Sponsored by IMG Academy

Friday, August 9, 2019

Top Seed Nakashima Rolls into 18s Semifinals in Kalamazoo; Girls 18s Semifinalists Include Top Three Seeds; US Teams Reach ITF 14U Team Finals; Spizzirri Twins Excel in Different Racquet Sports

©Colette Lewis 2019—
Kalamazoo MI—

Although the Girls 16s and 18s are in San Diego for their USTA National Championships, Kalamazoo will have a battle of that city Saturday, when top seed Brandon Nakashima and No. 6 seed Zachary Svajda meet for a place in the 18s final.

Both dominated their quarterfinal matches Friday, with Nakashima beating No. 31 seed Blaise Bicknell 6-1, 6-1 in just over an hour and Svajda defeating No. 33 seed Cash Hanzlik by the same score in 55 minutes.

“I’m playing with a lot of confidence right now,” said Nakashima, who turned 18 on Monday. “I definitely feel pretty comfortable here, especially this year. I’m feeling my game really well.”

Against Bicknell, Nakashima had a number of easy service games, which gave him the freedom to swing away when returning.

“It helped give me a lot of confidence on my returns,” said Nakashima, who played the dual match season at Virginia before returning to junior tennis this summer. “My service games felt more comfortable; there wasn’t as much pressure to hold my service games, because I knew I was in all the return games. I just played really well this match and hope I can continue to play well.”

Unlike 2017 16s champion and 2018 18s finalist Nakashima, who has now won 18 of his last 19 matches at Kalamazoo, Svajda is making his Kalamazoo debut.
“It’s a lovely tournament, a great tournament, everything is so nice, just really well done,” said Svajda, who received a wild card into the tournament. “I like the courts, they’re slow, which I like. I think it’s a little easier for me with my game. I think I’m playing better throughout the tournament. The first and second (matches) I didn’t play too well, but I felt it’s getting better each day, slowly, and I thought today I played really well.”

Although both sets had the same score, the second was much more competitive, with Hanzlik connecting on many of the big serves and ground strokes that hadn’t found the court in the first set.

“He has a big game, very aggressive,” said Svajda, who turns 17 in November. “He hits really big and I was getting pushed back a lot. I was trying to take my returns really early, which I was. I like the pace, compared to a softer ball.”

Being more than a year younger than Nakashima, Svajda hasn’t played him much, despite living in the same city. But he certainly followed Nakashima’s rise in the junior ranks.

“We were probably 11, or maybe 9, when we last played,” Svajda said. “But I’ve known him for a while. I’d always see him in the juniors when I was younger. He’s a big name there.”

While the San Diego boys were cruising into the semifinals, the other two semifinalists needed over two hours and three sets to advance.
No. 5 seed Govind Nanda overcame an extremely slow start to beat No. 4 seed Cannon Kingsley 6-7(8), 6-1, 7-5, while No. 25 seed Ronan Jachuck eliminated No. 10 seed Eliot Spizziri 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3.

Nanda trailed 5-1 in the first set before winning five games in a row, but Kingsley managed to save a set point in the tiebreaker and convert his third set point. But the second set was over in no time, although Nanda said he still wasn’t quite at ease.

“I don’t think I’ve gotten used to the conditions here yet,” said Nanda, who is the third semifinalist from Southern California, and like Nakashima, has already played a dual match season of college tennis, his at UCLA. “The wind’s swirling, it’s tough to feel comfortable out there, but I think I felt more comfortable in that second set.”

The level for both Nanda and Kingsley went up in the third set, with long rallies frequently ending with forced errors or winner. With Nanda serving at 4-all, he hit the shot of the tournament, blasting an over-his-head winner past Kingsley, who was closing the net while Nanda was facing the bleachers.

“I’ve actually hit that shot a couple of times of before, hit a winner on it a couple of times,” Nanda said. “No one really expects it, they probably think it’ll be a lob, up in the air, a floater.”

The run of holds in the third set reached 11, but with Kingsley serving at 6-5, the tension began to mount. At 30-all, Nanda came through with a backhand volley winner to earn his first match point, which Kingsley saved with an ace. A netted Kingsley forehand gave Nanda another match point, but a good first serve that Nanda couldn’t control saved that one. Another forehand error gave Nanda a third match point, and this one ended more controversially, with a second serve ace by Kingsley that was generally believed by to be wide by Nanda and all the fans sitting behind the far sideline.

“It was out,” said Nanda, who appealed to the chair umpire, but did not get the overrule of the line judge he was seeking. “It was tough, but I can’t afford to lose my focus. I just have to play the next point, like it didn’t happen. You can’t do anything about it after it’s done.”

A good passing shot forced a volley error by Kingsley and on the fourth match point, Nanda converted, with Kingsley missing a forehand wide after a lengthy rally.

“I was super nervous going out there, but as the match went on, I felt my nerves calm down a little more,” Nanda said. “By the end, I wasn’t really thinking about anything too much, just playing like it’s zero-all, playing it one point at a time.”
Jachuck was on the verge of a tough straight-sets win over Spizzirri leading 6-4 in the second set tiebreaker, but Spizzirri won four straight points to send the match to a third set.

“I thought I played a really solid match overall, almost two full sets,” said Jachuck, a 17-year-old from Boca Raton Florida, who starts at Harvard late this month. “6-4 in the tiebreaker, obviously I had match points. I didn’t play bad on those points, but I didn’t go after it, and going into a third set, mentally it was tough to rebound, but I did a great job.”

After just one break in the opening set, Spizzirri broke Jachuck twice, but wasn’t able to hold the lead, and the well-played tiebreaker, which saw 12 straight first serves made on the first 12 points, ended in Spizzirri’s favor. In the third set, Jachuck saved two break points serving at 2-all, knowing that a break might end his chances of advancing.

“If I remember, I hit a couple of good serves and I don’t think he made the returns back in play,” Jachuck said of those two break chances. “That’s definitely something I’ve been working on lately and I think the serve has become a weapon of mine and I was able to rely on it on those break points and serving out the match. I had belief in myself and went after the serve,” Jachuck said of the ace he hit to close out the win.

Jachuck said his results during the summer on the USTA Pro Circuit showed that his game was ready for this tournament.

“I definitely knew I was playing good tennis coming in,” Jachuck said. “This summer I played four Futures; I won a round in Orlando, I quartered in Rochester and semied in Oklahoma, so I picked up seven ATP points this summer. So I knew coming in my level was high enough that on any day I could beat anyone, just being consistent at that level.”

Jachuck and Nanda have known each other for a long time, but the only time they can remember playing is during the Junior Orange Bowl 12s consolation tournament.

“I think is was like sixth round of back draw,” Jachuck said. “He beat me in three sets. He’s been good at every level of juniors. You know how talented he is, we’ve all seen him play. I’m going to have to play a very good match to win.”

The teams in the doubles championship matches Saturday were decided Friday afternoon, with two of the singles semifinalists playing for a title, and a US Open main draw wild card, in the 18s. Top seeds Martin Damm and Toby Kodat defeated No. 15 seeds Phillip Jordan and Andres Martin 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 and will play No. 3 seeds Nakashima and Nanda, who beat No. 14 seeds Robert Cash and Kingsley 6-4, 7-6(3).

In the 16s, it will be No. 11 seeds Lucas Brown and Aidan Kim against No. 7 seeds Hugo Hashimoto and Benjamin Kittay. Brown and Kim defeated No. 2 seed Thomas Paulsell and Frank Thompson 7-6(2), 7-6(7), while Hashimoto and Kittay beat Casper and Corsillo 7-6(5), 0-6, 6-4, with the match ending with a game penalty for Casper and Corsillo for unsportsmanlike conduct, after a threatening remark was reported to the chair by a line umpire, after a previous point earlier in the set was assessed for remarks about a line call.

Saturday's schedule will have 16s semifinals at 9:30 a.m., followed by 18s semifinals, with the 16s doubles final around 1:30 and the 18s doubles final to follow. See the tournament website for schedule, results and a link to the live streams.

For more on the 16s semifinalists, see my recap of Thursday's quarterfinals.

The finals are set in five other National Championships. Click on the heading to go to the Tennis Link site for the results.

G12s: Bella Payne[1] v Claire An[4]

G14s: Brooklyn Olson[33] v Theadora Rabman[3]

B12s: Abhinav Chunduru[2] v Maxwell Exsted[3]

B14s: Cooper Williams[4] v Nicholas Godsick[3]

G16s: Valencia Xu[1] v Reese Brantmeier[14]

The USTA Girls 18s semifinals are Saturday, with three of the top four seeds remaining.

G18s: Hailey Baptiste[1] v Emma Navarro[3]
          Katie Volynets[2] v. Katrina Scott[13]

Both the US teams have advanced to the finals of the ITF World Junior Tennis 14-and-under competition in the Czech Republic. The US girls, seeded No. 8, defeated No. 1 Switzerland 2-1 and will play the Czech Republic team for the title. The US boys, seeded No. 2, beat Croatia 2-1 and will play No. 5 seed France in the final. For more, see the ITF Junior website for boys semifinal article and girls semifinal article.

I had an opportunity to talk with top 2020 recruit Eliot Spizzirri last weekend about his twin brother, who is a world class squash player. Read about the competitive spirit that sent the pair in different directions athletically, but may have saved their relationship. My Tennis Recruiting Network article is here.


1 Out of 4 WC’s Advance said...

Out of the 4 Wild Cards given out for the Western and Southern Quallies in Cincy, JJ Wolf, Ohio State and Cincy native, is the only WC player to advance to the 2nd round. Jack Sock, Sebastian Korda, and John McNally all lose in first round quallies.

Back to School said...

Colette Lewis reports...”Zachary Svajda deals top seed Brandon Nakashima just his 2nd loss in 3 years in Kalamazoo. He defeats Nakashima 46 64 62 to reach Sunday's best-of-5 18s final vs Govind Nanda.”
Does this mean Brandon will be enrolled in Fall Classes at Virginia....hope so... stay in School🤔