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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Wild Card Hiltzik Saves Three Match Points to Defeat Krueger at Champaign Challenger; Fritz Eyes Australian Open Main Draw

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Champaign-Urbana IL--

Jared Hiltzik fought his way back into his match against Mitchell Krueger Tuesday evening in the first round of the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Champaign, and it was a battle of wills in the final set, with both players getting service hold after service hold. The scores of orange-clad fans cheering the former Illini All-American at the Atkins Tennis Center didn't make much noise when he fell behind 0-40 serving at 5-6 in the third set, however.  If that silence bothered Hiltzik, he showed no sign of it, hitting one of his six third-set aces to save the first match point.

Hiltzik saved the second match point with a forehand pass and the third and last match point he saved with a backhand pass. After one more deuce Hiltzik forced the tiebreaker and he ran away with that final game to post a 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(2) victory.

"I think you play better when you're down," said the 23-year-old from Illinois, who had lost to Krueger in all four of their previous Pro Circuit contests. "You have no other choice than to play free. I got pretty lucky today, but I fought hard."

Although he appreciated the efficiency of an ace in that crucial situation, Hiltzik said the two winning passes he made to save the second and third match points were won on instinct.

"He doesn't really give you a chance to think," said Hiltzik, who has recently bought a house in Orlando and is now training at the USTA National Campus. "You react, and I got lucky there."

In the tiebreaker, Krueger lost the first three points on his serve, all on forehand errors and Hiltzik ran out to a 6-0 lead.

"I think that kind of carried over from that previous game," Hiltzik said. "It's a tough thing to do. I've been there, when you have a chance to break to win the match, it's really tough."

Hiltzik, who received a wild card into the main draw, said winning a match at his former home courts always feels good.

"I've had many here before and to be given the opportunity to continue to play here is pretty special."

Hiltzik will face No. 4 seed Cameron Norrie of Great Britain, who defeated another Illinois wild card, senior Aleks Vukic of Australia, 6-2, 6-3. 

While Hiltzik was playing on Court 2, another former Illinois star who also received a wild card, Dennis Nevolo, was fashioning his own comeback against qualifier Samuel Monette of Canada in his 4-6, 6-4, 6-0 victory. After failing to serve out the second set at 5-3 despite earning a set point, Nevolo broke the former standout at the University of Indiana in the next game to even the match. Once the third set began, Nevolo found his form, while Monette was finding it difficult to move to balls he had easily tracked down before. Nevolo held, broke and held to take a 3-0 lead, and ended the match by winning the final 15 points.

Nevolo's second round opponent is No. 7 seed Tim Smyczek, who defeated qualifier Alex Ward of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6(4) in a high-quality match that featured an abundance of lengthy rallies.

The day's shortest match was No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz's 6-2, 6-1 win over Alex Sarkissian, which lasted just 42 minutes.  The 20-year-old Californian had 11 aces and no double faults, and has been happy with his play over the past few weeks.

"I usually play pretty well indoors, I think," said Fritz, who reached the final of the 2015 Champaign Challenger. "The ball moves through the court here and it's easier to serve, hit winners. It's not too fast, it's like medium, so it's easy for me to put the ball away."

Fritz is currently at 110 in the rankings, so his performance this week will go a long way to deciding whether he gets into the main draw of the Australian Open, but he is confident now that he's returned to the racquet he had used prior to this year.

"I've been playing well over the past two weeks," Fritz said. "Last week I thought I was playing really well; unfortunately I played Peliwo who was way too good last week, to be honest. He was incredible. I played great. I switched back to my old racquet. I was using a heavier racquet all this year. I've always been with Head, and it was the same racquet, just added some weight for this year. I've had an ok year, but it just didn't feel right and after Vietnam [Challenger] I said that's it. I don't think I can control the ball off the ground, it's too heavy and I'm late on my shots. So I switched back, had a training week at Carson and it's been great since. Better than ever."

Fritz will play qualifier Ronnie Schneider, who claimed his second ATP Challenger victory, with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 decision over Bruno Santanna of Brazil.

No. 5 seed Bjorn Fratangelo versus Bradley Klahn and No. 1 seed Tennys Sandgren versus Christian Harrison are the other two all-American second round matches Wednesday.


Wasted Money... said...

How much money does Katrina Adams spend on all of her Domestic & International trips - going Business Class or FirstClass while staying at 5-Star Hotels?

I understand taking 3-4 trips a year to events but she is well over 10, probably near 20-25.

This money can be better spent on developing players and giving that money to those who actually need it, especially in the private sector.