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Jack Sock lost in the championship match of the 16s division last year in Kalamazoo, but that defeat has now been replaced by a much better memory after the 17-year-old from Nebraska won the 18s title with a 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 victory over No. 9 seed Bob van Overbeek.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