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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Kypson and Wolf Meet for Kalamazoo 18s Title; Nakashima and Dostanic to Decide 16s Championship; Doubles Champions Crowned; Blake 16s Girls Champion; US Girls Win ITF World Junior Tennis Title

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Kalamazoo MI--

Patrick Kypson will aim to become the first player since Alex Bogomolov to win both the 16s and 18s titles at the USTA Nationals in Kalamazoo on Sunday, after the No. 2 seed defeated Ryan Goetz 6-0, 6-3 Saturday.  Standing in his way will be No. 5 seed JJ Wolf, a rising sophomore at Ohio State, who defeated Alafia Ayeni 6-3, 6-1 on an unseasonably cool day at Stowe Stadium.

The 16s final will be a rematch of this spring's Easter Bowl championship match, with two Southern Californians, No. 1 seed Brandon Nakashima and No. 8 seed Stefan Dostanic, vying for the title.

Kypson was not about to take Goetz lightly, despite his No. 29 seed. After Goetz defeated No. 3 seed Trent Bryde and No. 6 seed John McNally, Kypson was prepared for a battle and he got it in the first game of the match.

"I went down 0-30 in that game, but I held and then I kind of loosened up," said the 17-year-old from North Carolina. "I made a ton of balls in the first set, didn't really give him much, didn't make many errors. I was able to stay in the rallies long enough to break his will a little bit. Obviously he's playing well and I needed to stay on my toes. I gave him a lot of respect before the match. That's one thing I'm pretty good at, respecting other people."

In the second set, Goetz saved a break point down 0-1, then Kypson had to save a couple of break points to keep his lead.

"That was a good hold at 1-all," said Kypson. "But still, I wouldn't have been too concerned going down a break because it was so early in the set. And I was controlling most of the points. But obviously, you always want to be leading."

Wolf never trailed in his match with No. 12 seed Ayeni, and although he didn't lose his serve in the match, it was his return that he credited for his performance.

"It's really hard to tell until you play that first point, but after that first hold and the first point in his service game, I could feel I was going to return well," said the 18-year-old from Ohio. "My return was on, which is key when you play Alafia, because his serve is so big. That's what I built my game around today."

Wolf broke in the opening game of the second set, but had to save three break points to keep his lead serving at 2-1.  Once he got a second break, Ayeni began to press, with unforced errors mounting, and Wolf giving him no free points.  Wolf held for 5-1 then went up 40-0 in the final game, with Ayeni double faulting on the second match point to give Wolf the win.

A month ago, Wolf was in a boot for a stress fracture in his foot, so reaching the final this week was not something he allowed himself to think about.

"I wasn't sure if I was going to get it off in time to start practicing for the tournament," Wolf said. "I barely made it. I tried not to think about Kalamazoo, because this is my last year, and I if I didn't get to play, it would be rough."

Wolf's successful first semester at Ohio State, where he played No. 2 and finished the year ranked No. 50 in the country, provided him with valuable experience and training opportunities that aren't often available in junior tennis.

"When you're a junior, depending on where you're training, a lot of times you don't have other guys that can play with you," Wolf said. "It's hard to find that, because everyone's from different places. So I think day-in, day-out, five, six days a week playing hard practices with guys just makes you a lot tougher. I think it trains the fear out of you a little bit and makes me a little more confident when I go out on the court."

Wolf and Kypson have previous history in Kalamazoo, with Kypson taking out Wolf in the semifinals of the 16s en route to the 2015 title. In their most recent meeting, last year at the US Open Junior Championships, Kypson beat Wolf 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 to reach the quarterfinals.

Kypson doesn't think his title back in 2015 will give him any advantage over Wolf in the best-of-five final.

"Playing three out of five, and with JJ having a whole season at college, I think he got a lot of experience from that,"  said Kypson, who will be trying to match Bogomolov's accomplishments in 1998 and 2001. "In college, you obviously play for more than just yourself. You learn to manage your nerves a little bit better. I think we're both in pretty good shape going into the final, we know each other pretty well, and it's going to be a good match."

While the drama was minimal in the 18s semifinals, the 16s did provide tension.  Although Nakashima has yet to drop a set in the tournament, he acknowledged that No. 3 seed Siem Woldeab presented a challenge in Nakashima's 6-4, 6-3 victory.

"It was a close one," said the 16-year-old from San Diego. "He was playing pretty well so I had to play my best at the right times. He started out well, and I knew I had to play my best the whole match. He gets a lot of balls back, runs everything down, doesn't miss much, so I had to try to take time away from him, come to net, and play my game."

Woldeab's defense is difficult to penetrate, but his commitment to a more offensive style of play was apparent to Nakashima, who had beaten him in the semifinals of the Southern California 18s sectionals earlier this summer.

"Today I felt like his was playing a lot more aggressive," said Nakashima, who needed five set points to close out the first set, after trailing 3-1. "I feel like in the other matches, he was just trying to get balls back, hoping the other guy was going to miss.  But today he knew he had to try to be aggressive, to try to hit as many winners as he could."

In the second set, Nakashima again went down an early break, but broke back, took a 4-1 lead, then allowed Woldeab to get back on serve. But a loose service game by Woldeab at 3-4 gave Nakashima the chance to serve out the match, and despite a subpar serving day, Nakashima was able to close it out, hitting a forehand winner on his first match point.

Dostanic's 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 4 seed Will Grant was a two-hour ordeal, with a strategy change and tournament technology providing and assist.

After recognizing that he was playing too defensively and too far behind the baseline, Dostanic made an adjustment.

"I was like ten feet behind the baseline, running around slicing," said the 15-year-old from Irvine California, who lost the last four games of the first set. "I think in the second and third sets I stepped up more and made less mistakes as well. I let him miss and let him go for the bigger shots, and I was standing closer to the baseline."

In the 10-minute break between the second and third sets, Dostanic received some long distance help from coach Chuck Brymer.

"He was watching at Brymer-Lewis Academy on the live stream," Dostanic said. "He called me and told me what to do."

Dostanic got the decisive break at 3-all in the third set, but serving out a match, especially for a place in the Kalamazoo final, is not easy. Dostanic, who couldn't serve out the first set, got five of six first serves in that final game, converting his second match point when Grant netted a forehand.

"I was very conscious of that," said Dostanic. "Coach told me in tense moments, always get in your first serve. You don't want to give your opponent a chance to hit a winner off your second serve. I think that really helped me win the match."

In the Easter Bowl final, Nakashima beat Dostanic 6-1, 6-2, but Dostanic is expecting Sunday's final to be more competitive.

"I'm feeling very confident," Dostanic said. "I'm playing the best tennis of my life and I'm looking forward to it tomorrow. I knew it would be a tough road, and I'm relieved I made it here, and very excited as well."

Grant's hopes for a gold ball in singles were dashed by Dostanic, but he did leave Kalamazoo with the title in doubles, with partner Tyler Zink.

Grant and Zink, the No. 3 seeds, defeated No. 24 seeds Eshan Talluri and Woldeab 6-2, 6-3 Saturday afternoon on Stowe Stadium's George Acker Court.

The two 16-year-olds had just one sectional title to their credit when they decided to team up in Kalamazoo.

"We played a sectional about six months ago and we won that," said Zink, of Bradenton Florida. "So it was an instant connection. This is just our second tournament together, and it's a good one to win."

Zink said leading early was a key to their success throughout the match.

"One of goals was to keep really good energy, keep positive, and when we got up early, it just made our jobs that much easier," Zink said. " I just thought we played really well."

"We played really aggressive," said Grant, a resident of Boca Raton Florida. "That's one of the key things. They were pretty solid, had good hands and stuff, but I think once we really pounced on their serves and got to the net, we were winning a lot of points."

Up 5-3 in the second set, Grant and Zink refused to concede Talluri's service game, even down 40-0.  Talluri and Woldeab saved three match points in the five-deuce game, but on the fourth, Talluri's forehand sailed long and Grant and Zink celebrated with a chest bump.

"It's an honor," Grant said of the title. "It's one of the most prestigious tournaments, not in America, but in the world. So to be on the board with the other people who have made it as a career, it's pretty special. It's really cool."

In the 18s doubles final, top seeds Vasil Kirkov and DJ Thomas claimed a tight first set, then went on to defeat No. 2 seeds Oliver Crawford and Kypson 7-6(1), 6-2.

Neither team faced a break point in the first set, which made the lopsided tiebreaker an even bigger surprise.

"Everyone was serving really well," said Kirkov. "Once we got to a tiebreak we knew that we needed a lot of first serves, to execute at the net. Every point matches in a tiebreaker, so we couldn't play any loose points. Once we got a mini-break in the beginning, it kind of helped us get through it, once we got a lead, we just took off with it."

"Tiebreaks can go either way," Thomas said. "Whoever wins the first two points has the momentum and can usually run through it. So our goal was to start off with first serves, energy, close into the net, play some tight tennis."

The tension eased considerably when they broke Crawford in the third game of the second set and Kypson in the fifth.

"We relaxed a little bit more," said Thomas, who served out the match after three deuces.  "We got another break and then I think we relaxed a little too much, had a close service game there, but we held it together. I'm happy with the way we played."

Kirkov and Thomas will receive a main draw wild card into the men's doubles draw at the US Open and are not particular about their opponents.

"Bryan brothers wouldn't be bad," said the 17-year-old Thomas. "I'd like to give that a go."

"Every team in the US Open is going to be tough," said the 18-year-old Kirkov. "There's not much you can choose. But having a big name out there is good experience."

Kirkov has played the US Open Juniors twice and the men's qualifying last year as the Kalamazoo finalist, but Thomas has never been to Flushing Meadows, so he'll be relying on Kirkov to show him the ins and outs of the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center.

Kirkov had no plans to celebrate aside from a late night flight home to Tampa, but Thomas still has unfinished business. He is still in the feed-in tournament and will play Sam Riffice at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning in the semifinals.

The bronze ball match in the 16s doubles went to No. 1 seeds Robert Cash and Ryder Jackson. They defeated No. 2 seeds Eliot Spizzirri and Spencer Whitaker 6-4, 6-2.

Third place in the 18s doubles went to John McNally and Wolf, the No. 3 seeds, who were given a walkover by Nathan Perrone and Jake Van Emburgh.

For complete results in all singles, doubles and feed-in draws, see ustaboys.com.

The 16s singles final is scheduled to begin at 11:30 Sunday, with the 18s singles final to follow. Streaming, with commentary, will be available here.

The finals are set for the girls 18s, with No. 33 seed Kelly Chen facing No. 3 seed Ashley Kratzer.  Chen, a rising freshman at Duke, defeated No. 12 seed Caty McNally 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, while Kratzer downed No. 8 seed Whitney Osuigwe 7-6(6), 6-0.  The final will be shown on Tennis Channel beginning at 4 p.m. EDT Sunday.

The girls 16s title went to No. 9 seed Angelica Blake, who beat No. 14 seed Nikki Redelijk, her friend and doubles partner, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. Blake and Redelijk won the 16s doubles title later in the afternoon.

Complete results from San Diego are available at the Tennis Link site.

The finals were also played today in the 12s and 14s divisions.

At the girls 12s in Alpharetta Georgia, No. 2 seed Eleana Yu defeated No. 9 seed Natalie Block 6-3, 6-1.

At the girls 14s in Rome Georgia, No. 17 seed Robin Montgomery defeated No. 33 seed Reese Brantmeier 6-0, 6-1.

At the boys 12s in Mobile Alabama, No. 4 seed Lucas Brown defeated No. 1 seed Aidan Kim 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.

At the boys 14s in Mobile Alabama, No. 4 seed Saud Alhogbani defeated No. 17 seed Ben Shelton 7-5, 6-3.

The second-seeded USA girls team won the title at the ITF World Junior Tennis competition in the Czech Republic today, beating top seed Ukraine 2-1.  Cori Gauff and Charlotte Owensby won the doubles point to seal the victory, after Gauff had evened the match with a win at No. 1 singles. Gauff, 13, went 6-0 in singles during the week, leading the USA to a record seventh title at the 14-and-under team event.

The unseeded Swiss team won the boys title, beating No. 3 seed Spain 2-1.  For more on today's finals, see the ITF Junior website.


AR Hacked Off said...

Very impressive run by Alhogbani repeating what he did in the 12s by taking both Clay and Hard Court Titles now in the 14s

Chris Lewis said...

Once again, what an invaluable service you provide, Colette. So great to be able to read such an in-depth report about what is happening at these major junior events. Particularly when you have your own players involved. Chuck and I are most appreciative of all your efforts.

Back Draw Flu said...

John Mcnally loses in the ATP 1000 Cincy Qualifier to Janko Tipsarevic, 5-7, 6-1, 7-6(5). John, who received a Wild Card to play in the Qualifier, probably would have won the match had he not been injured ( remember he just w/o inj from the National Hardcourts backdraw in Kalamazoo). :)