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Monday, August 15, 2022

Sixteen-Year-Old Learner Tien Defeats Ethan Quinn for USTA National Boys 18s Title in Rare Monday Final; Junior Wheelchair Tournament Results

©Colette Lewis 2022-
Kalamazoo MI--

After saving four match points in his round of 16 match with Nicholas Godsick Thursday, Learner Tien made use of that good fortune to diffuse any high pressure situations he faced in subsequent matches, including in Monday's 7-6(7), 7-6(3) 5-7, 6-3 win over No. 2 seed Ethan Quinn in the USTA Boys 18s National Championships final at Stowe Stadium.

"It always comes to mind whenever I feel like I'm getting tight," said the 16-year-old left-hander from Irvine California, seeded No. 8. "I just tell myself, should I even still be in this tournament? and the nerves kind of subside a little bit."

Although the usual attendance for the Sunday final was reduced due to the Monday morning start time, competing for a place in the tournament's 79-year history--and a US Open main draw wild card--was bound to generate stress, regardless of the size of the crowd witnessing it. 

Up an early break in the first set, Tien lost it, but passed his first stress test when he made a forehand error to go down 6-4 in the subsequent tiebreaker. He saved both set points, the second on a let-cord pass, then missed out on his own set point at 7-6, but when Quinn missed a forehand wide and double faulted, Tien had secured the 70-minute set.

The second set was similar to the first, with Tien going up 3-1, losing the break, and then going down 2-0 in the tiebreaker. Tien was reassured however, when he recalled what he faced in the opening tiebreaker.

"Having the confidence of coming back in that first set tiebreaker really helped me in that second set tiebreaker," Tien said. "Even though I was down a mini-break, I had come back from a similar deficit in the first set, so it didn't really affect me, mentally at least."

Tien is the definition of unflappable, and Quinn said he knew,  even when Tien couldn't convert his match point serving at 5-4 in the third and lost his serve at love at 5-6 to lose the set, Tien would retain his composure.

"He always stays so cool and calm throughout the entire match, whether he is up or down," said Quinn, who lost to Tien in the semifinals of the ITF Grade 1 in San Diego in March. "That's what makes him hard to beat, you can't really get him riled up, get in his head, so it makes him really tough to play."

After two days of rain and drizzle and with a commitment to play the final outdoors added an extra day to the tournament, the conditions for Monday's final were ideal, with temperatures in the upper 70s and light winds. But if the physical demands were not as pronounced as they could have been, competing in a fourth set was a new experience for both players. After gaining some momentum with a flurry of winners in the last three games of the third set, the 10-minute break between the third and fourth sets was ill-timed for Quinn, who was broken immediately at the beginning of the fourth set.

"Learner definitely had a better game plan coming into that fourth set," said Quinn, who has been a student at the University of Georgia since January, but has yet to play a match for the Bulldogs. "He just started taking second serves early, cutting off that wide serve on the deuce side so I couldn't serve and volley."

Tien is coached by Eric Diaz of Top Tier Tennis Academy in Irvine, who is the son of University of Georgia head coach Manny Diaz, and both were there providing advice to their respective players during that ten-minute break.

Throughout the match, Quinn's blistering forehand and superior serve were effective for stretches, but Tien returned well and made very few unforced errors to counter Quinn's power advantage.

Fresno California native Quinn said Sunday that he thought a long match in the final would favor him, as he has trained at Georgia for the past eight months and played professional tournaments throughout the summer. But although Tien did occasionally look tired in the fourth set of the four-hour match, leading to a few more unforced errors, Quinn was unable to capitalize. Quinn did get the break back in the fourth set, but he was broken again at 3-all and Tien held easily to go up 5-3.

Quinn had four game points serving at 5-3, and saved a second match point when Tien missed a second serve return. But it was Tien who stepped up on the big points, coming up with a drop shot winner, a short angle cross court backhand pass and perfect return at Quinn's feet when he decided to serve and volley, saving three of the game points, while Quinn made a forehand error on the fourth. After the fifth deuce, Quinn made two tired looking errors, missing a forehand long and backhand wide, and Tien, who did not celebrate, had earned his first USTA gold ball in singles.

"I was so focused on this match, I haven't fully grasped the completion of the tournament and me winning it yet," Tien said. "I haven't fully processed it, so I'm not really thinking about the US Open too much yet, but I'm sure it's going to be a really, really cool experience."

After he asked who he might like to play in New York, now that he has secured a main draw wild card, Tien weighed the possibilities.

"I'm not sure yet," said Tien, who has played only 13 matches on the USTA Pro Circuit and has never faced anyone in the top 300. "If you play one of the top guys, it's a really cool thing. But on the other hand, you really want to play someone that's a much more winnable match rather than someone top 5 in the world."

Tien, the first player born in 2005 to play in the main draw of a slam, plans to go home to California for a week or so, then travel to the USTA campus to train in preparation for his New York debut. He intends to play the US Open Junior Championships the second week, as does Quinn.

Quinn had an eerily similar summer to last year's Kalamazoo 18s finalist Ben Shelton, winning the $25,000 Pro Circuit tournament in Champaign prior to Kalamazoo, claiming the doubles title and finishing runner-up in singles. 

"I just need to start making the final in every Challenger and I'm in," Quinn joked. "But I need to get back to Athens and get in the training room, do as much recovery as possible. The body's getting tired. It's been a long week."

Quinn was awarded the Allen B. Stowe Sportsmanship trophy, which is reserved for those in the 18s division.

Ozan Baris won the bronze ball in 18s singles via a walkover, with Martin Damm not competing in the third place match.

Junior wheelchair athletes(left to right):
Tomas Majetic, Max Wong, Mathias Krodel, Charlie Cooper
photo courtesy YourGameFace.com

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the first junior wheelchair event to be held at any national championship was played, consisting of round robin singles matches and exhibition doubles matches. The order of finish in round robin singles:

1. Charlie Cooper, La Quinta CA
2. Max Wong, Flushing NY
3. Tomas Majetic, Boulder CO
4. Mathias Krodel, Cincinnati OH

Results are available at the USTA PlayTennis website.

Sunday, August 14, 2022

Fourteen-Year-Old Blanch Captures Kalamazoo 16s Championship; Tien Defeats Top Seed Damm, Quinn Eliminates Local Favorite Baris to Reach Rare Monday 18s Final; Yu and Ahn Claim Titles in San Diego 18s and 16s

©Colette Lewis 2022--
Kalamazoo MI--

Persistent drizzle allowed only four games to be completed outdoors Sunday in the USTA B16s National Championship final, but the fans who made the short walk from Kalamazoo College's Stowe Stadium to the Markin Tennis Center were treated to a excellent contest, with Darwin Blanch defeating Calvin Baierl 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 to put his name on the list the tournament's 79 years of champions.

No. 5 seed Blanch led 3-1 deuce when the drizzle intensified and the decision was made to move the final indoors. Baierl, who looked nervous throughout the first five games at Stowe, lost six points in a row to start the indoor portion of the match, but managed to find his form to hold for 2-5. Blanch finished off the set, but Baierl settled down, got his first break of the match in the second game and held the rest of the way to earn the split.

"I started out really tight, lost the first set pretty easily," said Baierl, a 15-year-old from Naples Florida, who, like Blanch was playing Kalamazoo for the first time. "I found it in the second set, and I was playing a lot better; the delay helped me, and I felt more comfortable inside."

After the ten-minute break between the second and third sets that is mandated by USTA rules, Baierl continued to play well, breaking Blanch at love in the fifth game and holding for a 4-2 lead.

But Blanch recognized the urgency of the situation, holding and love and then breaking Baierl at love to pull even.

"He was playing really, really good tennis," said Blanch, who turns 15 next month. "And I was getting a little mad, because I couldn't really find any uncomfortable zone for him. But then I came out in the 4-2 game with a lot of energy, and after that I had all my rhythm. I started to play a lot better and he started missing more."

The capacity crowd on the Markin Center bleachers and sitting on the unoccupied court adjacent to the match supported Baierl's comeback, and they had another chance to get involved when he went down 0-40 serving at 4-5. He saved the first two championship points, but found the net on the third, with Blanch dropping his racquet and raising his arms in celebration.

Blanch appreciated having a large crowd applauding the many winners both he and Baierl hit throughout the final two sets.

"I love it when I'm playing a match and it's full of people," said Blanch, who is the fourth consecutive left-hander to win the Kalamazoo 16s title. "I absolutely love the atmosphere, all the support. I love it, and I play a lot better too."

Blanch, who trains at Juan Carlos Ferrero Academy in Spain, is headed back there tonight, but he'll be returning to the United States in a few weeks for the US Open Junior tournament.

"It feels unbelievable," said Blanch, who had his eye on that prize since accepting a wild card into Kalamazoo. "It's a really big accomplishment and I'm happy to be playing US Open. I'm really looking forward to it."

Both the 18s finalists will be in New York too, with Learner Tien and Ethan Quinn deciding who will get the men's qualifying wild card and who will get the men's main draw wild card, after the drizzle that had forced the 16s indoors finally ended and allowed the semifinals to begin outdoors at 3 p.m.

"I still have one more match to go," said Tien, who upset top seed Martin Damm 7-5, 6-0. "It's great knowing I'm going to go to New York, but you're always trying to get that main draw."

If Tien had any doubt that he could beat Damm, the 2018 Kalamazoo 16s champion, it would have surfaced when he failed to serve out the first set up 5-4, 40-0. But the always imperturbable 16-year-old got the gift he needed in the next game, when Damm double faulted at 40-30. 

"I thought he might be relieved that he'd saved triple set point and that he'd let his guard down a little bit," said the left-hander from Irvine California. "He gave me that double fault and he missed two first serves in a row, so I had two pretty good looks, and I knew I had to make him play."

Damm chose to come in on both second serves, and both times Tien put the returns right at Damm's feet, forcing him to net the volleys.

Given a second chance to serve for the set, Tien earned a 40-15 lead and hit a forehand winner on his fourth chance, but first of the game, to pocket the opening set.

Damm double faulted to lose his serve in the opening game of the second set, and the errors kept piling up as Tien kept himself in every rally.

"I wasn't quite sure what had changed," Tien said of Damm's lack of intensity in the second set. "But I didn't think too much of it; I still had a long way to go, so I just kept playing, took care of my side of the court."

Damm eventually did show some emotion, after the match was over, smashing his racquet in frustration.

Last year at this time, Tien was playing the 16s division, where he won the consolation tournament. Now 35 in the ITF World Junior rankings and a Wimbledon quarterfinalist last month, Tien has made great strides in the past eight months.

"I realized that I had so much more in me," Tien said. "I wasn't reaching as far as I could because, for whatever reason, I wasn't taking tennis super seriously. Early this year, I started working much harder, putting more time and effort into things that would make me better and it really paid off."

While Tien and Damm were playing a subdued match on Court 2, the semifinal between No. 11 seed Ozan Baris and No. 2 seed Ethan Quinn was anything but. 

Baris, who is from Okemos Michigan, just outside of East Lansing, had loud and enthusiastic support from Spartan fans who had made the hour-plus drive, including regular chants of "Go Green, Go White."

Quinn needed only two breaks to secure a 6-3, 6-4 victory, but Baris, a incoming freshman at Michigan State, made him work for every point.

"He played really well," said Quinn, who has yet to drop a set and won the doubles title with Nicholas Godsick Saturday. "He was serving very well and it was tough for me to read. He was moving really, really well, got a ton of balls back that I wasn't expecting him to get back and he put a lot of pressure on me, especially in the games when I served for the set and the match. He forced me to win the match, rather than him losing it."

Quinn saved break points in both games, and the interaction was particularly heated when he fell behind 15-30 serving at 5-4 in the second. The chief umpire issued a request that the crowd shorten their chants and cheers, and Quinn did his best to use that as motivation.

"Once it got to that pressure moment, they went a little bit longer than they were in the beginning, so it was kind of starting to get in my head a little bit," said Quinn, who has witnessed, but not competed in that atmosphere as a redshirt freshman last season at the University of Georgia. "But I stared down the one guy who was the leader of the pack, and they kind of quieted down on my match point, giving me time for my thoughts on what I wanted to do. But it was fun to play against, honestly."

Quinn and Tien met in the semifinals of the Grade 1 in San Diego in March, with Tien, the eventual champion, taking a 6-4, 6-2 decision, but this time the match will be the best of five sets, to prepare the winner for the US Open.

"I know Learner's had a few three-setters earlier this week, so I think I'll have to use that to my advantage, although he didn't go too deep in doubles, so that balances out almost," said the 18-year-old from Fresno California. "Me being already in college, might be more physical, so I might want to make the match as long as possible. I'm looking forward to three out of five, getting used to the future for me."

The final is scheduled for 10 a.m. at Stowe Stadium, with live streaming available here. The weather is expected to be good.

In the two other matches played today, both played indoors, Mitchell Lee won the bronze ball in the B16s singles, defeating Saahith Jayaraman 6-1, 6-3. Aidan Kim avenged his loss to Michael Zheng in the main draw, beating him 6-3, 6-1 in the B18s consolation final to take fifth place.

Sebastian Sec won the Wes Richards Feed-In Sportsmanship trophy earlier in the week, while Blanch was the recipient of the Bobby Kaplan Sportsmanship award for the 16s Division. 

Draws are available here.

At the girls 18s in San Diego, Eleana Yu, a 17-year-old from Mason Ohio won the singles title and the US Open women's main draw wild card. The No. 4 seed defeated Valerie Glozman, a No. 17 seed, 6-3, 7-5 in the final at the Barnes Tennis Center. Yu was unable to serve out the match at 5-4, squandering four match points, but she broke the 15-year-old Easter Bowl 16s champion and made good on her second opportunity.

In the girls 16s final, San Diego's own Alyssa Ahn, who trains at the Barnes Center, defeated unseeded Christasha McNeil 6-2, 6-3 to win the title and the US Open Junior wild card that goes with it.

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Blanch and Baierl Reach Boys 16s Final; 18s Semifinals Postponed Due to Rain; Quinn and Godsick Win 18s Doubles Title, US Open Wild Card; Lee and Woestendick Claim 16s Doubles Championship

©Colette Lewis 2022--
Kalamazoo MI--

For the first time in 32 years, and only the second time in the tournament's history, the USTA Boys 18s National Championship match will be played on a Monday after an all-day rain kept the semifinals from being played Saturday.

Rain began around 8 a.m., and although there were brief dry stretches, they didn't last long enough for any outside play. With a US Open main draw wild card into men's singles on the line, and a best-of-five final, the USTA opted to delay the semifinals until Sunday and play the final on Monday morning at Stowe Stadium.

The only previous Monday final was in 1990, when rain on Sunday pushed the final to Monday, with Ivan Baron beating Will Bull 1-6, 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-4, 7-6(3).

The rain isn't expected to clear out until Sunday afternoon, but every effort will be made to play the boys semifinals between Ethan Quinn and Ozan Baris and Learner Tien and Martin Damm outdoors.

The 16s will also be in action on Sunday, with their final, between Darwin Blanch and Calvin Baierl, scheduled for 11:30 a.m. As with today's 16s semifinals, the final will be played indoors if it is still raining at that time.

No. 13 seed Baierl, who defeated No. 32 seed Saahith Jayaraman 6-3, 6-3, wasn't sure he would be able to compete in Kalamazoo for the first time after having physical issues while he was playing ITF Junior Circuit tournaments in Colombia last month.

"I was in Colombia for two weeks and I had tailbone and shoulder problems," said the 15-year-old from Naples Florida, who never plays or practices indoors but said he adapted quickly. "I didn't really know if I was going to play here until a week before. I couldn't really serve, couldn't lift up my arm. But I started serving slowly and came here to see how I would do. It's feeling good now."

Baierl had the advantage of a day off on Friday after a grueling quarterfinal win over No. 12 seed Rudy Quan, and he looked energetic and physically fresh during the many long rallies he had with the 16-year-old Jayaraman,

"It feels really good to be in the final," said Baierl, who finished third at the Junior Orange Bowl 14s last December. "I played really well. He was a really good player and it just feels great that all my hard work is paying off."

Blanch, the No. 5 seed, saw his 6-4, 4-2 lead over Mitchell Lee disappear in a hurry, with the No. 9 seed winning the final four games of the second set.

But Blanch had an opportunity to talk with his coach during the ten-minute break before the third set and adjusted his strategy to produce a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory.

"He gave me some nice tactics and I came out energetic in the third set and used them, and it worked," said the 14-year-old left-hander, who now trains at the Juan Carlos Ferrero Academy in Spain. "When I was up 4-2 in the third set, I told myself I'm not going to let it slip, not going to let that happen again."

Blanch, who has lived in Argentina and South Florida, also doesn't have any real access to indoor tennis.

"We just have one indoor court at the academy, so whenever it rains, the whole academy just take turns for like an hour, so that's the only time I play indoors," Blanch said.

Blanch moved to Spain with his family, which includes tennis-playing siblings Ulises, Dali and Krystal, early this year, and has seen his game continue to develop there.

"I've improved a lot, they've helped me a lot in the areas I need to improve," said Blanch, who now is 6-foot-1. "It's been really fast so it's going really well."

Blanch and Baierl have played previously in a Les Petits As Playoff, and have often trained together at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona Florida, but haven't met in regular tournament play.

Blanch, who received a wild card into Kalamazoo, said that the wild card into the US Open Junior Championships was one factor in his decision to compete here for the first time.

"We thought it would be a great experience," said Blanch, who is returning to Spain after this event. "We thought I had the level to win the tournament and to get that wild card."

Both doubles championships were played indoors, with the 16s winners No. 2 seeds Mitchell Lee and Cooper Woestendick, who beat No. 5 seeds Cassius Chinlund and Stiles Brockett 6-1, 6-4.

Lee admitted that his loss in the singles semifinal earlier had given him extra motivation to earn the doubles gold ball.

"I was super pumped from the start because I knew I didn't have a great match this morning," said Lee, a 16-year-old from Oakland California. "But I was extra pumped because I definitely wanted to get the gold in doubles at least. I really believed we could beat them, and it happened."

Lee and Woestendick dominated the first set, but got the only break of the second set on a deciding point on Brockett's serve at 3-4. With Lee serving for the match at 5-4, they went down 30-40, but took the final two points to claim the title.

"We didn't show any nerves came out really quick," Woestendick said. "And we didn't get broken a single time," Lee said. "It was a good win, and a really good match," Woestendick said. "Mitchell come up clutch at the end."

The bronze ball in boys 16s doubles went to top seeds Chase Fralick and Matthew Forbes, who defeated No. 4 seeds Ian Mayew and Oliver Narbut 7-5, 6-1.

Fifth place in the 16s singles went to Maxwell Exsted[14], who beat Mikel Anderson[23] 6-3, 6-1 in the consolation final.

Although the decision was delayed for several hours in the hope that the rain might end, the boys 18s doubles final also had to be played indoors at the Markin Tennis Center on the Kalamazoo College campus. 

No. 2 seeds Nicholas Godsick and Ethan Quinn ended the 20-match winning streak of Easter Bowl, Roehampton and Wimbledon doubles champions Alex Michelsen and Sebastian Gorzny taking the title and the US Open main draw wild card with a 6-4, 6-0 decision.

The turning point in the match came with Godsick serving at 4-3 after breaking Michelsen on a deciding point. Down 0-40, with Godsick hitting two double faults, Quinn and Godsick held and took control, with Gorzny and Michelsen winning only one game after that.

"I think that was a really big momentum setter," said Godsick, a 17-year-old from Ohio. "It was huge and from there on, we had confidence, we were playing strong, moving well at the net and just told ourselves to keep going and to finish it out."

"In that game we found out we didn't have to beat them with pace," said Quinn, an 18-year-old from California. "We just have to play smart and that gave us confidence the rest of the match."

Godsick, the son of Mary Joe Fernandez and Tony Godsick, won the 16s doubles title last year with Lucas Brown, while Quinn lost, with Gorzny as his partner, in the 18s doubles final.

As they took shelter from another downpour in the Stowe Stadium pro shop tent after an outdoor photo shoot with the trophy, the long-time partners speculated about their possible opponents at the US Open in New York.

"We play well together," said Godsick, who is the first player since Rajeev Ram and Jonathan Stokke in 2000 and 2001 to win the 16s and 18s titles in back-to-back years. "Ethan has the firepower and we're both good at the net. We're not going to be scared of any team we play. So we'll be excited for any draw we get."

"I think anyone we play we have a good shot at beating," Quinn said. "It would be awesome to play Kyrgios and Kokkinakis just for that energy, but we'd love to get a win, which I think we're very capable of doing."

Godsick has another year of competition in the 18s, so he will go  for a three-peat that would match Ram and Stokke, although he'll need to find another partner, with Quinn not eligible to return.

"I can do that," said Godsick, whose mother is celebrating the 30th anniversary of her doubles gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics this month. "That's going to be the goal. Winning Kalamazoo, having my name up on the board, yeah, let's go one more."

All draws can be found at the USTA PlayTennis site.

The girls 18s final is set for Sunday in San Diego, with No. 4 seed Eleana Yu facing No. 17 seed Valerie Glozman. Yu defeated Ariana Pursoo[17] 6-0, 6-2, while Glozman took out No. 8 seed Katherine Hui 6-4, 6-1.

The final will be televised on the CBS Sports Network beginning at 3 p.m. PDT.

G16s final(Sunday):
Christasha McNeil v Alyssa Ahn

Sebastian Bielen[7] d. Andra Alcantara[4] 6-4, 2-6, 7-5

Vihaan Reddy[1] d. Tabb Tuck[5] 6-3, 6-1

Maggie Sohns[4] d. Hannah Ayrault[2] 7-6(1), 6-2

Bella Payne[17] d. Maria Aytoyan[5] 6-3, 6-3

Friday, August 12, 2022

Tien and Damm, Quinn and Michigan's Baris Advance to Kalamazoo 18s Semifinals; Top Two Seeds Also Reach 18s Doubles Final with US Open Wild Card on Line; Hui Beats Brantmeier in San Diego

©Colette Lewis 2022--
Kalamazoo MI--

The top two seeds in both singles and doubles continued their runs in the USTA Boys 18s National Championships, but for local fans, the story of Day Eight is Michigan State freshman Ozan Baris, who advanced to the semifinals in singles with a 6-1, 6-7(8), 6-4 victory over No. 4 seed Kyle Kang.

Baris and Kang were the final singles match of the day, so all eyes were on Court 2, with his supporters preparing to celebrate when he took a 6-1, 3-1 lead.

But he couldn't consolidate that break and lost serve at 4-all, giving Kang an opportunity to serve for the set. Kang, a 17-year-old from Fullerton California, didn't take advantage, but got to a tiebreaker, where he saved two match points at 6-5 and 7-6.

USTA rules require a 10-minute break after splitting sets, and Baris quickly forgot about those two chances.

"I felt like I did a good job of keeping a much better head out there," said the 18-year-old from Okemos, an hour and a half drive from Kalamazoo. "And I hit a lot more forehands, and I was able to reset and I'm just glad I'm out of there."

Baris said he had heard that Kang hadn't been feeling well lately, but after that sluggish start, Kang brought his level up.

"He turned it on," said the No. 11 seed, who split decisions with Kang last year in Kalamazoo, winning in the main draw, then losing to him in consolation final. 

"He was a completely different player. I've been watching him play and I've heard he might be sick the past couple of days. At 6-1, 3-1 I kind of let up, had a couple of bad games and his energy went way up, a lot of my winners turned into balls he got to and it became really physical. He increased his level and I got tight for sure, but that third set was just good quality tennis, and that one break was it."

Baris got that in the third game and was able to hold on even when facing a 0-30 deficit serving for the match at 5-4. But he kept relying on his forehand, and it paid off, as he won the final four points of the match, ending it with a forehand winner.

Baris was particularly happy that he didn't have to play the consolation tournament, with the quarterfinal losers the last competitors to enter that draw.

"I didn't want to get to the same place I was the last two [Kalamazoos] I've played," Baris said. "Different way, but same draw. I'm not going to lie, I put a little pressure on myself because of that too. I wanted to have a better result than before."

Baris will play No. 2 seed Ethan Quinn, who defeated future Georgia teammate Alex Michelsen 7-6(5), 6-2, winning the final six games of the match.

"I don't think he's lost a set," Baris said. "It looks like he's playing really solid tennis recently. I've never played him, but it's going to be a good match and I'll have to bring my good tennis. I'm looking forward to it."

Unlike Quinn, top seed Martin Damm has had to fight back from a set down twice this tournament, but he was sharp on Friday in a 7-6(3), 6-4 win over Wimbledon boys finalist and No. 5 seed Michael Zheng. Damm, the 2018 Kalamazoo 16s champion, got the only break of the match in the second set, and both his serve and his volleys were in top form against Zheng.

Damm's opponent is No. 8 seed Learner Tien, who survived four match points in the fifth round on Thursday against No. 12 seed Nicholas Godsick, and played freely in today's quarterfinal against No. 10 seed Cooper Williams, earning a 7-6(5), 6-3 victory.

"I came into today with a new chance at life almost," said the 16-year-old left-hander from Irvine California. "I didn't have as much pressure, if any, coming into today, feeling fortunate to still be in the tournament. There were still some nerves and some expectations, but a lot less pressure, feeling grateful to still be playing, I guess."

Up two breaks in the second set at 4-0, Tien gave one back and had to save three break points when he served for the match at 3-5. But he eventually got to match point and made the most of it, hitting a great serve out wide that Williams had no chance to return in the court.

"As a lefty, standing on the ad side and having the flexibility of standing however far you want, being able to hit that slice, then throwing in the T, it keeps them on their toes a little bit," Tien said. "It's really useful, especially on the bigger points; they really don't know what to expect sometimes."

With Damm turning 19 next month and Tien not 17 until December, they have not competed in the same junior tournaments.

"We've never played," Tien said. "I've seen him around the older age groups, but I think I'll watch the second set of his match."

Saturday's doubles final in the 18s was decided Friday afternoon, with Wimbledon junior champions Michelsen and Sebastian Gorzny winning their 20th consecutive match. The top seeds defeated No. 9 seeds Hudson Rivera and Braden Shick 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, watching a 3-0 third set lead slip away but breaking Rivera at 4-5 to reach the final.

No. 2 seeds Quinn and Godsick came from behind to defeat Zheng and Jack Anthrop, the No. 5 seeds, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4. Up a break early in the third, Quinn and Godsick saved two break points with Godsick serving at 4-3 to hold on to that lead, with Quinn serving it out.

Quinn and Gorzny were doubles finalists last year, losing to Ben Shelton and Bruno Kuzuhara in the championship match. Godsick is the 2021 16s doubles champion, with Lucas Brown.

The winner of Saturday's 18s final will be awarded a wild card into the men's doubles draw at the US Open.

The 16s didn't play singles on Friday, with the doubles semifinals the only main draw competition for 16s.

No. 5 seeds Stiles Brockett and Cassius Chinlund defeated top seeds Matthew Forbes and Chase Fralick in a thriller, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5).  Brockett and Chinlund will face No. 2 seeds Cooper Woestendick and Mitchell Lee, who beat No. 4 seeds Oliver Narbut and Ian Mayew 6-4, 6-4.

Saturday's singles semifinals in the 16s will feature No. 5 seed Darwin Blanch versus No. 9 seed Mitchell Lee and No. 13 seed Calvin Baierl against No. 32 seed Saahith Jayaraman.

The weather forecast is currently calling for a 60% chance of rain, so the four days of perfect weather might come to an end on Saturday.

Another shocker in San Diego, with 2021 finalist and top seed Reese Brantmeier losing to No. 8 seed Katherine Hui, who is from San Diego, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4 in today's quarterfinals.

Results from the other age divisions are below:

Katherine Hui[8]  d. Reese Brantmeier[1] 4-6, 7-5, 6-4
Valerie Glozman[17] d. Maya Joint[9] 3-6, 6-0, 6-2 
Eleana Yu[4] d. Kinaa Graham[33] 6-3, 6-3
Ariana Pursoo[17] d. Katie Codd[9] 6-4, 7-5

Christasha McNeil d. Tianmei Wang[9] 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(9) 
Alyssa Ahn[9] d. Claire Zhang[9] 4-6, 6-4, 6-4

Sebastian Bielen[7] d. Jordan Lee[33] 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
Andra Alcantara[4] d. Liam Alvarez[5] 1-6, 6-4, 6-3

Vihaan Reddy[1] d. Antanas Daugis[17] 6-0, 6-1
Tabb Tuck[5] d. Akshay Mirmira[4] 6-4, 6-4

Maggie Sohns[4] d. Bella Arwood[12] 6-1, 6-4
Hannah Ayrault[2] d. Welles Newman[3] 6-4, 6-4 

Maria Aytoyan[5] d. Anna Frey[8] 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 
Bella Payne[17] d. Sara Shumate[17] 6-1, 6-0

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Williams Takes Out No. 3 Seed Kuzuhara, Tien Saves Match Points to Advance to 18s Quarterfinals; Jayaraman Upsets No. 2 Seed Duong to Reach 16s Semifinals; Pursoo Beats Second Seed Gailis in San Diego 18s

©Colette Lewis 2022--
Kalamazoo MI--


The back courts of Stowe Stadium were buzzing Thursday, with fans enjoying another great day of weather and all kinds of drama in fifth round USTA Boys 18s Nationals matches on courts 9, 10 and 11. 

Top seed Martin Damm managed to squeeze past No. 33 seed Evan Wen 6-7(5), 6-2, 6-4 on Court 10, but No. 3 seed Bruno Kuzuhara couldn't force a third set against No. 10 seed Cooper Williams on Court 9, who earned 6-3, 7-6(1) victory.

Williams, who had lost to Kuzuhara in the quarterfinals of the Grade 1 Eddie Herr last December, was able to reverse that result thanks to his first serve.

"I had my chances at Eddie Herr, but I definitely took my chances here," said the 17-year-old Harvard recruit. "I served really amazing today, faced break points and pulled out some good shots in the first set. I got the break and he handed me a couple of errors, I hit a couple of good shots and took advantage. I had looks in every return game and I just kept holding serve."

Williams went up a break twice in the second set, but both times Kuzuhara broke back, leading to the tiebreak. Rather than dwell on his ability to consolidate earlier, Williams came up with his best tennis of the match to close it out.

"I played a near-perfect breaker," Williams said. "And overall I served impeccably, pretty much. My first serve percentage was up there in the high 70s probably, had 10 plus aces, a bunch of unreturnables. My plus-one was good, and everything just flowed in the breaker. I hit an unreal backhand line at 1-all and from then on I just put a lot of balls in the court and made him work."

Williams will play No. 8 seed Learner Tien, who trailed No. 12 seed Nicholas Godsick 6-4, 5-1 before mounting a furious comeback, saving four match points in a 4-6, 7-6(9), 6-3 victory.

Godsick had two match points with Tien serving at 3-5 in the second and two more at 7-6 and 8-7 in the tiebreaker, but couldn't convert. After the 10-minute break, Godsick requested a medical timeout and early in the third set was obviously hobbled by cramps. Tien, always placid, hit a few more drop shots than usual, but otherwise didn't react, while Godsick began to move better and, hoping to shorten points, hit harder. That worked for initially, but when Tien went up a break at 3-1, Godsick couldn't find a way back into the match.

Tien and Williams played in the first round of USTA Pro Circuit $15,000 tournament this spring in Florida, with Tien posting a 6-2, 6-2 victory.

Damm was able to serve his way out of trouble in the third set, and forced Wen to serve to stay in the match at 4-5. Wen, a Princeton recruit, fell behind 15-40, but hit two excellent serves to save those match points. He double faulted however to give Damm and third match point and the 2018 Boys 16s champion converted it when Wen netted a forehand.

Damm will face No. 5 seed Michael Zheng, who came back to beat No. 16 seed Aidan Kim 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. Zheng has now beaten Kim the last three times they've met this year, in a Pro Circuit qualifying match, in the round of 16 at Wimbledon Juniors and today.

The bottom half will feature the first Michigan boy in the quarterfinals since Scott Oudsema made the 18s final in 2004, with Ozan Baris, the No. 11 seed, facing Kyle Kang, the No. 4 seed.

Baris defeated No. 33 seed Alexander Chang, a Cal rising sophomore, 6-2, 6-0, buoyed by the support of friends, family and his Michigan State coaches.

"It's special, it's my favorite tournament of the year," said the 18-year-old from Okemos. "So often I'm traveling the world and playing in a foreign country or a foreign player. This feels like home. It's awesome to play here and it's a step in my journey. This is going to be one of my last junior tournaments other than the Junior US Open, so I'm just trying to make the most out of it."

Kang earned his quarterfinal berth in the most unfortunate manor possible, with No. 13 seed Samir Banerjee retiring at 3-3 in the third set after falling and injuring his wrist. Banerjee, the 2021 Wimbledon boys champion, had the wrist taped by a trainer at the 2-3 changeover, but retired after Kang won the next game. 

Kang and Baris played twice at Kalamazoo last year, with Baris winning in the fourth round of the main draw, and Kang taking the consolation final.

In the last quarterfinal, current Georgia Bulldog Ethan Quinn, the No. 2 seed, will face future Georgia teammate Alex Michelsen, the No. 7 seed. 

Quinn defeated Michelsen 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the semifinals of the $15,000 USTA men's Pro Circuit tournament in San Diego in June and last year at the Grade 1 in San Diego, with Quinn going on to win both tournaments.

The top four seeds in the 16s are now all out. Top seed Roy Horovitz and No. 3 seed Adhithya Ganesan lost in the round of 16 on Wednesday, and today No. 2 seed Quang Duong and No. 4 seed Cooper Woestendick were eliminated in contrasting fashion.

Fourteen-year-old wild card Darwin Blanch, the No. 5 seed, defeated Woestendick 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, while No. 32 seed Saahith Jayaraman posted a convincing 6-3, 6-1 victory over reigning Orange Bowl 16s champion Duong.

Jayaraman, who beat No. 6 seed Matthew Forbes 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a grueling round of 16 match Wednesday, is not surprised by his results this week.

"It doesn't surprise me, because I've always had that level and I just needed to break through, mostly prove to myself what I can do," said Jayaraman, who turns 17 in October. "Proving it to myself and to everyone here."

Jayaraman trains at JMG Academy in Sacramento California, where 2016 Kalamazoo 16s finalist and 2018 18s champion Jenson Brooksby is based.

"I see Jenson a lot, we have good conversations," Jayaraman said. "I get to hit with him sometimes and that's where I can see where my game is at. He's doing really well on the tour right now and knowing that I can win some points off of him, compete with him, gives me confidence and belief in myself."

Jayaraman will face 15-year-old Calvin Baierl, the No. 13 seed, who defeated No. 12 seed and reigning Eddie Herr 16s champion Rudy Quan 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.

"I've never played Calvin before," Jayaraman said. "I've seen him around and I know he did well in the 14s. He's a great competitor and it's not going to be easy."

Blanch will play No. 9 seed Mitchell Lee, the reigning 16s Winter Nationals champion. Lee defeated No. 14 seed Maxwell Exsted 6-2, 6-1. The 16s singles semifinals are scheduled for Saturday.

The 16s doubles semifinals are set for Friday, with top seeds Chase Fralick and Forbes taking on No. 5 seeds Stiles Brockett and Cassius Chinlund and No. 4 seeds Ian Mayew and Oliver Narbut facing No. 2 seeds Lee and Woestendick.

The 18s doubles quarterfinals were played yesterday and they will play their semifinals on Friday afternoon.

Top seeds and Wimbledon champions Sebastian Gorzny and Michelsen will face No. 9 seeds Braden Shick and Hudson Rivera. No. 2 seeds Godsick and Quinn will play No. 5 seeds Jack Anthrop and Zheng.

Wheelchair round robin competition begins at 9:30 a.m. on the front courts of Stowe. Tien and Williams will play on Court 4 at 10:30 a.m., with Damm and Zheng and Michelsen and Quinn scheduled for 11:30 on Courts 2 and 3. Baris and Kang will follow to round out the singles play, with 16s doubles first, followed by 18s.

The USTA Nationals in the other age divisions are also winding down with Friday featuring semifinals or quarterfinals. 

At the girls 18s in San Diego, Ariana Pursoo, a No. 17 seed, defeated No. 2 seed Rachel Gailis 6-3, 6-4 in today's round of 16.
The matchups for tomorrow are below; click on the heading to go to the USTA PlayTennis draws.

G18s quarterfinals:
Reese Brantmeier[1] v Katherine Hui[8]
Maya Joint[9] v Valerie Glozman[17]
Kinaa Graham[33] v Eleana Yu[4]
Katie Codd[9] v Ariana Pursoo[17]

G16s semifinals
Tianmei Wang[9] v Christasha McNeil
Alyssa Ahn[9] v  Claire Zhang[9]

B14s semifinals
Jordan Lee[33]v Sebastian Bielen[7]
Andra Alcantara[4] v Liam Alvarez[5]

B12s semifinals
Vihaan Reddy[1] v Antanas Daugis[17]
Akshay Mirmira[4] v Tabb Tuck[5]

G12s semifinals
Bella Arwood[12] v Maggie Sohns[4]
Welles Newman[3] v Hannah Ayrault[2]

G14s semifinals
Anna Frey[8] v Maria Aytoyan[5]
Sara Shumate[17] v Bella Payne[17]

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Exsted Upsets 16s Top Seed Horovitz; Woestendick Saves Two Match Points to Advance to Thursday's Quarterfinals; Top Seed Falls at Boys 14s; CBS Sports Network Televising Girls 18s Semis and Finals in San Diego

©Colette Lewis 2022--
Kalamazoo MI--

A second straight day of perfect weather greeted the competitors in the round of 16 of the USTA Boys 16s National Championships at Stowe Stadium, but unlike Tuesday, the results were far from ideal for the top seeds.

No. 1 seed Roy Horovitz lost to No. 14 seed Max Exsted 7-5, 6-2 and No. 3 seed Adhithya Ganesan was beaten by No. 13 seed Calvin Baierl 6-3, 6-7(3), 7-5.

Horovitz, who had a tough fourth round match on Tuesday, just couldn't get himself in a winning position against Exsted.

"The first set was a little weird," said Exsted, a 15-year-old from Minnesota who trains in Florida. "The first eight games nobody held. I think we were both a little bit nervous coming out of the gate, but when I was dictating play and looking for my forehand it was good."

As the top seed, Horovitz had played on George Acker Court, the main court at Stowe Stadium, twice already this week, while Exsted was encountering that atmosphere for the first time.

"It's a great experience but it doesn't make much of a difference in my mind," said Exsted, who had not played Horovitz before. "I try to stay in my court, but it's definitely a really cool experience."

Up 4-1 in the second set, Exsted dropped serve, but immediately broke back and was able to fight off any nerves when closing it out on his serve.

"After I got broken, I had a good attitude about it," Exsted said. "I wasn't getting like super mad. I just tried to stay calm and cool."

Exsted admitted that it wasn't peak tennis from either of them.

"We both could have played a little better," said Exsted. "But he's still a really good player. It was my first time playing him, but I'm sure we'll play so many more times. We're pretty similar, the way we play. There's pretty much no free points, and we had so many long rallies."

Exsted will play No. 9 seed Mitchell Lee, who beat No. 33 seed Vincent Yang 6-3, 6-2. "We've been friends for so long, I've known him since we were maybe 10, but it'll be a first time playing him," Exsted said. "So it should be fun."

Unlike Exsted, who reached the 14s final last year in Mobile and is making his debut in Kalamazoo this year, No. 4 seed Woestendick is a veteran, having taken third place last year as a 14-year-old.

He needed all the energy and experience he could muster today, saving two match points to beat No. 12 seed Mikel Anderson 6-4, 6-7(2), 7-6(5) in three hours and 39 minutes.

Woestendick, who turns 16 in November, managed to come up with two big serves on those match points and attributed his ability to execute when under pressure to both mental and physical strength.

"You've just got to fight the nerves and go big," said the right-hander from Kansas. "Physically I felt pretty good. This past year I've done a ton more fitness, working for matches like this, which are almost four hours. Obviously, if you're playing that long, you're going to get pretty tired, so you've just got to stay focused on each point."

In the tiebreaker, there was again almost nothing to separate the two, but at 5-all Woestendick managed a perfect drop shot to go up 6-5, and Anderson netted a forehand to end the marathon.

"I was very impressed with him all match," said Woestendick, who had not played Anderson before. "He stepped up his game late in the second set and in the third set as well, and it was good tennis overall."

Woestendick, also a doubles finalist in 2021, had enough success in the 16s to contemplate playing the 18s this year, but pointed to the difference in his position, and the US Open Junior wild card to the 16s winner, as reasons to stay in his age group.

"Last year, playing here at 14, honestly there was no expectations, just come here and play," said Woestendick. "This year's a little more pressure, you're one of the higher seeds. There's some very good opponents in 16s this year and I just want to get some good tennis in. And the US Open Junior wild card, that's definitely one of the reasons I'm playing 16s this year."

No. 12 seed Rudy Quan, who needed assistance exiting the court after his 7-6(3), 7-6(6) win over No. 8 seed Ian Bracks, will face the 15-year-old Baierl in one bottom half quarterfinal. In the other, No. 2 seed Quang Duong, the reigning 16s Orange Bowl champion, will face No. 32 seed Saahith Jayaraman, who came back to beat No. 6 seed Matthew Forbes 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.

While the 16s quarterfinals are Thursday, the 18s will be playing their round of 16 matches, with most of the favorites still around. Seven of the Top eight seeds advanced today, with the only one missing No. 6 Nishesh Basavareddy, who withdrew the day before the tournament.

Two 9-16 seeds lost today, with Evan Wen, a No. 33 seed, beating No. 9 seed Sebastian Gorzny 6-1, 6-0 and No. 23 Ryan Colby beating No. 14 seed Hudson Rivera 6-4, 7-6(7).

Wen will take on Martin Damm, who beat No. 26 seed Bryce Nakashima 6-3, 6-1.  Wimbledon finalist Michael Zheng, the No. 5 seed, had no trouble with No. 31 seed Sebastian Sec, posting a 6-3, 6-2 win; No. 16 seed Aidan Kim breezed to a 6-1, 6-1 victory over unseeded Mujtaba Ali-Khan to set up a rematch of their Wimbledon round of 16 match last month, which Zheng won 6-4, 3-6, 6-4.

No. 3 seed Bruno Kuzuhara had to raise his level late in each set to get past 2021 16s finalist Lucas Brown 6-3, 6-4; he will play No. 10 seed Cooper Williams Thursday. Kuzuhara beat Williams 7-6(1), 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the Grade 1 Eddie Herr last December.

No. 12 seed Nicholas Godsick came from a 6-3, 3-1 down to beat No. 27 seed Alexander Visser 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. Godsick will face No. 8 seed Learner Tien, who beat No. 29 seed and Clay Courts champion Nicholas Heng 6-1, 6-2. Tien defeated Godsick 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals of the Grade 1 in Costa Rica early this year.

No. 33 seed Alexander Chang will face the second Michigan player in the round of 16 (Kim is from suburban Detroit), Ozan Baris. Chang, a rising sophomore at Cal, earned a 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 win over unseeded Alejandro Jacome. Baris, formerly Colak, beat No. 25 seed Adit Sinha 6-2, 6-4. 

No. 4 seed Kyle Kang will play No. 13 seed Samir Banerjee after each got through the fourth round in straight sets. Kang defeated No. 19 seed Kaylan Bigun 6-2, 6-2 and Banerjee beat unseeded Alex Fuchs 6-2, 7-6(2). Kang and Banerjee met last year in the third round of the Easter Bowl, with Kang winning in a third set tiebreaker.

No. 7 seed Alex Michelsen overcame a rough start to beat No. 33 seed Masato Perera 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 and will play Colby for a place in Friday's quarterfinals.

No. 15 seed Jack Anthrop had another long three-setter today, beating No. 24 seed Braden Shick 6-2, 3-6, 6-4. He will play No. 2 seed Ethan Quinn, who got past an inspired Landon Ardila, the No. 29 seed, 7-5, 6-4. Anthrop and Quinn played two weeks ago in the second round of a $25,000 USTA men's Pro Circuit tournament in Edwardsville Illinois, with Anthrop up 5-2 when Quinn retired.

The 18s doubles quarterfinals were played Wednesday afternoon, with two routine and two exciting matches entering the crowds at Stowe Stadium.

Top seeds and Wimbledon champions Gorzny and Michelsen beat No. 10 seeds Nikita Filin and Alexander Razeghi 6-3, 6-3 and will play No. 9 seeds Shick and Rivera, who saved four match points in their 5-7, 7-6(10), 11-9 win over No. 26 seeds Chase Thompson and Aadarsh Tripathi.

Zheng and Anthrop, the No. 5 seeds, defeated No. 19 seeds Marko Mesarovic and Caden Hasler 6-3, 6-2 and will face No. 2 seeds Godsick and Quinn, who avenged their San Diego J1 lost this spring to No. 7 seeds Ardila and Brown 6-4, 2-6, 10-6.

Godsick won the 16s doubles title last year with Brown; Quinn was the 18s runnerup in doubles with Gorzny.

The quarterfinals of 16s doubles will be played Thursday afternoon, while the 18s will have the day off from doubles.

The junior boys wheelchair championships begin Thursday at Stowe and run through Saturday, so the boys 18s round of 16 will be played on the back courts at Stowe and live streaming will not be available. 

Thursday's schedule is here.

The only No. 1 seeds still in contention for USTA National singles titles this week are in the 12s and 18s, with the loss today of the top seed in B14s in Mobile, Jack Secord. Micah Ward[17] defeated Secord 6-2, 6-3.

Reese Brantmeier[1] and Rachel Gailis[2] won today in the 18s round of 32 in San Diego, but Easter Bowl champion Alexis Blokhina[3] lost to Daria Smetannikov[17] 6-1, 7-5. No. 6 seed Clervie Ngounoue[6] lost to Kinaa Graham[33] 6-3 ,4-1 ret. ill.

The semifinals and finals of the 18s will be televised this weekend on CBS Sports Network, according to this release today from the tournament.