Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Few Upsets in Fifth Round at Kalamazoo 18s and 16s Nationals; Girls Nats in San Diego Lose Several Top Contenders; Both US Teams Advance to Quarterfinals at ITF World Junior Tennis Competition

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Kalamazoo MI--

After a crazy day on Tuesday, which began with a lengthy rain delay and ended with half of the Top 8 seeds eliminated in the 18s division of the USTA Boys National Championships, Wednesday proved much quieter. The weather was warm and sunny, and upsets were few, although two top 8 seeds were eliminated in the 16s division, which returned to Stowe after playing at Western Michigan University on Tuesday after the rain.

No. 5 seed Thomas Paulsell was beaten by No. 32 seed Hugo Hashimoto 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 and No. 6 seed William Cooksey was beaten 6-3, 6-3 by 15-year-old wild card Victor Lilov, who is making his Kalamazoo debut this year.

Lilov, who last year at this time was leading the US boys to a title at the 14-and-under ITF World Tennis Competition in the Czech Republic, has not been entirely pleased with his play this week, in spite of his four straight-sets victories.

"My level's been up and down, even though I haven't lost a set," said Lilov, who is now training in Delray Beach Florida. "Some good games, some poorer games. Today, we both didn't play that well in the first set. He had like ten double faults; in one game he gave me four straight double faults. But when I kept my legs moving, I definitely played a lot better."

Like most players, Lilov said he is looking at Kalamazoo as an opportunity to improve his game.

"Everyone in the tournament, if they're serious, they want to win the whole thing," said Lilov, who acknowledges the importance of the wild card into the US Open Juniors that goes to the 16s champion. "But my goal is to play more matches the way my coach wants me to...of course, I'll be disappointed if I lose, but I'll have to fight in every match from now on; the players will be very good."

Lilov's quarterfinal opponent on Thursday will be No. 4 seed Aidan Mayo, who beat unseeded Alejandro Moreno 6-2, 6-2.

Top seed Alex Bernard defeated No. 10 seed Benjamin Kittay 6-1, 6-1 and will play Hashimoto next. No. 3 seed Samir Banerjee downed unseeded Connor Krug 6-4, 6-2 and will face No. 7 seed Ben Shelton, a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 winner over No. 30 seed Nate Bonetto.  No. 2 seed Luke Casper, the Clay Court champion, continued his winning streak at USTA National Level 1s, beating No. 15 seed Braden Shick 6-3, 6-3.

The 16s quarterfinals are scheduled for Thursday at Stowe Stadium, beginning at 11 a.m.

In the 18s, top seed Brandon Nakashima rolled on, beating No. 33 seed Ryder Jackson 6-3, 6-0 to win his 17th match in 18 attempts during the past three years in Kalamazoo. Nakashima will face No. 31 seed Blaise Bicknell, who saved three match points in the second set tiebreaker to defeat No. 27 seed Siem Woldeab 3-6, 7-6(7), 6-4.

No. 33 seed Cash Hanzlik, who defeated No. 3 seed Toby Kodat on Tuesday, picked up another big win Wednesday, taking out No. 12 seed Dali Blanch 6-3, 6-1. Hanzlik will face No. 6 seed Zachary Svajda, who has lost just 13 games in four matches after beating No. 15 seed Andres Martin 6-3, 6-1.

No. 25 seed Ronan Jachuck eliminated No. 29 seed Garrett Johns, who had beaten No. 2 seed Martin Damm on Tuesday, with the Harvard rising freshman getting the better of the Duke rising freshman by a 7-6(2), 6-2 score. Jachuck will play No. 10 seed Eliot Spizzirri, who beat Marcus McDaniel 6-1, 6-7(6), 6-4.
No. 5 seed Govind Nanda moved into the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-1 win over unseeded wild card Samuel Rubell, and will take on No. 4 seed Cannon Kingsley, who outlasted No. 16 seed Andrew Dale 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 in a nearly three-hour battle.

Kingsley said his three week training block at Ohio State, where he is enrolled in summer classes, was the difference in the match.

"I've been training really hard at Ohio State the last few weeks," Kingsley said. "Previously, in a span of four months, I'd lost six three-setters in a row. Just now, I've won four in a row now, just since I've been going to Ohio State. Ty (head coach Tucker) has gotten me in such physical shape, that when I'm out there in three sets, it's nothing compared to practices, it's actually fun."

Dale, who has verbally committed to Princeton for 2020, began to struggle physically late in the third set, which featured no breaks of serve through the first seven games.

"I'm lucky I didn't cramp like him," Kingsley said. "I was feeling maybe the calf, that's usually what goes. He started cramping in his quad, I think, and that's when I got the break. He was up 30-love on his serve and all of sudden I see him limping a little bit, and I said, ok, I've got to make a lot of returns here and see what he does. He started slowing down, slowing down, his serve slowed down a little bit, and I broke him, and then he took that medical timeout."

Kingsley had no trouble serving out the match, although Dale, who had saved a match point in his win over Henry Ruger on Tuesday, saved one match point with a winner before Kingsley closed it out at 40-30.

"He played unbelievable," said Kingsley. "I've played him maybe four or five times and I don't think it's ever been that close, except two years ago here, for fifth and sixth, that was a super breaker. He surprised me, making so many balls. I'd played a lot opponents before him that weren't making half the amount of balls he was making and I was kind of being the one making balls. Today I had to change it up, play offense, and it was really tough to hit through him. Side to side, laterally, he's so good. I just really had to stick it out. If hadn't started cramping, I could have lost that match easily."

Kinglsey was happy to hear that the 18s have Thursday off in singles, with a doubles quarterfinal the only thing on his schedule until Friday.

Kingsley and his partner Robert Cash, seeded No. 14, advanced via walkover, when Tyler Zink, seeded No. 2 with Spizzirri, withdrew with an illness.

Top seeds Damm and Toby Kodat advanced to Thursday's doubles quarterfinals, as did No. 3 seeds Nakashima and Nanda, No. 6 seeds Blanch and Will Grant and No. 7 seed Welsh Hotard and Benjamin Koch.

The 16s doubles third round, played at Western Michigan University Wednesday afternoon, saw No. 2 seeds Paulsell and Thompson and No. 3 seeds Finkelstein and Nathan Mao advance to Thursday's quarterfinals. The No. 4 and No. 1 seeds withdrew with injury and illness earlier in the week.

Thursday begins with 18s consolation matches, followed by the first two 16s quarterfinals at 11, with the next two to follow. 18s doubles quarterfinals are scheduled to begin at 2 pm, followed by the 16s doubles quarterfinals around 4 pm.  Draws, schedules and a link to the live streams are at ustaboys.com.

Several of the pre-tournament favorites were eliminated today in the fourth round of the USTA Girls 18s Nationals in San Diego, although top three seeds Hailey Baptiste, Katie Volynets and Emma Navarro did move into the round of 16. No. 4 seed and Wimbledon girls finalist Alexa Noel lost to Karina Miller[17] 7-5, 6-0; No. 6 seed Natasha Subhash, who had been winning so many matches on the Pro Circuit this summer, lost to Lea Ma 6-3, 6-3, and No. 9 seed Savannah Broadus and No. 12 seed Robin Montgomery also lost, to Allura Zamarripa[17] and Sarah Hamner[17] respectively.

In the 16s, top seeds Valencia Xu and Vivian Ovrootsky are through to Thursday's quarterfinals.

The boys 12s and 14s in Mobile have had rain delays, but the top two seeds in both divisions have made the quarterfinals.

At the girls 12s in Alpharetta, No. 2 seed Eva Oxford was beaten by Elena Zhao[17] in the round of 16. Top seed Bella Payne has advanced.

At the girls 14s in Rome, top seed Stephanie Yakoff retired in the round of 32, and No. 2 seed Kinaa Graham lost to No. 33 seed Brooklyn Olson 6-2, 6-1 in the round of 16.

Both US teams won their round robin groups today at the ITF World Junior Tennis competition, with the second-seeded boys beating No. 6 seed Bulgaria 2-1 and the eighth-seeded girls beating No. 4 seed Philippines 3-0. I thought it odd that the US girls team was seeded so low, given the history and the strong team assembled, but that's irrelevant once you reach the quarterfinals, which begin on Thursday. The US boys will play No. 3 Japan, and the US girls will play No. 6 seed Japan for a place in the semifinals. Two unseeded girls teams, Ukraine and Serbia, reached the quarterfinals, and one unseeded boys team, Brazil.  For more on the final day of round robin play, see this article from the ITF Junior website.