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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Easter Bowl 16s Recap; Wild Card Svajda Beats No. 4 Seed Damm at ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships; Top 16s Seed Krug Saves Two Match Points to Advance to Third Round

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Carson, CA--

Before I get to today's action at the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships, here's my recap of the Easter Bowl 16s Championships for the Tennis Recruiting Network. Read how Samir Banerjee and Vivian Ovrootsky earned their titles last Saturday at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

After five seeds exited in the opening round of the 18s ITF singles Monday, only one seeded girl and one seeded boy were beaten, with the other ten advancing to Wednesday's second round.

Easter Bowl finalist Martin Damm, the No. 4 seed this week, was the boys victim, falling to wild card Zachary Svajda 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2. Although it was arguably the best matchup of the day, it was scheduled for Court 10, on the upper level, the courts that are home to the USTA Player Development West Training Center, and are not set up for spectators.

Svajda took a 4-2 lead in the first set, but Damm roared back to win four straight games. Svajda again took a 4-2 lead in the second set, and kept the lead, but was unable to serve out the set at 5-4, with a double fault at 30-40 pulling Damm even. Damm saved a break point in his next service game to take the lead, but Svajda held at love to force a tiebreaker.

Svajda was up two mini-breaks at 4-1, but lost both with forehand errors, He got his forehand back on track just in time however, hitting two forehand winners after going up 5-4 to force a third set.

Damm took a 2-0 lead in the third set, but Svajda won four straight games, with Damm donating three unforced errors when serving at 2-3. After going down 0-30 Svajda held for 5-2, and Damm immediately went down 0-40 serving to stay in the match. But the 15-year-old Floridian used a variety of shots, including a drop shot, to get back to deuce. Although he never had a break point, Damm saved two more match points before Svajda finally converted his sixth, when Damm's backhand went wide.

"I had three match points he started playing really well," said the 16-year-old from San Diego. "We had six or seven deuces. Finally I was just like, this is it, we can't go back to deuce again. I'm just happy I got the win."

Svajda took out the top seed at a Futures in Claremont last fall, but he is just now beginning to play junior events.

"I'm going to start doing junior now because of the new ITF rule," Svajda said of this year's World Tennis Tour. "I may start getting into some Futures now, because they're switching [qualifying] to a 32 draw. But juniors is tough, because people your age, there's more pressure."

Svajda, who lost to Easter Bowl champion Ron Hohmann in three sets in the second round last week, was prepared for another tough match with Easter Bowl finalist Damm.

"I knew it was going to be tough, because he just got to the finals of Easter Bowl, plus he's 20 something in the world," Svadja said. "I knew I needed to hit the ball. Sometimes I kind of push it and get on defense, so I'm trying to go on offense all the time. I tried to return well today, staying back. Usually I try to stay right on the baseline, but I wasn't really feeling it today. He has a pretty big serve, also, he's like 6-5, 6-6, so I tried to stay back and hit it higher and deeper and that was working much better."

Despite seeing his leads in the first and second sets evaporate, Svajda showed no signs of disgust or frustration.

"I always try to stay pretty calm," Svadja said. "Occasionally, when I get the set or a big point, I'll say come on to my dad or my team."

Svadja is planning on playing a mix of juniors and ITF World Tennis Tour events, while he searches for a permanent training site, possibly in Florida.

The only other boys match to go three sets Tuesday was No. 9 seed Will Grant's 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Russell Berdusco.

Top seeds Hurricane Tyra Black and Savannah Broadus played their first round matches today, with Black beating Daniella Benabraham 6-2, 6-4 and Broadus getting past qualifier India Houghton 7-6(4), 7-6(2).

No. 10 seed Skyler Grishuk lost to Gianna Pielet, who received entry as a lucky loser, with Nikki Redelijk withdrawing. Pielet beat Grishuk, who did not play the Easter Bowl, 6-3, 6-1.
The 16s seeds took the courts for the first time, having received first round byes. Only three of the nine girls seeds survived their second round matches: No. 7 seed Anne Lutkemeyer, the defending champion, No. 6 seed Ria Bhakta, the Easter Bowl 14s finalist, and top seed Ava Krug.

Krug was having all sorts of difficulties with Marley Lambert, trailing 6-1, and committing a rash of unforced errors to get broken at 3-4 in the second set.

Lambert couldn't capitalize on her chance to serve for the match, with Krug stepping up her game to get the break to make it 5-4, but she still was not out of the woods.  Down 15-40, Krug saved her first match point with a good first serve, and a second was a netcord winner, which could have dropped on either side of the net, but landed on Lambert's.

"I was really nervous when I saw that hit the net," said the 13-year-old granddaughter of Dick Vitale, the college basketball announcer. "I was shaking, but then it went over. I took my time, and I believed."

After surviving that game, Krug picked up the pace on her forehand and hit three winners from that side to break. She held to take the set, got a break in the third game of the third set, and got an insurance break to go up 5-2. Krug then held, converting her second match point, two close out the two-and-a-half hour contest.

The match was played only yards away from a sandblasting concrete project at the Dignity Health Sports Park, with the noise and the dust rarely abating.

"In the first game it was kind of annoying, but then you just get used to it," Krug said.

Krug gave Lambert credit for applying so much pressure.

"She's really fast and she had a good backhand, she would step down into it," Krug said. "I just tried to open up the court, play behind her, but she was great, she played well."

Krug, who won a Grade 4 in El Salvador last month, was glad to get that first win out of the way.

"The first match is always a little tough, the nerves, haven't played on these courts," Krug said. "After getting through the first round, I relax and now I can focus on how I need to play for the next one."

Only five boys were seeded in the 16s, and only two remain, top seed Andy Hernandez and No. 4 seed Lucas Brown, the 14s Easter Bowl finalist.

Complete singles results can be found at the tournament website.