Explore the Junior Tennis Champions Center's high performance program by clicking on the banner above

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Spencer and Thacher Sideline Second and Third Seeds at International Spring Championships

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Carson, CA--

Wil Spencer and Ryan Thacher changed the complexion of the boys 18s draw in a hurry, taking out two of the favorites for the ITF Grade 1 title in second round action Wednesday morning. Thacher upset No. 3 seed Danila Arsenov of Russia 6-4, 6-0; Spencer mounted an impressive comeback to eliminate Vlad Ignatic of Belarus, the No. 2 seed, 7-5, 6-2.

I hadn't seen Thacher play since he lost in the Kalamazoo 16s final last August, so I decided to sit with his coach Barry Horowitz and watch the entire match, something I rarely do during the early rounds of the tournament. Thacher had the advantage from the start, holding easily, while Arsenov had to work much harder on his service games. But there were no breaks until 4-4, when Arsenov began to show signs of the pressure Thacher was exerting. At 15-30, the 17-year-old Russian double faulted, and a forehand in the net on the next point gave Thacher the break, and the chance to serve out the first set.

But unlike the previous holds, this one was a struggle. The first serves weren't finding the box and Thacher was down 15-40. The first break point was saved with an Arsenov forehand error, the second was saved with a perfect backhand volley, and a third, two points later, was cast aside with an ace. Thacher took the set, and when he broke Arsenov in the first (and longest) game of the second set, the handwriting was on the wall for the Russian.

"I was actually getting a little frustrated," said Thacher, recalling six game points he failed to convert in that opening game. "But I kept trying to gut it out. In those deuce games, I felt like if I kept pounding on him on those points, kept mentally tough, eventually he was going to crumble."

That's exactly what happened, as Thacher took a 4-0 lead, playing confidently and much more relaxed in the remaining games, while Arsenov became more frustrated and ineffective. The fifth game of the second set ended in bizarre fashion, as Arsenov broke his racquet in disgust, which in ITF rules draws only a warning, so he had to abuse another racquet to get the point penaly he was apparently seeking, which he did immediately, giving Thacher a 5-0 lead. In the final game Arsenov went through the motions, but even Thacher knew by then it was his match.

"Even at 5-0 there, I wasn't going into it as 'let's celebrate, we've got this one. But when he nailed the ball 500 feet in the air, it was a different story, because he was clearly out of the match and he wasn't fighting anymore."

Arsenov may have given up, but that's not a concept Wil Spencer would recognize. Down 5-2 in the first set against Ignatic, who had recently won the Grade A Copa Gerdau in Brazil, Spencer rolled through five straight games, saving three set points in the process.

"We had some really long rallies and maybe fatigue was setting in," said Spencer. "The serve wasn't quite as big in the 5-3 game, gave me some chances to look at it, but he was playing really well. I just decided I might as well go for things--I'm losing already--why not just go for the ball? And I started to get some free points and some forced errors and some more winners and that really swung the match around."

In the second set, Ignatic again took a lead, although a modest 2-0 one, but Spencer was too confident after the first set comeback to let that faze him and described his play in the final six games of the match as "in the zone."

In other boys action, top seed Kellen Damico and No. 4 seed Mateusz Kecki advanced in straight sets. The only seeded player aside from Arsenov and Ignatic to lose in the second round was Alex Llompart, No. 16, who lost to Ahmed Ismail 6-4, 6-4.

The top three seeds in the girls 18s advanced in straight sets, but there were a few upsets, as No. 6 seed Pamela Montez of Mexico fell to unseeded Claire Barlett 6-1, 6-7 (0), 6-0; No. 7 seed Melanie Oudin lost to qualifier Coco Vanderweghe 3-6, 6-2, 6-4; No. 8 seed Gabriela Paz of Venezuela was defeated by Tara Moore of Great Britain 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 and Stacey Tan eliminated No. 11 seed Tanya Raykova of Bulgaria 7-6 (2), 7-6 (1).

The top seed in the boys 16s, Jordan Cox, was upset by No. 13 seed John Huang 6-3, 7-5 and No. 3 seed Bob Van Overbeek fell to unseeded Matt Spindler 7-6 (1), 6-4.

In the girls 16s, only four seeds remain in the quarterfinals, but Noel Scott, at No. 1, again survived the loss of the first set, defeating No. 15 seed Nicolle Stracar 3-6, 7-6 (3), 6-4 in a match that lasted nearly three hours. By contrast, second seed Charlotte Calhoun was eliminated in under an hour, losing to Sophie Chang 6-1, 6-0.

It wasn't a good day for No. 1 seeds in doubles. Although the boys 18s top team of Damico and Johnny Hamui advanced, the other divisions' No. 1 seeds all lost. Cox and Shaun Bernstein fell to Spencer Lunghino and Ravy Uong in the boys 16s; in the girls 16s Scott and Yazmin Hooper lost to Desirae Krawczyk and Hailee Gopinath; the top seeded girls 18s team of Sacha Jones and Veronica Li were defeated by Stephanie Nunic and Chelsea Preeg.

For complete draws, see usta.com.