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Thursday, August 9, 2018

Kypson and Thomas Ousted in Historically Bad Day for Top 18s Seeds at Kalamazoo Nationals; Semifinals Set in 16s Division

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Kalamazoo MI--


Thursday was an historically crazy day in the 18s Division at the Kalamazoo Nationals, with the top two seeds exiting prior to the quarterfinals for the first time since 1993.

Kevin Zhu earned the win of his career Thursday afternoon, saving three match points en route to defeating top seed and defending champion Patrick Kypson 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(5), ending Kypson's quest for a third Kalamazoo title.  Less than an hour later, No. 2 seed DJ Thomas also lost, with 2017 16s finalist Stefan Dostanic posting a 6-4, 6-3 victory.

Zhu trailed Kypson 6-2, 3-0, but sensed that Kypson was beginning to tire in the hot and humid conditions that followed the three-hour rain from a morning shower.

"Once I saw him try to shorten up the points, I just tried to make more balls and make the match physical," said the No. 9 seed, who turns 18 later this month. "At the beginning of the match, I was kind of nervous, because I wanted to prove myself, didn't want to lose badly against such a great player."

After getting broken at 3-all in the third set, Zhu gave Kypson an opening, but Kypson gave the break right back and Zhu held easily to take a 5-4 lead. With Kypson serving to stay in the match, Zhu earned a match point with a forehand winner that caught both the baseline and the sideline, but Kypson saved it with a backhand volley winner. After two medical timeouts earlier in the set, Kypson obviously was struggling physically, and the next game was more of the same. With Zhu serving at 5-all, eight deuces were played before Kypson finally converted his seventh break point.  Kypson took two more medical timeouts, one just prior to that 11th game, and another after the sixth deuce, when he had an ad.  Zhu was not irritated however, instead viewing those timeouts as an opportunity to rest.

"It was a pretty long game, so I guess he and I were tired," said the Houston resident, who will be starting at Penn this fall. "When he took those medicals, I didn't care, because I was so happy I could sit down for a few minutes. But when he took the second one, I was kind of like, why? Why not just finish it, but I didn't think anything else besides that."

After Zhu lost that game, he took a medical timeout, but that didn't stop Kypson momentum. He used his drop shot to win two points, the second of which gave him a 40-0 lead, but a poorly executed drop shot allowed Zhu to escape the first match point. Zhu hit a return winner off a second serve to save match point No. 2 and then hit a forehand that forced an error from Kypson to get to deuce. After a Kypson error, he again failed to get a first serve in and Zhu hit a forehand return winner off the second serve to send the match to a deciding tiebreaker.

After each lost their first service points, there were no mini breaks until 5-all, when Zhu hit a forehand winner to earn a match point at 6-5.  After his first serve had basically deserted him in the 5-all game, Zhu got one in on match point, and closed out the defending champion with a forehand passing shot winner.

"I was so happy [to make a first serve]," Zhu said, "but then he hit such a great return, I just tried to stay in the point after that. I'm not sure why he came in, and I didn't know if he'd react in time, but I kept going cross court on my forehand passes before and so I just changed it up, hoping it would work and it did."

Kypson is the first No. 1 seed to fall prior to the quarterfinals since Alex Domijan went out to Kevin King in the fourth round in 2009.

Zhu will face No. 6 seed Drew Baird in Friday's quarterfinals, with Baird defeating No. 16 seed Keenan Mayo 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

The other quarterfinal in the top half will feature No. 4 seed Jenson Brooksby and No. 25 seed Jacob Bullard.  Brooksby defeated No. 12 seed Tyler Zink 6-4, 6-1 and Bullard took out No. 13 seed Emilio Nava 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

Brandon Nakashima, the 2017 16s champion, ran his Kalamazoo winning streak to 11 matches, defeating No. 50 seed Eric Hahn 6-3, 6-1.  Nakashima will face fellow Southern Californian Tristan Boyer, the No. 5 seed, who beat No. 18 seed Steven Forman 6-0, 6-4.  Boyer and Nakashima last met in the final of April's ITF Grade 1 in Carson, with Nakashima winning 6-0, 6-0.

Another Southern Californian with Kalamazoo bona fides is Dostanic, who said his game was at a higher level against Thomas than when he defeated No. 15 seed  Nanda on Wednesday.

"I'd say I played even better," said the 16-year-old from Irvine California. "Danny's such a great player, I played so well today."

Dostanic took the first set with a break with Thomas serving at 4-5, and then took a 4-1 lead in the second set.  Thomas got the second set back on serve, but Dostanic broke right back and served out the match.

"I think I was serving very well and I was hitting my forehand very well," said Dostanic, who has committed to USC for next fall. "I was mixing it up a lot, going down the line, going cross court and I was able to hit a lot of winners off of that. He was having a tough time getting my serve back."

Despite Dostanic's experience playing in front of a large Kalamazoo crowd last year, he said the nerves were still there, and even with that 5-3 lead, he couldn't really relax.

"Against such tough players, you should never relax," Dostanic said. "They'll take advantage of every opportunity they get. Maybe I slightly relaxed, but I think Danny lifted his level in that [4-2] game. I was able to regroup, go back to what I was doing and to execute very well."

Dostanic will take on the home state's Andrew Zhang, the No. 47 seed, who defeated No. 37 seed Marcus Ferreira 6-2, 6-4.  The two have never played, but they did warm up with each other Thursday morning.

"I'm sure he's a great player, just to be in the quarters of Kalamazoo is a big honor."

Thomas is the first No. 2 seed in 18s to lose before the quarterfinals since 1998, when Matias Boeker lost to No. 15 seed Mardy Fish in the round of 16.

The 18s quarterfinals in singles are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on Friday, with the semifinals in doubles at 3:30 p.m.

The 16s quarterfinals were completed today, with top seed Keshav Chopra advancing to a Saturday semifinal meeting with No. 4 seed Zane Khan and double digit seeds and wild cards Alexander Kiefer and Martin Damm again taking out favored players.

Kiefer, seeded No. 45 outlasted No. 3 seed Alex Lee 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 surviving a nearly three-hour battle in the midday heat.  Damm, the No. 15 seed, won his second consecutive three-setter, beating No. 7 seed Ryan Fishback 6-7(3), 6-1, 6-2.

Chopra, who come from a set down in his previous three wins, didn't continue that trend today, advancing to the semifinals when No. 13 seed Andrew Dale retired down 6-4, 2-1.  Khan, who has yet to lose more than four games in a set, defeated fellow wild card Niroop Vallabhaneni, the No. 31 seed, 6-2, 6-4.

Khan, who now trains in Spain, said his improvement over the past year is due to a stretch of good health and working hard on the red clay.

"Coming back from a lot of injuries is really tough at first," said Khan, who trains at the 4 Slam Tennis Academy in Barcelona. "I broke my foot in Carson (in 2017) and then I've been dealing with knee pain, growing pains. I've been back playing since last fall, and I think I have really improved a lot."

Khan, who trains with Vallabhaneni, admitted that his friend was not at his best in the first set.

"He wasn't playing too well," said Khan. "He plays much better than he played today. He's improved a lot since he went to Spain as well."

After leading 4-1, Khan saw his lead dwindle to 4-3 and Vallabhaneni pressed him during that game.

"That was really important to get that game," Khan said. "Otherwise it would have been a much longer match and you never know what might happen. But when I got that game, his energy dropped a little bit, because that was his chance."

The 16s doubles quarterfinals were played Thursday evening, with all four going to match tiebreakers.  Top seeds Chopra and Max McKennon defeated No. 5 seeds Michael Andre and Daniel Milavsky 4-6, 6-1, 10-7 and will face No. 9 seeds Benjamin Koch and Joshua Raab, who beat No. 27 seed Ashe Ray and Maxwell Smith 3-6, 6-3, 10-8. Unseeded Ben Shelton, the son of Florida men's coach Bryan Shelton, and Quinn Snyder advanced to the semifinals with a 6-4, 3-6, 10-1 win over Jack Anthrop and JC Roddick, the nephew of Andy Roddick.  Shelton and Quinn will play No. 7 seeds Lee and Vallabhaneni after Lee and Vallabhaneni defeated No. 2 seeds Alex Bernard and Logan Zapp 2-6, 6-1, 10-6.

The 16s doubles semifinals are scheduled for Friday afternoon.

For complete draws, including feed-in consolation draws, see ustaboys.com.

At the girls Nationals in San Diego, the semifinals are set for Friday in the 16s division, with No. 1 seed Gianna Pielet taking on No. 4 seed Allura Zamarippa and No. 3 seed Fiona Crawley facing No. 17 seed Misa Malkin.

The quarterfinals in the 18s will feature top seed Kayla Day against No. 17 seed Vanessa Ong, who beat No. 5 seed Caty McNally 7-6(5), 0-6, 6-3 in today's round of 16.  No. 4 seed Salma Ewing plays No. 15 seed Kacie Harvey, No. 12 seed Natasha Subhash play No. 3 seed Coco Gauff and No. 9 seed Katie Volynets faces No. 2 seed Whitney Osuigwe.

At the girls 14s, the semifinals will feature top seed Elena Yu against No. 6 seed Stefanie Yakoff and No. 3 seed Lan Mi against No. 8 seed Clervie Ngounoue.

The girls 12s semifinals feature the top 4 seeds, with No. 1 Alexia Harmon against No. 4 Natalia Perez and No. 3 Elizabeth Dunac against No. 2 seed Brooklyn Olson.

At the boys 14s, No. 1 seed Nicholas Heng will play No. 17 seed John Lasanajak in one semifinal and No. 33 seed Juncheng "Jerry" Shang will play No. 17 seed Grant Lothringer.  Shang is the reigning Eddie Herr 12s champion.

The boys 12s semifinals feature No. 1 seed Rudy Quan and No. 3 seed Alexander Razeghi in the top half and No. 5 seed Dylan Charlap and No. 2 seed Andrew Salu in the bottom half.

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