Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Kouzmanov Defeats No. 2 Seed Broadus, Cooksey Survives Roller Coaster to Beat No. 5 Seed Leustian in ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed Second Round Action

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Nicholasville KY--

Southeastern Michigan came up big Tuesday during second round action at the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed, with wild cards Isabelle Kouzmanov and William Cooksey taking out seeded players in dramatic fashion on the indoor courts of the Top Seed Tennis Club.

Kouzmanov defeated No. 2 seed and 2018 finalist Savannah Broadus 7-5, 7-6(4), using her underdog status to play fearlessly in the late stages of the match.

“Before the match I just told myself to go out there and play how you can, and whatever happens, happens,” said the 14-year-old from Novi, “Just have confidence in yourself, and I’m happy with the result. I played really well, although sometimes my level would go down. But she’s obviously a very good player.”

Aware that Broadus was one of the top-ranked US juniors on the ITF Circuit, Kouzmanov didn’t dwell on the difference in their rankings: 28 for Broadus versus 712 for Kouzmanov.

“I put that aside; it depends on if someone is having a good day or a bad day, who is mentally tougher out there,” said Kouzmanov.

Kouzmanov lost a break in the second set, but true to her word, she did not get discouraged and kept going for the lines in the tiebreaker. At 4-4, she swung for the backhand corner and her forehand whizzed past Broadus and a point later, on her first match point, she hit another laser-like forehand to the same spot and again hit the target.

“In general, I’m a big risk taker,” Kouzmanov, who trains with her father at the Sports Club of Novi, but is hoping to find a warmer location so she can get more court time in the winter. “But playing the No. 2 seed definitely helped. Since she’s a flat hitter, I can swing through my shots, take risks, and in the end, those risks were a good idea.”

Kouzmanov will play unseeded Elise Wagle in Wednesday's third round after Wagle defeated lucky loser Elisabeth Jones 6-1, 6-2.
Gross Pointe Shores resident Cooksey was able to recover from squandering two big leads in the second and third sets, then mount a comeback of his own in the third set tiebreaker to defeat No. 5 seed Stefan Leustian 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-6(6).

“I was up 6-4, 5-1 serving and was serving my best ever and you know, I just think I got a little tight, let it slip a little bit,” said the 16-year-old, who had match points in the second set tiebreaker.

"I was very disappointed, but at the end of the day, it's a third set," said Cooksey, who has been focusing on improving his mental game, and needed to draw on all that work when he saw a 4-0 lead disappear in the second set, and then went down 5-1 in the third set tiebreaker.

"I was just thinking every point I can win is important," Cooksey said. "It was an unbelievable match. I came to the net a lot and I think that helped me too."

Leustian had a match point serving at 6-5 in the tiebreaker, but missed a backhand wide, and Cooksey's net play made the difference in the final two points, when he knocked off two tough volley winners to earn the win, over three hours and 15 minutes after the match began.

Another player who looked exceptionally comfortable indoors was unseeded Adit Sinha, who beat No. 10 Leighton Allen 6-1, 3-6, 6-1. Sinha said he knew he had to stick to his aggressive play to beat Allen, who made him pay for getting more tentative in the second set.

"Clearly he was an outdoor player," said the 16-year-old from New Jersey, who trains indoors at the Garden State Tennis Center. "He was playing the outdoor style indoors, so I had to come in, finish the points early, not grind with him. In the middle, I kind of went back to playing an outdoor game style and he was beating me, so I had to go back to coming in and serving big."

In addition to Leustian and Allen, one additional seed lost in the second round, with qualifier Ozan Colak beating No. 13 seed Murphy Cassone 6-2, 4-6, 6-2. Top seed Andrew Dale had another tight match, but managed to close out Nedim Suko 7-5, 6-4.

No. 11 seed Bruno Kuzuhara was facing his friend Evan Wen in the second round, and Kuzuhara was the one with a disadvantage indoors, but he managed to overcome Wen 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 in a three-hour marathon.

"I live in Florida and there's almost no indoor courts there," the 15-year-old said. "I train on clay, so I feel his game is more suited to indoors than mine. The return is really important, because if I don't return well, he starts off the point attacking and he loves to rip the forehand and come to the net and finish the point off, so it's important to keep it deep."

Although Kuzuhara doesn't consider himself an indoor player, there's one aspect to playing inside that he really likes.

"I love playing indoors because of the sound," said Kuzuhara, who was on the USA's ITF World Junior Tennis championship team with Wen last year. "When you hit a great shot it just sounds ten times better."

After four girls seeds lost in Monday's first round, three more went out in the second round. In addition to Broadus, No. 13 seed Valencia Zu was beaten by qualifier Eleana Yu 6-4, 0-6, 6-4, and unseeded Reese Brantmeier took out No. 8 seed Jenna DeFalco 6-4, 6-4.

Brantmeier, who reached the quarterfinals of the US Open Junior Championships after receiving a wild card for winning the National 16s title in San Diego, has had a busy few weeks since her success in New York.

"I had a couple days off and I stayed at home," Brantmeier said of her post-US Open schedule. "Then I went to Orlando to train and I was there about two weeks. And then I went up to Charleston and played a $60K, then went back to Orlando, then came straight here."

Brantmeier, who lives and trains, mostly indoors, in Wisconsin, was happy to see an indoor tournament on the ITF Junior Circuit schedule.

"I grew up playing indoors and this is nice, because there's never any indoor tournaments inside and it's fun to get to play indoors," Brantmeier said.

As for her goal in playing this event, Brantmeier doesn't want to focus on a specific ranking, but knows doing well here could boost her prospects for playing junior slams next year.

"The Open was the first ITF tournament that I got a significant amount of points at," Brantmeier said. "So hopefully, if I get a lot of points here, I could play the other slams. It would be amazing to play junior slams, that's a no-brainer."

Brantmeier will face unseeded Zoe Hitt in Wednesday's third round. Hitt defeated Malaika Rapolu 6-2, 6-3 in today's second round.

Top seed Alexandra Yepifanova advanced to a meeting with No. 14 seed Gianna Pielet with a 6-2, 7-5 win over Corina Spasojevic of Canada. Pielet defeated Allie Gretkowski 6-3, 6-2.

The first round of doubles was played today, with boys top seeds Hunter Heck and Leustian and No. 2 seeds Lorenzo Claverie of Venezuela and Aidan Mayo advancing. Top girls seeds Lauren Anazalotta of Puerto Rico and Yepifanova had a bye; No. 2 seeds Jada Bui of Canada and Kailey Evans advanced with a straight-sets win.