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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Top Seed Rus Upset in First Round; Seven U.S. Wild Cards Advance to Second Round

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

It started with Christian Harrison, it ended with Kristie Ahn, and in between, top seed and world No. 1 Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands exited, making for a long and eventful day at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Fourteen-year-old wild card Christian Harrison kicked off the warm and cloudless day, drawing a huge crowd to court 7. Former champion and current commentator John McEnroe has been hitting regularly with Harrison and his interest brought hundreds of curious fans. There was a long delay however, as Harrison's opponent, who was scheduled to be No. 16 seed Andrey Kuznetsov of Russia, did not answer the call to court, and eventually Alex Llompart, who was the next lucky loser in the ordering, took Kuznetsov's place.

Llompart, from Puerto Rico, trains at Newcombe's Academy with Harrison and the frequent practice partners found themselves playing for much higher stakes Sunday morning. Llompart took the first set 6-4, Harrison came back to take the second set 6-3, much to the delight of the crowd, who were decidedly favoring the freckled 5-foot right-hander. Neither player was hitting with the pace that distinguished most of the surrounding matches, but there were plenty of exciting points throughout, with Llompart holding on to his early break in the third set to take it 6-3.

Llompart will face Boys 16s National champion Jordan Cox, who found himself in the same circumstance as Harrison, waiting on the court for an opponent who didn't show. Scheduled to play Cristobal Saavedra Corvalan of Chile, Cox ended up facing lucky loser Yannick Reuter of Belgium, but unlike Harrison, Cox pulled out the win, serving well to take it 6-4, 7-6(7). Alex Domijan came back from a 5-2 deficit in the first set to defeat Kittipong Wachiramanowong of Thailand 7-6(3), 6-4 and Chase Buchanan also came from a break down in both sets to advance past Mikhail Biryukov of Russia 6-4, 6-2. Ty Trombetta and Rhyne Williams completed the list of U.S. winners on the boys side. Wild card Denis Kudla lost a well-played marathon with Yuki Bhambri of India, the 12th seed, 6-2, 7-5, 6-3.

Jarmere Jenkins was playing beautifully against Flilip Krajinovic and was so frustrating the 16-year-old Serbian that he engaged in a constant monologue in Serbian and abused his racquet to the point of a warning from the chair umpire. But up 7-6(5), 3-0, Jenkins won only one more game, and retired trailing 4-0 in the third after experiencing cramping.

The big news in the girls side was the complete collapse of Rus, who was stunned by unseeded 16-year-old Viktoria Kamenskaya of Russia 6-4, 6-1. Rus could not find the court with her usually effective forehand, and her left-handed serve was also erratic, and the early-arriving night session crowd that had gathered to see her would have been hard-pressed to pick out the No. 1 seed by the quality of her play. Kamenskaya was elated with her victory, even though there were a few tense moments when she frittered away two match points serving for it up 5-1, 40-15.

"I was very nervous," said Kamenskaya, ranked 45th in the ITF juniors. "But I tell myself I do it, I must do it, and I served good. The last point it was (the) sun, and I can't see the ball and I just close my eyes and play, and I won it."

Rus certainly helped Kamenskaya, hitting two forehands into the net on the last two points, but the result was all that mattered to the Russian, who won the Junior Orange Bowl in 2005.

"I am so happy. She is No. 1 in the world and I beat her. I am so, so happy."

There were also two lucky losers who gained entry on the girls side, with Alexa Guarachi gaining entry in place of Russian Valeria Solovieva, and Janina Toljan taking the place of Australian Jessica Moore, who was seeded No. 4 due to her WTA ranking. Both lost, with Toljan being blown out by wild card Sloane Stephens 6-1, 6-1, and Guarachi losing to Zsofia Susanyi of Hungary 7-5, 7-5.

Wild card Christina McHale looked very sharp in her 6-3, 6-4 win over Japan's Misaki Doi. McHale served very well, pounded her forehand and made almost no errors in the games I watched. Madison Brengle, who just missed being seeded due to her WTA ranking, cruised past No. 10 seed Cindy Chala of France 6-2, 6-2, and said afterwards that she was just fine with her unseeded status. Having come into last year's Junior U.S. Open with two junior Grand Slam finals on her resume, she felt the pressure of expectations and failed to win a match in singles or doubles, so being a bit under the radar proved more comfortable for her.

Wild card Asia Muhammad also took out a seed, downing No. 14 Johanna Konta of Australia 6-3, 6-1. Kristie Ahn closed out the evening, winning over Milana Spremo of Serbia 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 despite a balky backhand. The final set featured six straight breaks of serve, but Ahn got the final one to get through.

National 16s champion Lauren Davis fell to Aija Tomljanovic of Croatia 6-3, 6-2 and wild card Julia Boserup lost to Nastassja Burnett of Italy 6-3, 4-6, 6-4.

Second round singles action continues on Monday, and doubles play begins as well.
For complete results, see usopen.org.

For additional coverage, visit collegeandjuniortennis.com.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Saturday's Qualifiers Complete Junior Open Fields

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

The travel gods did smile on us (the credential gods did not, but that's a story for a different time) so we made the final round of junior qualifying in time to see the end of some of the boys matches and all of the girls. Heavy rains had fallen in New York overnight, but the skies cleared midday, leaving a blazing sun and considerable humidity.

Devin Britton worked his way through qualifying for the second year in a row, and his 6-0, 6-2 win over No. 5 seed Francis Alcantara of the Phillipines was one of two quick victories for U.S. players, as wild card Beatrice Capra also earned a main draw berth with a 6-2, 6-0 blitzing of No. 6 seed Paula Ormaechea of Argentina. I saw none of Britton's win, but Capra had only to play smart, consistent tennis to beat Ormaechea, who dissolved into a puddle of unforced errors and negative body language after the first set.

I missed the exciting end to the Nathan Pasha - Harry Fowler match, won by Fowler 0-6, 6-4, 7-6(4), but I did catch the last few games of the Alex Llompart - Matt Kandath contest. I learned that Llompart had had three match points serving at 5-4 in the third set, with Kandath hitting two great returns on the first two. On the third, Llompart had a backhand pass that Kandath guessed correctly on, then stretched for a reflex volley winner.

"I had to commit," Kandath said of the instinct that led him to the right place when he needed it most. "I got lucky."

Kandath was up 3-1 in the second set, lost seven games in a row, and was down break point trailing 1-3 in the third. But he fought back, and in the tiebreaker that decided the match hit winner after winner: a service winner, an ace, a volley, a drop shop-lob combination. After that last point, his seventh, Kandath let out a roar, both hands at his sides.

The 16-year-old from upstate New York didn't know until Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. that he had gotten a wild card into qualifying and had a 10 a.m. match the next morning, but said he played extremely well in that opening match and it carried over into Saturday's encounter with Llompart, where he said he was "lacing" the lines in the first set.

Bo Seal, who lost his match to Takanyi Garanganga of Zimbabwe in three sets (the draw score is incorrect) made the main draw as a lucky loser, giving the U.S. four male players in the main draw from qualifying.

In the girls qualifying, long matches were again the rule, with three of them going the distance. Alexa Guarachi dropped a 5-7, 7-5, 6-0 decision to Monika Tumova of the Czech Republic, and Allie Will and Lauren McHale also had a long roller coaster match. McHale was up a set and a break at 6-3, 4-3, but then lost four games in a row, before stopping the skid at 1-1 in the third. Will never held serve again after that hold in the first game however, and untimely double faults ultimately proved her undoing.

The final spot in qualifying was still undecided at 5 p.m., when the player meeting was scheduled to begin, with Brooke Bolender and Bistra Otashliyska of Bulgaria fighting out the third set. Bolender lost the first set 6-4, but began to find her rhythm in the second set, taking a 4-1, two-break lead, losing it, but winning the final two games to take the set 7-5. Bolender fell behind 3-0 in the third set, and was down 0-40 serving in the fourth game, but she battled back, and the rail-thin Otashliyska knew then that the final set would not be easy. Bolender got the break back to make it 4-3, and at the changeover, the Bulgarian got her left ankle re-wrapped. In the next game, Bolender had two ads to pull even, but she couldn't convert either, and although she again broke Otashliyska, to make it 5-4, Bolender got down 0-40 on her own serve. Two shaky forehands by Otashliyska gave Bolender hope, but at 30-40, she sent a forehand long, sending the Bulgarian on to the main draw.

In years past, my husband has been taking photographs of all the U.S. players and posting them to ustaboys.com, but credential problems have made that much more difficult this year. I will try to post more photos on zootennis, probably via a slide show, than I have in previous years, but do check out ustaboys.com for photos beginning Sunday.

For additional coverage, see Marcia Frost's collegeandjuniortennis.com.

For complete qualifying draws, click here. For Sunday's schedule, see usopen.org.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Still Time to Pick Your US Open Junior Winners; Day One of Junior Qualifying Complete; Stephens & Kendrick Take Down No. 1 Mixed Doubles Team

Saturday's post will be from the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and if the travel gods are kind, I may be able to catch some of the final qualifying matches that take place on the practice courts outside the East gates of the US Open. (If you are in the area, come out--it's free).

There are five of the eight U.S. boys and five of the 14 U.S. girls are still in the running for a spot in the main draw. Bo Seal, Devin Britton and wild cards Nathan Pasha and Matt Kandath advanced in straight sets, while Harry Fowler came from a set down to defeat Matthew Short of Great Britain.

I was surprised to see that Lauren Embree had lost, but it did take No. 9 seed Karina Pimkina of Russia two tiebreakers to overcome the 18s Clay Court champion. Brooke Bolender, Lauren McHale, Alexa Guarachi and wild cards Allie Will and Beatrice Capra were the U.S. winners, all in straight sets . Will and McHale face each other Saturday afternoon and that will be high on my list must-see matches.

For complete draws and Saturday's order of play, click here. For on site coverage of junior qualifying, see collegeandjuniortennis.com.

In Canada's Grade 1, unseeded Nicole Gibbs of the U.S. has reached the final, and will play No. 3 seed Kurumi Nara of Japan. Marcus Willis of Great Britain and Mirza Basic of Bosnia will decide the boys' championship.

A huge surprise in mixed doubles competition today in New York, as 15-year-old Sloane Stephens and her partner Robert Kendrick upset the top-seeded team of Chia-Jung Chuang of Chinese Taipei and Daniel Nestor of Canada 6-1, 6-4 in first round action.

And don't forget to pick who you think will win the US Open Junior Championships by adding your comment to this post. Entries close at 9 a.m. Sunday morning, so make your guess now!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

US Open Junior Preview; Coin Stuns Ivanovic in Second Round; Checking in with the Harrisons

It what many tennis journalists are calling the greatest tennis upset ever, qualifier Julie Coin of France defeated world No. 1 Ana Ivanovic of Serbia 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 late this afternoon. The 25-year-old Clemson graduate was expected to go away after being broken at 4-4 in the second set, but she was the player who hit out down 0-40 in the third set and overcame a double fault on her first match point. For Coin's thoughts on the match of her life, see this AP story. UCLA's NCAA doubles champions Tracy Lin and Riza Zalameda made good use of their wild card, advancing to the second round with a straight set win over Arantxa Parra Satonja and Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain this afternoon.

My weekly story for the Tennis Recruiting network is a preview of the US Open Junior Championships, which begin with qualifying on Friday. I haven't been able to find the junior qualifying draws (if anyone tracks them down, please leave a comment), but I do know that Nicole Gibbs has made the semifinals in the ITF Grade 1 in Canada, so she should get a special exemption into the main draw, leaving her qualifying wild card available for someone else.

Two of the U.S. players in the main draw of the juniors, brothers Ryan and Christian Harrison, were profiled today by Steve Pratt for usopen.org.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Krajicek Falls to Calleri; Kendrick, Warburg Get First Round US Open Wins; Ahn Talks About College

U.S. National 18 champion Austin Krajicek lost to Agustin Calleri of Argentina 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 in his opening round match today. Wild cards Amer Delic and Jesse Levine also were eliminated in first round play Wednesday, Delic losing in three sets to Robby Ginepri and Levine falling in four to Chris Guccione of Australia. Levine had some good news though today, as he and Scoville Jenkins were added as hitting partners for the U.S. Davis Cup team, joining Krajicek in helping the team prepare for the tie with Spain.

Qualifier Robert Kendrick picked up a win over Nicolas Mahut of France and wild card Sam Warburg advanced to the second round when Serbia's Janko Tipsarevic retired trailing 6-2, 1-0. Kendrick's second round opponent will be No. 3 seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia, but Kendrick won't be getting a fraction of the attention that will descend upon former Illinois player Ryler De Heart, who is scheduled for the Thursday night session at Ashe against Rafael Nadal.

There is a new acceptance list out for the US Open Juniors, with Jerzy Janowicz of Poland and Alexey Grigorov of Russia, both of whom would have been seeded, no longer on it. There haven't been any notable withdrawals in the girls event, but Alexa Guarachi of the U.S. has made the qualifying draw.

Despite what was implied by Tracy Austin and Bill Macatee yesterday in Kristie Ahn's loss to Dinara Safina, the 16-year-old from New Jersey is not embarking on her "pro career" and pocketing the first round prize money from the Open. Ahn had a lot to say about the subject of college in this story by McCarton Ackerman at TennisGrandStand, and there is an interesting contrast between her words and those of Asia Muhammad, who has turned pro.

Everybody I’ve talked to says that college is the best four years of your life,” said Ahn. “I’ve always played well in team events and it would be unbelievable to be around that atmosphere. Even if the level isn’t that high, I can always travel and play pro events during the summer.”

Another sentiment expressed by Ahn that I hadn't actually considered before is this one:
“I think rather than worrying about turning pro right away, you should appreciate being one of the top juniors in the country,” said Ahn. “It’s a tremendous honor to be able to have that distinction.

In England, 14-year-old Wimbledon champion Laura Robson has been a professional for several years, meaning that she has had management company representation, but she hasn't played pro events yet. As this story from the Daily Mail explains, Robson is keeping a low profile and not playing the U.S. Open juniors, but is expected to play in a few ITF women's circuit events this fall and the Orange Bowl in December.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Krajicek Named Davis Cup Hitting Partner; U.S. Teens Go 0-3 Tuesday at U.S. Open

US Boys 18s champion Austin Krajicek, who finally takes the court for his first round men's main draw match against Argentina's Agustin Calleri Wednesday morning, has been selected as a Davis Cup hitting partner by U.S. captain Patrick McEnroe. The defending champions have a tough test in next month's semifinal tie in Spain, and world No. 1 Rafael Nadal is expected to anchor the team, although the players competing for both countries have yet to be officially announced. Krajicek decided against competing in the U.S. Open Junior championships once he received McEnroe's invitation, as the time commitment for the three tournaments (main draw, juniors and Davis Cup) would have proved too difficult to juggle with his classes at Texas A & M, which started this week.

Although four of the men's wild cards do not play until Wednesday, the last of the U.S. women's wild cards exited on Tuesday when Gail Brodsky, Melanie Oudin and Jamea Jackson lost. Brodsky held a set point against No. 13 seed Agnes Szavay in the opening set, but was defeated by the Hungarian 7-5, 6-3. The New York Daily News filed this story on Brodsky's loss.

Qualifier Kristie Ahn got some television coverage on USA Network early this afternoon when she took on No. 6 seed and Olympic silver medalist Dinara Safina in Armstrong Stadium. Safina looked less than her best, but Ahn, the tournament's youngest player, impressed commentator Tracy Austin with her shot selection and fighting spirit in the 6-3, 6-4 loss. Usopen.org provided this coverage of the Ahn - Safina match.

Melanie Oudin had the least daunting opponent of the three teens in fellow wild card Jessica Moore of Australia, but Moore, 18, took a 7-6(5), 7-6(5) decision. Jamea Jackson also lost, in three sets, to No. 27 seed Alona Bondarenko of Ukraine.

The women's and mixed doubles draws are posted. See usopen.org for all draws, and check collegeandjuniortennis.com for Marcia Frost's coverage of the Open.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Following the US Open: Day One

The first day at the US Open wasn't especially kind to U.S. players with Wayne Odesnik, qualifier Ryler De Heart (who won a five-set thriller from Olivier Rochus), and the winner of the Blake - Young match tonight the only ones to get through (Shenay Perry and Coco Vandeweghe are just taking the court).

Qualifiers Ryan Sweeting and Alexa Glatch lost as did wild cards Asia Muhammad, Ahsha Rolle and Brendan Evans. Muhammad was the first to go down, losing to Aravane Rezai 6-2, 6-4, and the Las Vegas Sun had the story about her loss up by mid-afternoon. Does anyone know what the reporter can possibly be referring to when he cites Muhammad as defeating "three professionals ranked in the top 100 this summer"?

Several New York area publications are doing blogs, with usually a team of reporters or tennis-loving editorial employees contributing to their frequently updated sites. I was happy to see that Aron Pilhofer of the New York Times was back on their blogging team this year, as he has a keen interest in junior tennis and will, I hope, be a frequent companion of mine at junior matches next week. Click here for the New York Times blog. Newsday also has entered the blogging fray and their work can be found here. Finally, the New York Observer is also on site, providing their take on the daily action and atmosphere at the BJKUSTANTC.

And of course, Marcia Frost will be posting daily updates at collegeandjuniortennis.com.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pick The US Open Junior Winners in Post #1500

The day before the U.S. Open starts is one of the quietest days in professional tennis, so it seems the perfect time to start another Pick The Winner competition, this one for the U.S. Open Junior Championships. The August 21st acceptance lists are here, but there are often a great many changes during the final three days leading up to Sunday's start. With five U.S. girls in both the main and junior draws, (Kristie Ahn, Gail Brodsky, Asia Muhammad, Melanie Oudin and Coco Vandeweghe) there is a chance that success in singles or doubles in the first week could cause some withdrawals. Ahn has drawn No. 6 seed Dinara Safina (see this Star-Ledger story for how she feels about that draw), Brodsky plays No. 13 Agnes Szavay and Vandeweghe No. 2 seed Jelena Jankovic. Muhammad plays unseeded Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai, ranked 74, who was upsetby Vandeweghe in the first round of March's Las Vegas challenger, the tournament where Muhammad reached the finals. Oudin drew another wild card, 18-year-old Australian Jessica Moore, who is also entered in the junior draw, and due to her 178 WTA ranking will likely be seeded in the 5-8 group. Unfortunately, the draw doesn't come out until the day before the tournament starts, so unlike Kalamazoo, there is no opportunity to take that into account when making a pick.

The men's doubles draw is out at usopen.org, and there are ten U.S. teams as well as three U.S. men--Travis Parrott, Jamie Cerratani and Eric Butorac--partnering non-U.S. players. Chase Buchanan and Ryan Harrison have drawn the unseeded team of Spain's Tommy Robredo and Argentina's Sergio Roitman. It's good to see NCAA doubles champion Kaes Van't Hof receiving a wild card. He will play with fellow Southern Californian Michael McClune.

So, leave a comment (remember, no anonymous comments will be published) on this, post number 1500 on zootennis.com, with who you think will win the boys and girls championships. Feel free to add a dark horse, and if you don't pick U.S. players to win, which U.S. player will be in it the longest.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Coaches Q and A: What are the Alternatives to Private Coaching/Academies?

In this month's installment of Coaches Q & A, Harold Solomon of the Harold Solomon Tennis Institute in Fort Lauderdale, Florida addresses this question:

Q. We can't afford a full-time tennis academy or a private coach. Can you suggest some less expensive alternatives that would help continue our 14-year-old's development?

A. There are many ways for junior players to develop their games who for one reason or another don't have access to an academy or a private full time coach.

Private lessons

When I was a junior growing up in Maryland I would take one private lesson a week and would spend the rest of the week working on the information that I learned. My father would attend the lesson and then we would go out during the week and practice the skills that I had been taught.

Since it's often very difficult to find one coach that does a great job of teaching all of the needed tennis skills, I would go to a variety of coaches who had the reputation for specializing in a particular area of the game.

A junior player could also share a lesson with another junior of approximately the same skill level and that way the player could afford to take more than one lesson a week. In some parts of the country there are coaches that have after-school programs that are more like opportunities for players to get together and play matches. Often these practices are supervised, relatively inexpensive and allow the players the opportunity to get good match play on a regular basis.

Sectional grants
Juniors who have excelled in their sections can apply for USTA grants which can help to supplement the funding necessary for the junior's development.

Local help, drilling
If I didn't have access to a private coach or a good academy, I think I would find the best coach in my area and enroll that person to help me develop a plan for my tennis future with the understanding that he would be my primary coach, but that I would from time to time use other coaches to help me develop all of the areas of my game. I would set up with other top juniors in the area a regular practice schedule for drilling and playing matches.

When I was young I took advantage of asking the best men's players in my area to play with me on a regular basis. Many of these players were highly ranked in my section and some were top national and international players. These older players were more than happy to play with me and often offered advice about my game, my style and my technique. Many of them took pride in my accomplishments and ended up being a great resource for my development.

Play as a guest

Even if a junior player can't afford to attend a full time academy it is often possible to play matches at some of the academies in the afternoons with the academy players. The staff at these academies will often offer advice on match play, shot selection, and your mental aptitude during these practice matches.

Other coaching resources
I also think it is a good idea to contact the local head of the USPTA, USPTR, and the USTA to find out about any free or minimum cost programs in the area. Finally, depending on the junior's age, local college coaches who run their own programs outside the school can be valuable resources as long as everyone is well aware of the NCAA rules regulating participation with college and university programs.
Do you have a question for Andy Brandi or Harold Solomon? If so, please send it to clewis[at]zootennis[dot]com with the phrase Coaches Q and A in the subject line. For access to the 15 previous columns, see the Coaches Q and A category in the sidebar.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ahn Qualifies for US Open, Brodsky Turns Pro

Kristie Ahn defeated No. 4 seed and 105th-ranked Anna Lapushchenkova of Russia 6-4, 6-4 in the final round of qualifying Friday at Flushing Meadows, and joins fellow wild card Shenay Perry in the women's main draw next week. (Alexa Glatch is still on the court as I write this.) Ahn didn't lose a set in her three matches, and if my brief research is correct, she will be the youngest competitor in the main draw of singles. There are several 1991 birth year wild cards, with Melanie Oudin and Coco Vandeweghe two who are still 16, but Ahn turned 16 just two months ago.
For a recap of her match from Thursday, see McCarton Ackerman's post at Tennis Grandstand.

The U.S. men making it through qualifying are Ryan Sweeting, Robert Kendrick and Ryler De Heart, who needed a third set tiebreaker to reach his first Grand Slam main draw. Only Kendrick, the No. 4 seed, was expected to reach the main draw, so it was a good showing. As far as other countries, the Czech Republic was the big winner, placing five players in the main draw, three men and two women, without the benefit of the wild cards the U.S. had.

Tom Perotta, who is an editor at Tennis Magazine, wrote this piece on Girls 18s champion Gail Brodsky for the New York Sun, which reveals that she has decided to turn pro in advance of the U.S. Open. As a Brooklyn native, Brodsky's story is especially pertinent to the year's final Grand Slam, and despite my many conversations with her throughout her junior career, I learned quite a bit I didn't know from this story.

The updated acceptances for the US Open Juniors, available here, show that Austin Krajicek has pulled out, with Rhyne Williams getting his main draw wild card. Presumably, the reserved wild card in the boys qualifying is for Devin Britton.

And in New Jersey, unseeded Ryan Lipman won both singles and doubles (seeded one in doubles with Max Stevens), at the ITF Grade 3. For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Evan King Profile; Three Wild Cards Remain in USO Qualifying

My Tennis Recruiting Network post today is a profile of Evan King, who was easily one of the most-watched players by college coaches during the Nationals. King has a very busy autumn coming up, with tournaments, the Junior Davis Cup and official recruiting visits all on tap.

In today's second round of qualifying for the U.S. Open, wild cards Kristie Ahn, Shenay Perry and Ricardas Berankis moved within one win of a main draw berth with victories over seeded players.

Ahn downed No. 31 seed and former NCAA finalist Jelena Pandzic of Croatia 6-1, 6-3, while Perry took out No. 12 seed Tzipora Obziler of Israel 6-4, 6-4. Berankis was steamrolled by No. 1 seed and 2004 US Open Junior finalist Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine, but fought back for a 1-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory. In Friday's final round, Ahn will play No 4 seed Anna Lapushchenkova of Russia, Perry gets No. 17 seed Olga Savchuk of Ukraine and Berankis faces No. 19 seed Bjorn Phau of Germany.

Six other Americans advanced, and at least one is guaranteed a main draw spot, as unseeded Ryan Sweeting will meet No. 23 seed Kevin Kim Friday. No. 4 seed Robert Kendrick plays No. 24 Simon Stadler of Germany, Alex Kuznetsov takes on No. 17 seed Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay and Ryler De Heart faces unseeded Diego Hartfield of Argentina.

The only U.S. woman beside Perry and Ahn to have a chance to earn a spot in the main draw is Californian Alexa Glatch. Glatch's opponent on Friday will be unseeded Nina Bratchikova of Russia.

The draws were released today (use the US Open widget at the top for access to the website) with Austin Krajicek getting Agustin Calleri of Argentina and Gail Brodsky facing No. 13 seed Agnes Szavay of Hungary.

For coverage of the U.S. Open qualifying, see collegeandjuniortennis.com. And for a free internet broadcast of several of Friday's final round qualifying matches, go to radiotennis.com.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

First Round of US Open Qualifying Complete; Levine's Year in Review

The first round of qualifying in the U.S. Open ended a short time ago, with Ryan Harrison losing in three sets to Daniel Munoz-De La Nava of Spain. Harrison was one of eight USTA wild cards who lost on Wednesday, but he was the only wild card playing Wednesday to extend his opponent to three sets. Tim Smyczek, Alex Clayton, Bryan Koniecko, Christina McHale, Amanda McDowell, Michael McClune and Julia Boserup all went quietly in two sets. NCAA champion McDowell's 6-1, 6-1 loss to France's Julie Coin, an All-American at Clemson a few years back, was especially disappointing, as was McClune's loss to Franco Skugor of Croatia, which was available via radiotennis.com. With Benjamin Becker's loss yesterday and Benedikt Dorsch's loss today, it wasn't a good day for NCAA champions, except Audra Cohen, who fought back to defeat Alina Jidkova of Russia 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

The four wild cards posting wins today were Florida State's Jean-Yves Aubone, 2007 US Open Junior champion Ricardas Berankis, Shenay Perry and Madison Brengle. Brengle saved at least one match point that I saw while checking the usopen.org scoreboard when Ana Jovanovic of Serbia was serving for the match at 5-4 in the third. Brengle saved that match point and broke, then she got broken again, broke back and then won the tiebreaker 7 points to 5. Sounds like a pretty exciting match to me, but it's hard to tell if you aren't there.

The No. 2 seed in the men's draw, former Illini star Kevin Anderson, went out in straight sets to Giovanni Lapentti of Ecuador.

With no admission charge and no credentials required, there's quite a bit more coverage of US Open qualifying than the average pro tournament. Here is McCarton Ackerman's report on yesterday's Sloane Stephens match, posted at Tennis Grandstand. I expect he'll be covering throughout the week, as he does a regular feature on the Futures/Challengers for that site.

And Marcia Frost of collegeandjuniortennis.com is at the qualifying, as she has been for years. For her reports, click here.

Those of you who are following Jesse Levine's career will be interested in this feature by Greg Garber of espn.com. A lucky loser, Levine reached the quarterfinals of the Pilot Pen today in New Haven when Steve Darcis retired down 2-0, and will be in the Top 100 when the U.S. Open begins on Monday. Garber traces the ups and downs of Levine's past twelve months and also explains just how deep his rivalry with fellow left-hander Donald Young goes.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Day One of US Open Qualifying; El Mihdawy Considers Tennis Future

The first day of qualifying at the U.S. Open is nearing completion, although Ken Thomas of radiotennis.com is still webcasting his final match of the day. Thomas started this morning at 11 a.m. with the first match on Court 11 between Robert Kendrick of the U.S. and Dusan Vemic of Serbia. He probably got the feeling that it would be a long day after Kendrick needed three sets for the victory. I caught the end of that match, then listened to the entire play-by-play of 15-year-old wild card Sloane Stephens' 6-3, 7-5 win over No. 7 seed Melinda Czink of Hungary. Czink, who is ranked 110th, didn't play well, from Thomas's perspective, but that's still an impressive win for Stephens.

Aside from Stephens, five other wild cards were in action on Tuesday. Sixteen-year-old Kristie Ahn won in straight sets over Ukraine's Yevgenia Savranska, while U.S. Open junior champion Kristina Kucova of Slovkia needed a third to get past Naomi Cavaday of Great Britain. Kim Couts lost in three to fellow American Lauren Albanese. Travis Helgeson fell in three to Caio Zampieri of Brazil and Chase Buchanan dropped a third set tiebreaker to Ricardo Hocevar, also from Brazil.

The remaining 12 wild cards will play their first round matches on Wednesday, and Ken Thomas will be back doing free over-the-internet webcasts from Flushing Meadows.

Other notable winners Tuesday were Americans Alex Kuznetsov, Ryler DeHeart and Ryan Sweeting. Portugal's Michelle Larcher de Brito and Urszula Radwanska of Poland also posted victories Tuesday.

For complete draws, visit usopen.org.

The New York Daily News covered Adam El Mihdawy's first round match at last week's Bronx Challenger, and posted this story about the New York resident. If I understand the NCAA rule correctly, El Mihdawy will forfeit a year of collegiate eligibility even if he retains his amateur status, for each calendar year he competes in "organized competition" past his 19th birthday, which is next month.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Building An American Nadal; UNC's Kearney Charged in Accident

Last month I spoke at length with Geoffrey Gray of New York Magazine, who was writing a pre-U.S. Open story on the USTA's Boca Raton High Performance facility. Focusing on Chase Buchanan, the story, entitled "Building The American Nadal, was released today, and it delves as much into Buchanan's junior career as it does the USTA's change of direction with this bricks and mortar initiative. For those of us with a keen interest in player development, the specifics aren't as interesting as the big picture, but for a general interest magazine, not a sports or tennis-related one, it does provide insight into the junior tennis subculture.

Yesterday's college tennis news was all positive; not so today, with the Raleigh News&Observer's story on the arrest of North Carolina men's tennis player Chris Kearney following an accident that injured two pedestrians.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

College Tennis News: Seguso to UCLA, Singh & Acharya win ITA Summer Titles, Angle Leaves ITA; McDowell Throws out First Pitch, Cerretani at US Open

With most colleges beginning classes by the end of the month and the All-American championships less than two months away, it's time to look at some of recent news in college tennis.

UCLA, the 2008 women's champions, lost a majority of their starting lineup, but Stella Sampras Webster has added Nina Pantic, Carling Seguso and Georgia Tech transfer Maya Johansson to the Bruins roster. Click here for the school's release.

Sanam Singh of Virginia and Ragini Acharya of William and Mary earned the wild card spots in the All-American draws with victories last week in the ITA National Summer Championships in Bloomington, Ind. Singh and Houston Barrick won the men's doubles title, with Miami's Michaela Kissell and Laura Vallverdu taking the women's doubles championship. The ITA website has this wrap-up, and also the bad news (for the tennis industry) that Casey Angle is leaving the ITA. He'll be missed more than words can express.

Although NCAA champion Amanda McDowell may not have gotten the main draw U.S. Open wild card, the Georgia Tech junior threw out the first pitch at the Braves game on Friday night, while coach Bryan Shelton was named honorary team captain. The school's release on these honors is here.

And former Brown tennis player Jamie Cerretani is the subject of this Boston Globe feature. Cerretani has worked his way into the top 50 in doubles on the ATP tour and will be making his debut at the U.S. Open later this month.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hadrien Saperstein Gift Fund

I've received three emails in the past few days asking me to help get the word out on a fund set up for Hadrien Saperstein, a Nevada junior player who has been struck by a paralyzing virus. His aunt has set up a website that explains what happened back in June when the 15-year-old took ill and the rehabilitation, both physical and emotional, that he is in the midst of now. Next week, a junior tournament regularly held at the Las Vegas Hilton, where Saperstein's father Mark is a pro, will be played for Hadrien's benefit. The TennisLink site for the tournament is here.

Saperstein's tragedy brought to mind a similar story I read just recently in Play Tennis Florida magazine about Tampa junior Brittany Barrett, who was also mysteriously paralyzed last year and is now competing in wheelchair tennis with a goal of reaching the 2012 Paralympics in London. For inspiration and perspective, everyone associated with junior tennis could learn a lot from these teenagers and their families.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Wraps of The Nationals

With the flurry of US Open wild card announcements, I wasn't able to post a link to my Tennis Recruiting Network weekly story, which is a wrap of the Boys 18 & 16 Nationals.

If you haven't visited there during the week, you've missed some great "Championship Week" coverage. James Hill of the San Antonio Express-News filed this story on the Boys 14 Championships. On Wednesday, Marc Lucero provided coverage of the Girls 16s from his base in San Diego, and today, Julie Wrege posted on the Boys 12s, while Alana Marcu supplied details of the Girls 18 competition in Berkeley.

And before it gets to be really old news, here's a Washington Post story on Denis Kudla and Junior Ore's doubles match at the ATP Legg Mason early this week. Free registration is required.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

US Open Junior Wild Cards Named

Thanks to analyst for alerting me that the wild cards for the US Open Junior Championships were posted in today's acceptance list update. They are as follows:
Kristie Ahn
Julia Boserup
Gail Brodsky (automatic)
Lauren Davis (automatic)
Christina McHale
Asia Muhammad
Sloane Stephens
Coco Vandeweghe

Jordan Cox (automatic)
Alex Domijan
Christian Harrison
Evan King
Austin Krajicek (automatic)
Denis Kudla
Raymond Sarmiento
Bob van Overbeek


Nicole Gibbs
Kyle McPhillips
Grace Min
Chinami Ogi (trade with Japan)
two reserved

Sekou Bangoura
Sean Berman
Kosaku Hirota (trade with Japan)
Junior Ore
Nathan Pasha
Rhyne Williams

Collegians Abound in US Open Men's Wild Card Selections

I just got the press release from the USTA on the US Open Men's wild cards, and although I'm once again disappointed in their snub of an NCAA champion (I never expected a main draw for Somdev Devvarman, but I thought a qualifying wild card would be appropriate given his results this summer), overall there is much more to be grateful for among college tennis supporters than there was when the women's wild cards were revealed.

Jesse Levine, Sam Warburg, Amer Delic and of course, Austin Krajicek, all have collegiate ties and accomplishments. The other two Americans chosen, Scoville Jenkins and Brendan Evans, have been professionals for several years, but have had good results this summer.

Jean-Yves Aubone, Alex Clayton, Bryan Koniecko and Travis Helgeson, all current or recently graduated college players, received qualifying wild cards, as did juniors Chase Buchanan, Ryan Harrison and Ricardas Berankis. Tim Symczek and Michael McClune round out the list. Kalamazoo finalist Ryan Thacher, who hadn't decided as of last Sunday whether he would accept the qualifying wild card or not, obviously declined it.

For the complete press release from the USTA, click here. The one Levine loss in college referred to in the release was not to John Isner, but to Alex Slovic.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

USTA Announces Women's US Open Wild Cards; McDowell, Brengle Settle for Qualifying WCs

Although I haven't received a release, apparently the USTA has announced the women's wild cards for the U.S. Open. I'm frankly surprised by some of the selections. I expected Ahsha Rolle, who is ranked in the 130s and reached the third round last year and Melanie Oudin, and of course, Gail Brodsky, who earned hers with a win in Berkeley. But Berkeley runner-up Coco Vandeweghe and Asia Muhammad are surprises, as is Jamea Jackson, who is ranked in the 400s. This article implies that Rolle and Jackson are being rewarded for Fed Cup duty in the past. With the two reciprocal Grand Slam trades with France and Australia, that's all that are available, which means that NCAA champion Amanda McDowell of Georgia Tech will have to get through qualifying to reach the main draw.

Last week, I was part of a small news conference with General Manager of USTA Elite Player Development Patrick McEnroe, who was in Kalamazoo for two days observing play. During the Q and A, he couldn't have been more emphatic about the importance of college tennis as a development step. Pam Shebest of the Kalamazoo Gazette wrote this story about his remarks, which seemed especially appropriate when Texas A & M's Austin Krajicek won the 18s title Sunday.

Passing over a U.S.-born and trained NCAA champion seems to send the opposite message, and it's not as if McDowell hasn't played well this summer; she won the $10,000 Pro Circuit event in St. Joseph, Mo. as a qualifier earlier this month.

Madison Brengle was eligible to play in California (as was Oudin) and did not enter; instead she played Vancouver, where she beat No. 1 seed and No. 154 ranked Sunitha Rao in the first round before falling in the semifinals to 190th ranked Julie Coin in a third set tiebreaker.

In addition to McDowell and Brengle, the other qualifying wild cards went to:
Kristie Ahn, Julia Boserup, Kimberly Couts, reigning US Open girls' singles champion Kristina Kucova, Christina McHale, Shenay Perry and Sloane Stephens. Again no consideration for those with college backgrounds, with Alexis Gordon (364), Alexis Prousis (352) and Amanda Fink (488) on the outside looking in.

As the comments on the US Open Junior wild card possibilities demonstrate, no one is ever entirely happy with the wild card selections; nor do I think any two people are likely to come up with the same list. But there are undoubtedly themes to be recognized, and sadly, as far as I'm concerned, this year's theme is anti-college.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Kalamazoo Slide Show

This year's Nationals Full Length Slide Show:

Short Animoto/You Tube version:

Monday, August 11, 2008

National Championships Complete--Looking Back at the Picks; U.S. Open Junior Acceptances

I'm diligently working on my slideshow for Kalamazoo, but I thought we should review the winners this past weekend at the National Championships.

2007 Easter Bowl champion Gail Brodsky, the top seed, won the Girls 18s in Berkeley, with Coco Vandeweghe and Jamie Hampton winning the doubles. Marcia Frost filed this report on collegeandjuniortennis.com.

In San Diego, No. 12 seed Lauren Davis won the Girls 16s and a wild card into the US Open juniors. Kaitlyn Christian and Whitney Kay won the doubles. Click here for the TennisLink site.

The Boys 14s title went to 2008 Easter Bowl finalist John Richmond, the 7th seed, with Austin Smith and Trey Strobel taking the gold balls in doubles in San Antonio. Click here for the TennisLink site.

Victoria Duval, a No. 9 alphabetical seed, took the Girls 14s in Peachtree City, Ga., with Ashley Dai and
Riko Shimizu winning the doubles title. Click here for the TennisLink site.

Top seed Brooke Austin collected her fourth gold ball in a month, winning the Girls 12s singles and doubles in Alpharetta, Ga. Hannah King was her partner for the Hard Courts. Austin won the singles and doubles at the 12s Clays in July. Click here for the TennisLink site.

In N. Little Rock, Ark., No. 8 seed Spencer Papa also took both singles and doubles title in the Boys 12s. Papa's partner was Jacob Dunbar. Click here for the TennisLink site.

As for our "Pick the Winner of Kalamazoo" contest, we had two entrants go with Austin Krajicek: tennisfan and tennismonkey. No one had Jordan Cox as the 16s winner. Special mention to brent, who called the Berman-Boyajian match as one to watch; to tennisprov1 who saw how exciting the Ryan Harrison - Kevin King match would be before the tournament started; and to anthony who selected Spencer Newman as a dark horse.

For those still interested in the Kalamazoo Players of the Day, see the photos below.

And finally, the initial US Open Junior Acceptance lists have been posted here. As it stands now, a lot of good U.S. players are outside of qualifying, which will make the always-interesting wild card selections even more so. Outside of Jordan Cox, who has already claimed one, who do you think should get main draw and who should get qualifying wild cards?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Krajicek and Cox Earn National Championships in Kalamazoo

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Kalamazoo MI--

Austin Krajicek overcame a rough start, Jordan Cox overcame a rough middle, but both ended by adding their names to the long list of champions at the USTA Boys 18 and 16 National Championships in Kalamazoo.

Cox, the 7th seed, downed No. 6 seed Denis Kudla 6-1, 6-7(2), 6-3, recovering from the disappointment of failing to convert four match points in the second set to dominate in the third set. Krajicek, the fifth seed, defeated No. 8 seed Ryan Thacher 2-6, 6-2, 6-2, 6-0 in the first battle of left-handers in 18s finals history.

The jacket and sweater clad crowd began to warm to the 16s contest when Kudla and Cox engaged in a gripping game with Cox leading at 5-3 in the second set. Kudla, serving to stay in the match, had his first game point at 40-30, but an aggressive chip of a second serve and a charge to the net by Cox got him to deuce, the first of eight in the game.

Kudla saved his first match point with a first serve winner, the second when his backhand up the line caught the net and eluded Cox, the third with another first serve winner and the fourth when he retrieved an overhead and Cox's putaway volley went wide. It took six more points before Kudla held, but once he did, the crowd support and the momentum shifted to him.

"I tried to forget that it ever happened," said Cox, from Duluth, Ga. "But you could tell in the next game that I didn't. I threw it away really quickly, got broken at love. I think the crowd just wanted to see more tennis, to urge him on to make it a really good match, and I think it helped him."

After a nervous start to the match, Kudla began to find his form midway through the second set.

"I was telling myself to start playing with my feet instead of trying to hit winners and everything, making him play," said Kudla, from Arlington, Va. "And I ended up doing that and coming back in that big game which was a little bit lucky and I started feeling it a little bit.

"In the third, he sort of surprised me a little bit. I thought he'd think about it and maybe let go, but he regrouped and he really showed a true champion, so all credit to him."

In the ten-minute break after the tiebreaker, which was all Kudla, Cox took a two-pronged approach to handling the disappointment of the second set.

"I let out a little anger," said Cox, who had displayed none of that on the court. "I had my water jug, my gallon of water and I threw that against the wall. Pablo (Mayorga, a coach at the IMG Bollettieri Academy) really helps me out at the break. He tells me the stuff I'm doing right, he focuses on the positives, gets me back up and ready to play the third set."

Cox was serving for the match at 5-1 in the third set, but Kudla broke and held to make it 5-3. In his second attempt to finish, Cox was down 15-30, but Kudla missed a backhand then saw a forehand volley catch the tape to give Cox his fifth match point. When Kudla's forehand sailed out, Cox gave a subdued fist pump and trotted to the net for the handshake, having earned not only the 16s National title, but a main draw wild card into the U.S. Open Juniors.

"I'm looking forward to it a lot," said Cox, who has never played the junior qualifying or main draw in Flushing Meadows. "I've already seen the acceptance list, and it looks pretty strong, so I'm looking forward to playing some of those guys. It's going to be great."

Austin Krajicek will receive an even bigger prize, and he's not running scared from any potential opponent in the U.S. Open main draw.

"I wouldn't mind playing Roger or Rafa," said Krajicek, who started his college career at Texas A & M in January. "I just think it would be fun to play on a big court and get that experience, but whoever I play is fine. I'm just looking forward to the opportunity."

The best-of-five set format gave Krajicek ample time to recover after a shaky first set. Thacher, who will start school at Stanford next month, had played in the finals in the 16s in 2006 and last year in the 18s, so he had an edge in experience and it showed.

Krajicek was missing not by a little, but by a lot in the first set, with Thacher's serve and ground strokes setting the table for him. But somewhere in the middle of the second set Krajicek began to get a read on his fellow left-hander's serve.

"He has a really good serve, first and second serve," Krajicek said. "In the beginning it was tough for me, with the wind too, adjusting a little bit. But I think I started to see a little better, move a little more, toward the middle of the second set."

In the third set, Krajicek got an early break, and with that cushion began to play more aggressively. At 5-2, still just one break down, Thacher was at 30-40 on his serve when Krajicek hit a perfectly placed forehand winner deep in the corner to take the set. Thacher's ability to return nearly any shot was in evidence throughout the match, but Krajicek was always ready to hit a second winner.

"I knew coming into the match that Ryan's a really good athlete," said Krajicek, a distant relative of 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek. "That he was going to get to balls and make me hit another shot. I did a good job of staying focused throughout the point and being ready for the next ball. That's something you have to do against good players."

Thacher was disappointed in his inconsistency off the ground in the final three sets.

"He was a little steadier off the ground," Thacher admitted. "Normally that's not my problem, being aggressive off the ground. But today I never really found a groove, never felt like I was hitting it clean, and he was taking advantage of that. Hats off to him, he really played well, especially down the stretch."

Speaking to the spectators after the match, Thacher joked that most people disliked change, but he wouldn't mind it in this case, as it was the third time he was giving his remarks as a runner-up in Kalamazoo. And then he added, "I still can't believe I lost the last set 6-0."

Down 3-0 but only one break, Thacher needed to win the fourth game to have any chance to reverse his fortunes, but he didn't even get to deuce, although he saved six break points before double faulting to make it 4-0 for Krajicek. Sensing the trophy would soon be his, Krajicek finished his service game with an ace for 5-0 and in the next game, on his first match point, planted a forehand winner into the corner for the match.

Krajicek stood facing the crowd with his arms raised in celebration, and in his speech after the match expressed regret that it was his last year in Kalamazoo, but "a pretty good way to go out."

Then Krajicek remembered another way to play in Kalamazoo--at the Opening Night Exhibition.

"I really enjoy this tournament, it's kind of tough to leave knowing that I might not be back," Krajicek said. "Maybe I'll get to be in the exhibition, you never know. That would be cool."

But first, there's that U.S. Open main draw match to play in two weeks.

In other action on Sunday, third place in the 18s went to Ryan Harrison, the No. 1 seed, who beat No. 6 seed Ty Trombetta 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-2. No. 2 seed Evan King took third in 16s singles when No. 5 seed Bob Van Overbeek withdrew due to injury. Raymond Sarmiento, seeded ninth, finished fifth in the 16s with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Mitchell Frank, the No. 14 seed. No. 2 seed Chase Buchanan took fifth in the 18s with a 6-3, 4-1 ret. inj. win over No. 9 Jarmere Jenkins.

For complete draws, see ustaboys.com.

For coverage of the girls 18s, where No. 1 seed Gail Brodsky took the title today, see Marcia Frost's collegeandjuniortennis.com.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Buchanan and Harrison Win 18s Doubles, King and Sarmiento Take 16s Titles

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Kalamazoo MI--

Chase Buchanan and Ryan Harrison were seeded eighth for this year's National 18s, despite holding the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in singles, but it didn't stop them from claiming the title Saturday evening with a hard-fought 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 victory over No. 2 seeds Steve Johnson and Bradley Klahn.

"We had a coach who we kept talking to about our seeding," said Buchanan, who went out in the quarterfinals in singles to Ryan Thacher on Friday. "Mike Sell (USTA High Performance Coach) is a good friend of ours, has traveled with us some, and at the beginning of the tournament he told us he was on the doubles committee, so we've been jabbering at him the whole tournament," Harrison said, when asked if they used the seeding as motivation.

Having survived the No. 5 seeded team of Ryan Thacher and Rhyne Williams 7-5 in the third on Friday, Buchanan and Harrison, who have never played together before, knew they had to be equally as sharp against long-time partners Johnson and Klahn.

They broke Klahn in the only break of the first set, but struggled to open the second set, as Klahn and Johnson picked up the pace and took a 4-0 lead. After Johnson held to claim the second set, the final set stayed on serve until 3-3, when Harrison was broken. But Buchanan and Harrison broke Klahn in the next game and again in the final game to claim the 18s doubles title and the U.S. Open main draw wild card that accompanies it.

"We had two tough matches, where we were down a break in the final set," said Harrison. "We could just as easiy been playing for third and fourth today."

As for the Open, both are scheduled to compete in the U.S. Open Junior tournament, but the main draw and the chance to perform on a stage even bigger than that in Kalamazoo has them hoping for what any tour veteran would consider a bad draw.

"Bob and Mike Bryan," Buchanan said when asked who they would like to play in the first round. "It would just be so exciting to play them on a big court."

"It would probably be on stadium court," said Harrison. "We're the young Americans, they're the old veterans that have dominated forever. We'll see how the draw comes out, but we'll be waiting with anticipation."

In the 16s doubles, it was the No. 1 seeds who prevailed, with Evan King and Raymond Sarmiento also winning their second consecutive tough three-setter to claim the National title 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 over No. 6 seeds Denis Kudla and Junior Ore.

After Sarmiento was broken to give Kudla and Ore the second set, the ten-minute rest break did Kudla and Ore no favors. Kudla was broken to open the third set, but King gave it back three games later and before they knew it, King and Sarmiento trailed 4-2. King, who had crashed into the baseline line judge while chasing down a lob, breaking the plastic chair and gashing his leg, needed a bandage to stop the bleeding and a trainer was called to court at 2-4. But King and Sarmiento got right back on serve in an very entertaining seventh game when King managed a tweener volley to extend a point and rolled on from there, taking the final four games of the match.

"We've known each other for a very long time," said King. "We don't have to say to each other, we're going to poach or not poach. Like in the last game, a great example of that was I poached a ball, and I didn't put it away, but Raymond had my back. We didn't plan it or anything."

King and Sarmiento hope to play in the U.S. Open Juniors main draw, but they are also excited to have their names on the board of champions that is a focal point of the tournament.

"This is a prestigious tournament and the crowd here is very supporting," said Sarmiento who mentioned Andre Agassi as one of the 16s doubles champions catching his eye on the lengthy list. "There's a lot of history behind it."

In the third place doubles matches played Saturday afternoon, Thacher and Williams took the bronze ball in 18s with a 6-4, 6-4 decision over No. 12 seeds Daniel Nguyen and JT Sundling. No. 4 seeds Sekou Bangoura Jr. and Nathan Pasha took third in the 16s with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over No. 9 seeds Spencer Simon and Jack Sock.

Thacher Meets Krajicek, Kudla Faces Cox for National Titles Sunday

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Kalamazoo, MI--

Ryan Thacher in the finals is becoming something of a fixture in Kalamazoo, perhaps not quite as familiar as the blueberries and yogurt he was gobbling down in the press conference following his 6-0, 6-1 victory over Ty Trombetta, but close.

The left-hander from Studio City, Calif. will make his third consecutive appearance on Court One at Stowe Stadium Sunday afternoon when he faces Austin Krajicek, who upset top seed Ryan Harrison on a jacket-weather Saturday in Kalamazoo 7-5, 6-1.

As runner-up in the 16s in 2006 and in the 18s last year, Thacher, seeded eighth, knows the path to the finals well. He showed no mercy against the No. 6 seeded Trombetta, who couldn't find the game that earned him four straight three-set wins, two requiring third set tiebreakers.

"I think he was really beat up," Thacher said of Trombetta, whom he had beaten two years ago in the quarterfinals of the 16s. "He played an unbelievable tournament, you can't fault him for anything. It's just unfortunate he made it this far and just didn't have his stuff."

Like Trombetta, Krajicek had played multiple three-setters this week, needing the final set against both No. 5 seed Steve Johnson in the fifth round and No 12 seed Rhyne Williams in the quarterfinals. But against Harrison, Krajicek played his best tennis of the week in the second set, knocking the 16-year-old from New Braunfels Texas off his game with confidence and controlled aggression.

"It was my goal to make this match a little bit shorter," said Krajicek, who turned 18 in June. "I think I did a better job of staying focused at the beginning of the second set than I did in the other matches, and that was the difference."

Krajicek got his first break of Harrison at 3-3 in the first set, but was immediately broken back. Both players held for 5-5, and Harrison was at 40-15 serving, but Krajicek drew even, then got the game with a forehand passing shot winner. He held at love to close out the first set, then broke Harrison to start the second, when Harrison double faulted at 15-40. Krajicek had two easy holds of serve, and when he broke Harrison at 1-3, giving himself a two-break lead, the Texas A & M freshman displayed a big roundhouse fist pump.

"I was never comfortable with one break on Ryan," said Krajicek, the co-freshman of the year in the Big 12 and an All-American in doubles. "In the first set, I got a break and he broke right back. I knew pretty much any time he could play a good game and break me, so I was really looking to get that second break. It was a confidence boost for me and helped me loosen up a little bit on my service game, the next one, and play a little bit more aggressive. I played a pretty solid match and that's what I was looking for."

The two left-handers' meeting in the best-of-five final will be their first since the round of 16 at the 2006 Easter Bowl 16s, which Thacher won 6-3, 7-6(5).

By coincidence, the T-shirt that Thacher was wearing in the semifinal was from that very tournament, and when that was pointed out, Thacher joked he was "psyching him (Krajicek) out. I'll go find him after this."

In the 16s semifinals, No. 6 seed Denis Kudla came out firing against No. 2 seed Evan King and never let up in his convincing 6-2, 6-2 victory.

Admitting that he battled nerves throughout his three set quarterfinal victory over Jack Sock Friday, Kudla was determined not to let his game be overwhelmed by them against King.

"I knew what my mistake was, being very nervous, and I saw what a good player is capable of when I'm very nervous," said Kudla, who turns 16 next Sunday. "I knew if I was nervous against Evan King, he would just take that and probably beat me pretty easily, 2 and 2 the other way. But controlling my nerves definitely helped me."

Kudla, who lives in Arlington, Va., hit out on every shot, with his two-handed backhand particularly effective throughout the match. He closed the net often, recognizing quickly when he had stung King with a shot, and the more confidently he finished the point, the more error-prone King became.

Assessing his performance, Kudla was satisfied.

"I think I might have played better once or twice, but I definitely played very well today."

Kudla's opponent Sunday will be No. 7 seed Jordan Cox of Duluth, Ga., who managed to hold his head after seeing a 5-1 second set lead melt away to defeat No. 5 seed Bob van Overbeek 6-4, 7-6(0).

Cox knows his reputation for becoming emotionally unglued was giving his opponents hope, so he made a conscious decision to avoid that path against the big-serving right-hander from Boca Raton, Fla.

"That's what I stayed focused on today," said Cox, 16. "Not only Bob but everybody sort of knows me and expects me to at some point crack, get a little upset and frustrated. But today I focused on not letting anything upset me, to stay positive, not give them what they were waiting for, and that was the key to the match today."

Cox approached the net to finish points often while building his 6-4, 5-1 lead, and even had two match points serving at 5-2, but he remained calm, even when his errors were responsible. He also credited van Overbeek for forcing the tiebreaker.

"He started to get a little bit of rhythm, he started to make more balls," Cox said of van Overbeek's comeback. "I don't think it was our best match today, we both sort of had to fight through it. Win ugly. I know it wasn't his best day, but I was happy to pull through."

The schedule for Sunday is the 16s singles final at 11:30 a.m. followed by the 18s singles final at 1:30 p.m.

For complete results, see ustaboys.com

US Teams Claim Both 14-and-under ITF Junior World Titles

It will be Kudla vs. Cox in the 16s and Krajicek vs. Thacher in the 18s for Kalamazoo titles, and I'll have a match report later, but I wanted to post a link to the ITF Junior website so you can read about the historic victory for both U.S. boys and girls in the 14-and-under World Junior competition.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Doubles Finals Set for Saturday at Kalamazoo

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Kalamazoo MI--

With the last two semifinalists in singles in each division decided on Friday, the focus turned to doubles, and competitive matches were the watchword in both 16s and 18s.

Bradley Klahn and Steve Johnson, the No. 2 seeds in the 18s, took the only straight-set match, downing 2007 Kalamazoo 16s doubles champions Daniel Nguyen and JT Sundling 7-5, 6-1, to set up a meeting with No. 8 seeds Ryan Harrison and Chase Buchanan for not only the Kalamazoo title, but a main draw wild card into the U.S. Open.

Buchanan and Harrison were down a break in the third set to No. 5 seeds Ryan Thacher and Rhyne Williams when Buchanan was broken serving at 3-3, but immediately got it back by breaking Thacher in the next game and again at 5-6 to seal the victory. Buchanan looked especially sharp during the final five games, returning well and putting the pressure on Thacher and Williams on nearly every point, and earning some measure of revenge against Thacher, who had defeated him in singles earlier in the day.

Jack Sock was not so fortunate, as he lost twice to Denis Kudla Saturday, first in singles and later with partner Spencer Simon, when, as the No. 9 seeds, they fell to Kudla and partner Junior Ore, the No. 6 seeds, 6-2, 2-6, 6-2.

The top seeded team of Evan King and Raymond Sarmiento, who are likely to represent the U.S. next month in the ITF Junior Davis Cup competition in Mexico, had a scare against No. 4 seeds Sekou Bangoura Jr. and Nathan Pasha, before pulling out a 6-7(5), 6-4, 6-4 win.

The turning point of the match came with Sarmiento serving at 3-4, 30-40 in the second set. Had Pasha and Bangoura won that point, they would be serving for the match, but Pasha missed a return wide. King and Sarmiento went on to win that game, as well as the next two, and were able to squeeze out a break in the third to earn a berth in Saturday afternoon's final.

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