed no ill effects, hitting a good first serve that Opelka didn't get back in play to save the first break point.  On the second break point, Opelka netted a backhand, and two points later, Crawford had held for 4-4.

"I played two good points there," said Crawford. "I decided I was going to go for it and that if I didn't get it, I didn't get it. I had gotten a bit tentative. At 30-40 I hit a good shot and he hit a backhand that caught the top of the net, so I was a bit fortunate."

Crawford then broke Opelka at love, continuing with his outstanding play, anticipating an overhead and sending it back with more pace than Opelka could handle.  Opelka said "he should be in Acapulco right now," referencing the ATP event there this week, and Crawford continued to play like it, finishing the game with a return that just caught the baseline and sideline.

Serving for the match, and his first main draw appearance in a Futures, Crawford benefited from three unforced errors by Opelka, ending his streak of 12 straight points to close the match with a perfectly struck backhand cross court pass with Opelka at the net.

But despite what was certainly the biggest win of his junior career, Crawford didn't want to read too much into the result.

"He's been injured lately," said Crawford, who will travel with the USTA to Brazil for the ITF Junior Grade 1 and Grade A events next month. "He's been practicing a fair bit, but hasn't been playing that much. This is first few tournaments back, and I caught him on a good day. We're good friends. I have a lot of respect for Reilly and he's a great guy."

Crawford will play Peter Torebko of Germany in the first round on Wednesday. 

Adam Ambrozy also reached his first main draw of a Futures event, beating former ATP No. 137 Carlos Salamanca of Colombia 6-4, 6-2, but the 18-year-old Columbia recruit was not exactly celebrating, with a school project back at St. Petersburg High awaiting him Monday night.

"I have to go back to St. Pete today," said Ambrozy, who, as a qualifier, will not play his main draw match until Wednesday. "I have to go to school tomorrow. I may have a late night tonight doing that project."

Ambrozy got his first straight-set win in his four qualifying matches against No. 14 seed Salamanca, a 33-year-old who reached 137 in the ATP rankings back in 2010.

"He was the first lefty I'd played in this tournament, so I had to change my mindset going into the match," Ambrozy said. "He ran around his forehand really well, so getting it to his backhand was tough to do, so I would play to his forehand, make him run for it, and he wasn't as good there. So that was my mindset, put him wide to the forehand, get it to the backhand, come in, hit a bunch of drop shots. I returned well; he had a pretty good serve."

Ambrozy, who had beaten No. 2 seed Gianni Mina of France in a third set tiebreaker on Sunday, didn't know that Salamanca had been so highly ranked.

"I don't like to psych myself out," Ambrozy said. "I looked at his current ranking and saw he was in the 800s, had a good amount of points. But I went to it as a winnable match. I'm a good player. I have a lot of confidence right now, so my mindset right now is that I could beat anyone at this point. But that's pretty impressive, that he was 150 in the world."

Ambrozy has drawn No. 3 seed and ATP No. 246 Christian Lindell of Sweden as his first round opponent.  Salamanca will be in the main draw as a lucky loser.

A third teenager, Juan Pablo Ficovich of Argentina, made the main draw, beating Joao Walendowsky of Brazil 2-6, 7-5, 7-5, with Walendowsky getting the second lucky loser spot in the main draw.

Gonzales Austin is the only other American to qualify, with the No. 11 seed beating No. 5 seed Felipe Mantilla of Colombia 3-6, 7-5, 6-1.  Seventeen-year-old Evan Zhu fell just short of the main draw for the third time, losing to David Fleming of Chile 7-6(6), 7-6(8) in a match that took over three hours for two sets.

Martin Alund of Argentina, Jason Kubler of Australia and recent USC graduate Roberto Quiroz of Ecuador also qualified for the main draw with straight set wins on Monday.

Five matches are on the schedule for Tuesday, with young wild cards Patrick Kypson and Vasil Kirkov drawing Argentina's Patricio Heras and Facundo Mena respectively .  Orange Bowl champion Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia will play No. 2 seed Noah Rubin, top seed Darian King will face Andrea Collarini of Argentina and wild card Wil Spencer meets No. 8 seed Caio Zampieri of Brazil. All eight first round doubles matches will also be played on Tuesday.

Emory University won its sixth men's Division III ITA Team Indoor title yesterday in Cleveland, with the No. 3 seed defeating No. 4 seed University of Chicago 7-2.  Host Case Western Reserve finished in third place with Carnegie Mellon coming in fourth. For more on the championships, see the ITA tournament page.

#5 Emory University 7, #6 University of Chicago 2 
Feb 21, 2016 at Pepper Pike, Ohio
1. Rafe Mosetick (EUM) def. Chua, Nicolas (UCM) 7­5, 6­7(4­), 10­6
2. Jonathan Jemison (EUM) def. Kranz, Sven (UCM) 6­4, 6­3
3. Aman Manji (EUM) def. Pei, Charlie (UCM) 7­5, 6­4
4. Adrien Bouchet (EUM) def. Leung, Peter (UCM) 6­4, 6­4
5. Liu, David (UCM) def. Josh Goodman (EUM) 6­1, 6­1
6. Liu, Max (UCM) def. Andrew Harrington (EUM) 7­5, 7­5
Doubles competition
1. Scott Rubinstein/James Spaulding (EUM) def. Chua, Nicolas/Liu, David (UCM) 8­6
2. Rafe Mosetick/Jonathan Jemison (EUM) def. Leung, Peter/Pei, Charlie (UCM) 8­5
3. David Omsky/Andrew Harrington (EUM) def. Selin, Michael/Tsai, Luke (UCM) 8­4

Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (5,4,2,3,1,6)

In ITF Junior action last week, American juniors swept the singles titles at the Grade 4 in Guatemala.

No. 7 seed Govind Nanda, who just turned 15, won his first ITF junior title, defeating unseeded Neil Oberleitner of Austria 6-3, 6-0 in the final. Eighteen-year-old Paris Corley, the No. 2 seed, took the girls title, the second of her ITF junior career, beating No. 1 seed Jimena Rodriguez-Benito 6-1, 6-2 in the championship match.  Rodriguez-Benito did get a win over Corley in doubles, partnering Alexandra Angyalosy for a 6-3, 6-7(4), 10-7 win over Corley and Salma Ewing in the all-American final.

At the Grade 2 in Chile, American success came in the doubles draw, with Zeke Clark and Gui Gomes, the No. 5 seeds, taking the boys title.  Clark and Gomes defeated No. 6 seed Juan Carlos Manuel Aguilar of Bolivia and Nicaise Muamba of Canada 3-6, 6-4, 10-8 in the final.  Raquel Pedraza and Melany Krywoj of Argentina, the No. 2 seeds, beat No. 5 seeds Chiara Lommer and Anna-Lena Neuwirth of Austria 6-7(4), 6-3, 10-3 in the girls championship match.