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Friday, August 23, 2019

Unseeded Braswell and Ozolins Reach ITF College Park G1 Boys Final; Bartone and Nirundorn Vie for Girls Title Saturday; Brooksby, Dolehide and Townsend Qualify for US Open

©Colette Lewis 2019--
College Park, MD--

Rain disrupted semifinal action this morning in the ITF Grade 1 Prince George County's Championships, but the outstanding play by unseeded Karlis Ozolins of Latvia and Micah Braswell continued as matches moved indoors at the Junior Tennis Champions Center.

Braswell had a slight hiccup before reasserting himself in a dramatic 6-3, 0-6, 6-4 win over No. 12 seed Harry Wendelken of Great Britain, while Ozolins defeated No. 15 seed Ryuhei Azuma of Japan 7-6(6), 7-6(2).

Braswell had just won the first set by breaking Wendelken when what turned out to be an all-day rainstorm began. After an hour and 15-minute delay, the match resumed indoors, and Braswell couldn't get on track.

"I wasn't used to the conditions at all," said the 17-year-old from Florida. "I felt like I could not hit a forehand and in the first game of the third set, I wasn't feeling great. But I tried to get pumped up after I won a few points, and after I got pumped, he made a few more errors. I think he realized I wasn't going to go away in the match and I told myself I had to show him I was still going to fight in the match."

Braswell went up 3-0 in the third set, and when he broke Wendelken a second time to take a 5-1 lead, appeared to have the match under control. After coming back from 15-40, Braswell earned his first match point, but Wendelken came up with a volley winner. Wendelken again brought his best on match point No. 2, hitting a forehand winner and went on to claim the game.

"I didn't give him any errors, so I wasn't mad at myself for losing that game," Braswell said. "He went for it and hit some really good shots."

After Wendelken held for 5-3, Braswell had another chance to serve for the match, and a confident overhead at 30-all gave him his third match point, but a good return by Wendelken resulted in a netted forehand. Two forehand errors later, Wendelken was back on serve, an uncomfortable position for Braswell.

"I had a few bad errors," Braswell said of his performance that ninth game. "I was a little upset at myself, but luckily I was able to break him at 5-4, it got really tight."

The semifinals are the first matches with chair umpires at this tournament, who in ITF events, call all the lines.  The usual disagreements surfaced throughout the match, but with Wendelken serving at 4-5, the referee was called to court after a dispute about the score. The acoustics indoors contributed to the misunderstanding with Wendelken believing he had won the first point, but when the score was announced as 0-30, a conversation ensued between the chair, the referee and Wendelken. The 0-30 score stood, and while Braswell was still getting in position, Wendelken hit a quick underhand serve that caught Braswell unaware.

"I was not ready at all," Braswell said. "That was a bad call, a very bad call. I was walking up, not even looking at him, and I look up and see the ball bounce and I thought it was a joke. I was like, you're kidding. But there is nothing I could do about it, so I was trying to stay calm and I knew if I didn't pull that game out, it was going to be harder for me to win, so I just tried to play my best tennis in that last game."

Both players came up with some impressive tennis in the final few points of the match. Braswell earned his fourth match point, but Wendelken saved it with a backhand winner. After a Wendelken backhand went long, Braswell had his fifth match point, only to see Wendelken save it was a forehand winner. But a netted forehand gave Braswell his sixth match point, and it was his turn to hit a winner, with a forehand releasing the building tension.

"We had some good points," Braswell said. "I think we were both feeling pressure, kept getting in backhand rallies, not really going for it. He just made the error first a couple of times in that last game, and I was a little more solid, and I think that helped me."

Unlike Braswell, Ozolins had not secured the first set when the rain arrived, and he failed to convert several points with Azuma serving at 4-5 and 5-6. Up 6-3 in the first set tiebreaker, Ozolins lost all three of those set points as well, but he finally got the set when Azuma sent a forehand wide.

Ozolins got the first break of the match to go up 3-2 in the second set, but the 17-year-old gave it right back.

"I played good that game, and also had 30-0 on my serve in the next game, but I kind of lost a little bit of focus I guess," Ozolins said. "Then it was just holding serve. It was a tough match, he was a very good player and played big on big points, but I managed to play better in the tiebreaks and win."

Ozolins was happy to take his powerful serve and groundstrokes indoors, especially given his level of play this week.

"I always like indoors more than outdoors," Ozolins said. "But anyway, I feel like I'm playing very well this whole week and I'm getting more confidence with every match. My summer, on clay, was not so good; I didn't have any great tournaments or matches, but now back on hard court, I feel great."

Neither Braswell or Ozolins had ever gone past the third round of a Grade 1 before this week, so experience should not be a factor.

"I saw him a little bit yesterday," Ozolins said. "I feel like he's playing a bit like me--good serving, playing aggressive. It's going to be a good match, I feel."
The girls final will also feature a Latvian, but one with much more experience, with No. 2 seed Kamilla Bartone facing No. 15 seed Mai Nirundorn of Thailand.

Bartone led No. 3 seed Priska Nugroho of Indonesia 6-0, 1-0 when the rain began, and Nugroho, who had taken a medical timeout down 5-0, retired before the match resumed.

"We're teammates, we're both coming from ITF Development Team, so it was pretty tough mentally for us to play against each other because we're also really good friends," said the 17-year-old Bartone. "But I was really consistent and concentrated on the court, and I took advantage, but she was also having some problems with the back, so she couldn't continue to play."

Nirundorn defeated No. 4 seed Abigail Forbes 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, finding her rhythm after losing four of the first five games after play resumed indoors. Down 2-1 in the second set after double faulting three times to lose serve, Nirundorn broke back, winning the final five games of the set. Nirundorn ended up winning ten straight games before Forbes finally held for 5-1, then broke and held again before Nirundorn finally closed out the match on her second attempt.

"She started playing really well," said the 17-year-old, who was born in the United States and lived here until she was 13. "I had a little bit of a heart attack, but I'm happy I got to pull through the match."

Nirundorn knew that she had to play well to finish points.

"She was running everything down and getting everything really deep, so it was really tough for me to keep staying aggressive," Nirundorn said. "But I kept pushing myself to stay inside the baseline and run her. I just kept staying steady and kept trying to be aggressive, and I knew she would tire out if I moved her from side to side."

Nirundorn's two-handed forehand adds to the difficulty of anticipating her shots.

"Before I had a one-handed forehand, but with two I get more power," said Nirundorn, who will be playing in her first Grade 1 final on Saturday. "I switched when I was about 11."

Bartone, who won her only previous Grade 1 last November in Mexico, also on a hard court, said her mental game has been strong throughout the week.

"Two of my matches were against my ITF teammates from ITF team, and to play against Robin (Montgomery), my doubles partner, is also pretty tough," Bartone said. "I think my head is strong, and I'm pretty excited for the final."

Bartone will also be playing in Saturday's doubles final, against the team that beat her in the Wimbledon girls doubles final last month. Bartone and Montgomery, the No. 3 seeds, will face No. 2 seeds Savannah Broadus and Forbes, who beat Bartone and Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 at Wimbledon.  Bartone and Montgomery defeated unseeded Elaine Chervinsky and Madison Sieg 6-0, 6-4 and Broadus and Forbes defeated No. 4 seeds Zhuoxuan Bai of China and Liubov Kostenko of Ukraine 6-2, 6-2. Neither team has come close to losing a set this week.

The boys doubles final will feature unseeded Americans Cash Hanzlik and Benjamin Kittay against No. 2 seeds Peter Makk of Hungary and Arthur Fery of Great Britain. Hanzlik and Kittay defeated No. 8 seeds Wendelken and Oscar Weightman 7-5, 6-3; Makk and Fery downed No. 3 seeds Alejo Lingua Lavallen and Juan Torres of Argentina 6-3, 6-2.

Saturday's schedule and draws are available at the tournament website.

Qualifying is complete at the US Open, with three Americans reaching the main draw with wins today.  Taylor Townsend came back to beat Nina Stojanovic of Serbia 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-1; Caroline Dolehide, a wild card into qualifying, defeated Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany 6-4, 6-3 and 2018 Kalamazoo champion Jenson Brooksby, a wild card, defeated Pedro Martinez of Spain 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3. Brooksby will play Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic in the first round. Townsend will play Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine and Dolehide faces No. 18 seed Wang Qiang of China.

Due to four withdrawals in the women's draw, those places will be taken by lucky losers, with Nicole Gibbs and Varvara Lepchenko getting two of those spots. Gibbs will play No. 4 seed Simona Halep and Lepchenko will play China's Peng Shuai, who beat Gibbs today in the final round of qualifying.


College Fan said...

Brooksby served for the match at 5-4 in the second and then lost the set. Impressive job regrouping in the third. Congrats.

Luck of the Draw said...

Kevin Anderson Withdraws from the US Open. Knee Injury. Replaced by LL from Qualifier, Paolo
Lorenzi of Italy. He will play the 2019 Kzoo B18 Champion, Zachary Svajda. Luck of the Draw or just nice placement..you decide.