Saturday, August 10, 2019

Svajda and Nanda Reach Kalamazoo 18s Final, Bernard and Mayo Meet for 16s Championship; Damm and Kodat Earn US Open Main Draw Wild Card with Doubles Title; Volynets and Navarro Advance to San Diego 18s Final; US Boys Win Second Straight ITF World Junior Tennis 14U Team Title

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Kalamazoo MI--

Sixteen-year-old Zachary Svajda dropped his first set of the tournament in Saturday's USTA Boys 18s National Championships semifinal to top seed Brandon Nakashima, but the No. 6 seed didn't let that shake his confidence, rebounding for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over the 2017 16s champion and 2018 18s finalist. Svajda will take on No. 5 seed Govind Nanda, who won his fourth consecutive three-set match Saturday over No. 25 seed Ronan Jachuck 4-6, 7-5, 7-5.

Svajda played just one loose service game in the first set of the match, played under partly cloudy skies on Stowe Stadium's court 3 , but that was enough to give Nakashima the edge in the battle of San Diego residents.

But Svajda began to assert himself in the second set, and although he couldn't hold on to an early service break, he earned another with Nakashima serving at 4-5 to even the match.

Svajda was hitting return winners with regularity, and with Nakashima unable to raise his first serve percentage, that pattern continued in the third set.

"I thought he served pretty well in the first, but he missed a lot of first serves later, and I tried to take advantage of his second," said Svajda, who is playing Kalamazoo for the first time. "When I lost the first set, I thought, ok, I'll have to be more aggressive. I thought I played really well, especially the third set. t was probably one of the best I've played. I was really aggressive."

In the third set, Svajda continued to pummel Nakashima's second serve, getting a quick break to take a 3-0 lead, but with a trip to New York, whether for US Open men's qualifying or main draw, on the line, Svajda admitted that nerves made an appearance in the final games.

"The last few games I did get nervous," Svajda said. "I thought I'm two games away, three games away from US Open. It's amazing, but I can't think about that yet."

Svajda didn't have to serve out the match, breaking Nakashima at love, with a double fault ending Nakashima's stellar singles career in Kalamazoo.

Svajda considered himself the underdog, but was confident he could win the match.

"I knew if I was to go out there and play my game, I could beat anybody," Svajda said. "If I play that way [as in the third set today], I'm pretty confident. But you never know, it's tennis."

Unlike Svajda, Nanda had much more experience in third sets, with today's match his fourth consecutive three-set victory and the second straight from a set down. Jachuck served for the match at 6-4, 5-4, but Nanda didn't have to face a match point, taking a 15-40 lead in the game and breaking on his second opportunity with volley winner.

"I was nervous the whole match, super nervous," said the 18-year-old from Cerritos California. "More than ever for sure, and by a lot too. I had no business winning that match, but fought my hardest, trying to find a way. I thought he got a little bit nervous towards the end of the second too, so it kind of helped me out a little bit."

In the third set, Nanda saved a break point, then converted a break point for a 4-2 lead, but he too struggled closing out the match, with Jachuck saving two match points with Nanda serving for it at 5-3. Jachuck held for 5-5, but Nanda again gained the advantage with a quick hold. Jachuck went up 30-0 serving at 5-6, but Nanda pressed him, and when Jachuck missed an easy volley, Nanda earned a third match point. This time he converted, when Jachuck's backhand went wide.

Nanda said the mental aspect of his game was crucial to taking the match.

"I was trying to get myself to have fun in the key moments," Nanda said. "I knew that would help me a little bit and that's what got me through the second set also, just having fun. Honestly, it felt 100 percent mental today. Getting through that match was all mental."

Nanda and Svajda haven't played in years, but Nanda is preparing for tough match in the final.

"I'm going to have play pretty aggressive I think," Nanda said. "I know he's super solid off both sides and has a very cool head. I think he plays his game no matter what, a very respectable game, and I'm looking forward to it."

The best-of-five format may put Nanda at a disadvantage given the disparity in the time on court, with Nanda also competing in the doubles final this afternoon. But with neither player having any experience with that format, how they will handle it is anyone's guess.
Prior to the 18s final, the 16s champion will be decided, with top seed Alexander Bernard facing No. 4 seed Aidan Mayo.  Bernard eased past No. 7 seed Ben Shelton 6-2, 6-4, while Mayo came back to post a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 19 seed Alex Finkelstein.

Bernard sensed that Shelton was nervous in the opening games, so he concentrated on keeping the ball in the court against his fellow left-hander.

"First set I was just kind of staying steady and he was spraying a little bit," said Bernard, who turns 16 next week. "Second set he started to put in some more first serves, and he's got a nice lefty serve, so it's pretty tricky to break. So I was just trying to focus on getting as many returns in as possible and holding my serve, which I thought I did pretty well."

Bernard is fond of his drop shot, which he used effectively against Shelton, although his coaches are concerned that he goes to it too often.

"I'm not supposed to use it as much, that's what my coaches says," said Bernard, from Bonita Springs Florida. "Not every point. I brought it out a couple of times today on big points, because he wasn't expecting it and he was pretty far back, so I thought, why not?"

Bernard had to save a couple of break points serving at 4-3 in the second set, and went down 0-30 serving for the match, but a drop shot winner got him to 30-30 and a couple of misses on the backhand side from Shelton gave Bernard a place in the final.

Mayo needed some time to get used to Finkelstein's flat strokes and depth.

"The first set I came out a little nervous, a little tentative, and he hits a pretty flat ball, so I wasn't really used to it," said the 16-year-old from Torrance California. "So in the second, I kind of calmed down and realized I had to get it high, he doesn't like it up there. I got my first serve percentage up and tried to hit spinny and heavy as much as I could and it kind of worked, I guess."

Mayo got the only break of the second set in the sixth game and got the first break of the third in the fifth game, although he had to save two break points serving at 4-3.

"I made first serves and maybe he got a little tight and missed some returns," said Mayo, who hit a difficult overhead on a good lob to save the first and a good deep second serve to save the second. "I feel like I put a lot of balls in the court and made him earn it and I came out on top today."

Mayo and Bernard have played often in the past, with Bernard winning at the 2017 Eddie Herr 14s and last year's Orange Bowl 16s.

"We've played many times, so it's going to be a good match, it'll be fun," Mayo said. "We're pretty good friends, so I'm just going to compete hard and see how it goes."

Bernard said he expected the match to have some "fire."

"Since we know each other, I think we'll be a little more into it."

Mayo agreed.

"He's my age, so we're always trying to get the best of each other. It'll definitely be pretty tense out there."

The 16s doubles final saw No. 7 seeds Hugo Hashimoto and Benjamin Kittay defeat No. 11 seeds Lucas Brown and Aidan Kim 6-4, 6-3 after trailing 4-2 in the opening set.

"We started out a little shaky at first, a little nervous," said Hashimoto, a 16-year-old from San Jose California. "I think holding serve at 4-2 was really important, and getting that positive energy flowing back into the match was a big thing for both of us. That decided the first set, and I think we were able to keep it going in the second."

Kittay and Hashimoto, who have played together four times and won the tournament three of those times, also had to mount a comeback in the third set of the semifinal match against Jameson Corsillo and Luke Casper Friday evening, after trailing 4-1 in the third set.

"It was our communication," said Kittay, a Potomac Maryland resident, who turns 16 later this month. "We had a little lapse of energy, were a little flat-footed, weren't playing our best, but we just came back, found a way."

Brown and Kim didn't go quietly, saving three match points with Brown serving at 2-5 in the second, and another with Kittay serving at 5-3 40-0. But on match point number five, Kittay hit a good first serve and Hashimoto put away the return, and the pair celebrated like the Bryan brothers.

"At the end, we did our signature chest bump," Kittay said. "We've done it since our first match. Every match point, I told him 'you better jump,' I give today's bump an A plus."

Seven days ago, top 18s doubles seeds Martin Damm and Toby Kodat were facing down three match points in a third round match against Michael Andre and Blake Kasday. Today, the longtime friends are preparing to play in the US Open main draw, after beating No. 3 seeds Nakashima and Nanda 6-4, 6-3 in the 18s doubles final.

Damm, 15, and Kodat, 16, said they hit their stride in today's match.

"It's been a grueling week, a lot of fighting going on, but it's a good end to it," Kodat said.

"Today was our best match, and we probably played our best opponents as well," Damm said. "Yesterday, we also played a very good match against a very solid team and today we knew we had to repeat what we did in the second and third sets yesterday. Although we went down early in the first I think we regrouped pretty well, we returned better and the nerves went down a bit. Some points were unbelievable, we have no idea how we won those points."

After taking a 3-1 lead in the second set, Damm had to save break points serving at 3-2, but once the finish line was in sight, Damm and Kodat wouldn't be denied, with Kodat slamming away a ball at the net on their first match point.

Damm and Kodat know they will face a major challenge in the main draw of the US Open.

"We've known each other since going to preschool, kindergarten together," said Damm. "So obviously our chemistry is probably the best of anyone here. But we're 15, 16 and those are guys who play on a daily basis, those tournaments and matches. Obviously we've got nothing to lose, we're playing at our home grand slam and there's so much history from both our families at that tournament. It's going to be super tough, obviously, but we're going give it our all."

Damm's father Martin won the 2006 US Open doubles title with Leander Paes, while Kodat's half sister Nicole Vaidisova reached the fourth round there in 2005.

"It helps a lot that my dad knows what he's talking about in doubles; His advice isn't that bad," Damm joked. "Yeah, kudos to big Marty."

In third place doubles matches, No. 2 seed Thomas Paulsell and Frank Thompson defeated No. 13 seeds Casper and Corsillo 6-1, 6-0 to take the bronze balls in 16s. Phillip Jordan and Andres Martin, the No. 15 seeds, beat No. 14 seeds Robert Cash and Cannon Kingsley 6-2, 7-6(6) to claim third place in 18s doubles.

Sunday's schedule begins with third place matches in singles at 10 a.m. The 16s singles final is scheduled for 11:30, with the 18s final to follow, not before 1:30 p.m. Consolation finals are also on Sunday's schedule, at 10:30 a.m.  Draws and a link to live streaming can be found at ustaboys.com.

The finals of the USTA Girls 18s National Championships will feature No. 2 seed Katie Volynets against No. 3 seed Emma Navarro.  Volynets defeated No. 13 seed Katrina Scott 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 and Navarro defeated top seed Hailey Baptiste 6-0, 6-2. The final is scheduled to be shown live on Tennis Channel Sunday at 5 p.m. Eastern.

The results of the finals of the other National Championships are below:

G12s: Claire An[4] d. Bella Payne[1] 6-2, 6-2

G14s: Theadora Rabman[3] d. Brooklyn Olson[33] 6-7(1), 6–1, 6-1

B12s: Maxwell Exsted[3] d. Abhinav Chunduru[2] 7-6(5), 6-0

B14s: Cooper Williams[4] d. Nicholas Godsick[3] 6-1, 7-5

G16s: Reese Brantmeier[14] d. Valencia Xu[1] 6-2, 6-0

The boys team from the United States won a second consecutive ITF World Junior Tennis 14-and-under team title today in the Czech Republic. The No. 2 seeds defeated no. 5 seeds France 2-1, with Nishesh Basavareddy and Kyle Kang clinching the title with the doubles point. It's the first time since 2002-2003 that a country has won back-to-back boys titles, with the US also doing it those years.

The US girls, seeded No. 8, fell in the final to No. 2 seeds Czech Republic, with sisters Brenda and Linda Fruhvirtova winning both singles matches to clinch the title.

For more on the boys title, see this article from the ITF.  For a recap of the girls final, click here.