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Saturday, August 5, 2017

Top 18s Seed Riffice, All Other Top Eight Seeds Safely Through to Third Round at Kalamazoo

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Kalamazoo, MI--

Friday's rain caused a delay to begin Day Two at the USTA Boys 18 and 16 National Championships, with courts needing several hours of blow drying and sun before the first round of 16s singles could begin.

That left the second round of 18s singles two to three hours behind, with the evening's Exhibition and Opening Ceremonies with Michael Russell and Andy Roddick looming.

Two of the players participating in the exhibition, 18s No. 1 seed Sam Riffice and No. 2 seed Patrick Kypson, took the Stowe courts in the mid-afternoon and did their part to get the tournament back on schedule with straight-sets victories.

Riffice, who defeated Morgan Ihrig 6-2, 6-3, was happy to move on, with an unpleasant memory from the 2015 tournament still fresh in his mind.

"I remember a few years ago I lost a tough one, 6 in the third in the first round, so all the first rounds since then have been pretty tough for me," said Riffice, who was the No. 9 seed in the 18s in 2015 when he lost to Reese Stalder. "It's hard to try to stay focused, and today it was kind of windy, courts are very fast, so it was a tough first round."

Riffice, who has been playing top ITF Junior events and ITF Futures this year, was not familiar with his opponent, a rising junior from Indiana.

"I've never heard of him before, but he was a good player," said the 18-year-old, who has committed to the University of Florida for 2018. "He made me play a lot, hit some good shots, so I definitely had to play."

As the top seed, Riffice would normally be featured on one of the three show courts at Stowe Stadium, but the backed-up schedule saw him sent to Court 4 instead. Riffice said he didn't mind, but does enjoy the atmosphere on the three show courts.

"It's definitely a really cool feeling being the No. 1 seed here," Riffice said. "It's a really big honor. There's definitely a lot more pressure, there's a lot more people watching and usually I'd play where all the people are. I like playing on the front courts here; there's a great atmosphere here, especially for a junior tournament."

Riffice doesn't consider himself a favorite for the title however.

"We're all at a pretty equal level," Riffice said. "On any given day, I think any one of us could win. Everyone's really good. A lot of them, like Gianni [Ross] and Vasil [Kirkov], I've probably played thousands of sets with them because we train together. It's a little weird when I play them, as my good friends, sometimes it's hard to focus, but they're really nice guys so it's always fun playing them."

Kypson agreed the 18s title is up for grabs this year.

"I think there's ten guys or so who have a good chance to win," said the 2015 16s champion, a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Daniel Nuzhny today on George Acker Court. "It's going to come down to small details, so it's pretty open, definitely no clear favorite, it'll come down to little things."

Kypson trailed 3-1 in the second set against Nuzhny, a rising senior from New Jersey, but was able to get the break right back, then break at 4-4 to earn the win.

"The first match is always difficult, especially here, where you don't know many of the players," said the 17-year-old from North Carolina. "I had no idea who the guy was and that's always tricky. I thought he played a pretty good match, he was swinging. That's what you have to be careful of. The kids who have nothing to lose, going out on court 1, maybe he never plays on court 1 again, and he comes out swinging. You've got to stay on your toes."

Both Riffice and Kypson know and have hit with Russell, but will be meeting Andy Roddick for the first time tonight.

"I was really hoping they'd ask me to play," Riffice said. "I've always wanted to meet Andy. It's going to be great. I got lucky enough to hit with Mike at his last US Open [in 2015]. I don't know if he'll remember me."

No. 3 seed Trent Bryde and No. 4 seed Oliver Crawford also moved their second round matches quickly at Stowe, and at Western Michigan, No. 5 seed JJ Wolf, No. 6 seed John McNally, No. 7 seed Sebastian Korda and No. 8 seed DJ Thomas also advanced in straight sets.

None of the top 32 seeds in the 16s division played Saturday, but nine of the 33-64 seeds were eliminated in the first round, including No. 33 seed Omni Kumar, who lost to Anand Saluja 7-6(0), 3-6, 6-1.

Complete draws can be found at ustaboys.com.