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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Nakashima and Brooksby to Meet for Kalamazoo 18s Title; Khan and Damm in 16s Final; Thomas Repeats in 18s as Doubles Champions Crowned; US Boys Win ITF 14U Team Event

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Kalamazoo MI--

Last year's 16 champion Brandon Nakashima will look to earn his second consecutive title Sunday at the USTA Boys 16s and 18s National Championships after a tough three-set semifinal victory over Stefan Dostanic at Stowe Stadium.  Standing in his way is Jenson Brooksby, another player making his second appearance in a Kalamazoo singles final, with 2016 16s finalist advancing with a convincing win over Drew Baird.

Nakashima, the No. 3 seed, and Dostanic, seeded No. 26, met in the 16s final last year, with Nakashima dropping only one game, but Dostanic mounted a stirring comeback after trailing 6-2, 3-0 in today's semifinal, only to see Nakashima rebound for a 6-2, 4-6, 6-2 victory.

"He's definitely gotten a lot better," said Nakashima, who also beat Dostanic in the semifinals of the ITF Grade 1 International Spring Championships in April and had never dropped a set to the 16-year-old from Irvine California before. "He's definitely more consistent at the baseline and the serve has gotten a lot better. He played really well in that second set and I kind of let up a little bit, lost some energy."

After a mandatory 10-minute break after the second set, with Nakashima getting advice from his coach on Dostanic's serving tendencies, he was able to get a break of serve in the sixth game.
Dostanic went down 0-40, won four straight points, but couldn't shake the always composed Nakashima, who won the game on his sixth break point to take a 4-2 lead.

"I tried not to show too much emotion at that point, just try to stay calm," said Nakashima, a San Diego resident, who turned 17 last Sunday. "I knew I was going to get more opportunities if I kept playing well, playing the points right, on his serve. I just tried to stay solid mentally. The next game was crucial, holding pretty easily, and then playing well the last game."

Nakashima is the first player since Sam Querrey to reach the 18s final the year after winning the 16s title and he has a chance to become the first player since Paul Goldstein to win the 16s and 18s titles in back-to-back years. Regardless of Sunday's outcome, Nakashima knows he will be going to New York either to play in the men's qualifying as the 18s finalist, or the men's main draw, as the champion.

"Before the tournament I knew the two finalists get to play in the men's singles, but I wasn't really thinking about it during the tournament," Nakashima said. "I'm definitely a little more relaxed now, knowing I'm getting into the men's either way now, but I really want to get into the main draw, so I just have to stay focused tomorrow."

Nakashima will face Brooksby, who defeated Nakashima 6-2, 6-3 in the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl quarterfinals back in March.

"I have confidence from playing him in the Easter Bowl," Brooksby said. "He's obviously a good player, but I feel my game, if I stay disciplined the whole match, things will hopefully go well."

Brooksby, the No. 4 seed, needed only 45 minutes to defeat No. 6 seed Baird, who looked a step slow after three consecutive three-set wins coming into the semifinals.

"It seemed like [Baird was tired] from the start," said the 17-year-old from Sacramento. "I could tell, you know he's had multiple three-setters. I wasn't focused on that, I was focused on each game, but I could see it, yeah."

Brooksby, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament, didn't shy away from talking about the US Open main draw wild card on the line in Sunday's final.

"I like to know the final result and I don't want to hide from it," Brooksby said. "I'm not focusing on it, but you know in the back of your head that it's there. Focus on each match and that's the best way you'll be able to get there."

Although the prize in the 16s final is not on the same level, a wild card into the US Open Junior Championship definitely was a lure for 16s finalists Zane Khan and Martin Damm, both of whom received wild cards into Kalamazoo.

"Getting an opportunity to play at the US Open at this age is unbelievable," said the 14-year-old Damm, who beat No. 45 seed Alex Keifer 7-6(5), 6-2 in Saturday's semifinals. "But I also, [this week has served to] just to get matches under my belt, to learn how to win matches I'm supposed to win, get used to those five, six matches a week."

Damm said Kiefer was the better player in the first set.

"I saved four break points in one game and I didn't get any break points on his serve the whole first set," said Damm, a left-hander who turns 15 next month. "I was up 15-30 in every game, but I never got a break point. And in the breaker, I was up 3-0, then went down 3-4 and then I hit two really good serves to go 5-4."

Damm earned two set points with a mini-break, but Kiefer saved the first with a cross court forehand winner. Damm didn't get a first serve in on his second set point, but was able to secure the set when he hit a good drop shot, a decision he wasn't entirely convinced was appropriate for the situation.

"I panicked a little bit and I went to my drop shot, which thankfully, it worked," said Damm, who trains at IMG Academy in Bradenton. "But I was happy to get that first set, I got energy from that in the second. I kind of stole that first set from him, and then was able to go for my shots."

Khan was going from his shots from the beginning, winning the first 10 games from top seed Keshav Chopra before posting a 6-0, 6-2 victory.

"It looked like in the beginning he was missing a little too much," said Khan, a 16-year-old from Texas who trains in Spain. "I was a little nervous in the beginning, but I was hitting my shots and doing everything right."

Khan said he was able to maintain concentration despite the score, and even after taking the first set 6-0, he was still urging himself on after a winner or chastising himself after an unforced error.

"Throughout I was pretty focused," Khan said. "Maybe I lost my focus a little bit; that's why I lost those two games in the second."

Khan and Damm have never played, but Khan knows what to expect.

"He's a big guy and he plays really aggressive, big serve," Khan said. "I think I still need to take my chances and try to neutralize the serve and if he leaves some short balls, try to move him. He's a big guy, I don't think he moves too well, so that's what I have to do."

Khan, who has an ITF ranking of 108, but is well out of qualifying for the US Open Junior Championships, said that getting the wild card that goes with the 16s title adds to the significance of Sunday's final.

"There is pressure, like there is every match," said Khan, who has not lost more than four games in any set in his six victories this week. "But I'm just thinking about what I need to do, and thinking about it point by point."

The 16s final will begin at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, followed by the 18s singles final, which is best-of-five sets, not before 1:30 p.m.

The doubles championships were decided Saturday afternoon, with DJ Thomas repeating as 18s champion, this time with Patrick Kypson. The No. 1 seeds dominated No. 2 seeds Trey Hilderbrand and Govind Nanda 6-1, 6-3 to earn a wild card into the US Open men's doubles main draw.

Kypson and Thomas, who were the top two seeds in singles, used the doubles competition to overcome their disappointment at going out in the fifth round of singles.

"Usually, at least for me, doubles is second," said Kypson, an 18-year-old from Raleigh North Carolina. "But when you're out of singles, I'm a competitor, he's a competitor, so we both wanted to win doubles. It was motivation for sure."

Thomas, who won the title with Vasil Kirkov last year, had agreed to play with 2016 16s singles champion Lukas Greif back in November, but when Greif was unable to play due to injury, Kypson began his campaign.

"I had to beg him," said Kypson, who lost in last year's doubles final playing with Oliver Crawford. "I had to beg and plead, sent him a couple of Facebook messages, got on my knees and prayed a little bit."

Thomas and Kypson saved three match points in their quarterfinal win over Axel Nefve and Emilio Nava, a victory that changed their mindset.

"I was thinking about that a little bit in the second set," said Thomas, an 18-year-old from Columbus Ohio. "I was thinking how far we've come and how well we're playing. I think [after that quarterfinal win] we started to find our rhythm and I know I started to play more of my game in doubles, and I feel like Patrick did the same."

Kypson and Thomas took 3-1 leads in both sets, which they said was important to their success.

"We started strong," said Thomas. "The first game was a little bit tight, but we pounced on them early and I think that helped us a lot. They're a good doubles team, but I think we really matched up well today."

"We knew these guys were pretty dangerous and we knew we had to really step up and play, and we did that today," Kypson said. "We were hitting returns really well and serving well, so it was good."

Thomas is the first player two win back-to-back 18s doubles titles since Rajeev Ram and Jonathan Stokke won the championships in 2001 and 2002, while Kypson is the first player to win the 16s and 18s singles titles and a 18s doubles title since Paul Goldstein in 1994.

They head to the Open with the experience from last year's appearance providing motivation to return.

"I'm excited," said Thomas. "I always love going to New York. It's a special tournament and one of my favorites."

"It's a pretty cool place to be," Kypson said. "I think to see the top players, figure out what they do, how we can get to that level, whether in singles or doubles, with the doubles game helping the singles game a lot. We're both trying to be there, in two or three years, playing at the professional level, so for sure, it's another motivation."

The 16s doubles title went to No. 7 seeds Alex Lee and Niroop Vallabhaneni, who beat top seeds Chopra and Max McKennon 3-6, 6-2, 6-0.

Lee was scheduled to play with Stefan Leustian, who withdrew a week prior to the tournament, so he needed a new partner and Vallabhaneni stepped in.

"I didn't know if I was going to get in," said Vallabhaneni, a 16-year-old from Arizona, who received a wild card shortly before the tournament started. "It kind of worked out, I guess."

Despite the fact that they hadn't played together in years, Vallabhaneni said they were able to work together, especially after their quarterfinal win over No. 2 seeds Alex Bernard and Logan Zapp.

"We had both lost singles that day and were both not feeling that well," Vallabhaneni said. "We lost the first set 6-2, but we started playing really well in the second set, got a rhythm and in the third set, won the tiebreaker."

"At that point, everything changed," said Lee, a 16-year-old from Illinois. "Our mindsets changed, going for it, being more positive, looking to do more at the net."

The pair faced another challenge in the final, with Chopra suffering from an illness that had him leave the court after the first set, and during the second set, vomiting during changeovers, but still managing to complete the match.

The crowd, sympathetic to Chopra's plight, gave what encouragement it could, but Lee and Vallabhaneni were able to block out the distractions to seal the title.
"It threw us off a little bit," admitted Lee. "In the third set, we focused a little more and got the job done."

The third place match in 16s doubles went to No. 9 seeds Benjamin Koch and Joshua Raab, who defeated unseeded Ben Shelton and Quinn Snyder 6-4, 6-4.

Third place in the 18s doubles went to No. 4 seed Christian Alshon and Tyler Zink, via walkover from No. 10 seeds Will Grant and Tristan Boyer.

The girls 16s national champion was crowned this afternoon in San Diego, with Fiona Crawley, the No. 3 seed, defeating No. 4 seed Allura Zamarripa 6-4, 6-0.  Crawley will receive a wild card into the US Open Junior Championships next month.

Top seed Kayla Day and No. 2 seed Whitney Osuigwe will meet for the girls 18s title on Sunday, after Day defeated No. 4 seed Salma Ewing 7-5, 6-4 and Osuigwe got by No. 3 seed Coco Gauff 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-4.

The final will be on Tennis Channel Sunday at 1 p.m. PDT.

National champions were crowned in the other age divisions today, with the singles results below. Tennis Recruiting Network will be providing recaps throughout next week.

Natalia Perez[4] def. Brooklyn Olson[2] 1-6, 6-4, 6-3

Eleana Yu[1] def. (8) Clervie Ngounoue[8] 6-3, 6-2

Rudy Quan[1] def. (5) Dylan Charlap[5] 6-2, 6-1

Juncheng (Jerry) Shang[33] d. Nicholas Heng[1] 6-3, 6-4

The second-seeded US boys team won the ITF's World Junior Tennis Competition for 14-and-under players, beating the Czech Republic 3-0 in the championship match today in the Czech Republic. Bruno Kuzuhara and Victor Lilov went undefeated in singles play throughout the week, with Evan Wen anchoring the doubles lineup, also went undefeated in doubles to dominate the competiton.  The US girls, also seeded No. 2, finished third, beating Turkey 3-0 in the third place match. Russia, the No. 3 seeds, who beat the US in the semifinals, won the title, beating top seeds Czech Republic 2-1.  For more on today's finals, see the ITF junior website.


Brent said...

Colette, trying to test the comments. Have posted a few times the last few months and never went through. Hopefully fixed now. Thanks for all the coverage on Kalamazoo.

Khan over Damm in straight sets tomorrow, and Brooksby over Nakashima in 5.