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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Donaldson Upsets Top Seed in Orange Bowl 16s Second Round; Let Call Ends McDonald's Upset Bid in 18s

©Colette Lewis 2011--
Plantation, FL--

I've seen a lot of tennis matches in my ten years on the junior and college circuit, but today was the first time I'd seen a chair umpire call a let but not order the point on which the let was called replayed.

That it happened on match point in American Mackenzie McDonald's 8 a.m. match with No. 7 seed and Eddie Herr finalist Patrick Ofner of Austria made the call more than just a novelty.

McDonald was up a break in the final set at 4-3, but lost that advantage in the next game and Ofner held for 5-4. Serving in the next game, McDonald saved two match points, and also was required to replay a point after he had hit a winner, when the chair umpire called a let from a ball rolling over from the adjacent court. McDonald won the replayed point in that instance, and after two more deuces, held for 5-5. Ofner held for 6-5, and McDonald called for the trainer at the changeover, who stretched him out on a nearby bench, but the delay was brief.

Serving at 5-6, McDonald won the first point with Ofner missing an overhead, but the 16-year-old Californian double faulted and made two forehand errors to give Ofner two more match points.

After a short return from Ofner, McDonald wound up to hit a forehand, as a ball bounced over from the next court, and the chair umpire loudly called "let." McDonald finished the stroke, but hearing the let call, went back to collect the balls to serve again. But before McDonald could serve again, Ofner circled a mark just beyond the baseline. The chair umpire bounded down to look at it, put his finger up to signal out, and called game, set and match.

The several dozen spectators, most of the them admittedly friends and supporters of McDonald, but also college coaches and others with more objectivity, were stunned for a moment, but then began yelling "you called a let." McDonald himself said that several times to the chair umpire, who didn't deny calling the let. He asked if McDonald wanted to call the tournament referee, and McDonald said he wasn't leaving the court, so the chair used his walkie talkie to call, not the tournament referee, but an assistant. There was a short conversation between the assistant and the chair, which wasn't audible to those of us in the stands on the other side of the court, but according to McDonald there was no discussion of the reason why the point wasn't replayed when the assistant referee came onto the court.

"[The assistant referee] just said he was going to do what the umpire said because he didn't see it," said McDonald. "I guess the umpire said I hit the ball before he called the let, which I disagree with and the whole crowd seemed to disagree with too."

Eventually McDonald accepted the decision, and shook hands with Ofner, but the crowd's boos, extremely rare in junior tennis, reverberated for some time after.

Individual umpires are not allowed to speak with the media, and my request for a explanation from tournament referee Brad Taylor had not been answered as of 6 p.m. tonight. If I receive one on Wednesday I will pass it along.

And that was just the first match of the day. There was plenty of drama, especially in the 16s, after that.

Eddie Herr 16s champion Tornado Ali Black was up 4-1 and serving in the first set against Caroline Doyle, but she lost 11 of the next 12 games and Doyle came away with a 7-5, 6-2 victory.

"She had a set point at 5-3," said the 15-year-old Californian, who trains at the USTA's Boca Raton National Center, as does Black. "But I was still trying to step in, not let her take control of the points."

Black was playing in her eighth match in eight days, and Doyle, who reached the semifinals at the Eddie Herr, was playing her seventh.

"It was pretty physical especially in the first set," said the thin left-hander. "We had a lot of long games, coming back (from behind), you're so stressed and fired up, it takes a lot of energy. I just tried to stay upbeat and keep moving my feet."

After the long first set, Doyle took a 5-0 lead in a hurry.

"Feeding off the momentum of the first set, I came out really strong and she made a couple more errors," said Doyle, the 16s Easter Bowl champion.

Doyle failed to serve out the match at 5-1, but she broke Black in the next game to post the victory, and earn a rematch with Alyssa Smith, who defeated Doyle in the semifinals at the Eddie Herr.

Top girls 16s seed Johnnise Renaud was down a set and a break to qualifier Karoline Kurz of Austria, but fought back to record a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win.

The top seed in the boys 16s was not as fortunate. Anton Desyatnik of Russia squandered five match points, falling to American wild card Jared Donaldson 7-6(5), 2-6, 7-5.

Donaldson, who trains in Argentina and has the red clay-stained shoes to prove it, was serving at 2-5, 0-40 in the third set, but saved those three match points and two more in that lengthy game. Desyatnik, a very mature looking 16-year-old, played a sloppy game serving for the match at 5-3, with unforced errors and a double fault putting him in a 0-40 hole he couldn't climb out of.

Donaldson, a 15-year-old from Rhode Island, had no trouble with the pace Desyatnik was sending his way, and Donaldson hit his share of winners on both the forehand and backhand sides in holding for 5-5 and breaking for 6-5.

Finally ahead and serving for the match, Donaldson had a 40-15 lead, but two forehand errors sent the game to deuce. Desyatnik saved a third match point with a backhand winner, but two good first serves on the next two points gave Donaldson the win in the nearly three-and-a-half hour battle.

"Down love-forty I think I hit two aces, and a third service winner," said Donaldson. "I started serving really great and that's what got me back in the match."

Donaldson had requested a wild card into the Orange Bowl, but was initially denied one.

"Thursday night I was ready to pack it up and go home, but somebody from USTA called me and said you have a wild card, can you play? So I almost wasn't even in this."

Donaldson's decision to train in Argentina, where he spent the first half of 2011 and several months this fall, was based on a couple of factors.

"I'm in Rhode Island and it's cold there, and indoors," said Donaldson. "I felt like I needed to get out of there and play on red clay. My movement was suffering and I needed to have some point construction, and I went to Argentina and I got a lot of that. I've improved immensely over the past months."

Next up for Donaldson is Eddie Herr champion Tommy Mylnikov of Canada, who beat Gregory Garcia of the US 6-3, 6-2.

The top seeds in the 18s advanced to the second round, with Dominic Thiem of Austria beating Luke Bambridge of Great Britain 7-5, 6-1 and Eugenie Bouchard of Canada, showing effects of the abdominal strain that saw her retire from her opening match at the Eddie Herr, beating wild card Peggy Porter of the US 6-0, 7-5.

There were upsets however, as No. 10 seed and Eddie Herr finalist Victoria Kan of Russia lost to Elizaveta Ianchuk of Ukraine 6-4, 6-3; No. 8 seed Ellen Allgurin of Sweden lost to Nadia Echeverria Alam 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 and No. 9 seed Kathinka Von Deichmann of Lichtenstein was beaten by Stephanie Nauta of the US, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

Marco Aurelio Nunez of Mexico, the 14th seed, was the only 18s boys seed to lose in Tuesday's first round action, falling to Kevin Kaczynski of Germany 7-5, 6-1

For complete results and Wednesday's order of play, see the tournament page at usta.com.


Colette Lewis said...

In speaking with tournament referee Brad Taylor today regarding the let not replayed, the chair umpire maintained the ball was in the air off McDonald's racquet when he called a let, so his call didn't hinder McDonald and the point played stands. Taylor agreed the chair erred in calling a let in that situation and also said he should have explained his ruling to the crowd.
I do not recall a "ball in the air" ever overriding a chair's let call, but that's the explanation I received.