Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Top Seed Baird Saves Match Point in Second Round Win at ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships; Dostanic Ousts No. 4 Seed Hilderbrand; Easter Bowl Finalist Houghton Beats Top Seed to Reach Quarterfinal in 16s Division

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Carson, CA--

Top seed Drew Baird was down a break point at 4-all in the third set Tuesday in his first round match against Toby Kodat at the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships, but on Wednesday he was even closer to elimination, facing a match point in the second set against Cleeve Harper of Canada.

With Harper serving for the match at 7-6(4), 5-4, he earned a match point at 40-30, but he sent a backhand wide. Two deuces later, after a double fault and a questionable non-call that went against him, the 17-year-old right-hander lost the game, and Baird held and broke, with another double fault by Harper giving Baird the second set.

In the third set, Baird seemed in control twice, up 3-1 and then 5-2, but he was unable to serve out the match, although he did have a match point with Harper serving at 2-5.  An outstanding backhand pass saved that match point, and Harper broke in the next game, with Baird unable to control his backhand as the afternoon breeze picked up midway through the two-and-a-half hour match.

"It was windy and it didn't help me a lot," Baird said. "I couldn't time the ball and I had to step back a lot on the longer points. He's a tough player, really consistent."

Harper held to make it 5-all, with Baird's backhand errors still frequent. Baird was more successful attacking in his next service game, although he made two errors from 40-15 up before winning the next two points with aggressive shots.

Harper had been calm and relentless when behind, so his performance in the final game was something of a surprise, with a backhand error to start the game. Baird did force the issue, putting pressure on Harper to pass him, which he could not do, and at 0-40, Baird jumped on a Harper's first serve, slamming a backhand return winner to end the match.

Baird says that as the top seed, he is taking everyone's best shot.

"These kids are playing really well," Baird said. "They have no pressure, I'm supposed to be the one winning, so there's a little extra pressure on me. These guys go out there and if they win it's good and if they lose, well, they really have nothing to lose. He played really well and tough today."

Baird will face No. 13 seed Brandon Nakashima in Thursday's third round, with Nakashima defeating Martin Damm 6-3, 6-4.

No. 2 seed Tristan Boyer, who moved into the ITF Top 10 with his run to the final of the Easter Bowl, played his second straight three-setter in Carson and his sixth straight in the two events, beating USTA 18s Winter Nationals champion Christian Alshon 6-3, 1-6, 6-1.  Boyer will play unseeded Brian Shi in the third round.

While Baird and Boyer avoided the upset, No. 4 seed Trey Hilderbrand did not, falling to qualifier Stefan Dostanic 7-6(3), 6-2.  Dostanic, the 2017 Kalamazoo 16s finalist, knew his passing game needed to be in top form against the aggressive net game of Hilderbrand and it was.

"He comes to net a lot, almost every point," said the 16-year-old from Irvine California. "I have to make sure my returns are at his feet most of the time, make that first volley tough for him and pass him on the second one."

Dostanic, who goes to regular school and prefers not to travel outside Southern California, kept the pressure on Hilderbrand by not giving him any free points.

"I was definitely trying to outgrind him, make him make the mistakes," said Dostanic, who has verbally committed to USC for 2019. "I knew he'd go to net, or try to do something fancy, hit a big shot, so I was trying to play my game, make him do all the fancy work. I was also trying to attack his forehand on the big points, because it seemed to get a little tight on the big points, he would slice the ball. I could tell he wasn't confident in that shot."

Dostanic will face unseeded Ronan Jachuk in the third round, after Jachuck defeated Alex Lee 6-2, 6-2.

Girls top seed Margaryta Bilokin took out Jaedan Brown 6-3, 6-1 and will face No. 15 seed Skyler Grishuk, a 6-4, 6-1 winner over Julia Andreach.  No. 2 seed Natasha Subhash also had a routine second round win, defeating Kennedy Bridgforth 6-2, 6-0.

Only one girls seed fell in the second round, with No. 6 seed Kacie Harvey losing to 14-year-old qualifier Connie Ma 6-4, 6-1.  Ma will play No. 10 seed Vanessa Ong, who beat Savannah Broadus 6-3, 6-4.

The 16s quarterfinals are set, but they will not include the top seed in the girls draw nor the No. 2 seed in the boys draw.

Easter Bowl 16s finalist India Houghton, the No. 16 seed, took out top seed Mell Reasco Gonzalez of Ecuador 6-3, 6-2.  No. 2 seed Laura Anzalotta-Kynoch of Puerto Rico was tested by No. 15 seed Misa Malkin, but posted a 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 victory in Wednesday's third round.

Top boys 16s seed Spencer Brachman moved on with a 6-0, 6-4 win over unseeded Benjamin Zhou, but No. 2 seed Hunter Heck was eliminated by unseeded Max Fardanesh 6-4, 6-4.  None of the eight boys 16s third round matches went to third sets, but only three seeds have reached the quarterfinals: Brachman, No. 3 seed Zachery Lim and No. 5 seed Maxwell McKennon, the Easter Bowl finalist.

For complete results including the quarterfinals of 16s doubles and the second round of 18s doubles, see the tournament website.