Thursday, March 18, 2010

Top Seeds Eliminated In Thursday's Quarterfinal Play at Spring Nationals

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Mobile AL--

Thursday wasn't a good day to be a high seed at the USTA Spring 18s Championships. The top two seeds in the boys draw--No. 1 Gonzales Austin and No. 2 Blake Bazarnik--and the highest seed in the girls draw--No. 2 Lilly Kimbell--dropped quarterfinal contests.

Kimbell was the first to taste defeat on yet another unseasonably cool day at the Copeland-Cox Tennis Center, when No. 6 seed Whitney Kay come from behind in both sets to claim a 7-6(6), 6-3 decision.

Kay, from Alpharetta, Ga., trailed 5-3 in the opening set, with Kimbell serving for the set at 5-4. Kimbell failed to convert her lone set point at 40-30 when Kay hit a backhand winner down the line, lost that game and the next one. With Kimbell serving at 5-6, Kay had three sets points, but made errors on each one of them, and Kimbell held for the tiebreaker.

The first six points of the tiebreaker went to the server, with the first break going to Kay, when Kimbell was overruled on a forehand she called wide. Kay got a second overrule in her favor two points later, but at 6-4, she let set points four and five slip away, again with errors. Finally, on her sixth set point, Kay didn't commit an error, and Kimbell's netted forehand was the reward for Kay's patience.

"If I had gotten mad I would've probably lost more," said Kay, who started off the week with an illness that sapped her strength. "I try to stay positive."

Kay was called on to exhibit that trait again when she fell behind 3-1 in the second set, but Kimbell didn't win another game.

"She kind of started out hitting it more," said Kay, who like Kimbell is less likely to win a point with pace than with angles, spin and placement. "She had been hitting it higher before. Then I got used to it a little bit and she started playing a little bit more tentative after that and gave me a chance to get back in it."

Kay's semifinal opponent Friday is No. 3 seed Danielle Collins. Collins, from St. Petersburg, Fla., looked as if she was going to breeze past No. 7 seed Monica Turewicz, taking a quick first set at love, but Turewicz fought back with two late breaks to take the second set. Collins again jumped out to a big lead in the third set, and held on for a 6-0, 5-7, 6-2 victory.

The other two girls quarterfinals took less than an hour to complete. Robin Anderson, the No. 8 seed, downed Julie Vrabel, a 17 seed, 6-1, 6-0, and No. 5 seed Krista Hardebeck also dispatched a 17 seed, Katie Goepel, 6-1, 6-3.

Boys No. 2 seed Blake Bazarnik had been living on the edge all week, with three of his victories going the distance, two of those from a set down. But against No. 9 seed Bjorn Fratangelo Bazarnik couldn't summon that comeback scenario, losing 6-3, 6-2.

"I felt a little sluggish because of last night's doubles, which finished at about 10 o'clock at night," Fratangelo said. "So to start the match I was just worried about holding serve. Serving at 2-3, I got the adrenaline going, I held, and played a really good game to break and got the set from there."

Fratangelo went up 4-0 in the second set, but admitted that there were some tense moments.

"My nerves kind of got to me a little bit," said the 16-year-old from Pittsburgh. "He got back a break and held, but from there I just tried to keep my nerve and get through the match."

Fratangelo will meet No. 7 seed Emmett Egger in Friday's semifinal. Egger eliminated the last unseeded player, Californian Gregory Scott, 7-6 (1), 6-1.

Boys top seed Gonzales Austin survived a 6-4 in the third battle on Wednesday, but he couldn't hold off No. 6 seed Greg Andrews, who came back from 5-1 down in the second tiebreaker to earn a 7-6(0), 7-6(6) win.

Austin had saved a match point serving at 5-6 in the second set, with an aggressive forehand approach, and when Andrews double faulted to give Austin a 4-0 lead in the tiebreaker, it looked as if there would be a second consecutive lopsided tiebreaker. But Andrews' forehand began to heat up and at 5-1, he hit hit two clean winners and forced an error to make it 5-4. Austin earned two set points with a service winner, but Andrews saved one with a backhand winner that Austin made a late out call on but was overruled. Serving on the second set point, Andrews pulled even when an Austin forehand drifted just long. Yet another forehand winner gave Andrews his second match point, and this time Austin found no magic. He shanked a forehand high into the air, giving Andrews the victory.

Andrews, a Notre Dame recruit, will face another senior in the semifinals--No. 17 seed Asika Isoh, who is committed to West Point. Isoh, who beat No. 3 seed Nathan Pasha on Wednesday, continued his impressive run with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over No. 17 seed Chase Curry.

The doubles finals are set for Friday, with the top seeds playing for the championship.

The No. 1 boys team of Curry and Jeffrey Offerdahl will take on the No. 5 seeds Spencer Newman and Nathan Pasha after both teams recorded straight set victories Thursday afternoon. Curry and Offerdahl defeated the No. 3 seeds Samuel Fife and Kyle Roth 7-5, 6-1, while Newman and Pasha downed unseeded Jeremy Efferding and Fratangelo 6-2, 6-3.

Defending champions Emina Bektas and Lilly Kimbell, the girls No. 1 seeds, started slowly in their semifinal match with No. 3 seeds Allison Falkin and Alexandra Leatu but recovered for a 6-3, 6-2 victory. Bektas and Kimbell will meet the unseeded team of Mary Jeremiah and Megan Kurey, after the Georgia pair upset No. 2 seeds and future Notre Dame teammates Julie Sabacinski and Britney Sanders 7-6(1), 6-2. Despite being unseeded, Jeremiah and Kurey have not needed a third set or a match tiebreaker in any of their wins.

For the complete draws, see the TennisLink site.

The Inside Tennis with the Koz segment for Wednesday includes several interviews with college coaches who are in Mobile recruiting. Go to indietennis.com for daily videos from the Spring Nationals.