Friday, August 10, 2018

Baird Saves Five Match Points to Reach Kalamazoo 18s Semifinals; Rematch of Last Year's 16s Final Set; US Boys Reach ITF World Junior Tennis Final

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Kalamazoo MI--

Kevin Zhu lived by the sword Thursday and died by the sword Friday at the 18s Nationals. The No. 9 seed saved three match points in his upset of top seed and defending champion Patrick Kypson in the round of 16, but in today's quarterfinal match with No. 6 seed Drew Baird, it was Zhu's opponent who faced down defeat, saving five match points to claim a 5-7, 7-6(8), 6-2 victory.

Baird, who turns 18 later this month, was serving at 3-5 in the second set, when he faced his first two match points. At 30-40, he executed a drop shot perfectly, but a point later he had to come up with another save, this time electing to serve and volley.

"He wasn't going to expecting that one," Baird said. "If I were him, I wouldn't expect my opponent to serve and volley down match point in the quarterfinals of Kalamazoo. So maybe it would be a good idea to do it, I don't know. I tried it, and it worked."

Zhu had a third match point serving at 5-4, but Baird went big on a forehand, hitting a clean winner, and won the next two points to pull even.

More challenges remained for Baird however.

Up 6-4 in the second set tiebreaker, Baird lost those two set points, and after the second, tossed his racquet, which earned him a point penalty, giving Zhu a fourth match point.  Baird didn't have to do much to save it, with Zhu hitting a backhand way long, but not getting emotional after the code violation may have had something to do with how the final few points of the tiebreaker.

"I didn't really even get mad," Baird said. "I thought it was funny....It was a mistake, I shouldn't have done it, but I kind of forgot about it pretty quick and used it as motivation, I guess."

The next, and last, match point Baird faced was on his serve at 7-8, but he saved it with a good first serve and another excellent first serve gave him a set point. Zhu made another error, fitting a forehand well long and Baird had escaped with the set, after 75 minutes of play.

"I knew if I could be resilient enough that I'd been in enough situations like this, that if I could win that second set, just get through a couple of points here and there, he would start getting tired and I could get into the match," said Baird, No. 20 in the ITF World Junior rankings.

Zhu went down a break in the third set and called a medical time out, which didn't surprise Baird.

"I could kind of tell in the second set that he wasn't ready to go for another two hours, so that's why I just kept trying," said Baird. "Even though I wasn't playing well in the second or first, my goal was to stay in it long enough. I dug my way into his head a little bit and he wasn't ready to go for that long."

Baird, who had played two three-setters coming into today's quarterfinal, had no physical problems after playing long matches in the midday heat.

"I train in Florida; it's not that bad here," said Baird, who is student at the IMG Academy in Bradenton. "I feel fine now."

Baird's semifinal opponent will be No. 4 seed Jenson Brooksby, who beat No. 25 seed Jacob Bullard 6-3, 6-1, to claim his fifth straight-sets victory.

"I feel like my first two matches were close, but I feel like I'm playing better my last couple matches here," said the 17-year-old from Sacramento. "I'm happy with my play going into the next match."

Brooksby, who reached the 16s final two years ago, is comfortable on the Stowe Stadium courts.

"I love it here," Brooksby said. "The big crowds, the good matches. I've been here a couple of years now, so I feel I know it well. I'm not nervous, I'm just excited. The first year, I was definitely nervous in the final, but I'm not as nervous now."

The other 18s semifinal will be a rematch of last year's 16 final, with champion Brandon Nakashima taking on finalist Stefan Dostanic. No. 3 seed Nakashima advanced to the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 5 seed Tristan Boyer.  Nakashima had beaten Boyer 6-0, 6-0 in the final of the Grade 1 ITF International Spring Championships in Carson, but Boyer played at a much higher level in today's match.

"He definitely played a lot better today than last time," said Nakashima, who has now won 12 straight matches at Kalamazoo. "He was making a lot more balls. I just had to keep playing my game, being consistent.  It was probably not my best serving day, I wasn't making a lot of first serves, but I just kept grinding to get out of those service games."

Up two breaks in the first set, Nakashima served for the set at 5-2, but was broken at love. Boyer held to force Nakashima to serve for it a second time, and despite going down 15-30, he finished the set with a good first serve.

In the second set, Boyer and Nakashima traded breaks in the fifth and sixth games, but Boyer played another poor service game to go down a break for a the second time, and that was enough for Nakashima.

"My baseline game was pretty solid today, so I was able to get out of those games," said the 17-year-old from San Diego.

Nakashima, who dropped his only set this week in the third round, believes Kalamazoo brings out the best in his game.

"I just love playing here," said Nakashima. "The atmosphere is incredible and I always play my best here. Hard courts suit my game pretty well, it's what I practice on, and I just want to keep it solid and win the title."

Dostanic, who took out No. 2 seed DJ Thomas in Thursday's round of 16, defeated No. 27 seed Andrew Zhang 6-3, 6-1 for his fifth consecutive two-set victory here in Kalamazoo.  Dostanic has yet to win a set from Nakashima however, with his last loss to his Southern California rival coming back in April, in the semifinals of the Carson ITF 6-2, 6-3.

The schedule for Saturday has the 16s semifinals beginning at 9:30 a.m., with No. 1 seed Keshav Chopra against No. 4 seed Zane Khan and No. 45 seed Alex Kiefer facing No. 15 seed Martin Damm, with the 18s semifinals to follow.

The doubles finals are set for Saturday afternoon, with top seeds DJ Thomas and Patrick Kypson facing No. 2 seeds Trey Hilderbrand and Govind Nanda.  Hilderbrand and Nanda defeated No. 4 seeds Christian Alshon and Tyler Zink 6-3, 6-4, while Thomas and Kypson beat No. 10 seeds Will Grant and Boyer 7-5, 6-0. The winning team will receive a wild card into the US Open men's doubles main draw.

The 16s doubles final, scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m., will feature No. 7 seeds Alex Lee and Niroop Vallabhaneni and top seeds Max McKennon and Chopra, who saved three match points in their 3-6, 7-6(4), 6-3 win over No. 9 seeds Benjamin Koch and Joshua Raab. Lee and Vallabhaneni defeated unseeded Ben Shelton and Quinn Snyder 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

At the girls 18s, the top four seeds have advanced to Saturday's semifinals.  Kayla Day[1] will play Salma Ewing[4] and Coco Gauff[3] will take on Whitney Osuigwe[2].

The girls 16s final is Saturday, with No. 3 seed Fiona Crawley reaching the championship match.  She will play No. 4 seed Allura Zamarippa, who beat top seed Gianna Pielet 6-4, 7-6(4). 

At the boys 12s, it's Rudy Quan[1] vs Dylan Charlap[5] for the boys gold ball in singles.

At the boys 14s, Nicholas Heng[1]will face Juncheng (Jerry) Shang[33] in the final.

At the girls 12s, Brooklyn Olson[2] and Natalia Perez[4] are in the singles final.

At the girls 14s, Eleana Yu[1] and Clervie Ngounoue will play for the singles gold ball.

At the ITF World Junior Tennis team event in the Czech Republic, the US boys team, seeded No. 2, has advanced to the final against the Czech Republic, after beating Paraguay 2-0, with Bruno Kuzuhara and Victor Lilov getting singles wins. The US girls team, who won the title in 2017, lost to No. 3 seeds Russia 2-0, with Robin Montgomery and Katrina Scott losing their singles matches. The US girls will play Turkey for third play on Saturday.  For more on the semifinals, see this article from the ITF website.


Colette Lewis said...

Testing to see if comments are working. I've been told there have been problems, which would explain why no comments have come through since June.

Mr Rogers said...

You must have had problems with the comments department. None of my posts were published. Thought I was banned:) You have been missing out on some great wit and wisdom. Welcome back to the neighborhood.

College Fan said...

Glad to see it fixed Colette! Thanks!