My Kalamazoo Preview; Hance and Kiger Upset Top 18s Doubles Seeds Mmoh and Ponwith; Opelka Beats Young to Reach ATP Atlanta Semifinals
©Colette Lewis 2016--
The USTA Boys 18s and 16s National Championships got underway here Friday with the first round of 18 singles, and as I try to do every year, I provide a preview of the tournament for the Tennis Recruiting Network. The Tennis Recruiting Network is again providing projections for all the National Championships next week, and Bobby Knight at College Tennis Today has a page with facts and figures on the Kalamazoo tournament.
No seeded players took the court today in singles, as all had byes for the first round, but the first and second rounds of doubles were played this afternoon, and five of the 16 seeded teams were eliminated, including No. 1 seeds Nathan Ponwith and Michael Mmoh, who lost to Connor Hance and Mac Kiger 7-6(5), 6-3.
Hance and Kiger had never played together prior to their 6-4, 6-1 first round win over Andrew Redding and Drew Singerman, but they were in sync against Ponwith and Mmoh. Ponwith, who won both the Grade 1s in California this spring, and Mmoh, who reached the doubles semifinals in Australia and Wimbledon Juniors last year, also had no experience together as a team, with Mmoh having played only pro events since last September's US Open Junior Championships.
The first set featured a number of entertaining points and no breaks of serve, so when Mmoh and Ponwith broke Hance to take a 2-0 lead in the second set, then held for 3-0, the match tiebreaker that decides the third set in the early rounds seemed likely. But Hance and Kiger held, broke Mmoh, held, broke Ponwith, held and broke Mmoh, winning the last six games of the match.
Kiger and Hance admitted they were a bit distracted after winning the first set.
"We had kind of a big high after the first set," said Kiger, a 17-year-old from New York. "We were like, holy crap, I can't believe just won that first set," said Hance, a 17-year-old from California. "Actually, not really," added Hance. "We knew we were going to win the set. We just got back together and did what we knew we were going to do. We had confidence."
"We had a lot of chances in the first set," Kiger said. "so we thought we could get deep in their service games."
"Once we broke back, I knew," said Hance. "They looked a little tired."
In the final game of the match, Mmoh saved two match points with aces, "two bombs," said Kiger, but never had an advantage. On the third match point, Mmoh missed his first serve, and Kiger confidently put away a backhand volley at the net to complete the upset.
"When he missed his first serve, I was practically already shaking his hand," said Hance, unwilling to entertain any possibility of a comeback from the top seeds.
Now that they've opened up the draw for themselves, Kiger and Hance are glad they got together.
"It was kind of a random pairing," said Kiger, who said he knew Hance was a good singles player. "He just asked me on Instagram, and I was like sure," said Hance, who reached the final of the Kalamazoo 16s in 2014.
Four other seeded teams lost in the second round. No. 5 seeds Richard Ciamarra and Peter Conklin lost to Nate Eazor and Chase Wood 6-2, 6-4; No. 8 seeds Brian Cernoch and Gianni Ross lost to Maxwell Freeman and Matthew Lord 6-2, 4-6, 10-4; No. 11 seeds William Genesen and Johnathan Small lost to Austen Huang and Jason Lui 6-3, 4-6, 10-6; No. 12 seeds Alexander Brown and Brady Draheim lost to Sean Sculley and Nick Stachowiak 7-5, 6-3.
For the complete results from today's 18s singles and doubles, see ustaboys.com.
Saturday will feature the first round of 16s singles and doubles and the second round of 18s singles, as well as the opening ceremonies and exhibition, with Michael Russell and Marcus Willis.
Today at the BB&T Atlanta Open, 18-year-old wild card Reilly Opelka defeated Donald Young 6-4, 6-4 to advance to the semifinals. Opelka's first ATP win was in the first round against qualifier Christopher Eubanks, and his second was against Kevin Anderson, the No. 3 seed.
Opelka will now play top seed John Isner, the three-time defending Atlanta champion, who defeated Taylor Fritz 7-5, 6-4 tonight. For more on Opelka's win, see the ATP website.
And while at the ATP website, check out this story about the Kalamazoo Nationals, featuring comments from Tim Smyczek, Donald Young, Sam Querrey and Jesse Levine.