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Friday, September 27, 2019

Damm and Kodat Save Three Match Points to Squeeze Past Spain in Junior Davis Cup Quarterfinals; US Girls Also Need Doubles Win to Advance to Semifinals

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Lake Nona FL--

The excitement level escalated at the Junior Davis Cup and Junior Fed Cup quarterfinal Friday, culminating in a match tiebreaker in the deciding doubles to determine if the top-seeded American boys team could hold off the challenge of defending champion Spain.

Martin Damm and Toby Kodat did end up earning a 6-2, 3-6, 14-12 win over Spain's Daniel Rincon Yague and Alejandro Turriziani Alvarez, but not before saving three match points at 10-9, 11-10, and 12-11 in the match tiebreaker.

Spain, who was unseeded this year, earned their chance for the upset when Rincon defeated Damm 6-7(7), 6-4, 7-6(2) at No. 1 singles, after Kodat had given the US a 1-0 lead with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Daniel Merida Aguilar. Damm was up 2-0 and 3-1 in the third set, and had break points with Rincon serving at 4-3,  and Damm admitted that it was a struggle to cope with the loss after all those chances.

"Obviously the singles match was long and hard to take, but in the locker room after the match, I was for sure trying to lighten the mood with the boys," said Damm, who turns 16 on Monday. "They were trying to have a little fun with it as well, but it was up to me as to how I was going to take it. We sat down with Philippe [Oudshoorn, team captain] and the team and said we were going to put away everything that happened and I think we did a pretty good job. Our main thing was to come out with incredible energy and it showed in the first set, but then it hit me."

Damm and Kodat looked like the team that won the Kalamazoo 18s title this year and made history as the youngest team to win a main draw men's doubles match at the US Open in that first set, but what hit Damm was fatigue.

"In the second game [in the second set], I got broken, and that was because if they put the return in play cross court I couldn't get to the ball," Damm said. "It hit me like it's never hit me before. I've actually never cramped in my life, but I thought today was going to be the day."

Fortunately the match tiebreaker assured a quicker resolution, although calling it quick would be inaccurate.

Damm and Kodat earned the first match point at 9-8, but Damm couldn't get a Turriziani second serve back in play. Damm and Kodat then saved their first match point with Kodat hitting a good first serve and Damm putting the ball away at the net. A Kodat double fault gave Rincon a serve for the second match point, but Turriziani's reflex volley went out. Damm was serving for the third match point, and a good first serve saw Spain miss the return. Kodat hit a volley winner on the next point and they had their second match point. Turriziani again failed to get a first serve in, and Damm hit a good deep return right up the middle that Turriziani couldn't handle, putting the US team in the semifinals.

"We just played point by point, honestly," Kodat said. "We just tried our best not to get too tight on the important points."

"We got a little lucky for sure," Damm said. "But I'm just happy we won it. If I had lost this one, and the singles, it would have been a tough one."

Although Damm and Kodat lost their first doubles match, a dead rubber against Canada in round robin play, Oudshoorn never considered another pairing for this deciding match.

"I believe strongly that we have the best doubles team in this tournament," Oudshoorn said. "Credit to Canada, they played a fantastic doubles match there. But we saw in the first set, that's what I see from Marty and Toby. What happened in the second was a little bit of an energy dip and Marty's struggled a little bit getting first serves in still, but if they play like they did in the first set, I don't see too many teams being able to stay with them. I have a ton of confidence in them for sure."

No. 3 seed France is next up for the Americans, after they won both their singles matches over unseeded Paraguay.  Mehdi Sadaoui beat Martin Vergara 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 singles and Giovanni Mpetshi-Perricard came back to defeat Adolfo Vallejo 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 at No. 1 singles to clinch the tie.

No. 2 seed Japan also went to a deciding doubles point, with Wimbledon boys champion Shintaro Mochizuki winning his singles match over Jack Pinnington-Jones of No. 5 seed Great Britain 6-1, 1-6, 6-0 at No. 1 singles, after Derrick Chen had beaten Kokoro Isomura 6-3, 6-4 at No. 2 singles. Mochizuki and Yamoto Sueoka beat Pinnington-Jones and Chen 6-2, 7-6(4) in doubles to set up a semifinal tie with No. 4 seed Serbia.  Serbia defeated No. 7 seed Hong Kong 2-0, with Petar Teodorovic winning at No. 2 singles over Tim Gauntlett 6-4, 4-0 ret., with Gauntlett rolling his ankle and retiring a few games later.  Hamad Mededovic beat Coleman Wong 6-4, 6-1 at No. 1 singles to clinch the win for Serbia.

The US girls were the only winning team that needed a doubles point to advance, although top seed Russia was a point away from a doubles match several times before Oksana Selekhmeteva defeated Melodie Collard 4-6, 7-6(11), 6-2 at No. 1 singles to end No. 4 seed Canada's hope of extending the match. Russia took a 1-0 lead when Diane Shnaider defeated Annabelle Xu 6-4, 7-5 after Xu had served for the second set at 5-4.

Russia will face No. 3 seed Czech Republic, with Linda Noskova coming from 3-0 down in the final set against Pimrada Jattavapornvanit of No. 5 seed Thailand 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 at No. 1 singles. Barbora Palicova had defeated Lanlana Tararudee 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2 singles to open the match.

The second-seeded US girls continued to look invincible at the start of their tie with unseeded Italy, with Connie Ma, playing No. 2 singles, defeating Matilde Paoletti 6-0, 6-2 to give the US a quick 1-0 lead. But at No. 1 singles, Lisa Pigato got up early on Katrina Scott, took the first set 6-4 and served for the match at 5-4 in the second. Scott broke and held for her first lead of the match at 6-5, but Pigato held and converted her third match point in the tiebreaker, for a 6-4, 7-6(6) final score.
That put the pressure on Robin Montgomery and Ma in the deciding doubles against Paoletti and Pigato, and the Americans got off to a shaky start, falling behind 5-2 before winning four straight games to serve for the first set at 6-5. Ma lost her serve at love however, with several uncharacteristic unforced errors, so a tiebreaker would decide the first set. At 4-3, Pigato lost both points on her serve to give Montgomery a chance to serve it out and she hit a backhand winner for the set.

Trailing 2-0 in the second set, Ma and Montgomery won the final six games of the match for a 7-6(3), 6-2 win.

"There definitely was pressure, but Jamea [Captain Jackson] told us we had to play like there was nothing to lose, not think of the end result and that's what we did," Montgomery said. "We knew there was a lot on the line, and win or lose, we definitely wanted to play the best we can play. In those first seven games, we knew that definitely wasn't our best."

"It's just about the mindset," Ma said. "We may have played better, but Jamea and Robin are there to cheer me up when I make a mistake and being positive, just believing that you can do it."

Jackson said she had confidence that Ma and Montgomery would find their level.

"These matches are so tough and they're about so much more than just how you play," Jackson said. "I was just very encouraged to see them, even when they weren't playing their best, find a way....I never felt like they would lose that match, but the thing about any sport is you have to go out and play the match. This is what it's all about. It would be great to walk out on the court and win every match, but where's the fun in that? You're not going to remember those."

The US girls will take on No. 6 seed Germany, who defeated unseeded France 2-0. It took nearly three hours for Germany to take a 1-0 lead, with Nastasia Schunk defeating Juline Fayard 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 at No. 2 singles. Mara Guth took out Elsa Jacquemot, who at 12 has the highest ITF junior ranking in the field, 6-4, 6-4 at No. 1 singles to put Germany into the semifinals.

Complete results from all the matches today can be found at the ITF tournament site.

The US boys will play at 10 a.m and the girls will play at 11 a.m., with Tennis Channel providing coverage of both matches from 11 a.m.

Live scoring for boys is here and live scoring for girls is here.