Top 12 Seeds Advance to Round of 16 in Kalamazoo 18s Division; Local 16s Star Bill Duo into Round of 16 with Comeback Win over Fifth Seed
©Colette Lewis 2016--
The huge upset in the 18s division of the USTA National Championships has yet to materialize, with Tuesday yet another day of fantastic weather and routine wins by the top seeds. The top 12 seeds, most of whom were playing fellow seeds in the fourth round, advanced to Wednesday's round of 16, with No. 1 Michael Mmoh leading the way.
Because of a backup from matches earlier in the day, Mmoh was sent out to court 9 for his match against No. 18 seed Keegan Smith, who acquitted himself well in a 6-2, 6-2 defeat.
"I was up a break 3-1 and he had break points to get it back on serve," Mmoh said. "He has a big serve and anything can happen at that point. The same thing in the second [set]. He had a lot of game points and I had a break point and I ended up breaking him. He had break points to break back, and if he had converted some of them, it would have been a lot tighter than it was. He's a really good player, strikes the ball unbelievable, just a little streaky."
Mmoh, who has reached the quarterfinals the past two years in Kalamazoo, said he hoped his success on the pro tour would be such that he wouldn't have to return to Kalamazoo, but a final trip to the tournament was no chore for him.
"At the beginning of the year, I was hoping to not play," said the 18-year-old from Bradenton, Florida. "That would mean I was doing well. I started off the year really well, then I got injured for like three months, so that kind of set me back. But I mean, I love playing here, even though you've got to win like a thousand matches to win the tournament. It's a cool atmosphere and the fans here are unbelievable."
Mmoh's fifth round opponent is No. 10 seed Oliver Crawford, one of the few seeds taken to three sets. Crawford avenged his loss to Connor Hance in the 16s semifinals two years ago, coming back for a 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over the No. 22 seed.
Second seed John McNally won the battle of former 16s champion, with the 2014 winner beating 2015 winner Patrick Kypson 6-1, 6-4. The first set wasn't close, with Kypson netting too many backhands, but McNally had to earn a straight set win in the second.
No. 3 seed JJ Wolf defeated unseeded Kyle Seelig, a rising sophomore at Ohio State, where Wolf has verbally committed for 2017, 6-4, 6-3. No. 4 seed Sam Riffice defeated Clay Court champion Sebastian Korda, the No. 20 seed, 6-3, 6-3.
All players remaining in the 18s round of 16 are seeded, with only No. 13 Richard Ciamarra, No. 15 William Genesen and No. 16 Alexander Brown failing to advance as projected.
The 16s division has been less predictable, with the No. 4 and No. 8 seeds already eliminated before today, and No. 5 seed Harris Walker exiting today to local player Bill Duo by a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 score.
Duo, the No. 24 seed, has struggled early in all three of his wins this week, but he credited the crowd support for lifting him up.
"I knew he was a good player and he came out playing really strong, ripping winner by me," said Duo, a 16-year-old from Portage, a suburb just south of Kalamazoo. "I started getting a little bit of rhythm the second set, and the crowd helped me push a little bit and I was fortunate he got a little tight."
Duo trailed 4-2 in the second set, but even though he won four straight games to force a third set, he didn't mind the 10-minute break between sets.
"I kind of enjoy the 10 minutes, take a little breather, eat a little food, drink some water, come out refreshed," said Duo, who spoke with his coach Tom Walker during that time. "He told me I had to swing at the ball. I started out really scared, my swing speed was not very fast. I was just half swinging at the ball. Once I loosened up, I was swinging big."
Duo got a break with Walker serving at 3-3 and had no trouble holding twice, even when a berth in the round of 16 was on the line at 5-4.
"I had served well the previous game so I just came out, I felt confident," said Duo, who played on the Midwest team that won the USTA 18s National Team Championships last week in Illinois. "I guess he got a little tight. I came out swinging big and I was just confident I was going to win that game. I knew I couldn't play scared and just hope he was going to miss, so I knew I had to go for it."
Duo got every first serve in, started the game with a backhand down the line winner and finished with a good first serve to earn a meeting with No. 10 seed Jenson Brooksby, who beat No. 19 seed Michael Heller 6-4, 6-1. Brooksby reached the finals of the 16s Clay Courts last month, with Duo playing the 18s in that tournament.
The player who beat Brooksby in the Clays, top seed Lukas Greif, advanced to the round of 16 with a 6-2, 6-0 win over unseeded Kasper Smith. Greif had a bit of difficulty in his opening match on Sunday, but has begun to feel more comfortable with each win.
"It's an awesome experience playing in front of this crowd here," said Greif, a 16-year-old from Evansville, Indiana. "My first match, I came out a little bit nervous and he came out swinging and making shots, but I got it done and I'm starting to feel it out more, playing better. I'm starting to feel more relaxed, playing in front of this crowd. The Clay Courts gave me a lot of confidence coming in here, and being the one seed, you've just got to keep playing your game, not focus on that."
Greif, who lives in Indianapolis and trains there at the Smith Tennis Academy, says the quick transition from clay to hard was a challenge.
"It's tough at first," said Greif, who reached the Easter Bowl final this year. "When I came back from Clay Courts and started hitting on hard courts it was a little tough to change surfaces, but I love hard courts. At Easter Bowl I did well, so hopefully I can do well here."
No. 2 seed Christian Alshon defeated No. 32 seed Ryan Goetz 7-6(2), 1-6, 6-4 and No. 3 seed Jared Pratt earned a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory over No. 29 seed Joseph Brailovsky.
There are three unseeded players remaining in the 16s division: Matthew Tsolakyan, who beat unseeded Harry Cacciatore 2-6, 6-2, 7-5; Blake Croyder who defeated No. 31 seed Marcus Ferreira 6-3, 6-2 and Sangeet Sridhar, who defeated No. 21 seed Jaycer Lyeons in arguably the day's best match, 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(5).
Doubles quarterfinals are set for Wednesday evening for the 18s, with the 16s doubles quarterfinals on Thursday. See ustaboys.com for results from Tuesday afternoon's fourth round matches.
Main draw matches begin at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, with live streaming of selected matches available at ustaboys.com.