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Saturday, August 13, 2022

Blanch and Baierl Reach Boys 16s Final; 18s Semifinals Postponed Due to Rain; Quinn and Godsick Win 18s Doubles Title, US Open Wild Card; Lee and Woestendick Claim 16s Doubles Championship

©Colette Lewis 2022--
Kalamazoo MI--

For the first time in 32 years, and only the second time in the tournament's history, the USTA Boys 18s National Championship match will be played on a Monday after an all-day rain kept the semifinals from being played Saturday.

Rain began around 8 a.m., and although there were brief dry stretches, they didn't last long enough for any outside play. With a US Open main draw wild card into men's singles on the line, and a best-of-five final, the USTA opted to delay the semifinals until Sunday and play the final on Monday morning at Stowe Stadium.

The only previous Monday final was in 1990, when rain on Sunday pushed the final to Monday, with Ivan Baron beating Will Bull 1-6, 6-4, 6-7(8), 6-4, 7-6(3).

The rain isn't expected to clear out until Sunday afternoon, but every effort will be made to play the boys semifinals between Ethan Quinn and Ozan Baris and Learner Tien and Martin Damm outdoors.

The 16s will also be in action on Sunday, with their final, between Darwin Blanch and Calvin Baierl, scheduled for 11:30 a.m. As with today's 16s semifinals, the final will be played indoors if it is still raining at that time.

No. 13 seed Baierl, who defeated No. 32 seed Saahith Jayaraman 6-3, 6-3, wasn't sure he would be able to compete in Kalamazoo for the first time after having physical issues while he was playing ITF Junior Circuit tournaments in Colombia last month.

"I was in Colombia for two weeks and I had tailbone and shoulder problems," said the 15-year-old from Naples Florida, who never plays or practices indoors but said he adapted quickly. "I didn't really know if I was going to play here until a week before. I couldn't really serve, couldn't lift up my arm. But I started serving slowly and came here to see how I would do. It's feeling good now."

Baierl had the advantage of a day off on Friday after a grueling quarterfinal win over No. 12 seed Rudy Quan, and he looked energetic and physically fresh during the many long rallies he had with the 16-year-old Jayaraman,

"It feels really good to be in the final," said Baierl, who finished third at the Junior Orange Bowl 14s last December. "I played really well. He was a really good player and it just feels great that all my hard work is paying off."

Blanch, the No. 5 seed, saw his 6-4, 4-2 lead over Mitchell Lee disappear in a hurry, with the No. 9 seed winning the final four games of the second set.

But Blanch had an opportunity to talk with his coach during the ten-minute break before the third set and adjusted his strategy to produce a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory.

"He gave me some nice tactics and I came out energetic in the third set and used them, and it worked," said the 14-year-old left-hander, who now trains at the Juan Carlos Ferrero Academy in Spain. "When I was up 4-2 in the third set, I told myself I'm not going to let it slip, not going to let that happen again."

Blanch, who has lived in Argentina and South Florida, also doesn't have any real access to indoor tennis.

"We just have one indoor court at the academy, so whenever it rains, the whole academy just take turns for like an hour, so that's the only time I play indoors," Blanch said.

Blanch moved to Spain with his family, which includes tennis-playing siblings Ulises, Dali and Krystal, early this year, and has seen his game continue to develop there.

"I've improved a lot, they've helped me a lot in the areas I need to improve," said Blanch, who now is 6-foot-1. "It's been really fast so it's going really well."

Blanch and Baierl have played previously in a Les Petits As Playoff, and have often trained together at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona Florida, but haven't met in regular tournament play.

Blanch, who received a wild card into Kalamazoo, said that the wild card into the US Open Junior Championships was one factor in his decision to compete here for the first time.

"We thought it would be a great experience," said Blanch, who is returning to Spain after this event. "We thought I had the level to win the tournament and to get that wild card."

Both doubles championships were played indoors, with the 16s winners No. 2 seeds Mitchell Lee and Cooper Woestendick, who beat No. 5 seeds Cassius Chinlund and Stiles Brockett 6-1, 6-4.

Lee admitted that his loss in the singles semifinal earlier had given him extra motivation to earn the doubles gold ball.

"I was super pumped from the start because I knew I didn't have a great match this morning," said Lee, a 16-year-old from Oakland California. "But I was extra pumped because I definitely wanted to get the gold in doubles at least. I really believed we could beat them, and it happened."

Lee and Woestendick dominated the first set, but got the only break of the second set on a deciding point on Brockett's serve at 3-all. With Lee serving for the match at 5-4, they went down 30-40, but took the final two points to claim the title.

"We didn't show any nerves came out really quick," Woestendick said. "And we didn't get broken a single time," Lee said. "It was a good win, and a really good match," Woestendick added. "Mitchell came up clutch at the end."

The bronze ball in boys 16s doubles went to top seeds Chase Fralick and Matthew Forbes, who defeated No. 4 seeds Ian Mayew and Oliver Narbut 7-5, 6-1.

Fifth place in the 16s singles went to Maxwell Exsted[14], who beat Mikel Anderson[23] 6-3, 6-1 in the consolation final.

Although the decision was delayed for several hours in the hope that the rain might end, the boys 18s doubles final also had to be played indoors at the Markin Tennis Center on the Kalamazoo College campus. 

No. 2 seeds Nicholas Godsick and Ethan Quinn ended the 20-match winning streak of Easter Bowl, Roehampton and Wimbledon doubles champions Alex Michelsen and Sebastian Gorzny taking the title and the US Open main draw wild card with a 6-4, 6-0 decision.

The turning point in the match came with Godsick serving at 4-3 after breaking Michelsen on a deciding point. Down 0-40, with Godsick hitting two double faults, Quinn and Godsick held and took control, with Gorzny and Michelsen winning only one game after that.

"I think that was a really big momentum setter," said Godsick, a 17-year-old from Ohio. "It was huge and from there on, we had confidence, we were playing strong, moving well at the net and just told ourselves to keep going and to finish it out."

"In that game we found out we didn't have to beat them with pace," said Quinn, an 18-year-old from California. "We just have to play smart and that gave us confidence the rest of the match."

Godsick, the son of Mary Joe Fernandez and Tony Godsick, won the 16s doubles title last year with Lucas Brown, while Quinn lost, with Gorzny as his partner, in the 18s doubles final.

As they took shelter from another downpour in the Stowe Stadium pro shop tent after an outdoor photo shoot with the trophy, the long-time partners speculated about their possible opponents at the US Open in New York.

"We play well together," said Godsick, who is the first player since Rajeev Ram and Jonathan Stokke in 2000 and 2001 to win the 16s and 18s titles in back-to-back years. "Ethan has the firepower and we're both good at the net. We're not going to be scared of any team we play. So we'll be excited for any draw we get."

"I think anyone we play we have a good shot at beating," Quinn said. "It would be awesome to play Kyrgios and Kokkinakis just for that energy, but we'd love to get a win, which I think we're very capable of doing."

Godsick has another year of competition in the 18s, so he will go  for a three-peat that would match Ram and Stokke, although he'll need to find another partner, with Quinn not eligible to return.

"I can do that," said Godsick, whose mother is celebrating the 30th anniversary of her doubles gold medal at the Barcelona Olympics this month. "That's going to be the goal. Winning Kalamazoo, having my name up on the board, yeah, let's go one more."

All draws can be found at the USTA PlayTennis site.

The girls 18s final is set for Sunday in San Diego, with No. 4 seed Eleana Yu facing No. 17 seed Valerie Glozman. Yu defeated Ariana Pursoo[17] 6-0, 6-2, while Glozman took out No. 8 seed Katherine Hui 6-4, 6-1.

The final will be televised on the CBS Sports Network beginning at 3 p.m. PDT.

G16s final(Sunday):
Christasha McNeil v Alyssa Ahn

Sebastian Bielen[7] d. Andra Alcantara[4] 6-4, 2-6, 7-5

Vihaan Reddy[1] d. Tabb Tuck[5] 6-3, 6-1

Maggie Sohns[4] d. Hannah Ayrault[2] 7-6(1), 6-2

Bella Payne[17] d. Maria Aytoyan[5] 6-3, 6-3