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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Capra's Win Highlights Second Day at U.S. Open

Due to three very long day session matches on Arthur Ashe, it looks like it might be after midnight before we'll know how NCAA champion Chelsey Gullickson does against top seed Caroline Wozniacki, so I'll focus instead on the results from earlier today at Flushing Meadows.

The good news came early, with USTA wild card tournament winner Beatrice Capra taking a 6-1, 6-3 victory from Karolina Sprem of Croatia. The match wasn't on a televised court, so I don't have any insight into the reasons for Capra's win, but in looking at the match statistics, break points coverted stands out. Capra faced only two break points, saving them both, while cashing in on four of her six opportunities. I was hoping for a story on usopen.org, but not finding that, here's one from the Columbia Flier. And I'm sure Capra herself will have plenty to say about her match in her always entertaining diary for usopen.org. She will play No. 18 seed Aravane Rezai of France in the second round.

The news for the other women's wild cards in action today was not as positive. National 18s champion Shelby Rogers won the first set in a tiebreaker from Shuai Peng of China, but lost the second set in a tiebreaker, leaving the match even after more than two hours of play on a very hot day. Peng got an early break in the third and hung on for a 6-7(5), 7-6(3), 6-3 win over the 17-year-old from South Carolina. Jamie Hampton was the only wild card to face a seeded player, and after dropping the first set to No. 22 seed Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain 6-4, she came back to take the second 6-3, but couldn't sustain that momentum, losing the third 6-0. CoCo Vandweghe, who had a very long wait for her match on the Grandstand, could find no answers for Sabine Lisicki's game, losing 6-1, 6-0 in 48 minutes.

In men's doubles, which began today, NCAA champions Drew Courtney and Michael Shabaz of Virginia lost to No. 10 seeds Wesley Moodie and Dick Norman 6-3, 6-4.

Wednesday's schedule is a much better one for those who would rather watch tennis than live scoring. Qualifier Ryan Harrison and wild cards Bradley Klahn, Donald Young and Jack Sock will be on televised courts, with Klahn playing fellow Californian Sam Querrey at 11 a.m. on Armstrong, and Harrison playing No. 15 seed Ivan Ljubicic of Croatia on Court 11, also at 11 a.m. Young and Sock will play on Court 13, third and fourth matches on.

The AP's Howard Fendrich spoke with Sock and his coach Mike Wolf for this story. In it, Sock reveals that there are eight colleges he has interest in playing for should he decide against turning pro in the next year.

Also in action on Wednesday are National junior champions Sekou Bangoura Jr. and Nathan Pasha, who will play Michael Kohlmann of Germany and Jarkko Nieminen of Finland in the first round of doubles on Court 14.

For complete schedule and results from today, see usopen.org.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Gullickson to Play Wozniacki on Arthur Ashe Tuesday Night; McHale Falls to King in Monday's Action; Player Diaries; Why Teens No Longer Win Slams

On the first few days of the U.S. Open, there's so many possibilities that it's difficult to settle on just one. I watched the last few games of Melanie Oudin's 6-3, 6-0 rout of qualifier Olga Savchuk, but I prefer to see matches played in front of packed stadiums, and that will never describe Arthur Ashe during an 11 a.m. match.

I watched some of Roddick's win, which was another one-sided affair, but ESPN2 did switch to the more dramatic contests between No. 5 seed Robin Soderling and qualifier Andreas Haider-Maurer of Austria on the Grandstand, and on Court 11, No. 17 seed Gael Monfils and qualifier Robert Kendrick of the U.S. Neither produced an upset, but there's always drama deep in the fifth set of a slam. Soderling ended up winning 7-5, 6-3, 6-7(2), 5-7, 6-4 in just under four hours, and Monfils survived his three-hour-plus ordeal by a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-4 score.

Later in the afternoon, I watched the match between wild card Christina McHale and Vania King, via usopen.org live streaming, which King won 6-3, 0-6, 6-1. By that score you would guess that both players ran hot and cold, and that was true, but neither gave an inch mentally. It was only after McHale got down 3-0 and had treatment for a calf injury that the conclusion seemed inevitable, although she continued to battle.

Two other U.S. wild cards were in action Monday. Ryan Sweeting lost to qualifier Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-2, (for Josh Rey's account of the match, click here) and Tim Smyczek lost to No. 22 seed Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil 6-3, 7-5, 7-6(6).

The reciprocal wild cards had better luck, with Carsten Ball of Australia and Guillaume Rufin of France advancing to the second round. Sophie Ferguson of Australia lost her opening match, but Virginia Razzano of France won hers today.

The rest of the women's wild cards will play on Tuesday, with junior champion Shelby Rogers, Beatrice Capra, CoCo Vandeweghe and Jamie Hampton on the schedule. Only Vandeweghe's match with Sabine Lisicki, scheduled for the Grandstand, will be on a court with live streaming, so I'll be monitoring live scoring.

I shouldn't have any trouble following the final women's wild card to take the court Tuesday. NCAA champion Chelsey Gullickson will play top seed Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in a night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium. They will follow Rafael Nadal's match with Teymuraz Gabashvili of Russia.

The Kevin Anderson - Somdev Devvarman match today was expected to be a good one, but Anderson cruised to a 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 win. Qualifier Irina Falconi also went out quietly, losing to No. 19 seed Flavia Pennetta 6-2, 6-1.

For complete results, see usopen.org.

The USTA is again posting player diaries, with Jack Sock, Shelby Rogers, Beatrice Capra, Vania King and Bethanie Mattek-Sands having contributed so far.

Christopher Clarey investigates the reasons why so few teenagers have an impact on the game's top echelons these days in this story for the New York Times. Clarey writes:
There has clearly been a major shift in the men’s game in a short time, too. In the 2000s, Lleyton Hewitt, Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray broke into the top 10 as teenagers while others, like Federer, Richard Gasquet and Juan Martín del Potro, broke into the top 20 as teenagers.

“Everybody was like a teenager when they broke through,” Federer said. “Today, they don’t, so I don’t know if it’s because the top 10 is preventing them from doing that or if it’s just gotten so much more physical, and that’s why it is hard.”

The consensus among players, coaches and agents is that the physical element is indeed the primary factor, although there should be room for the exceptional talent to make an impact.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

US Open Qualifier Falconi Still Studying; Doubles Draws Posted; ITF Junior News

I caught up with Irina Falconi today by phone to talk about her experience in U.S. Open qualifying and to find out how she was preparing for Monday's match with No. 19 seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy. Although Falconi is no longer in school at Georgia Tech, having turned professional after her sophomore year, she still thinks like a student, telling me that she will be doing homework tonight to learn what she can about her opponent. After talking to Falconi today, I wrote this New York Times Straight Sets blog post about her path from the public courts of a New York city park to the main draw of the U.S. Open.

The doubles draws were released today, and the two junior national championship teams who received wild cards will face unseeded opponents. Lauren Herring and Grace Min will play Dominika Cibulkova of Slovakia and her partner Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in the opening round. Sekou Bangoura Jr. and Nathan Pasha have drawn Michael Kohlmann of Germany and Jarkko Nieminen of Finland.

The NCAA champions, who were also given doubles wild cards, both drew seeded teams. Stanford's Hilary Barte and Lindsay Burdette will play No. 14 seeds Elena Vesnina and Vera Zvonereva of Russia, the 2010 Wimbledon finalists. University of Virginia's Drew Courtney and Michael Shabaz have drawn No. 10 seeds Wesley Moodie of South Africa and Dick Norman of Belgium, who have reached the semifinals at Roland Garros and Wimbledon this year.

There are many other young U.S. players who are playing doubles, so check out the complete draws at usopen.org.

The ITF International Hard Court tournament in New Jersey was played last week, with unseeded 14-year-old Christina Makarova of California winning the girls singles title over Ronit Yurovsky, and Alexander Petrone of New York taking both the singles and doubles titles. Petrone, seeded third, beat unseeded Andrew Adams in the championship match. For complete results, see the ITF Junior website.

After winning in New Jersey, Makarova made a quick trip to Canada, where she qualified yesterday for the Grade 1 ITF event there, and won her opening round match today. The fields are traditionally quite strong for this event, and this year is no exception, with the Pliskova sisters the top two seeds in the girls event, and three of the current ITF Top 10 in the boys draw.

In addition to Makarova, U.S. girls playing include Blair Shankle, Julia Elbaba, Noel Scott, Tristen Dewar, Monica Turewicz, Valeria Deronjic, Sachia Vickery, Gabrielle Desimone and Nelo Phiri. Turewicz, at No. 16, is the only one seeded.

U.S. boys playing in Canada are Mitchell Krueger, Evan Song, Shane Vinsant, Dane Webb, Michael Zhu and Daniel McCall. None are seeded.

The tournament has a website that gives more current information than the ITF junior site. It can be found here.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Falconi and Kendrick Join Harrison in US Open Main Draw; Monday's Schedule Released; Sock Interview

The 32 qualifiers for the U.S. Open have been determined, with wild card Irina Falconi and Robert Kendrick earning victories this evening to join Ryan Harrison in the main draw. Kendrick, the No. 22 seed, defeated Tatsuma Ito of Japan 6-3, 6-3 and Falconi repeated her recent win over Stephanie Dubois of Canada, posting a 6-3, 6-1 victory. Dubois was the No. 25 seed in qualifying.

Steve Pratt, who is working for the USTA in New York during the tournament, provided these quotes from Falconi after her match today.

On playing in front of the New York crowd:
“They were very loud. It’s nice to be in front of your home crowd.”
I moved to Florida from New York when I was 14 so I still keep in touch with a lot of them. A lot of them were here today so it was just so nice to get up from the changeover and see and hear them pumping me up the whole time.”

On beating Stephanie Dubois earlier this month in Vancouver:
“That absolutely helped me. I had some great notes from that match and I just played so solid. I took what I had learned the first time and just developed it even more.”

On being in the U.S. Open main draw:
“It’s a little bit surreal. I don’t think it’s quite hit me yet. I think once I see my name in that draw it will. It’s been quite a journey and I’m very excited.”

“I came here once at a kid. That’s the sad part. It’s my favorite all-time tournament and I didn’t come that much. So it’s really strange to be playing here. I was very young when I came the first time.”

On losing last year in the first round of qualifying:
“Last year was more of a deer in the headlights kind of feeling for me. Now I feel that I really belong here and after each match I feel more comfortable just with the crowds and the atmosphere and everything that goes with that.

“I’ve always dreamed of playing a high seed at Arthur Ashe in a night match. Who knows, that would be fun.”

For more on Kendrick's match, see the article on usopen.org.

Although only three American players got through the qualifying, that is actually as many as any other country advanced, although with all the wild cards, the U.S. started with many more. Canada also advanced three: Rebecca Marino, Peter Polansky and Milos Raonic, as did the Czech Republic and France. In all, 20 different countries had players advance to the main draw.

It is also interesting to note that of the 64 seeded players that began the qualifying, only 12 of them-6 men and 6 women-actually won three matches. I'm not sure what that means, but perhaps it's an indication of how little difference there really is between the 105th and 240th ranked players.

The schedule has been announced for Monday, and neither the junior champions nor the NCAA champions are on it, nor is Ryan Harrison Wild card Christina McHale and Vania King will play on Court 13, and Tim Smyczek, the winner of the USTA wild card tournament, will take on No. 26 seed Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil on Court 11.

Falconi and Kendrick don't have much rest time, as each will be back on court on Monday. Falconi is playing No. 19 seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy on Court 11, and Kendrick will take on No. 17 seed Gael Monfils of France on the same court.

Two former U.S. Open boys champions will meet on Monday, with qualifier Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, the 2007 champion, meeting wild card Ryan Sweeting of the U.S., the 2005 champion. The 2006 champion, Dusan Ljoda of the Czech Republic, also reached the main draw, beating former USC Trojan Robert Farah of Colombia 7-5, 6-4 today.

Monday will also see two of the high profile qualifiers meet each other, with Portugal's Michelle Larcher de Brito facing India's Sania Miraz.

The rematch of the 2007 NCAA semifinal between Virginia's Somdev Devvarman and Illinois' Kevin Anderson is also scheduled for Monday, on Court 7.

For complete draws and Monday's schedule, see usopen.org.

Dave "The Koz" Kozlowski provided this interview with Kalamazoo champion Jack Sock prior to his U.S. Open debut at Tennis Ledger.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Pasha on Choosing Georgia; Jack Sock's Blog; Puig, McHale Sign with Agencies; Harrison Qualifies for US Open,

During the Kalamazoo tournament, I had a few moments to talk with Nathan Pasha about his recent decision to verbally commit to the University of Georgia next fall. His comments on his choice can be found in my weekly article for the Tennis Recruiting Network.

If you missed it the other day in my deluge of tweets, Jack Sock is writing a blog on his U.S. Open experience for the Missouri Valley section's website. In his second installment, he reveals that he hit with Sam Querrey and went to the Nike party on Thursday night.

Two signing announcements were released today. Monica Puig has signed with Lagardere, and Christina McHale, who has been playing as a professional since the French Open, has signed with Octagon.

Ryan Harrison was one of nine players to earn a spot in the main draw of next week's U.S. Open. After the accounts I read of his match last night against Rui Machado of Portugal, where he resorted to serving underhanded because of cramping, I wasn't sure how fit he would be for another match this afternoon. But he again overcame the loss of the first set and went on to earn a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Brazil's Ricardo Hocevar. With Bernard Tomic and Filip Krajinovic, the two other highly-touted players from the 1992 birth year, losing in the second round, Harrison will have most of the up-and-comers spotlight to himself.

Harrison's third and final round win was one of the few bright spots for the United States players today. Wild cards Krista Hardebeck, Chase Buchanan, Blake Strode and Nicole Gibbs lost their second round matches, as did Alex Bogomolov, Jesse Witten, Vavara Lepchenko and Julia Cohen. The only Americans still contending for a main draw spot are Kevin Kim and Robert Kendrick on the men's side and Irina Falconi on the women's.

The 25th seeded Kim defeated Caio Zampieri of Brazil 6-2, 6-3, while Kendrick, the 22nd seed, beat Nikola Mektic of Croatia 6-4, 7-5. Kim meets former world No. 1 junior Ricardas Bernakis of Lithuania on Saturday. Kendrick meets Tatsuma Ito of Japan, who has defeated Andrea Collarini and Chase Buchanan in straight sets in his first two matches.

Falconi, who turned pro last month after two years at Georgia Tech, beat No. 10 seed and 118th-ranked Anastasia Pivovarova of Russia 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-2. She will play No. 25 seed Stephanie Dubois of Canada for the main draw spot Saturday, and although Dubois holds a 2-1 edge over Falconi head-to-head, Falconi has the most recent win, last month in the quarterfinals of the Vancouver Challenger.

Falconi is joined in the final round of qualifying by fellow Campbell/ITA Player of the Year Robert Farah. Farah, the former USC Trojan, defeated No. 17 seed Josselin Ouanna of France 6-4, 6-2, and will play Dusan Lojda of the Czech Republic for a place in the main draw. Lojda, also unseeded, won the U.S. Open boys championship in 2006.

Teens Laura Robson and Michelle Larcher de Brito also advanced to the final round of qualifying.

The qualifying matches are not scheduled to start until 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon.

For complete draws and schedule, see usopen.org.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Gullickson Draws Wozniacki in US Open First Round; Qualifying's First Round Finally Complete

Consider yourself fortunate if you didn't see today's US Open draw show on ESPN2. It failed to provide the one thing that we tuned into find out: who was playing whom. It was 50 minutes into the program before that basic information was revealed, and by that time, we were only five minutes away from it being posted online.

From my perspective, the big news was that, for the second year in a row, an NCAA champion has drawn the top seed. Chelsey Gullickson, the University of Georgia junior who won the title in May, will play top seed and 2009 finalist Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark in the first round. Last year, it was Devin Britton who found his name next to Roger Federer's on line 2.

Gullickson had a very good showing at the Pilot Pen qualifying last week, holding a match point on No. 38 Elena Vesnina of Russia, the No. 1 seed in the qualifying draw. Gullickson explains in this story on georgiadogs.com why she has played so little this summer, and who she hopes to have as doubles partners should she get women's and mixed wild cards.

Men's NCAA champion Bradley Klahn drew No. 20 seed Sam Querrey. Although Querrey is nearly three years older than Klahn, they both grew up in the Southern California juniors, so there is a familiarity that may help Klahn overcome some of the understandable nerves he's likely to feel in his first U.S. Open main draw match.

Kalamazoo champion Jack Sock drew 28-year-old Marco Chiudinelli of Switzerland, who is currently ranked 63rd. This isn't the high-profile opponent he was hoping for, but I'm sure it will be a tough test even if it's not a night match on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Shelby Rogers, the girls 18s champion, drew Shuai Peng of China, who has a WTA ranking of 60.

Wild card Christina McHale plays Vania King, and CoCo Vandeweghe draws Sabine Lisicki, who has played very little this year. Beatrice Capra, the winner of the USTA wild card tournament last week, draws Karolina Sprem of Croatia. The only wild card to draw a seeded player (other than Gullickson, of course) is Jamie Hampton, who will play No. 22 seed Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez of Spain.

Other men's wild cards and their opponents: James Blake vs. Kristof Vliegen of Belgium; Donald Young vs. Gilles Simon of France; Ryan Sweeting vs. a qualifier; Tim Smyczek vs. No. 26 seed Thomaz Belluci of Brazil. The winner of the Smyzcek-Bellucci match will get the winner of the Kevin Anderson-Somdev Devvarman contest, which is a rematch of the 2007 NCAA semifinals, won by Devvarman in three sets. The Virginia junior then went on to beat John Isner in the final to win his first of two straight NCAA singles titles.

For complete draws, see usopen.org.

There are still qualifying matches going on at the U.S. Open this evening, but they are second rounders, the first round having finally finished about an hour ago.

Americans Kevin Kim and Alex Bogomolov won convincingly early, as did wild card Irina Falconi.

Later in the day, wild card Krista Hardebeck won her first match at any level in New York, taking out Yurika Sema of Japan 6-4, 6-4. Julia Cohen posted a 6-4, 6-4 win over Great Britain's Naomi Cavaday, and wild card Nicole Gibbs finished her match, delayed from Tuesday, taking a 6-3, 6-2 decision from Greece's Eirini Georgatou.

Wild card Madison Keys lost a tough three-setter to No. 21 seed Maria Elena Camerin of Italy and Lindsay Lee-Waters won only one game in her match with Silvia Soler Espinosa of Spain. US Open National Playoff winner Blake Strode moved into the second round when Alex Bogdanovic of Great Britain retired at 3-6, 5-2. The other American advancing to the second round of qualifying is Ohio State's Chase Buchanan, who was leading No. 11 seed Federico Del Bonis of Argentina 6-3, 3-6, 5-2 when play resumed from Tuesday.

With Del Bonis serving at 2-5, Buchanan immediately earned three match points, but Del Bonis came back to hold to make it 5-3. Serving for the match, Buchanan got down 15-40, but he won the next four points to secure the win.

In another twice-delayed men's match, former USC Trojan Robert Farah was trailing former Pepperdine All-American Andre Begemann 3-6, 2-1 on serve when the match resumed, but the delay obviously helped the Colombian as he rolled to a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory.

The list of U.S men losing in the first round today is a long one. It includes Jordan Cox, Steve Johnson, Lester Cook, Jesse Levine, Alex Domijan, Rajeev Ram, Alex Kuznetsov and Jarmere Jenkins.

Laura Robson, the British 16-year-old, had a surprisingly easy 6-1, 6-4 first round win over No. 2 seed Jelena Dokic of Australia, who had won three challengers this summer, and Bernard Tomic of Australia upset top seed Marsel Ilhan of Turkey 6-0, 2-6, 6-3.

In the second round matches played this evening, wild card Sloane Stephens was defeated by No. 13 seed Zuzana Ondraskova 6-3, 7-5, Julia Boserup lost to Lourdes Dominguez Lino of Spain 6-3, 6-2 and Michael Yani fell to Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium 7-6(5), 6-3. Bobby Reynolds and Ryan Harrison were still on the court playing their second round matches.

There are only nine third round matches scheduled for Friday, so the other 55 (corrected to 23)will be played on Saturday, which is also Arthur Ashe Kids Day, and the day the ITA College All-Stars are honored by the USTA.

For more on some of the qualifying competitors, including Jesse Witten and Chase Buchanan, see the "Scenes From Queens" blog on tennis.com.

For complete qualifying draws, see usopen.org.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Another Wet One at US Open Qualifying; Orientation for USTA's Boca Raton Juniors; College Showcase Q and A

After two days, the first round of U.S. Open qualifying is still not complete. Matches didn't begin until around 5 p.m. and although play may resume later tonight, only 25 matches were completed in that three or four hour window.

Michael Yani and Jesse Witten did manage to beat the rain with straight set wins. Yani beat Amer Delic, who hadn't played in over a year while recovering from a knee injury, 6-2, 6-4. Witten defeated Facundo Bagnis of Argentina 6-4, 7-6(6). Rajeev Ram and Jarmere Jenkins were on the court when the rain returned. Chase Buchanan was due to complete his match from Tuesday, but hadn't yet gotten on. Alex Kuznetsov was scheduled for later as well.

On the women's side, there were two bright spots for the U.S. No. 5 seed Vavarva Lepchenko advanced to the second round with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Claire Feurerstein of France, and wild card Julia Boserup upset No. 8 seed Andrea Hlavackova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 6-4. Hlavackova is ranked No. 115 by the WTA computer.

Four other U.S. women lost. No. 7 seed Shenay Perry, No. 28 seed Lilia Osterloh and Madison Brengle all dropped three-setters. Lauren Albanese was defeated by 2010 Wimbledon girls champion Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic, who was an alternate. Pliskova, who took the place of China's Yi-Miao Zhou, won the match 6-2, 7-6(4). Her twin sister Karolina, the Australian girls champion, lost her first round match to Portugal's Michelle Larcher de Brito yesterday.

Heather Watson, the 2009 U.S. Open girls champion, lost to Loudes Dominguez Lino of Spain 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Thursday's schedule is packed, with 86 matches listed for the 15 courts. This doesn't include the 25 matches that have yet to finish tonight. It seems certain that it will be necessary to play the final round on Saturday, which is also Arthur Ashe Kids day.

Don't forget that ESPN2 will have the draw live at noon Eastern. I'll be tweeting throughout, so check the twitterfeed at left, or sign up to follow me at twitter.com/zootennis.

For today's complete (or incomplete, as the case may be) results, see usopen.org.

Marcia Frost is at the U.S. Open covering the qualifying, and her reports can be found at collegeandjuniortennis.com.

The 2010-11 class of juniors training full-time at the USTA's National Center in Boca Raton had their orientation last week, and Josh Rey was there to write about it for usta.com. Rey visits with newcomer Taylor Townsend and veteran Jeremy Efferding about their experiences with the program.

Tennis Recruiting Network today features a question and answer session with Erica Perkins of the USTA, who explains the College Showdown concept and the other initiatives being implemented to raise the profile of college tennis. If you haven't explored a college showdown in your area, I urge you to check out the schedule. It's an inexpensive way to get more competitive play and will provide a glimpse into the world of college tennis, whether you are a junior or an adult.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stephens, Harrison Advance to Second Round of US Open Qualifying on Rainy First Day; More on John McEnroe's Academy

The unpleasant weather that has been hanging around the East Coast the past few days continued today, with the first day of qualifying for the U.S. Open falling behind schedule as a result.

As of 7:30 p.m., only 36 of the 64 matches scheduled for today have been completed. Among those through to the second round are wild card Sloane Stephens, who cruised past Anais Laurendon of France 6-4, 6-1. I listened to that match on radiotennis.com, and there were very few times that Ken Thomas, who was calling the action, could drum up much drama in the contest. Stephens will play No. 12 seed Zuzana Ondraskova of the Czech Republic, who beat National Playoff winner Alexandra Mueller 6-4, 6-1.

Ryan Harrison also lost only five games in his first round victory over Jonathan Dasnieres De Veigy of France, and his 6-1, 6-4 win puts him up against No. 10 seed Rui Machado of Portugal in the second round.

American veterans Bobby Reynolds and Robert Kendrick also won first round matches today, while wild cards Greg Ouellette, Andrea Collarini and Bob van Overbeek were eliminated. Ouellette lost to Ricardo Hocevar of Brazil 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-1, Collarini was beaten by Tatsuma Ito of Japan 6-4 6-2, and van Overbeek lost to Nokola Mektic of Croatia 6-4, 6-0.

Chase Buchanan was up 6-3, 3-6, 5-2 on No. 11 seed Frederico Del Bonis of Argentina when tonight's rain delay stopped play. Buchanan was up 6-3, 3-0 (two breaks) in the second set, then lost six straight games. It was possible to hear his racquet breaking from the radiotennis.com court mics, but he recovered his composure to take that third set lead.

Rhyne Williams, who was initially announced as a wild card recipient, did not feel he was adequately prepared to compete coming off a family vacation, and Alex Domijan took his place. Kim Couts was given a wild card when Beatrice Capra no longer needed hers, but didn't know about it until last night, so she was unable to arrange her travel and an alternate took her place. For more details on that, see the comment in yesterday's post.

Aside from Mueller, the only other women's wild card that finished today was Alexa Glatch, who lost a 7-6(9), 4-6, 6-3 decision to Olga Savchuk of Ukraine. Alison Riske also dropped a three-setter, losing to No. 12 seed Zuzana Kucova of Slovakia 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.

The schedule for Wednesday isn't up yet, but it will undoubtedly be a very full one. For the results and draws from today, see usopen.org.

New York Magazine turns its attention to tennis this time of year, and its in-depth story for 2010 centers around John McEnroe's new academy on Randall's Island. I know I've given this venture a lot of attention, but I think if you read this lengthy feature you'll understand why I find it so interesting. Not only is McEnroe a very compelling personality, but he also has very firm ideas, based on his own development, about the need for balance in junior players' lives. Is this notion out-dated? That's a fair question, and although there may not be a definitive answer, McEnroe is willing to test his theory with his name on the line.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Thirty-Eight Americans Begin Quest for US Open Main Draw Berths

The U.S. Open qualifying draws were released this evening, with 17 women and 21 men from the United States in the mix for the 16 spots in the main draw that each gender receives. This number is boosted by the 18 wild cards of course, and for those of you who wondered what would happen to Beatrice Capra's qualifying wild card once she won the main draw wild card tournament last week, it has gone to Kim Couts.

The top half of the women's qualifying draw features only one of the nine wild cards, Julia Boserup, and the three seeded U.S. women, Varvara Lepchenko(5), Shenay Perry(7) and Lilia Osterloh(28). Julia Cohen, Madison Brengle and Lauren Albanese are the other Americans in the top half.

The bottom half has eight wild cards: Nicole Gibbs, Irina Falconi, Krista Hardebeck, Madison Keys, Couts, Sloane Stephens, Alexa Glatch and National Playoff winner Alexandra Mueller. The two players in on their own ranking in the bottom half are Lindsay Lee Waters and Alison Riske. Keys, Riske, Couts and Mueller have all drawn seeded players, as has Boserup.

One of the best first round matches in qualifying is Laura Robson vs. No. 2 seed Jelena Dokic of Australia, who has been playing exceptionally well this summer. Dokic's ranking is now 82 after three challenger wins this summer, but when the cutoff came in July, her ranking didn't get her into the main draw. Robson came very close to qualifying at the U.S. Open last year after receiving a wild card, but suffered a painful loss in the final round. With only three other British women in the qualifying, including 2009 U.S. Open girls champion Heather Watson, there is certain to be extensive coverage of Robson's contest with Dokic.

In the men's qualifying, the wild cards are more evenly distributed, with four in the top half and five in the bottom.

Steve Johnson, National Playoff winner Blake Strode, Jarmere Jenkins and Jordan Cox are the wild cards in the top half. One of last year's qualifying heroes, Jesse Witten, is also in the top half, along with Alex Kuznetsov, Lester Cook, Alex Bogomolov and Rajeev Ram, the No. 28 seed. Cox has drawn 2007 Roland Garros boys champion Vlad Ignatik of Belarus, the No. 29 seed, while Virginia sophomore Jenkins will play No. 17 seed Josselin Ouanna of France.

In the bottom half the wild cards are Alex Domijan, Greg Ouellette, Chase Buchanan, Andrea Collarini and Bob van Overbeek. Buchanan is the only one to draw a seed: he will play No. 11 seed Federico Del Bonis of Argentina. The U.S. men in on their own rankings in the bottom half are Jesse Levine, Kevin Kim(25), Ryan Harrison, Robert Kendrick(22), Bobby Reynolds, Amer Delic and Michael Yani. Delic, who is coming back from an injury, plays Yani in the first round.

In an interesting first round match involving former college stars, Colombian Robert Farah, who played at USC from 2007-2010, will take on German Andres Begemann, who played at Pepperdine from 2006-2008.

And like Robson, another young hope of a tennis nation, Australia's Bernard Tomic, has drawn a tough opponent in the opening round. The 2009 U.S. Open boys champion plays top seed Marsel Ilhan of Turkey, with the winner of that match taking on Johnson or his opponent Noam Okun of Israel in the second round.

Tuesday's schedule features 64 of the 128 first round matches. For the complete order of play, see usopen.org.

The draws can be found here.

Ken Thomas will again be webcasting qualifying matches at radiotennis.com.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Jamie Hunt, Andres Pedroso Take College Assistant Positions; Clayton, Richter Win ITA Summer Nationals; Other College News

There are quite a few new assistant coaches at the Division I level, which is not unusual when former assistants move up to head coaching positions, as Virginia's Tony Bresky (Cornell) and Duke's Josh Goffi (South Carolina) did.

Taking Bresky's place at Virginia is former USTA national coach Andres Pedroso, who was an All-American at Duke. For more on Pedroso and new Cavalier volunteer assistant Scott Brown, see this story at virginiasports.com.

The new men's assistant at Duke is former Blue Devil Jonathan Stokke, who was assistant women's coach at Wake Forest for the past two years. For more on Stokke, see goduke.com.

Jamie Hunt, who completed his eligibility at Georgia this spring, has been named the assistant men's coach at Vanderbilt, replacing Tom Boysen, who has moved to Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville. Although the official announcement of Hunt's hiring has not been posted on the Vanderbilt site, this story was published last week by The Red and Black.

One of Hunt's contemporaries, Houston Barrick, is also stepping straight into college coaching. The 2010 Virginia graduate has joined Bresky at Cornell. The Cornell women also have a new head coach, Mike Stevens.

Also announced recently is Scott Kidd's appointment to the assistant women's coaching position at Clemson.

There have also been several transfers of note. Harry Fowler is leaving Ole Miss and will join Rice, Maros Horny is leaving Baylor for Maryland, Joey Burkhardt is leaving Florida for North Carolina, McCall Jones is transferring from Brigham Young to UCLA and Nadine Fahoum is joining Duke from Old Dominion. I'm sure there are transfers I've missed, so chime in if you know of others.

While the USTA nationals were occupying all my time, I wasn't able to follow the ITA Summer Championships at Indiana earlier this month. The winners were Duke's Mary Clayton and former Indiana player Thomas Richter. Clayton will earn a main draw wild card into the Riviera All-American in October, but with Richter not eligible for the D'Novo All-American, I'm not sure what will happen to that wild card. The finalists, incoming freshman Alexandra Clay of Alabama, and senior Eliot Potvin of Georgia Tech, are eligible to use their qualifying wild cards at the All-Americans. The women's doubles title went to Clay and Taylor Lindsey of Alabama, while the men's doubles championship was won by Santiago Gruter and Jeremy Langer of Indiana.

For complete results from the ITA Summer Championships, see the ITA tournament site.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Gavrilova, Gomez Win Olympic Gold in Singapore; More on USTA USO Wildcard Tournament Winners

The tennis competition at the first annual Youth Olympic Games wrapped up today in Singapore, with two unseeded players taking the singles gold medals. Russia's Daria Gavrilova, the reigning Eddie Herr champion and 2009 French Open finalist, came from a set down in her gold medal match with China's Saisai Zheng to post a 2-6, 6-0, 6-2 victory. Zheng, who was also unseeded, beat No. 3 seed Timea Babos in the semifinals, while Gavrilova had taken out No. 1 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the second round. The bronze medal went to No. 7 Jana Cepelova of Slovakia, who beat Babos 6-2, 7-5.

Zheng did get a gold medal however, as she and Hao Chen Tang won the doubles competition. The unseeded pair defeated 2010 Australian Open girls champions Cepelova and Chantal Skamlova, the fourth seeds, 6-4, 3-6, 10-4. The top-seeded team of Babos and An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium(apparently doubles partners did not have to be from the same country) took the bronze medal in girls doubles.

Juan Sebastian Gomez of Colombia surprised No. 6 seed Yuki Bhambri of India 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 4-1 retired. Gomez, 14th in the ITF World Junior rankings, wasn't seeded, but the story about the gold medal match projects he will now be No. 1 in the world. Gavrilova will also ascend to the top spot with her win, with both players likely to be the top seeds in New York next month. The points received at the Youth Olympic Games are the same as a Grade A, with bonus points mirroring the junior slams.

No. 2 seed Damir Dzumhur of Bosnia took the bronze medal with a 7-5, 6-1 win over unseeded Victor Baluda of Russia.

Making it a clean sweep for unseeded winners of gold medals, the doubles competition was won by Great Britain's Oliver Golding and Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic. They beat another unseeded team, Baluda and Mikhail Biryukov of Russia, 6-3, 6-1. The bronze medal in boys doubles went to Slovakia's Filip Horansky and Jozef Kovalik.

The ITF Olympic tennis site provided outstanding coverage of the event throughout the week, with blogs, articles and an extensive photo gallery.

Beatrice Capra and Tim Smyczek, the winners of the USTA's US Open wildcard tournament this week, were the subject of several articles. Sandra Harwitt covered the event for the Miami Herald, Josh Rey provided his usual detailed coverage for usta.com, and Wilson did a brief interview with Capra after the match which is available on YouTube.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Recap of Boys Nationals with Slideshow and Videos; Smyczek and Capra Win Wild Card Playoffs

Before we start looking ahead to the U.S. Open, which begins with qualifying on Tuesday, August 24, it's time to wrap up another year at the Boys Nationals.

My recap for the Tennis Recruiting Network can be found here and make sure you've read the articles this week about the other national championships.

Below are the slideshow and videos of the winners. For videos of finalists Shane Vinsant and Bob van Overbeek, see the tenniskalamazoo channel at YouTube.

Today in Boca Raton, Tim Smyczek and Beatrice Capra earned the eighth and final U.S. Open main draw wild cards. Top seed Smyczek beat No. 2 Ryan Harrison 6-4, 6-4, 6-4. Capra, seeded second, beat top seed Madison Brengle 7-8(4), 6-4. It is the first appearance in the main draw of a grand slam for both Smyczek and Capra.

Josh Rey is covering the event for usta.com. His story on the finals is not up yet, but here is his report from the semifinals.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

US Open Junior Wild Cards Announced; Matches Between Top Two Seeds Will Decide US Open Men's and Women's Wild Cards

This afternoon the USTA released the names of the juniors who have been granted wild cards to the U.S. Open Junior Championships. They are:

Andrea Collarini (18, Boca Raton, Fla.)
Mitchell Frank (17, Annandale, Va.)
Bjorn Fratangelo (17, Pittsburgh)
Evan King (18, Chicago)
Daniel Kosakowski (18, Downey, Calif.)
Mitchell Krueger (16, Aledo, Texas)
Michael Redlicki (16, Hawthorn Woods, Ill.)
Jack Sock (17, Lincoln, Neb.)

Victoria Duval (14, Norcross, Ga.)
Nicole Gibbs (17, Santa Monica, Calif.)
Madison Keys (15, Boca Raton, Fla.)
Kyle McPhillips (16, Willoughby, Ohio)
Jessica Pegula (16, Boca Raton, Fla.)
Caroline Price (17, Duluth, Ga.)
Ellen Tsay (16, Pleasanton, Calif.)
Sachia Vickery (15, Miramar, Fla.)

Monica Turewicz, Chanelle Van Nguyen, Junior Ore and Shane Vinsant are among the Americans who will need to qualify.

The junior open qualifying wild cards:
Gabrielle Andrews (13, Pomona, Calif.)
Brooke Austin (14, Indianapolis)
Anne-Liz Jeuking-Nkamgouo (14, Kansas City, Mo.)
Christina Makarova (14, San Diego)
Taylor Townsend (14, Stockbridge, Ga.)
Miharu Imanishi(Japan)

Alexios Halebian (16, Glendale, Calif.)
Mackenzie McDonald (15, Piedmont, Calif.)
Spencer Papa (14, Edmund, Okla.)
Daiki Kondo (Japan)
Two other boys qualifying wild cards will be named later.

It's a bit surprising that Halebian wasn't given a main draw wild card, and Kosakowski was, as in the past, the USTA had seemed to prefer younger players. But I suspect the boys' performances in Kalamazoo may have had something to do with the USTA's decision.

The ITF site does not currently show the US Open Junior wild card entries, but it is possible to project who will move up now that they've been named.

The USTA's US Open wild card tournament finals are set for Friday, with top seeds Tim Smyczek and Madison Brengle facing No. 2 seeds Ryan Harrison and Beatrice Capra.

In today's men's semifinal action, Smyczek beat No. 5 seed Alex Domijan 7-6(5), 6-3, and Harrison downed No. 3 seed Greg Ouellette 6-1, 6-4. The women's semis were also straight set decisions, with Brengle defeating No. 5 seed Nicole Gibbs 7-6(6), 6-0, and Capra beating No. 6 seed Krista Hardebeck 6-3, 7-5. The women's final will be first, at 10 am, followed by the men's final, which is best of five sets.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

USTA Names Women's US Open Wild Cards; Results from US Open Wild Card Tournament

The USTA today announced the women's wild cards for the U.S. Open and the only player on the list that received a wild card last year is Christina McHale, who received hers in 2009 because she won the 18s nationals.

The inclusion of NCAA champion Chelsey Gullickson is very encouraging, because she has not played much this summer. It demonstrates that the USTA is not just talking about college tennis as a development pathway, it is actually providing opportunties based on college results.

I sat in on an ESPN-sponsored conference call with John and Patrick McEnroe this afternoon, and they were directly asked about the place college tennis has in development. As I tweeted during the call, Patrick went so far as to say that the U.S. players most likely to close in on the Top 100 in the next few years are now in college, not teen-aged pros, although he did call Ryan Harrison "our best prospect." John mentioned his year at Stanford, and he said that entering college ranked 21st in the world created extra pressure, and that situation helped him learn how to cope with expectations.

Many people have expressed to me their doubts about the USTA's commitment to college tennis, but I think their message has been unequivocally in favor of it as a development path since McEnroe assumed the top spot.

Anyway, here are the seven main draw wild cards already decided:

Chelsey Gullickson
Jamie Hampton
Christina McHale
Shelby Rogers
CoCo Vandeweghe
Virginia Razzano (reciprocal with France)
Sophie Ferguson (reciprocal with Australia)

The eighth wild card will be decided in the playoff that got underway today in Boca Raton. See the results below.

Those receiving qualifying wild cards are:
Julie Boserup*
Beatrice Capra*
Irina Falconi*
Nicole Gibbs*
Alexa Glatch
Krista Hardebeck*
Madison Keys
Alexandra Mueller
Sloane Stephens

*Participating in the main draw wild card tournament this week.

Stephens is perhaps the most surprising omission from the main draw list. She did well at both the junior slams this summer, winning girls doubles titles at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. She won a match in the WTA event in Bastad and played the Girls 18s nationals, while CoCo Vandeweghe, who was also age-eligible, did not. Vandeweghe had that big win over Wimbledon finalist Vera Zvonareva early this month in San Diego, however, which may have sealed her wild card. Hampton has played very well all year, as has Christina McHale.

For the complete release, see usopen.org.

At the wild card tournament in Boca Raton today, the top two men's and women's seeds advanced in straight sets. Results are as follows:

Tim Smyczek(1) def. Chase Buchanan(8) 7-5, 6-1
Ryan Harrison(2) def. Steve Johnson(7) 6-4, 6-4
Greg Ouellette(3) def. Austin Krajicek(6) 6-2, 3-6, 7-5
Alex Domijan(5) def. Andrea Collarini(4) 7-5, 6-2

Madison Brengle(1) def. Jessica Pegula(8) 6-2, 6-2
Beatrice Capra(2) def. Lauren Davis(7) 6-1, 6-2
Krista Hardebeck(6) def. Julia Boserup(3) 3-6, 6-3, 6-1
Nicole Gibbs(5) def. Irina Falconi(4) 7-6(2), 6-3

In Thursday's semifinals, Smyczek will play Domijan and Harrison will play Ouellette for the men. The women's semifinals will be Brengle against Gibbs and Capra against Hardebeck.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

USTA Names Men's US Open Wild Cards

The USTA's announcement of the men's US Open wild cards early this afternoon caught me by surprise. Last year it was the Wednesday after the Nationals that the names were released. If you don't recall who received the wild cards last year, click here. None of the players who received a main draw wild card last year got one this year.

The main draw wild cards have gone to:
James Blake
Bradley Klahn
Jack Sock
Ryan Sweeting
Donald Young
Carsten Ball (Australia)
Guillaume Rufin (France)

The eighth will be determined by the wild card playoff that begins Wednesday morning in Boca Raton.

There were no real surprises in this group, with Sweeting and Young the highest ranked players from the US not already in.

It appears that Australia and France diverge in their thinking regarding wild cards this year. (I don't think they held tournaments to decide them, but if someone knows otherwise, please let me know). Australia opted against giving a wild card to 17-year-old Bernard Tomic, who is in the qualifying on his own ranking, and also bypassed the more highly ranked Chris Guccione in favor of Ball, while France elected to elevate 19-year-old Rufin, over five others from France in the qualifying who are ranked higher, including Wimbledon marathon man Nicolas Mahut.

I believe it's clear from the USTA's selections that they are encouraging those eligible for the 18s National junior wild card in Kalamazoo to compete for it. Many people expressed the opinion last year that Ryan Harrison did not play Kalamazoo because he knew he already had a main draw wild card sewn up. That was not true, and the fact that he and Alex Domijan did not receive wild cards this year indicates the USTA is sending a consistent message.

The qualifying wild cards went to:
Chase Buchanan
Jordan Cox
Andrea Collarini
Jarmere Jenkins
Steve Johnson
Greg Ouellette
Bob van Overbeek
Blake Strode
Rhyne Williams

Buchanan, Collarini, Jenkins and Johnson are also competing in the tournament for the main draw wild card, so if one of them wins, I think that will open up another qualifying wild card. For those who doubt the USTA's commitment to college tennis, five of the nine qualifying wild cards went to members of the USTA's Summer Collegiate team.

I'm surprised that Domijan is not on this list. I also wonder about the absence of Denis Kudla. Could it be that there was more riding on the outcome of that third and fourth place match between Cox and Kudla in Kalamazoo than we thought?

For the full article on the men's wild cards, see usopen.org. Last year the women's wild cards were announced the day after the men's.

Monday, August 16, 2010

USTA National Champions; USTA Announces USO Wild Card Tournament Participants

While I was providing coverage of the Boys 18 and 16 National Championships here in Kalamazoo last week, gold balls were awarded at five other sites across the country. Tennis Recruiting Network will have a story on each of those championships beginning on Tuesday, so check back there daily for more in-depth coverage. Below are the results of the finals. For more, including all the doubles results, see this release from the USTA.

G12s: Kaitlyn McCarthy(5) def. Sofia Kenin(1) 6-4, 6-0
B12s: Robert Levine(3) def. Nathan Ponwith(4) 6-3, 6-2

G14s: Jessie Lynn Paul(5) def. Lauren Goodman(9) 6-2, 6-3
B14s: Benjamin Tso(1) def. Henrik Wiersholm(7) 7-6(6), 7-5

G16s: Kyle McPhillips*(1) def. Spencer Liang(7) 6-0, 6-3
B16s: Michael Redlicki*(4) def. Shane Vinsant(1) 7-5, 6-4

G18s: Shelby Rogers*(3) def. Nicole Gibbs*(4) 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(4)
B18s: Jack Sock*(3) def. Bob van Overbeek*(9) 6-2, 7-5, 6-4

G18s doubles: Lauren Herring and Grace Min*(5) def. Kaitlyn Christian and Whitney Kay(9) 3-6, 7-5, 6-3
B18s doubles: Sekou Bangoura and Nathan Pasha* def. Matthew Kandath and Jack Sock 7-5, 6-3.

*Have earned wild cards to US Open. Click here to see the various wild cards for USTA National Level I tournaments in 2010.

For more on the Girls 16s and 18s in San Diego, see Rhiannon Potkey's story on usta.com. For more on champion Shelby Rogers, see this article in the Charleston The Post and Courier.

The Lincoln, Neb. Journal Star ran this piece on Jack Sock, and Pam Shebest completed her usual excellent coverage of the Nationals for the Kalamazoo Gazette with these two articles.

The USTA has announced the names of the players participating in the US Open wild card tournament beginning Wednesday at the USTA Player Development Center in Boca Raton, Fla. If you are in the area stop by; it is free and open to the public, with play beginning at 10 a.m.

Chase Buchanan
Andrea Collarini
Alexander Domijan
Ryan Harrison
Jarmere Jenkins
Steve Johnson
Austin Krajicek
Tim Smyczek

Julia Boserup
Madison Brengle
Beatrice Capra
Irina Falconi
Krista Hardebeck
Nicole Gibbs
Madison Keys (I mistakenly didn't include her earlier)
Alison Riske

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sock and Redlicki Earn National Titles in Kalamazoo Sunday

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Kalamazoo MI--

Jack Sock lost in the championship match of the 16s division last year in Kalamazoo, but that defeat has now been replaced by a much better memory after the 17-year-old from Nebraska won the 18s title with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 victory over No. 9 seed Bob van Overbeek.

A surprise rain shower around 11 a.m. set the match back approximately ninety minutes, but the 3 p.m. start didn't appear to bother Sock. He ran out to a 4-0 lead in the first, a start he had hoped for, but not anticipated.

"My game plan was to come out with a lot of positive energy, a lot of bouncing around, a lot of c'mons," said the third seed. "He's obviously been serving really well this tournament, and has a really good serve, so to get up two breaks that early, I can't say I was expecting that."

Van Overbeek got one of the breaks back to make it 4-2, but Sock got his third break of the first set on a backhand return winner and served out the set. With the match best-of-five in order to prepare the winner for the U.S. Open men's main draw, losing the first set doesn't necessarily spell doom, and van Overbeek looked to be on his way to leveling the contest when he took a 5-2 lead in the second. But Sock had watched van Overbeek's semifinal win over Denis Kudla on Saturday, and he guessed that he might have a chance to keep the University of Florida sophomore from serving it out.

"Watching him against Kudla yesterday, he got broken 5-3 serving," Sock said. "He played a loose game there and I hit some good returns and tried to put the pressure on at 5-3."

Sock's forehand, his primary weapon, produced winner after winner during that stretch, which saw him win four straight games. He broke van Overbeek at love to take a 6-5 lead, but fell behind 30-40 when serving for the set. Sock avoided a tiebreak though, hitting an ace to save the break point, and secured the second set when van Overbeek netted a forehand.

"I closed my eyes and hit a serve," Sock said of that crucial ace. "I didn't know what I was doing, I just hit it. It was a close serve, I don't even know if it landed in. It probably caught the line, which was very fortunate."

After a 10-minute break due to the heat, which really wasn't nearly as oppressive as it had been earlier in the week, the players returned to the court. Van Overbeek, who wasn't hitting as cleanly as he had earlier in the week, was again broken at love, this time in the third game. Sock stayed ahead as both players held serve throughout the remaining games, with van Overbeek unable to get a look at a break point.

Serving for the match at 5-4, Sock earned a 40-15 lead with two forehand winners and a forced error. On his first match point, Sock missed his first serve and the second was 12 feet long, but he said nerves weren't the reason for the double fault. On his second match point, Sock admitted he got a "little tight" on his forehand and it found the net. Having saved two match points, van Overbeek was still one short of the number he saved in his match against Kudla in the semifinals.

"I knew I had a little further way to go this time," said van Overbeek. "But it definitely crossed my mind. I was hoping to get back into it, make it more interesting, but today wasn't my day."

Sock won the next two points on van Overbeek errors and the title was his.

Van Overbeek is planning on accepting his wild card into men's qualifying, while Sock is hoping to draw a marquee player for night contest on Arthur Ashe with his main draw wild card.

"Federer, Nadal or Murray," Sock said, when asked who he would prefer to draw. "That would obviously be an unbelievable experience. If I have my one chance right now, I would want to be on Arthur Ashe on a Monday night, that would be ideal. It would be very fun; I'd probably be very nervous. Hopefully I'll have more chances in the future, but this one would be fun to play someone big to see where I am."

Sock is also planning to play the U.S. Open junior championships too.

In the boys 16s final, Michael Redlicki made it back-to-back National Championships, as the Clay Court winner defeated top seed Shane Vinsant 7-5, 6-4.

Both players started nervously, with double faults and framed shots prevailing in the opening games. Vinsant got the first break, but Redlicki got it right back and two holds made it 4-3. With Redlicki serving down 3-4, Vinsant had three break points, but he couldn't convert, and it was due more to Vinsant's errors than Redlicki's clutch play. In the middle of that lengthy game, Vinsant could be heard saying "I'm playing awful," and once Redlicki held for 4-4, he gave a big fist pump and a loud c'mon.

The momentum carried over in the next game, as Redlicki broke at love, hitting a nifty backhand pass to take a 5-4 lead, but again, the erratic play returned and he was unable to serve out the set. Vinsant was broken again, on a double fault at 15-40, and on his second opportunity, Redlicki got the job done.

"I was extremely nervous," said the 6-foot-7 left-hander from Illinois. "This crowd, the really nice flowers, the big bowls, at the beginning I had to get used to it."

Vinsant tried to change the pace a bit at times, but his drop shot attempts either didn't make it over the net, or a deceptively quick Redlicki got to them and took control of the point. Redlicki was not as sharp as he had been against No. 2 seed Mitchell Krueger in the semifinals, but he had no trouble staying in points from the baseline with Vinsant.

Redlicki broke Vinsant to take a 5-2 lead in the second set, but again couldn't finish it out on his serve. The sun was causing him to make adjustments in his service toss and there were times when his usually big serve dropped in the box at 60 mph, according to the radar gun on court 1. Redlicki had the luxury of a second break however, and again he took his second chance, punctuating his win with an ace at 40-15.

"Maybe I served better yesterday," Redlicki said, reflecting on his ten aces, compared to five in Sunday's final. "But today I served well enough to get the job done."

When asked about the upcoming trip to New York to play in the U.S. Open junior championships, Redlicki was still trying to come to terms with the thought of playing in the Big Apple.

"New York City, that's going to be insane," he said. "I went there in 2003 to watch Nadal as a 16-year-old [Nadal was actually 17]. I remember that was the greatest experience of my life, just being a spectator. Now being a player, it's going to be eight times better."

For Vinsant, who has been accepted into qualifying for the U.S. Open junior championships, it was another disappointing last day in Kalamazoo. A runner-up in 16s doubles last year and this year, Vinsant has four more opportunities to get a gold ball in the 18s.

"It's the third final I've lost here, so hopefully I'll get one someday," the Texan told the crowd after the match. "It's a really fun tournament."

In the boys 18s third place match, top seed Jordan Cox defeated No. 2 seed Denis Kudla 6-4, 6-1. No. 5 seed Sekou Bangoura finished fifth, winning the consolation draw with a 6-2, 7-5 victory over No. 11 seed Dennis Novikov.

No. 2 seed Mitchell Krueger defeated No. 3 seed Nolan Paige 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 in the 16s third place match, The fifth seed finished fifth in the 16s division as well, with Gordon Watson downing No. 6 seed Anthony Delcore 5-7, 6-2, 10-1.

The sportsmanship winners were named over the weekend. Robert Stineman of Illinois received the Wes Richards award for Feed-In. Daniel Kosakowski was named the winner of the Allen B. Stowe award for Boys 18s. Gordon Watson received the Bobby Kaplan sportsmanship award for 16s.

For complete results, see ustaboys.com.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Bangoura and Pasha Snare US Open Doubles Wild Card; Korinek and Trinh Surprise Winners of 16s Doubles Title

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Kalamazoo, MI--

It isn't often that a Georgia Bulldog and a Florida Gator can coexist, let alone thrive together, but Nathan Pasha and Sekou Bangoura are the exceptions. After reaching the 18s doubles final last year in Kalamazoo, Pasha, who recently gave a verbal commitment to Georgia, and Bangoura, who played the dual season this year for Florida, emerged with the gold balls and the coveted wild card into the main draw of the U.S. Open men's doubles, taking a 7-5, 6-3 victory from Matthew Kandath and Jack Sock.

"I actually took the time to write on their (Facebook) walls this morning to ask them to please let us win," joked Pasha. "Please let us win, and I'll be your friend forever."

Bangoura thought it might actually have been their play on the court that decided the match however.

"I don't think that was it," said Bangoura, who teamed with Pasha in 2008 to finish third in Kalamazoo. "I think the difference in the match was our serves and returns. This is only our second time playing together this year, but we click well together."

There were only two breaks of serve in the match, with Kandath being broked serving at 5-6 in the first set and the first time he served in the second set. Pasha was a bundle of positive energy throughout, and he and Bangoura never trailed.

As for New York, Pasha and Bangoura are not sure what draw would be best.

"Anybody who we can get our first win from," said Bangoura. "We want to stay there as long as possible."

"At the same time, I want to be on center court, get rocked in front of everybody," said Pasha, contemplating a match against the Bryan brothers, who won the 18s doubles title in Kalamazoo in 1995 and 1996. "It would be cool to play them, I just don't want to get booed. Oh, I don't care if I get booed. Let's play the Bryan brothers on center court."

As veterans of the U.S. Open junior tournament, Bangoura and Pasha know that they've ascended to a different level with the wild card. No more shuttle buses or junior locker rooms. It's courtesy cars and the same locker room as Federer and Nadal.

"I'm requesting a late match so we can stay as long as possible," Pasha said.

In the battle of Texas in the 16s doubles final, it was the underdogs who came out on top. Andrew Korinek and Tam Trinh became the first unseeded team to win the 16s doubles title since 1985, upsetting top seeds Mitchell Krueger and Shane Vinsant 6-3, 7-5 Saturday afternoon.

Korinek was originally planning to play with Alexios Halebian, but when Halebian received a wild card into the 18s instead, Korinek teamed up with Trihn, who was making his first visit to Kalamazoo.

Having never played together before, it was perhaps not surprising that they struggled in their opening match.

"We were playing on court 1 and up 4-0, and I think maybe he(Trinh) got a little nervous, and he actually started cramping" said Korinek, who, like the other three finalists, is from suburban Dallas. "We lost that set and we were down 5-3, 40-0, down three match points, and somehow we got through that one. We had a really close one in the quarterfinals, won 13-11 in the third set tiebreaker and also saved another match point in that one. It's really exciting when you can squeak through."

After a convincing win in the first set against Krueger and Vinsant, who have years of experience playing high level doubles both nationally and internationally, Korinek and Trinh hit a rough patch. Leading 3-1, they lost four straight games, and Krueger had an opportunity to serve for the set. He couldn't finish however, and Korinek and Trinh took the final four games and the gold balls that go to the champions, although the match ended on a strange note.

With Trinh serving at 6-5, 40-15, he missed his first serve, and on his second serve, Krueger and Vinsant heard an "out" call from a line umpire. They stopped playing, but the call had come from the other court, where Kudla and van Overbeek were playing, and a serve at the same time on that court was called a fault. There were several minutes of discussion before the chair umpire called it game set and match, and it was several more minutes before Krueger and Vinsant could believe that the match was over.

Trinh, playing only his third National Level 1 championship, put the win "right at the top" of his tennis accomplishments.

"I was looking forward to coming here," he said. "And it turned out pretty well."

Van Overbeek Saves Three Match Points to Reach 18s Final; Will Play Sock For US Open Wild Card

©Colette Lewis 2010--
Kalamazoo MI--

It's been years since Jack Sock and Bob van Overbeek have played, but when they take the court for the USTA National Boys 18 title on Sunday, they'll have a similar experience to draw on. After Sock saved two match points in his quarterfinal win over Dan Kosakowski on Thursday, van Overbeek topped that, saving three match points in his 5-7, 7-6(5), 7-6(5) victory over No. 2 seed Denis Kudla Saturday afternoon.

Van Overbeek was searching for words after his draining win over Kudla.

"I don't know what to say right now," said van Overbeek, the No. 9 seed. "I'm glad to be in the finals, but that was definitely one of the toughest matches I've played in a long time."

With van Overbeek leading 4-3 in the first set, a rain shower stopped play for nearly two hours. When the players returned to the court, van Overbeek broke Kudla and served for the set. But Kudla broke back, and went on to win the next four games to secure the set.

In the second set, van Overbeek again served for the set, also at 5-3, and again he was unable to close it out. The 18-year-old from Boca Raton, Fla. did recover in time to reach a tiebreaker and he had three set points at 6-3. Kudla saved two on his serve, but van Overbeek's reliable second serve came through for him and when Kudla's backhand found the net, the match was even.

"In the third he served big," a disappointed Kudla said. "I had opportunities at 5-4 and 6-5 and in the tiebreak, even though I was down. I feel I had plenty of opportunities, I just didn't capitalize on them."

There were no breaks in the third set, but van Overbeek was in the precarious position of serving from behind. At 4-5, 30-30, Kudla hit an overhead winner to earn his first match point. On the next point, he got the short ball that he wanted, but his forehand approach shot was feet, not inches, long. Van Overbeek got out of the game, but was quickly back on the hot seat. Kudla held at love, and three errors by van Overbeek in the next game made it 15-40. Van Overbeek saved the first with a service winner, but Kudla had another chance to end the match with a forehand. This one was just long, but it was out, and van Overbeek then began a stretch of hot serving that saw him put six consecutive first serves in play, from the end of that game through the beginning of the tiebreaker.

Kudla led 4-2 in the tiebreaker, but three straight errors gave van Overbeek the advantage. Kudla missed another forehand to give van Overbeek his first match point, and he converted when Kudla's backhand found the net.

"I served well when I got down in my service games," said van Overbeek. "And on one of the match points, he missed a forehand short, which I thought the match was over. I was getting ready to pack it up, but fortunately it went long. Just a couple shots here or there...obviously three match points down, it could have gone either way."

Van Overbeek appeared very calm throughout the match and although there were errors, none seemed to be the result of nerves.

"Since my second round match when I went three sets, and I was definitely not behaving well, and it was a really close match. Then I played on the center court against (Emmett) Egger and I was very calm in that match. Each match is just one I feel like I'm lucky to be playing. So I'm playing like there's nothing to lose and whatever happens, happens."

In the other 18s semifinal, Jack Sock waited nearly two hours to play the two points that would earn him his second consecutive appearance in a Kalamazoo final. Serving for the match against top seed Jordan Cox, Sock, the third seed, was down 15-40. The 17-year-old from Lincoln, Neb. saved the first break point with a forehand winner; Cox made a return error on the second and at deuce, play was suspended. When they came back to court 3, nearly two hours later, Sock used his kick serve to win the two points he needed.

"I knew I wanted to go out there and put in two heavy kick serves to his backhand and try to get a forehand off the next ball," said Sock. "The first point, that was exactly what happened. I actually thought I missed the forehand into the net, but it barely went over. Then on match point, I hit another good kick serve out wide, and he hit a slice about six inches long, but they didn't call anything. I just hit the ball back when they didn't call it, and then he did the same thing--it hit in the same exact spot--and they called it out the second time."

Sock had lost to Cox 6-3, 6-3 in the first round of the Godfrey Futures last month, but he considers that loss to have been a positive, not a negative.

"I think it was an advantage for my coach(Mike Wolf) to watch him and see how he plays, cause I hadn't played him since I was 12," Sock said. "I had a strict game plan that he set for me, and so I think it was an advantage to have played him just a couple of weeks ago."

Sunday's final, which is scheduled for 1:30 p.m., will be the best of five sets, to prepare the winner for what he'll face in the first round of the U.S. Open later this month.

"I think it actually might be an advantage for me now," said Sock, who had some physical problems with dehydration earlier in the tournament. "Because I know what I'm doing now with the hydrating, the fluids and stuff. All I've been doing since I got back from Godfrey is conditioning and conditioning, getting in a lot better shape. So hopefully that will pay off."

"I've played in practice a lot of three-out-of-five set matches for this specific reason," van Overbeek said. "Not ever in a tournament though, obviously. It's going to be a long day, so I've got to be prepared to play as long as they let us."

For complete results, see ustaboys.com.

Top Seed Vinsant Meets Clay Court Champion Redlicki for 16s Title


©Colette Lewis 2010--
Kalamazoo MI--

Just three weeks ago, Michael Redlicki was collecting his first gold ball at the 16s Clay Courts. On Sunday he's taking aim on a second, and the coveted U.S. Open junior wild card that goes with it.

"Ever since last year, my first year in Kalamazoo, when I figured out that the winner gets a wild card, my whole year has been revolving around that," said the 16-year-old from Hawthorn Woods, Ill., who beat No. 2 seed Mitchell Krueger 7-6(6), 6-4 in Saturday's semifinal. "I'm trying to get better, more fit and mentally prepared for big stages like this. Hopefully, tomorrow I can accomplish that goal."

Redlicki, a 6-foot-7 left-hander, served ten aces in the match and many more service winners, most of them coming when he was down.

"Especially when I was down in my service games, I started to see a pattern, and I started hitting a lot of service winners," Redlicki said. "I don't know, it just seems that under pressure, I was serving better, which isn't typical."

Redlicki also didn't make many unforced errors, although Krueger had his opportunity to take the lead with a set point at 6-5 in the tiebreaker, after Redlicki had lost both his serves. Krueger, who had played so well up until the semifinals, seemed tentative in the opening set and early in the tiebreaker. The 16-year-old from suburban Dallas seemed determined to play more aggressively, and he hit out on that set point, but his forehand volley went just long. After Krueger lost the next point on a forehand wide, Redlicki had his first set point, and converted it quickly, with an ace.

Krueger fell behind 2-0 in the second set, but he got back in the match, only to be broken again in the eighth game. Redlicki couldn't serve it out at 5-3, but he stayed close in the next game, and on his third match point he forced a defensive lob from Krueger that went wide.

Redlicki's rival for the U.S. Open junior wild card is top seed Shane Vinsant, who cruised past No. 3 seed Nolan Paige 6-0, 6-4.

Paige had difficulty finding the court in the opening set, and Vinsant, who has yet to lose a set in the tournament, was sharp and relaxed.

"I didn't miss much but I also played aggressive, and that's a good combo right there," said Vinsant, who is also from suburban Dallas. "That's the least nervous I've been. I had really good talks before with my coaches, and I was feeling really good in warmups, so it carried over to the match."

Paige made some adjustments in the second set, and actually led 2-0 before Vinsant regained control of the match.

"He didn't do anything special, but he changed his game a little bit, and it took me a little bit to adjust to it," Vinsant said. "He started pressuring me more, not hitting big shots, but taking time away, coming to the net, and I didn't pass him until later, after I was down 2-0."

Vinsant and Redlicki played this April in at the Carson ITF Grade 1, with Vinsant winning 6-4, 6-2.

"I think he's improved and feeling pretty confident since he just won Clays," said Vinsant.

Redlicki agreed.

"I'm very prepared for tomorrow," Redlicki said. "And I'm very impressed with how I'm playing."