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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Winds Plague International Spring Championships

©Colette Lewis 2007
Carson CA—

Thursday’s story at the International Spring Championships can be summed up in one word—wind.

With garbage boxes flying, plastic chairs scooting along the cement, court chairs overturning, and signs coming loose from their moorings, it was all the players could do to keep their focus on the court.

Those who played early had an advantage; the 35 mph gusts didn’t start disrupting matches until mid-morning.

The top seeds in the girls 18s—Reka Zsilinzska (1), Madison Brengle (2) and Sacha Jones (3) all got off their courts quickly, as did unseeded qualifier Coco Vanderweghe. Unseeded Zaruhi Harutyunyan of Armenia also finished her 7-5, 6-0 upset of No. 13 seed Kristy Frilling in time to avoid the brunt of the winds.

The longest girls 18s match of the day started in a light breeze and finished when the gales were getting serious, and it was No. 5 seed Mallory Cecil who survived. Cecil overcame No. 10 seed Julia Boserup 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, a match that unfortunately few spectators saw, as it was played on Court 14, at the farthest outpost of the Carson Training Center.

No. 14 seed Adam El Mihdawy was also sent to the hinterlands for the third straight match, but it wasn’t only because his upset of No. 4 seed Mateusz Kecki was played on court 13 that the buzz was minimal. It was more due to the match’s brevity—El Mihdawy thoroughly outplayed the Californian, taking a 6-2, 6-1 decision. El Mihdawy had beaten Kecki 6-4, 6-3 at the International Hard Courts last summer, so he was confident, but also expecting a tough match.

"I was a little surprised," said El Mihdawy, of Long Island City, New York, about the ease of the win. "He’s a really good player and last time it was a little closer. I was hitting my forehand well, getting a lot of winners, but then it got a little windy, so I started putting more spin on the ball, and he was missing a little more."

El Mihdawy’s next opponent is No. 7 seed Rhyne Williams, who eliminated No. 11 seed Alexey Grigorov of Russia 6-4, 6-4. Aside from top seed Kellen Damico, who took a 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 decision from unseed Ahmed Ismail despite re-injuring his wrist in the second set, Williams is the highest seed in the quarterfinals. There are four unseeded boys in the quarterfinals: Ryan Thacher, who defeated No. 15 seed Ty Trombetta 6-2, 6-2; Jose Hernandez of the Dominican Republic, who beat Bradley Klahn 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (6), in the day’s best match; Wil Spencer, who had no trouble with qualifier Andre Dome, winning 6-1, 6-2; and Devin Britton, who prevailed over Jeff Dadamo 6-4, 6-3. The eighth seeded Austin Krajicek, who defeated No. 10 seed Drew Daniel 6-1, 6-1, rounds out the boys quarterfinalists.

Britton and Dadamo followed the Cecil-Boserup marathon, and although their match was moved to the show courts, the wind was beginning to present real problems by that time.

"It was actually really bad," the 16-year-old Britton said. "He seemed liked he was getting annoyed with it, mostly on his returns. He wasn’t getting that many in play. I was just hoping for one break a set and go from there."

Britton got his first break in the match’s opening game and wasn’t broken himself until Dadamo evened the second set at 3.

"The next game I came back and played a good return game," said Britton of his second break of Dadamo. "The last few days I’ve been swinging for the fences and making too many errors, so my coach was telling me to try to work the point a little more. Today I had more consistency."

Britton rallied with Dadamo when the lefthander from Tampa was serving, but he stuck to his serve-and-volley game when serving, despite making “four or five first serves all day” as he put it.

"I don’t like wind at all really," said the 16-year-old from Mississippi. "I’m not really good at playing in it, but I tried to be as consistent as possible."

By the time doubles play began, the conditions were so blustery that players spent more time laughing at the wind’s effect than planning any kind of strategy.

The number one seeded doubles team of Damico and Johnny Hamui lost 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 to unseeded Chase Buchanan and Klahn, and the girls No. 2 team of Zsilinzska and Gabriela Paz was also upset. McCall Jones and Asia Muhammad eliminated them in straight sets.

For the all results ( I’m sorry I couldn’t follow any of the 16s matches today with all the 18s being played at the same time), see usta.com.