Sunday, August 2, 2015

Top 16s Seeds Wolf and Van Emburgh Survive Close Calls in Kalamazoo Second Round; Di Lorenzo Wins Austin $10K; ITF World Junior Tennis Competition Starts Monday

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Kalamazoo, MI--

JJ Wolf and Jake Van Emburgh, the top two seeds in the 16s, staved off major upsets Sunday in the second round of the USTA Boys Nationals at Stowe Stadium, with Wolf defeating Drew Baird 3-6, 6-0, 6-4 and Van Emburgh beating Lucas Biondi 4-6, 6-3 7-6(0).

Although the temperature reached 90 degrees and the winds gusted over 25 mph later in the afternoon, the swirling breeze was mostly just a nuisance when Wolf and Van Emburgh took on Baird and Biondi on show courts 2 and 3.

Wolf saved a break point at 4-4 in the third with a good first serve, then held with a world class down the line backhand winner, putting the pressure squarely back on Baird.  Serving at 4-5, Baird couldn't find his first serve, and a couple of errors made it 30-all. A big Wolf forehand into the corner forced an error from Baird to set up match point, and when Baird missed a short forehand putaway wide, Wolf had the victory.

"I knew I was going to have to fight," said Wolf, a 16-year-old from Cincinnati. "He was such a good player, I knew it could go either way. He hit the ball really cleanly, so it was tough on the faster courts of Kalamazoo."

Wolf said he worked out his nerves after the first set, but soon discovered attacking his 14-year-old opponent's one-handed backhand was not productive.

"I tried to go there, but he stepped up and hit it pretty well," said Wolf, who won the 16s Winter Nationals in January. "So I wasn't going to go out of my way to hit it to his backhand. I just hit my crosscourt shots and did what I could."

As precarious a position as Wolf was in, his doubles partner Van Emburgh was in even more danger. Down 3-1 in the final set, he won four straight games to serve for the match, but then double faulted at 30-40 to make it 5-5.  Biondi, who hadn't held serve since the first game of the set, held at 15 to make it 6-5 and Van Emburgh needed his second hold of the set just to force a tiebreaker.

After Biondi missed a forehand in the first point of the game, Van Emburgh finally found the rhythm on his serve, hitting three consecutive aces to send the match into a tiebreaker.  Biondi, a 16-year-old from New York, netted a forehand on the first point and Van Emburgh took it from there, with a combination of his winners, including another ace, and Biondi's errors giving him the next six points as well.

"Those aces definitely gave me a huge jump into the tiebreak," said Van Emburgh, who has recently relocated to the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where his father has taken a coaching position. "I had some doubts there at the end when I couldn't hold my serve serving for the match, and I thought here we go. But then I found it, and once I got up 3-0 in the breaker, I was, okay, I've got this match, this is my match."

Van Emburgh said he felt nauseous throughout the match and also turned his ankle, which required a medical timeout for taping by the trainer.

"I don't know what was wrong," Van Emburgh said of his queasy feeling throughout the match. "I never get tired, or sick so it was like a first thing for me. I felt really crappy the whole time. So I was lucky to be able to hang in there and fight my way through."

Van Emburgh, who turns 17 next month, was confident his doubles partner would do the same, when he looked over to see Wolf trailing in his match.

"I was surprised when he lost the first set, but I knew he wasn't going to lose the match," said Van Emburgh. "It's just how he is."

Although the top two seeds survived, nine seeded 16s players did not. No. 13 seed Andrew Fenty lost to William Grattan-Smith 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, No. 17 seed Kevin Ma was beaten by Jeremy Yuan 6-3, 6-1 and No. 18 seed Robert Maciag was defeated by Andrew Ton 6-4, 6-4. No. 19 seed Abhijeet Joshi was defeated by Sean Hill 7-5, 7-6(1), No. 20 seed William Peters lost to Caleb Chakravarthi 6-4, 6-4 and No. 21 seed Jaycer Lyeons was beaten by Matthew Rodriguez 6-4, 2-6, 6-3. No. 29 seed John Speicher lost to Arjith Jayaraman 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, No. 30 seed Ajai Shekhera was defeated by Bryce Pereira 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 and No. 32 seed Cotter Wilson lost to Keenan Mayo 6-3, 6-4.

The second round of 16s doubles saw top seed Van Emburgh and Wolf and No. 2 seeds Trent Bryde and Patrick Kypson advance in straight sets.

The only 18s action on Sunday was the third round of doubles, with the top three seeded teams of Michael Mmoh and Frances Tiafoe, Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka, and Tommy Paul and Henrik Wiersholm all advancing in straight sets at the windswept courts at Western Michigan University.

Complete results and draws are at ustaboys.com.

Monday will feature third round singles play for both divisions, with the 16s beginning at 8 a.m. and the 18s starting at 12:30 p.m.

Eighteen-year-old wild card Francesca Di Lorenzo, who will start this fall at Ohio State, won the $10,000 Pro Circuit event in Austin, Texas, beating Lauren Herring, the recent Georgia grad, 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-2 in Sunday's final.  Di Lorenzo is scheduled to play in the USTA Girls 18s Nationals in San Diego on Monday at 10 a.m.

Evan King won the $15,000 Futures in Edwardsville, beating Clay Thompson 6-4, 6-3.  Bobby Knight has full coverage of the former Michigan Wolverine's win over the former UCLA Bruin at College Tennis Today.

The ITF's 14-and-under World Junior Tennis Championships get underway on Monday in the Czech Republic with the Russian girls and Korean boys the top seeds.  The USA teams (the players representing the US are here) are both No. 1 in their round robin groups, meaning they are expected to advance to the semifinals.  The ITF Junior website article about the draw is here.