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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Spizzirri and Breunich Earn ITF Grade 5 Titles in St. Vincent; Oudin Retires; Gojo Beats Bemelmans in WInston-Salem Qualifying

American juniors earned singles titles today at the ITF Grade 5 tournament in St. Vincent. 

The top-seeded Eliot Spizzirri, who exactly a week ago played in the third place 16s doubles match in Kalamazoo, won his second ITF singles title with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over unseeded Diego Gonzalez of Venezuela in the final. The 15-year-old from Connecticut won his first singles title at the Grade 5 in Martinique last April.

Sixteen-year-old Willa Bay Breunich, also the No. 1 seed, won her first ITF singles title when Mell Reasco Gonzalez of Ecuador retired trailing 5-2 in the first set.

Both Spizzirri and Breunich also reached the doubles finals, but both lost, with Spizzirri and Roger Lyn giving a walkover to their opponents, while Breunich and Sofia Rojas retired up 6-3, 1-2.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Mexico, Nathan Han, who also played Kalamazoo, won the doubles title and lost in the singles final.  Han and Blu Baker of Great Britain, seeded No. 1, defeated Alvaro Gonzalez of Mexico and Sasha Pachnev of Canada 6-0, 6-1 for the doubles championship.  Han, the No. 2 seed, lost to top seed Marcelo Sepulveda Garza of Mexico 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the singles final.

Jack Sock and Melanie Oudin won the US Open Mixed Doubles title in 2011
Melanie Oudin announced her retirement from professional tennis yesterday at the age of 25.  Oudin, whose amazing run to the quarterfinals of the US Open as a 17-year-old back in 2009 was one of the most unexpected and exciting sports stories of that summer, suffered from injury and illness for most of the last five years.  I watched Oudin come up through the juniors and she was talented, modest, hard-working and competitive. She was fun to watch and made the most of what she had; it's a shame her health didn't allow her to display those qualities the past several years. For more on Oudin's retirement, see the WTA website.

At the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati, the last two Americans bowed out in today's semifinals, with wild card Sloane Stephens dropping a 6-2, 6-1 decision to No. 2 seed Simona Halep of Romania and No. 14 seed John Isner falling to No. 7 seed Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria 7-6(4), 7-6(10).  Both should be encouraged by their results this week however, as they look ahead to the US Open.

At the men's Winston-Salem Open, Wake Forest rising sophomore Borna Gojo played his first match against an ATP Top 100 player and got his first Top 100 win, beating No. 3 seed Ruben Bemelmans of Belgium 7-6(3),3-6, 7-6(6). Wild card Gojo, of Croatia, will face No. 8 seed Alex Bolt of Australia for a place in the main draw.  Former Georgia Tech star Kevin King defeated 18-year-old Alex De Minaur of Australia, the No. 5 seed, 6-1, 6-2 and will face Marton Fucsovics of Hungary in the final round of qualifying.

At the WTA's Connecticut Open, Christina McHale is the only American who made it through this weekend's qualifying (Correction: there were three rounds of qualifying and she lost in the final round). Sloane Stephens and Lauren Davis are the only Americans in the main draw. Rising Yale freshman Samantha Martinelli lost in the first round of qualifying, but she spoke with the media about her experience in this article from the New Haven Register.

Friday, August 18, 2017

My Kalamazoo 18s Recap; Isner Downs Donaldson to Reach Cincinnati Semis; Wild Cards Announced for ITF Grade 1 in College Park

The Tennis Recruiting Network completed its review of all last week's National Championships, and as has been the case for many years, I contributed the articles on the Boys 16s and the Boys 18s from Kalamazoo.  Today's article recounts the run of Patrick Kypson, who added the 18s title to the 16s title he won two years ago and he will make his ATP level debut at the US Open late this month.

I am currently in Cincinnati for the Midwest Section's semi-annual meeting, where I will be receiving the Fred Burns media award at a luncheon tomorrow. I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to attend the Western & Southern Open for the first time in several years, and I was able to watch the quarterfinal match between John Isner and Jared Donaldson, as well as the Bryan brothers match with Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut of France.

Donaldson stayed with Isner throughout the first set, but two double faults and an unforced error from Donaldson in the tiebreaker gave Isner the first set 7-6(4). Isner continued to serve well--he had 25 aces and I saw one that hit 140 on the serve gun--but he couldn't shake Donaldson until 5-5, when he converted his first break point of the match thanks to a Donaldson backhand into the net.  The final game was a formality, with Isner ending it with an ace.

I had an opportunity to chat with coach Mark Bey prior to the Bryan brothers match. Bey, who usually does the commentary for the live stream of the Kalamazoo finals, was not able to make it this year due to two of the girls he coaches being the doubles semifinals in San Diego. So we had a lot to share about the respective National Championships and many other topics.  Bey was inducted into the USPTA Midwest section's Hall of Fame on Thursday night and was an on-court presenter this morning at the Lindner Family Tennis Center, in addition to helping coach the Bryans this week. I'm sure he was as disappointed as the thousands of fans on Stadium Court 3 Friday night when the Bryans twice failed to consolidate breaks in the second set and lost to Herbert and Mahut 4-6, 7-5, 10-8.

From Cincinnati, I will be heading to the ITF Grade 1 Prince George's County International Hard Court Championships in College Park Maryland, which I'll be covering for the fourth straight year. The wild cards for the tournament have been announced, with the qualifying beginning on Saturday.

Boys main draw wild cards:
Finn Garner, Wild Card Challenge winner
Saud Alhogbani
Brandon Perez
Trinity Grear
Alex Lee
Cannon Kingsley
Siem Woldeab
Tyler Zink

Girls main draw wild cards:
Lauren Anzalotta
Lexi Merrill
Malkia Ngounoue, Wild Card Challenge winner
Mackenzie Clark
Katie Volynets
Cori Gauff
Sedona Gallagher
Abigail Forbes

Thursday, August 17, 2017

My Kalamazoo 16s Recap; Chrysochos Receives ATP Winston-Salem Open Wild Card; Donaldson and Isner to Meet in Cincinnati Quarterfinals

My review of Brandon Nakashima's title run at the USTA 16s National Championships in Kalamazoo is available now at the Tennis Recruiting Network. I think it's a good overview of the week, especially if you were busy playing, watching or coaching at one of the other National Championships last week.  Make sure to read all the Tennis Recruiting Network's coverage of the 12s, 14s and 16s, with the 18s articles closing out Championship Week on Friday. Links to all articles are available here.

Chrysochos won the ITA All-American title last fall in Tulsa

The final ATP and WTA tournaments before the US Open, the Winston-Salem Open and the Connecticut Open, both end next Saturday due to the Open, so news is already surfacing from them.  Winston-Salem, which begins Sunday, announced its main draw wild cards.  In addition to Latvia's Ernests Gulbis, Croatia's Borna Coric and Taylor Fritz, who has reached the quarterfinals at the $100,000 Vancouver Challenger, the tournament has awarded a wild card to rising Wake Forest junior Petros Chrysochos of Cyprus.  Christian Seraphim and Skander Mansouri, rising seniors at Wake Forest, received a doubles wild card. They finished No. 2 in the final ITA national rankings.  The release announcing the wild cards (and Sam Querrey's withdrawal) quotes tournament director Bill Oakes as saying Chrysochos was "the best player in college tennis last season," an assertion that would no doubt draw an argument from fans at TCU, Ohio State and Virginia. It doesn't appear that North Carolina resident and newly crowned Kalamazoo 18s champion Patrick Kypson received a qualifying wild card, with Kyle Edmund of Great Britain and Wake Forest sophomore Borna Gojo of Croatia announced as the only qualifying wild cards.

The qualifying draw of the Connecticut Open has been released, with playing beginning on Friday. NCAA champion Brienne Minor received a wild card and drew top seed Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia, who reached the semifinals at Wimbledon last month.  Maria Mateas, who lives in New England, received a qualifying wild card, as did Yale rising freshman Samantha Martinelli.  Virginia graduate Julia Elbaba and Sonya Kenin are the other Americans receiving wild cards.  Other Americans in qualifying are Kayla Day, Varvara Lepchenko, Christina McHale and Shelby Rogers.

The playoff for the US Open reciprocal wild card that Tennis Australia is conducting is also at the Connecticut Open, with the draw for that event available here.

Rain has been a problem all day in at the Western and Southern Open Cincinnati, where I'm heading tomorrow.  John Isner and Jared Donaldson managed to get their matches finished however, with No. 14 seed Isner defeating Frances Tiafoe 7-6(4), 7-5 and Donaldson beating Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia 6-4, 7-6(4).  They will play each other for a semifinal berth.  It's the first ATP quarterfinal for Donaldson, who had gone 0-13 in ATP round of 16 matches prior to today. For more on Donaldson's win, see the ATP website.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

American Collegiate Invitational Fields Announced; Tiafoe, Donaldson Reach Round of 16 at Cincinnati Masters

The USTA announced the participants of the fourth annual American Collegiate Invitational to be held September 7-9, during the second week of US Open, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Eight American men and eight American women, who are either in college or have recently completed their eligibility, are invited to participate in the single elimination tournament according to their collegiate or professional rankings.

The criteria for selection:
  • The top two players in the ATP/WTA rankings as of August 7th
  • Top five American players in the year-end ITA rankings, including at least two graduating seniors
  • USTA wild cards
The men:
JC Aragone, Virginia (ATP)
William Blumberg, North Carolina
Christopher Eubanks, Georgia Tech(ATP)
Tom Fawcett, Stanford
Thai Kwiatkowski, Virginia
Alfredo Perez, Florida
Michael Redlicki, Arkansas
Alex Rybakov, TCU (wild card)

Brandon Holt is ranked above Rybakov in the final ITA list, so I assume he declined the invitation.

The women:
Sydney Campbell, Vanderbilt
Hayley Carter, North Carolina
Sara Daavettila, North Carolina
Francesca Di Lorenzo, Ohio State (WTA)
Alexa Graham, North Carolina (wild card)
Brienne Minor, Michigan
Ingrid Neel, Florida (WTA)
Ena Shibahara, UCLA

Campbell and Carter are the two graduating seniors in the group and neither are expected to play the Pro Circuit, so this may be their last competitive tennis match for some time.

Blair Shankle of Baylor would have been eligible based on her ITA ranking, but she must have decided against playing.  Pepperdine's Ashley Lahey also would have been eligible by ranking, but I'm guessing she has opted to play the US Open juniors instead, although she will need a wild card.

This year's tournament will again feature the serve clock, which was introduced last year at the event. Coaching will be allowed for the first time this year.  For a look at the other innovations being tested at the ACI (and the US Open Junior Championships), see my post from Monday.

The winners receive qualifying wild cards into the US Open next year, but neither of the 2016 ACI champions needed them.  Kwiatkowski won the NCAAs and so received a main draw wild card. Danielle Collins earned her way into qualifying on her own ranking, but fell short of the 120 ranking that is required to get a wild card into the main draw for the ACI champions.

Wednesday was a big day for young American men at the ATP Masters in Cincinnati, with both 19-year-old Frances Tiafoe and 20-year-old Jared Donaldson advancing to the round of 16.  

Tiafoe, the 2015 Kalamazoo champion, earned his first ATP Top 10 victory, beating No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.  He will play No. 14 seed John Isner next.  Donaldson took out lucky loser Ramkumar Ramanathan of India 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 and will face Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia in Thursday's round of 16.  No. 15 seed Sam Querrey, the only other American man still in singles, plays later tonight.  For more on Tiafoe's win, see the ATP website.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Day, Eubanks Among Those Receiving US Open Main Draw Wild Cards: ITA National Summer Champions Crowned

Wild Cards for the US Open were announced today, revealing the three main draw wild cards unaccounted for previously.

Taylor Townsend, 21
Kayla Day, 17
Sonya Kenin, 18 (US Open Wild Card Challenge winner)
Ashley Kratzer, 18 (USTA National 18s champion)
Brienne Minor, 19 (NCAA champion)
Maria Sharapova, 30
Amandine Hesse, 24 (French reciprocal wild card)
TBD (Australian reciprocal wild card)

An article with more details on each women's wild card recipient is available at usopen.org.

Taylor Fritz, 19
Bjorn Fratangelo, 24
Christopher Eubanks, 21
Thai Kwiatkowski, 22 (NCAA champion)
Tommy Paul, 20 (US Open Wild Card Challenge winner)
Patrick Kypson, 17 (USTA National 18s champion)
Geoffrey Blancaneaux, 19 (French reciprocal wild card)
Alex De Minaur, 18 (Australian reciprocal wild card)

An article with more details on each men's wild card recipient is available at usopen.org.

Qualifying wild cards were also announced today.

Usue Arconada, 18
Kelly Chen, 18 (USTA National 18s finalist)
Francesca Di Lorenzo, 20
Vicky Duval, 21
Ashley Lahey, 17
Ann Li, 17
Claire Liu, 17
Whitney Osuigwe, 15
Katerina Stewart, 20

Arconada is very close to getting into qualifying on her own ranking, so that wild card may be available to someone else in the days ahead.

William Blumberg, 19
Marcos Giron, 24
Christian Harrison, 23
Evan King, 25
Bradley Klahn, 26
Austin Krajicek, 27
Daniel Nguyen, 26
Raymond Sarmiento, 25
JJ Wolf, 18 (USTA National 18s finalist)

Eight of the nine men Americans receiving qualifying wild cards are current or former college players.

The ITA National Summer Championships concluded today at TCU, with Notre Dame's Alex Lebedev and Winthrop's Lauren Proctor taking the singles titles.  No. 10 seed Lebedev defeated No. 44 Alexandru Grigorescu of Nebraska-Omaha 6-3, 6-2 and No. 4 seed Proctor defeated No. 15 seed Donika Bashota of TCU 6-2, 6-3 in the finals.

Lebedev and Proctor will receive main draw wild cards into the ITA All-American Championships this fall.

The men's doubles title went to Texas's Rodrigo Banzer and Leonardo Telles, with the No. 2 seeds beating Michigan's Myles Schalet and Gabe Tishman, the No. 5 seeds, 8-3 in the final.

No. 5 seeds Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin of Duke won the women's doubles title, defeating Iowa's Zoe Douglas and Elise Van Heuvelen 8-2.

The doubles champions also receive a wild card into the main draw of the ITA All-American championships.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Dimovska, Watane Win ITF Grade 5 Titles; Hansson Claims Singles and Doubles in Edwardsville Futures; US Open Announces Serve Clock, Coaching, Timed Warmups and Attire Changes for Qualifying, Juniors and ACI

I attempt to keep up on the other tennis news, while covering Kalamazoo but something's got to give during those 12-hour days, and I apologize if I've missed a significant victory or a title in the past 10 days.

In ITF junior tournaments last week, 17-year-old Nada Dimovska won the singles title at the Grade 5 in Bulgaria, her first on the ITF Junior Circuit.  Dimovska, who was unseeded, defeated qualifier Ana Manea of Romania 6-1, 6-2 in the final.  At the Grade 5 in St. Lucia, unseeded Anju Watane won his first ITF junior singles title, claiming the winner's trophy via a walkover from fellow 17-year-old Jericho Grollman.  At the ITF Grade 4 in Mexico, no Americans reached the singles finals, but Camille Townsend and Katya Townsend won the doubles title, with the top seeds beating No. 7 seeds Kailen Galazka and Maria Tanasescu of Canada 6-4, 6-4 in the final.

In ITF action the previous week, 14-year-old Hina Inoue won her third ITF junior singles title, this one a Grade 4 in Colombia.  The No. 2 seeds beat top seed Laura Rico Garcia of Colombia 6-2, 7-5 in the final, and is now up to 248 in the ITF rankings.

None of the singles finals of the Pro Circuit events last week featured any Americans.  At the $25,000 Futures in Edwardsville Illinois, Ole Miss senior Gustav Hansson of Sweden the first two pro titles, taking the singles and doubles.  Hansson defeated fellow qualifier and recent Tulsa graduate Or Ram-Harel of Israel 6-1, 6-2 in the singles final and partnered with former Ohio State Buckeye Hunter Callahan to defeat top seeds Robert Galloway(Wofford) and Alex Lawson(Notre Dame) 6-3, 6-4 in the doubles final.

At the women's $25,000 tournament in Landisville Pennsylvania, unseeded 18-year-old Vera Lapko of Belarus won her first title at that level, beating Anna Karolina Schmiedlova of Slovakia 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(4) in the final.  Unseeded Sophie Chang and Alexandra Mueller won the doubles title, their third as a team, defeating No. 2 seeds Ksenia Lykina of Russia and Emily Webley-Smith of Great Britain 4-6, 6-3, 10-5.

The singles title at the $100,000 ATP Challenger in Aptos California went to unseeded Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan, who defeated unseeded Liam Broady of Great Britain 6-2, 6-3 in the final.  No. 3 seeds Ken Skupski(LSU) and Jonathan Erlich of Israel won the doubles title, defeating No. 4 seeds Jordan Thompson and Alex Bolt of Australia 6-3, 2-6, 10-8 in the final.

Last week the USTA announced the US Open would implement several initiatives intended to speed up the pace of play. One of the changes, the serve clock, was used last year for the juniors and the American Collegiate Invitation, and there was little backlash from players or officials. The full release is below:

Changes Made to Enhance Fan Experience, Increase Speed of Play and Create Consistent Standards for Competitors
Moves Continue History of Tennis Innovation at US Open

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y., August 10, 2017 - The United States Tennis Association today announced a series of in-game innovations that will be implemented across a variety of events at the 2017 US Open.  The US Open events affected include: Qualifying Tournament, Junior Tournament, Wheelchair Invitational, American Collegiate Invitational, Champions Invitational.  The new enhancements will not be instituted in the main draws of singles, doubles or mixed doubles. The introduction of these measures will create a consistent standard in areas that have traditionally been undefined or difficult to enforce, as well as open the discussion for further changes at all levels.

The following will be introduced:
  • Timing Related
    • Serve Clock* – Players will be given 25 seconds to serve following the completion of a point.  This is a five-second increase from the stated rules of tennis, as published by the ITF.  The clock will begin after the chair umpire announces the score.  Time violation penalties will be assessed on infractions
    • Warm-Up Clock* – A five-minute clock will be placed on all players during warm-ups prior to the start of matches.  At the completion of the five minutes, the umpire will announce the end of the warmup period.  After making this announcement, players will have 60-seconds to begin play.  A fine will be assessed on all infractions.
    • Change of Attire – Players will be given five minutes to complete an attire change, during set breaks only.  As not all courts have the same proximity to changing areas, the clock will not begin until a player enters the changing area, and will end when a player leaves the changing area.  Time violation penalties will be assessed on infractions.
*a countdown display will be visible by players and fans for these innovations

  • Coaching Related
    • In-Match Coaching – Coaching will be allowed between coaches and players between points.  Coaching will be limited to only those in the designated player box.  Verbal coaching will be allowed while the player is on the same end of the court as the player box, while signal coaching will be permitted when the player box is on the opposite end of the court.
“The US Open has always been at the forefront of tennis innovation, from blue courts to electronic line calling, and beyond,” said Gordon Smith, Executive Director & Chief Operating Officer, USTA .  “Throughout the years we have consistently looked for ways to enhance the experience of both our players and our fans, and we think these changes will continue to move the sport in an exciting direction.”

“These innovations were reviewed by the Grand Slam Board for use in the designated tournaments at the 2017 US Open.  In addition, the decision to implement these standards was made in consensus with the two tours and was approved by the ITF Rules of Tennis Committee,” said Stacey Allaster, Chief Executive, Professional Tennis, USTA. “Both throughout the event and following its completion, we will gather and analyze data and reaction, and determine the next steps for future usage, as well as the potential for further innovation in other areas of the game.”

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Kypson Claims Kalamazoo 18s Title with Five-Set Win over Wolf; Nakashima Cruises to 16s Championship; Kratzer Captures Girls 18s Title

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Kalamazoo MI--

The journey from Kalamazoo 16s champion to Kalamazoo 18s champion is one few have made. But 17-year-old Patrick Kypson added his name to that select group Sunday, coming from two sets to one down to beat JJ Wolf 6-7(1), 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 in front of 2000 appreciative fans at Stowe Stadium.

In a match that took nearly four hours to complete and five sets to decide, turning points are many, although the tension of the first set was not duplicated later in the match. Fortunately, the conditions could not have been better for such a marathon, with partly cloudy skies, low humidity and temperatures in the low 80s.

Neither Kypson nor Wolf faced a break point in their first service games, but the tiebreaker slipped away from Kypson quickly and he had nothing to show for over an hour of excellent tennis.

The first break point for either player came with Kypson serving down 1-2, but he saved it, then broke Wolf, who played a rare sloppy game. Kypson held on to the break, but the tension mounted when he served for the second set, saving three break points with an ace, a good second serve and a forehand volley winner, pulling even in the match when Wolf sent a second serve backhand return wide.

Wolf took control early in the third set, breaking a lethargic Kypson twice and holding easily.  A ten-minute break between the third and fourth sets gave Kypson an opportunity to rebound, but he was immediately broken to start the fourth set.

"I was ready to go home," Kypson said. "I don't know what happened to break him back. But when I got back on serve I was just telling myself to hold serve and see if I can sneak out a break later in the set."

Serving down 2-3 in the fourth set, Wolf fell behind 0-40, but came all the way back with two of his signature forehand winners and a 121-mph ace. The Ohio State rising sophomore saved another break point with another huge forehand, but Kypson earned a fifth with a forehand return winner and got the break when Wolf's backhand went long.

"Up two sets to one, up a break, if I could have just stayed with it 10 or 15 more minutes, I think I would have had a lot better chance," said Cincinnati resident Wolf, who was playing his first tournament since the NCAAs in May due to a stress fracture in his foot. "He got that break back right away--I kind of let him back in and he held it, so that's how it went."

Kypson closed out the fourth set on his first try, hitting a forehand winner, then, similar to Wolf in the fourth set, broke in the first game, only to give the break right back after leading 40-0, failing to convert six game points.

As crushing as that could have been, Kypson didn't show much frustration, and he promptly broke Wolf for a 2-1 lead.  An easy hold made it 3-1 and another break saw his lead extend to 4-1, but Wolf broke back for 4-2. Then he lost the next game, from 40-15 up, on a double fault, to give Kypson an opportunity to serve for the match.

"I think one of the hardest things to get back after you're out for a couple of months is how to hold serve," said Wolf, who will receive a US Open qualifying wild card for reaching the final. "Making a first serve is a very accurate shot and I just wasn't holding serve. And you can't win that way."

Up two breaks, Kypson recognized that he was in control, but also under pressure, and at 5-2, he had to save a break point.

"When you're up two breaks and you're serving for it, there's really no excuse to lose that set or that match," Kypson said. "He missed a return by a half an inch.  But even if I had gotten broken there, I was playing aggressive on his service games--I actually felt better returning than serving. My legs were kind of gone on my serve."

At deuce, Kypson hit a backhand volley winner, a shot he rarely misses, and arrived at his first match point. A good first serve to Wolf's backhand led to a to a netted return, and Kypson collapsed on the court in celebration.

"I had to," Kypson said. "6-2 in the fifth, you've got to show something."

Kypson is the first player since Alex Bogomolov in 2001 to win both 16s and 18s titles, joining Justin Gimelstob, Paul Goldstein, Ricky Brown, Aaron Krickstein, Larry Gottfried, Billy Martin and Erik van Dillen as the only double winners in the tournament's 75-year history.

"I guess it's cool to say, but I guess at the end of the day, it doesn't really matter," said Kypson, who also expressed similar sentiments after reaching the Wimbledon Boys semifinals this year.  "If I won the US Open, I'd tell you differently. But it shows my level is there. These are the best players in the country, so my level's there with the best in the country and I think I've proven it's also there with the best in the world in the juniors, so now the next step is to play with the pros, guys 200 and 300, then Top 100, and then from there it's a game of small margins. That's the ultimate goal, to be a top 100 player, and once you're top 100, you can do anything."

Despite toughing out a best-of-five match on one of tennis' most pressure-packed tournaments in Kalamazoo, Kypson knows he'll face a different test in his first round match at the US Open.

"Playing a man in three out of five sets is going to be a whole different set of challenges, bigger tennis, " said the Greenville North Carolina native. "I've got to prepare well for that. I'm not really trying to play Federer at night on Arthur Ashe. Now that I've said that, it's probably going to happen. But [who I play] doesn't really matter to me."

As for the US Open Juniors, Kypson is still planning to play that tournament for the fourth and final time, with last year's quarterfinals his best showing.

"Unless I make the [men's] quarters, and then I'll say, see you guys later," Kypson joked. "Then I'll probably turn pro and take my 300 (actually 470) grand. But as of right now, yes, I'll play it."

The boys 16s final was decidedly less suspenseful, with top seed Brandon Nakashima defeating No. 8 seed Stefan Dostanic 6-0, 6-1 to capture the title and the US Open Junior championships wild card that goes with it.

Nakashima, who didn't lose a set all week, had beaten Dostanic 6-1, 6-2 in the Easter Bowl final back in April, and was at least as dominant on Sunday.

Nakashima won the first nine games of the match, with Dostanic having only three game points in that stretch.  One was on Nakashima's serve however, at 2-0 in the second set, and converting that could have given Dostanic hope. But Nakashima won one of the longest rallies of the match, then hit an ace and another excellent first serve, and it was 3-0.

"It was really discouraging," said Dostanic, a 15-year-old from Irvine California playing in his first Kalamazoo. "I tried to get my energy up but whenever I'd do that, he'd hit a winner on me or I'd miss an easy ball in the beginning of the rally. It was tough to get a rhythm."

"I knew that was a really important game, to go up 3-0," said Nakashima, a 16-year-old from San Diego. "I just hit a couple of big serves at the right time, played the points smart and right and I ended up holding in that game."

Dostanic did convert his fourth game point to make it 3-1 and had a break point in the next game as well, but another good first serve by Nakashima brushed it aside and he finished with a break and a hold, ending the match in just 50 minutes.

"Today I felt more in a rhythm," said Nakashima, comparing his performance to Saturday's 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 3 seed Siem Woldeab. "I felt like I was hitting all my shots really well."

Although he didn't show any signs of it, Nakashima wasn't immune to the nerves of a Kalamazoo final.

"Yeah, I was pretty nervous at the beginning of the tournament, and today before the final," said Nakashima, who is coached by Christian Groh and Larry Stefanki. "I try not to think too much about the whole scene and everything. I just try to focus on hitting the ball."

Dostanic admitted nerves played a role in his performance.

"It was nerves and Brandon," Dostanic said. "Brandon's a great player. I wish I could have played a little better, to make it more interesting, but it wasn't really my day and he was also making me play a lot worse. He was playing solid deep balls off my serve. He played really well."

Nakashima, who attends regular school, has not played extensively on the ITF Junior Circuit, but he is looking forward to his US Open debut next month.

"It'll be a great experience," said Nakashima, who qualified for the 18s, but decided to play the 16s division with that wild card in mind. "I've never been to the US Open and I'm looking forward to the experience and the matches over there. I know all the players in the tournament are really tough, they've been playing a lot of ITFs. I'll just have to play my game and we'll just see how it goes over there."

In addition to the 16s and 18s singles finals, the third and fourth place matches and the Feed-In champions were decided on Sunday.

Sam Riffice, the top seed, won his second consecutive 18s Feed-In championship, defeating No. 32 seed Britton Johnston 6-2, 6-0 in the final. Riffice had also reached the 18s Feed-In final back in 2015 and has won 14 Feed-In matches in those three years, not including walkovers.

Cannon Kingsley, the No. 20 seed, won the 16s Feed-In title, beating No. 2 seed Andrew Dale 4-6, 6-4, 10-5.

Third place in the 16s division went to Siem Woldeab, the No. 3 seed, who defeated No. 4 seed Will Grant 7-6(6),7-6(4).  The bronze ball in 18s was awarded to No. 12 seed Alafia Ayeni, who beat No. 29 seed Ryan Goetz 6-3, 6-4.

The tournament's three main sportsmanship awards were presented this weekend, with Timothy Sah earning the Wes Richards Feed-In award, Garrett Johns earning the 16s Bobby Kaplan award and DJ Thomas earning the Allen B. Stowe award for 18s.

At the USTA Girls 18s Nationals in San Diego, No. 3 seed Ashley Kratzer won the title and the US Open women's wild card, beating No. 33 seed Kelly Chen 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.  Chen, a rising Duke freshman, trailed 4-0 in the final set, but got it back to 4-all, only to see Kratzer respond with a hold and break for the title.

The girls 18s doubles title went to Claire Liu and Taylor Johnson, the No. 5 seeds, who beat Hailey Baptiste and Ellie Douglas, the No. 6 seeds, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2. Liu and Johnson will receive a main draw wild card into the women's doubles at the US Open.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Kypson and Wolf Meet for Kalamazoo 18s Title; Nakashima and Dostanic to Decide 16s Championship; Doubles Champions Crowned; Blake 16s Girls Champion; US Girls Win ITF World Junior Tennis Title

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Kalamazoo MI--

Patrick Kypson will aim to become the first player since Alex Bogomolov to win both the 16s and 18s titles at the USTA Nationals in Kalamazoo on Sunday, after the No. 2 seed defeated Ryan Goetz 6-0, 6-3 Saturday.  Standing in his way will be No. 5 seed JJ Wolf, a rising sophomore at Ohio State, who defeated Alafia Ayeni 6-3, 6-1 on an unseasonably cool day at Stowe Stadium.

The 16s final will be a rematch of this spring's Easter Bowl championship match, with two Southern Californians, No. 1 seed Brandon Nakashima and No. 8 seed Stefan Dostanic, vying for the title.

Kypson was not about to take Goetz lightly, despite his No. 29 seed. After Goetz defeated No. 3 seed Trent Bryde and No. 6 seed John McNally, Kypson was prepared for a battle and he got it in the first game of the match.

"I went down 0-30 in that game, but I held and then I kind of loosened up," said the 17-year-old from North Carolina. "I made a ton of balls in the first set, didn't really give him much, didn't make many errors. I was able to stay in the rallies long enough to break his will a little bit. Obviously he's playing well and I needed to stay on my toes. I gave him a lot of respect before the match. That's one thing I'm pretty good at, respecting other people."

In the second set, Goetz saved a break point down 0-1, then Kypson had to save a couple of break points to keep his lead.

"That was a good hold at 1-all," said Kypson. "But still, I wouldn't have been too concerned going down a break because it was so early in the set. And I was controlling most of the points. But obviously, you always want to be leading."

Wolf never trailed in his match with No. 12 seed Ayeni, and although he didn't lose his serve in the match, it was his return that he credited for his performance.

"It's really hard to tell until you play that first point, but after that first hold and the first point in his service game, I could feel I was going to return well," said the 18-year-old from Ohio. "My return was on, which is key when you play Alafia, because his serve is so big. That's what I built my game around today."

Wolf broke in the opening game of the second set, but had to save three break points to keep his lead serving at 2-1.  Once he got a second break, Ayeni began to press, with unforced errors mounting, and Wolf giving him no free points.  Wolf held for 5-1 then went up 40-0 in the final game, with Ayeni double faulting on the second match point to give Wolf the win.

A month ago, Wolf was in a boot for a stress fracture in his foot, so reaching the final this week was not something he allowed himself to think about.

"I wasn't sure if I was going to get it off in time to start practicing for the tournament," Wolf said. "I barely made it. I tried not to think about Kalamazoo, because this is my last year, and I if I didn't get to play, it would be rough."

Wolf's successful first semester at Ohio State, where he played No. 2 and finished the year ranked No. 50 in the country, provided him with valuable experience and training opportunities that aren't often available in junior tennis.

"When you're a junior, depending on where you're training, a lot of times you don't have other guys that can play with you," Wolf said. "It's hard to find that, because everyone's from different places. So I think day-in, day-out, five, six days a week playing hard practices with guys just makes you a lot tougher. I think it trains the fear out of you a little bit and makes me a little more confident when I go out on the court."

Wolf and Kypson have previous history in Kalamazoo, with Kypson taking out Wolf in the semifinals of the 16s en route to the 2015 title. In their most recent meeting, last year at the US Open Junior Championships, Kypson beat Wolf 2-6, 6-3, 6-0 to reach the quarterfinals.

Kypson doesn't think his title back in 2015 will give him any advantage over Wolf in the best-of-five final.

"Playing three out of five, and with JJ having a whole season at college, I think he got a lot of experience from that,"  said Kypson, who will be trying to match Bogomolov's accomplishments in 1998 and 2001. "In college, you obviously play for more than just yourself. You learn to manage your nerves a little bit better. I think we're both in pretty good shape going into the final, we know each other pretty well, and it's going to be a good match."

While the drama was minimal in the 18s semifinals, the 16s did provide tension.  Although Nakashima has yet to drop a set in the tournament, he acknowledged that No. 3 seed Siem Woldeab presented a challenge in Nakashima's 6-4, 6-3 victory.

"It was a close one," said the 16-year-old from San Diego. "He was playing pretty well so I had to play my best at the right times. He started out well, and I knew I had to play my best the whole match. He gets a lot of balls back, runs everything down, doesn't miss much, so I had to try to take time away from him, come to net, and play my game."

Woldeab's defense is difficult to penetrate, but his commitment to a more offensive style of play was apparent to Nakashima, who had beaten him in the semifinals of the Southern California 18s sectionals earlier this summer.

"Today I felt like his was playing a lot more aggressive," said Nakashima, who needed five set points to close out the first set, after trailing 3-1. "I feel like in the other matches, he was just trying to get balls back, hoping the other guy was going to miss.  But today he knew he had to try to be aggressive, to try to hit as many winners as he could."

In the second set, Nakashima again went down an early break, but broke back, took a 4-1 lead, then allowed Woldeab to get back on serve. But a loose service game by Woldeab at 3-4 gave Nakashima the chance to serve out the match, and despite a subpar serving day, Nakashima was able to close it out, hitting a forehand winner on his first match point.

Dostanic's 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 4 seed Will Grant was a two-hour ordeal, with a strategy change and tournament technology providing and assist.

After recognizing that he was playing too defensively and too far behind the baseline, Dostanic made an adjustment.

"I was like ten feet behind the baseline, running around slicing," said the 15-year-old from Irvine California, who lost the last four games of the first set. "I think in the second and third sets I stepped up more and made less mistakes as well. I let him miss and let him go for the bigger shots, and I was standing closer to the baseline."

In the 10-minute break between the second and third sets, Dostanic received some long distance help from coach Chuck Brymer.

"He was watching at Brymer-Lewis Academy on the live stream," Dostanic said. "He called me and told me what to do."

Dostanic got the decisive break at 3-all in the third set, but serving out a match, especially for a place in the Kalamazoo final, is not easy. Dostanic, who couldn't serve out the first set, got five of six first serves in that final game, converting his second match point when Grant netted a forehand.

"I was very conscious of that," said Dostanic. "Coach told me in tense moments, always get in your first serve. You don't want to give your opponent a chance to hit a winner off your second serve. I think that really helped me win the match."

In the Easter Bowl final, Nakashima beat Dostanic 6-1, 6-2, but Dostanic is expecting Sunday's final to be more competitive.

"I'm feeling very confident," Dostanic said. "I'm playing the best tennis of my life and I'm looking forward to it tomorrow. I knew it would be a tough road, and I'm relieved I made it here, and very excited as well."

Grant's hopes for a gold ball in singles were dashed by Dostanic, but he did leave Kalamazoo with the title in doubles, with partner Tyler Zink.

Grant and Zink, the No. 3 seeds, defeated No. 24 seeds Eshan Talluri and Woldeab 6-2, 6-3 Saturday afternoon on Stowe Stadium's George Acker Court.

The two 16-year-olds had just one sectional title to their credit when they decided to team up in Kalamazoo.

"We played a sectional about six months ago and we won that," said Zink, of Bradenton Florida. "So it was an instant connection. This is just our second tournament together, and it's a good one to win."

Zink said leading early was a key to their success throughout the match.

"One of goals was to keep really good energy, keep positive, and when we got up early, it just made our jobs that much easier," Zink said. " I just thought we played really well."

"We played really aggressive," said Grant, a resident of Boca Raton Florida. "That's one of the key things. They were pretty solid, had good hands and stuff, but I think once we really pounced on their serves and got to the net, we were winning a lot of points."

Up 5-3 in the second set, Grant and Zink refused to concede Talluri's service game, even down 40-0.  Talluri and Woldeab saved three match points in the five-deuce game, but on the fourth, Talluri's forehand sailed long and Grant and Zink celebrated with a chest bump.

"It's an honor," Grant said of the title. "It's one of the most prestigious tournaments, not in America, but in the world. So to be on the board with the other people who have made it as a career, it's pretty special. It's really cool."

In the 18s doubles final, top seeds Vasil Kirkov and DJ Thomas claimed a tight first set, then went on to defeat No. 2 seeds Oliver Crawford and Kypson 7-6(1), 6-2.

Neither team faced a break point in the first set, which made the lopsided tiebreaker an even bigger surprise.

"Everyone was serving really well," said Kirkov. "Once we got to a tiebreak we knew that we needed a lot of first serves, to execute at the net. Every point matches in a tiebreaker, so we couldn't play any loose points. Once we got a mini-break in the beginning, it kind of helped us get through it, once we got a lead, we just took off with it."

"Tiebreaks can go either way," Thomas said. "Whoever wins the first two points has the momentum and can usually run through it. So our goal was to start off with first serves, energy, close into the net, play some tight tennis."

The tension eased considerably when they broke Crawford in the third game of the second set and Kypson in the fifth.

"We relaxed a little bit more," said Thomas, who served out the match after three deuces.  "We got another break and then I think we relaxed a little too much, had a close service game there, but we held it together. I'm happy with the way we played."

Kirkov and Thomas will receive a main draw wild card into the men's doubles draw at the US Open and are not particular about their opponents.

"Bryan brothers wouldn't be bad," said the 17-year-old Thomas. "I'd like to give that a go."

"Every team in the US Open is going to be tough," said the 18-year-old Kirkov. "There's not much you can choose. But having a big name out there is good experience."

Kirkov has played the US Open Juniors twice and the men's qualifying last year as the Kalamazoo finalist, but Thomas has never been to Flushing Meadows, so he'll be relying on Kirkov to show him the ins and outs of the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center.

Kirkov had no plans to celebrate aside from a late night flight home to Tampa, but Thomas still has unfinished business. He is still in the feed-in tournament and will play Sam Riffice at 9 a.m. on Sunday morning in the semifinals.

The bronze ball match in the 16s doubles went to No. 1 seeds Robert Cash and Ryder Jackson. They defeated No. 2 seeds Eliot Spizzirri and Spencer Whitaker 6-4, 6-2.

Third place in the 18s doubles went to John McNally and Wolf, the No. 3 seeds, who were given a walkover by Nathan Perrone and Jake Van Emburgh.

For complete results in all singles, doubles and feed-in draws, see ustaboys.com.

The 16s singles final is scheduled to begin at 11:30 Sunday, with the 18s singles final to follow. Streaming, with commentary, will be available here.

The finals are set for the girls 18s, with No. 33 seed Kelly Chen facing No. 3 seed Ashley Kratzer.  Chen, a rising freshman at Duke, defeated No. 12 seed Caty McNally 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, while Kratzer downed No. 8 seed Whitney Osuigwe 7-6(6), 6-0.  The final will be shown on Tennis Channel beginning at 4 p.m. EDT Sunday.

The girls 16s title went to No. 9 seed Angelica Blake, who beat No. 14 seed Nikki Redelijk, her friend and doubles partner, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4. Blake and Redelijk won the 16s doubles title later in the afternoon.

Complete results from San Diego are available at the Tennis Link site.

The finals were also played today in the 12s and 14s divisions.

At the girls 12s in Alpharetta Georgia, No. 2 seed Eleana Yu defeated No. 9 seed Natalie Block 6-3, 6-1.

At the girls 14s in Rome Georgia, No. 17 seed Robin Montgomery defeated No. 33 seed Reese Brantmeier 6-0, 6-1.

At the boys 12s in Mobile Alabama, No. 4 seed Lucas Brown defeated No. 1 seed Aidan Kim 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.

At the boys 14s in Mobile Alabama, No. 4 seed Saud Alhogbani defeated No. 17 seed Ben Shelton 7-5, 6-3.

The second-seeded USA girls team won the title at the ITF World Junior Tennis competition in the Czech Republic today, beating top seed Ukraine 2-1.  Cori Gauff and Charlotte Owensby won the doubles point to seal the victory, after Gauff had evened the match with a win at No. 1 singles. Gauff, 13, went 6-0 in singles during the week, leading the USA to a record seventh title at the 14-and-under team event.

The unseeded Swiss team won the boys title, beating No. 3 seed Spain 2-1.  For more on today's finals, see the ITF Junior website.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Dostanic and Woldeab Earn 16s Semifinal Berths with Three-Set Wins; Doubles Finals Set; Osuigwe Down Liu in Girls 18s; US Girls Reach World Junior Tennis Finals

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Kalamazoo MI--

Friday was quarterfinal day for the 16s at Stowe Stadium, with top seed Brandon Nakashima and No. 4 seed Will Grant posting straight-sets wins.  The drama was in the other two contests, with No. 3 seed Siem Woldeab coming from behind to defeat No. 7 seed Alex Lee 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 and No. 8 seed Stefan Dostanic riding a roller coaster before posting a 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 win over No. 2 seed Andrew Dale.

For Woldeab, three sets are business as usual.  Four of his five wins have come in three sets, with three of them from a set down.  In Friday's match with Lee, Woldeab trailed 3-1 in the third set, yet he admitted after his third round match that he often plays better when he is behind.

"I was nervous," said the 16-year-old from Le Mesa California. "I've been training for this tournament all year and the nerves kind of showed in my matches in the first set. But then I just tell myself to relax. If I'm going to go out, I'm going to go out trying my hardest, and that's what I told myself when I was down 1-3. It was a great match and he's a great competitor."

Serving at 3-2, Lee was broken at love, at that was all Woldeab needed, although it was his defense with Lee serving at 4-5 in the third that made the difference.

"I don't feel like I necessarily need to go on offense, you know," said Woldeab, who at 30-all chased down Lee's excellent overhead and saw Lee net his second attempt. "You don't win extra points by hitting the ball harder. So you just have to stay in the point. He started getting in his own head in the second set, started missing a lot, so I told myself you don't have to play offensively, he'll miss for you."

That strategy is unlikely to work against top seed Nakashima, who makes few unforced errors even with his aggressive ground strokes. Against No. 6 seed Leighton Allen, Nakashima found himself in many long rallies, but Allen was often on the losing end, with Nakashima earning a 6-2, 6-1 victory.

"He's gotten the better of me most of the time," Woldeab said of Nakashima, who also lives in the San Diego area. "But we'll see how it goes tomorrow. I feel like I'm playing well in the second and third sets, but I've got to come out better in the first set. But I'm feeling good, so I like my chances."

Dostanic's win over Dale featured streaks by both players. Dostanic trailed 5-2 in the first set, then reeled off five straight games to win it. Dale took the first four games of the second set, only to watch as Dostanic won the next four.  Dale broke the string and held for 5-4, then two unforced errors from the Dostanic forehand at 4-5, 30-30 sealed the set for Dale.

Dale got an important hold in a 14-point first game, but Dostanic got a break for a 2-1 lead and another for a 4-1 lead.  After all the twists and turns of the previous two sets, Dostanic wasn't exactly comfortable in that situation, although he was forcing uncharacteristic errors from Dale.

"I knew that if I could from 0-4 to 4-all, I could win the match in the third set," said Dostanic, the third Southern Californian in the 16s semifinals. "I felt really comfortable about my abilities. But I knew I had to keep my focus and keep my energy up to make sure I close the set, instead of letting him back in the match."

Dostanic said his quarterfinal loss to Dale at Carson's International Spring Championships provided him with valuable information on the best way to approach the match.

"I learned I needed to take more control of the points," Dostanic said. "At ISC he was dictating and I was more on the defensive side. And here, I was in control most of the time, when I was winning at least."

Dostanic will face Grant in Saturday's semifinal, after Grant defeated No. 12 seed Garrett Johns 6-3, 6-4.  Grant took the last four games of the first set and five of the first six games in the second set before Johns rebounded, breaking Grant serving for the match at 5-2.  But with a second opportunity, Grant finished it to advance.

The 16s semifinals are set to begin at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, followed by the 18s semifinals.  Patrick Kypson[2] will face Ryan Goetz[29] in one 18s semifinal, with JJ Wolf[5] taking on No. 12 seed Alafia Ayeni in the other.

The doubles finals in both divisions will follow the singles semifinals Saturday.

No. 3 seeds John McNally and Wolf saw their title defense end on Friday with the Ohio pair falling 7-5, 6-2 to No. 2 seeds Oliver Crawford and Kypson.  Crawford and Kypson will face top seeds DJ Thomas and Vasil Kirkov, who needed less than an hour to get by unseeded Nathan Perrone and Jake Van Emburgh 6-2, 6-2.  The winner of that match will receive a main draw wild card into the US Open.

The 16s doubles final will not feature the top seeds as Robert Cash and Ryder Jackson were beaten in Friday's semifinals by Grant and Tyler Zine, the No. 3 seeds, 6-1, 3-6, 6-1.  Grant and Zink will face No. 24 seeds Eshan Talluri and Woldeab, who beat No. 2 seeds Eliot Spizzirri and Spencer Whitaker 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

At the Girls 16 and 18 Nationals in San Diego, No. 8 seed Whitney Osuigwe won the battle of the two most recent girls slam winners, beating No. 2 seed Claire Liu 7-5, 6-7(8), 6-4.  Osuigwe also defeated Liu in three sets in the final of the French Open back in June.  Osuigwe will face No. 3 seed Ashley Kratzer in the semifinals.  In the other semifinal, Caty McNally, seeded 12th, will face Kelly Chen, a No. 33 seed.

The 16s final features No. 14 seed Nikki Redelijk and No. 9 seed Angelica Blake.

Tennis Channel is providing live coverage of the 16s final and 18s semifinals beginning at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time.

The second-seeded US girls advanced to the finals of the World Junior Tennis competition in the Czech Republic with a 2-1 victory over Russia today. Charlotte Owensby lost her singles match, but Cori Gauff won hers, meaning the doubles would decide it. Owensby and Gauff beat Polina Kudermetova and Maria Timofeeva 6-4, 6-4 to advance against top seed Ukraine. Spain and Switzerland will play for the boys title on Saturday.  For other results, see the tournament website.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Wolf Beats Top Seed Riffice, Goetz Surprises McNally in Kalamazoo 18s Quarterfinals; Li Ousts Top Seed Arconada in Girls 18s; Semifinals Set for 12s, 14s

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Kalamazoo MI--

The 18s quarterfinals were full of surprises on Thursday, with only No. 2 seed Patrick Kypson advancing as a higher seed. JJ Wolf took out top seed Sam Riffice 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, No. 12 seed Alafia Ayeni eliminated No. 8 seed DJ Thomas 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-4 and No. 29 seed Ryan Goetz downed No. 6 seed John McNally 6-3, 7-6(4) on a warm and sunny day at Stowe Stadium.

Wolf, a rising sophomore at Ohio State, broke Riffice to start the match, but he was unable to hold on to the lead, and Riffice secured the opening set with a break at 5-6.

"I don't know if there was a dip," Wolf said of his play late in the first set. "I think he started playing a little better, and I missed a couple of shots. But when you're playing a player that good, you just have to roll with it."

Wolf got another early break in the second set, and guarded it throughout the set.

"I think a learned a little bit from my mistakes in the first set," said Wolf, who is playing his first tournament since the NCAAs in May due to a stress fracture. "I kind of rushed when I got up the break instead of settling down. You're kind of in control of the match when you're up a break. I think I relaxed a little bit after he got that first set and it helped me keep holding my serve."

Riffice was not able to put any pressure on Wolf to start the first set, dropping the first game on his serve and throughout the final set he was on the losing end of most of the forehand to forehand rallies. Wolf held his serve easily, taking a 4-0 lead, and broke for the third time in the set with Riffice serving at 1-5. Riffice saved on match point in the game, but when Wolf got a second, he hit four huge forehand in a row, with Riffice finally unable to track the last one down.

Wolf's opponent in Saturday's semifinals will be Ayeni, who celebrated his 18th birthday by coming from a break down in the third set to advance over Thomas.

Thomas led 2-0 in the third set, before Ayeni ran off four straight games. Thomas saved two break points serving at 2-4, but didn't get any hope from Ayeni, who won his final two service games easily to seal the win.

Any hopes Wolf may have had to play future Ohio State teammate John McNally in the final were dashed by Ryan Goetz, who outslugged McNally for his second win of the week over a top 8 seed.

Goetz knew his chance to beat McNally, the 2014 16s champion, required a commitment to aggressive play.

"I played really well and I had to play well to beat John," said the 17-year-old from New York. "He's a great player, he's done so well in the past and I just had to come out swinging, and that's what I did."

After claiming the first set, Goetz focused on maintaining that mindset.

"The natural reaction might be to start playing a little defensive," Goetz said. "I've worked on my game throughout the years to stay aggressive even in those tight situations, like the one just now. I worked on it for years and I was able to show it today."

One such tight situation was serving at 3-4 in the second set tiebreaker, and Goetz came through with two big first serves.

"Those serves helped, because I was able to win those points and go up for the first time in the tiebreaker," said Goetz, who has been training at Saddlebrook since January. "And I was able to capitalize on his missed serves, able to attack him."

Goetz caught the line with a forehand pass, which McNally strenuously argued was out, to earn his first match point. McNally again missed his first serve, got the second serve in, but missed a forehand wide to give Goetz the win.

Goetz's will play his second consecutive Kalamazoo 16s champion on Saturday after 2015 champion Kypson defeated No. 7 seed Sebastian Korda 6-4, 7-6(6). The first set was decided on one loose game by Korda serving at 4-5, the only service break of the match.  In the second set tiebreaker, Kypson squandered two match points at 6-4, with Korda hitting a drop shot winner on the first and a Kypson double faulting on the second. But on his third opportunity Kypson converted, with Korda sending a forehand long to end the match. It was the third time in his five victories that Kypson had closed out a match in a second set tiebreaker.

"I know he won 16s a few years ago," said Goetz, who reached the 18s Clay Courts final last month. "He just semi-ed at Wimbledon Juniors, so that's going to be tough, going to be fun. I think with the way I'm playing now, I can beat anyone, and hopefully he'll be my next victim."

The 16s quarterfinals are set for Friday, with top seed Brandon Nakashima facing No. 6 seed Leighton Allen, No. 3 seed Siem Woldeab playing No. 7 seed Alex Lee, No. 12 seed Garrett Johns meeting No. 4 seed Will Grant and No. 8 seed Stefan Dostanic taking on No. 2 seed Andrew Dale.  Grant and Johns and Woldeab and Lee are scheduled for 11 a.m., with the other two matches to follow.

The doubles semifinals in both divisions will be played on Friday, with the top three seeds in 16s and 18s still alive.

Top seeds Vasil Kirkov and Thomas will play the only unseeded team still remaining, Nathan Perrone and Jake Van Emburgh.  Kirkov and Thomas defeated No. 6 seeds Mac Kiger and Ryan Seggerman 6-1, 4-6, 10-7 and Perrone and Van Emburgh ousted No. 4 seeds Riffice and Gianni Ross 6-4, 7-5.

Defending champions and No. 3 seeds McNally and Wolf came back for a 3-6, 7-5, 10-4 win over No. 5 seeds Alshon and Hilderbrand to set up a semifinal against No. 2 seeds Kypson and Oliver Crawford.  Kypson and Crawford beat No. 12 seeds Sean Sculley and Austen Huang 6-4, 6-4.

Top 16s seeds Robert Cash and Ryder Jackson continued their straight-sets march through the draw, beating No. 9 seeds Zachery Lim and Marcus McDaniel 6-4, 6-0.  They will play No. 3 seeds Tyler Zink and Grant, who also have not lost a set this week, with Zink and Grant beating No. 7 seeds Phillip Jordan and Andres Martin 6-1, 6-3. Woldeab and Eshan Talluri, the No. 24 seeds, advanced with a 2-6, 6-3, 11-9 win over No. 15 seeds Spencer Brachman and Cannon Kingsley andwill play No. 2 seeds Eliot Spizzirri and Spencer Whitaker, who beat No. 14 seeds Nathan Han and Ronan Jachuk 6-3, 6-4.  Spizzirri and Whitaker have also not needed a match tiebreaker in reaching the semifinals.

Complete draws can be found at the ustaboys.com website.

The USTA Girls 16 and 18 National Championships in San Diego also produced some major surprises today, with both top seeds exiting.

Wimbledon girls finalist Ann Li, the No. 10 seed, beat top seed Usue Arconada 6-4, 6-3 in the round of 16, and No. 14 seed Nikki Redelijk took out No. 1 seed Fiona Crawley 6-2 4-6, 6-4 in the 16s quarterfinals.

Girls 16s semifinals:
Nikki Redelijk[14] vs Sedona Gallagher[4]
Angelica Blake[9] vs Connie Ma

Girls 18s quarterfinals:
Ann Li[10] vs Kelly Chen[33]
Caty McNally[12] vs Ashley Lahey[5]
Michaela Gordon[6] vs Ashley Kratzer[3]
Whitney Osuigwe[8] vs Claire Liu[2]

For complete results, see the TennisLink site.

Girls 14s semifinals:
Elaine Chervinsky[17] vs Robin Montgomery[17]
Reese Brantmeier[33] vs Katja Wiersholm[4]

Girls 12s semifinals:
Natalie Block[9] vs Stephanie Yakoff[4]
Aubrey Nisbet[12] vs Eleana Yu[2]

Boys 14s semifinals:
Andrew Chang[17] vs Ben Shelton[17]
Saud Alhogbani[4] vs Hugo Hashimoto[17]

Boys 12s semifinals:
Aidan Kim[1] vs Cooper Williams[3]
Lucas Brown[4] vs Leanid Boika[11]

Complete results from Boys 12s and 14s at TennisLink.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Ayeni Beats No. 4 Seed Crawford; McNally Turns Tables on Kirkov in Kalamazoo 18s Round of 16; Top Four Seeds Move on in 16s Division; USA Teams Reach Quarterfinals at World Junior Tennis Competition

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Kalamazoo MI--

Unpleasant Kalamazoo memories were replaced by happier ones today for No. 12 seed Alafia Ayeni, No. 6 seed John McNally and No. 5 seed JJ Wolf.

Ayeni defeated No. 4 seed Oliver Crawford 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 in the round of 16 today at Stowe Stadium, avenging a loss in his first appearance in Kalamazoo back in 2014.

"There's a lot of history between us in Kalamazoo," said Ayeni, who turns 18 on Thursday. "He's the first guy I lost to here in Kalamazoo. I was up 5-2 against him in all three sets and I still lost [in 2014], and then he ended up making semifinals."

With a relatively easy first set, Ayeni had enough experience playing against Crawford to know he had a lot of work ahead of him despite his lead.

"I was like, he's pretty much got the second in the bag," said Ayeni, who actually came from 5-2 down in the second set, only to have Crawford break him serving at 5-6. "The way Oliver plays is aggressively consistent, his forehand and his return, especially on second serves. That's why I double faulted so much, because I was so nervous he was going to hit a winner off me."

The level was high during the second and third sets, with the lunchtime crowd, enjoying a delightful summer day at Stowe Stadium, showing their appreciation of the many dramatic and entertaining points they played.

Ayeni got the first of his two breaks with Crawford serving at 1-1 in the third set.

"He did really well in that game," said Ayeni, the 2017 Easter Bowl champion. "I was up 40-0 and he brought out three amazing points. Usually in the past, what I would do would be get mad at myself, but I was like, you know what, there's not much I could do about that, so let's try to get the next point. What needed to change for me, as far as improving my results, was my attitude. In those tough situations, in the past, that's where I'd lose it. So I'm proud of myself for staying solid mentally."

Ayeni got a second break to go up 4-1 and served for the match at 5-2, but Ayeni couldn't close the door. And memories of a match earlier this year against Crawford popped into his head.

"I guess it's only been two times that I've been up a break in the third set against him and lost," Ayeni said. "In January, in Costa Rica [Grade 1] I was up a break in the third set against him and ended up losing that match, so it felt good to get the win today. I was really nervous though."

After saving the first match point against him in an amazing rally, Crawford succumbed to nerves on the second, double faulting to give Ayeni the victory.

Ayeni's opponent in Thursday's quarterfinal will be No. 8 seed DJ Thomas, who got by a stubborn Britton Johnson, the No. 32 seed, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.

"Danny's a good friend of mine and I love seeing another African-American in the sport my age," said Ayeni, who has verbally committed to Cornell, but does not know when he'll be starting classes there. "Of course there's Frances [Tiafoe] and Michael [Mmoh] (the past two Kalamazoo 18s champions), but other than that, Danny and I are two of the few at the top."

McNally's 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 win over 2016 finalist Vasil Kirkov, seeded 10th, helped ease the pain of his quarterfinal loss in a third-set tiebreaker to Kirkov last year.

"Last year I played very, very tentative," said McNally, a rising freshman at Ohio State. "He was coming in a lot and I couldn't find the court with my returns, and I still managed to almost win that match. My coach and I and my mom (Lynn Nabors McNally), everyone back home, has been working on me playing a little bit more aggressive and not worrying about the score."

McNally was up 5-3 in the first set, but lost four straight games, and was down a break late in the second set.

"I took my foot off the accelerator a little bit and all of a sudden I found myself down 7-5, 4-3 with him serving," said McNally, the 2014 Kalamazoo 16s champion. "And I just kind of told myself, it's better to lose this match trying to make the right plays, play the correct way, and I sort of started to do that."

McNally took a 2-0 lead in the third set, but Kirkov broke right back and both players held until Kirkov was faced with holding at 4-5. Kirkov missed an overhead and forehand volley for 15-30, and McNally came up with a perfectly executed backhand pass to give himself two match points.  On the first, Kirkov came to the net and hit what he thought was a line-catching volley, but McNally called it out, fell to court, and when Kirkov pleaded with the chair umpire, she said she agreed with McNally's call.

"Obviously after a match like this the tension might be a little bit high, but I don't want any hard feelings and there were no hard feelings from me to him after last year's match," said McNally. " At the end of the second set and the whole third set, I felt the quality of tennis was pretty high....It's a really big win for me because last year was very tough on me, even though JJ [Wolf] and I did win doubles, which made it a little bit better. But obviously, coming to Kalamazoo, you want to play for the US Open wild card."

McNally will play No. 29 seed Ryan Goetz, who beat No. 25 seed Mason Beiler 6-3, 6-3.

The other quarterfinal in the bottom half will feature No. 7 seed Sebastian Korda and No. 2 seed Patrick Kypson.  Kypson got by No. 27 seed Trey Hilderbrand 6-2, 7-6(2) and Korda beat No. 11 seed Alexandre Rotsaert 7-6(5), 6-4.

No. 5 seed JJ Wolf, a rising sophomore at Ohio State, was the third player to erase a bad memory from Kalamazoo. Wolf defeated No. 30 seed Timothy Sah, who had beaten him at the same stage last year in three sets, 6-1, 6-1. Wolf will face top seed Sam Riffice, who beat friend and doubles partner Gianni Ross 7-6(0), 6-2.

Due to rain in the forecast for Friday, the decision was made to play all the 18 quarterfinals on Thursday, instead of splitting them, as is done when weather is expected to cooperate on both days.  The 16s quarterfinals will be played on Friday, with moving indoors considered more appropriate for that age division rather than the 18s, where a US Open main draw wild card is on the line.

Seven of the top eight seeds advanced to Friday's quarterfinals with wins today, with only one round of 16 match going three sets.

Top seed Brandon Nakashima, who had a tough fourth round match on Tuesday, was back in cruise mode Wednesday, beating No. 24 seed Spencer Whitaker 6-1, 6-0.  He will play No. 6 seed Leighton Allen, who has lost only 11 games in his four victories. Allen downed No. 14 seed Ronan Jachuck 6-1, 6-1.

Even No. 3 seed Siem Woldeab won in straight sets, beating No. 21 seed Andres Martin 6-1, 6-4.  Woldeab had needed three sets to advance in his first three matches.

Clay Court champion Garrett Johns, the No. 12 seed, eliminated the last unseeded player in either division, beating Matthew Che 7-6(5), 6-2.  He will play Will Grant, who dominated No. 13 seed Jaycer Lyeons 6-0, 6-4.

No. 8 seed Stefan Dostanic beat No. 10 seed Tyler Zink 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 and will play No. 2 seed Andrew Dale, who got past No. 15 seed Marcus McDaniel 6-4, 6-1.

Dale had to fight for his life in Tuesday's third round, beating Theodore McDonald, the No. 32 seed, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.

"Theo's a great player and we had a tough match, but I was able to fight it out," Dale said. "My quads were a little bit sore and tight, but I took an ice bath and everything was great from there on."

Dale hadn't won a match in Kalamazoo in 2016, his first year playing Kalamazoo, but the 15-year-old from Virginia.

"I played at Western Michigan all my matches last year," Dale said. "I played on Court 1 for my first round match [this year] and I was definitely tense. It was a change of environment, but I know I'm seeded 2 for a reason."

Dale and Dostanic met in the semifinals of the 16s division at the International Spring Championships in Carson, winning 6-4, 6-3.

"Stefan's a great player," said Dale. "Big back swing on the forehand, puts a lot of pressure on his opponents. I'm looking forward to playing him."

The doubles round of 16 was completed Wednesday evening, with the top 6 seeds in the 18s advancing to Thursday's quarterfinals. Top seeds Kirkov and Thomas were 6-1, 6-3 winners over unseeded Keenan Mayo and Sah, while No. 2 seed Crawford and Kypson needed a match tiebreaker to beat unseeded Robert Baylon and Eric Hahn 6-1, 1-6, 10-6.

In the 16s, the top three seeds are all still alive, with Robert Cash and Ryder Jackson, Eliot Spizzirri and Whitaker, and Grant and Zink all advancing in straight sets.

For complete results, see the ustaboys.com website.

At the ITF World Junior Tennis competition for 14-and-under teams, the United States advanced to the semifinals by going 3-0 in the round robin phase of the tournament.  The No. 1 seeded US boys beat Italy 2-1 with Martin Damm and Toby Kodat taking the doubles point, and the No. 2 seeded US girls beat France 2-1 with Cori Gauff and Charlotte Owensby winning the doubles point to secure the victory.  The US boys play No. 3 seed Spain on Thursday, with the US girls taking on No. 4 seeds Australia.  For complete results, see the ITF tournament site.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Goetz Ousts No. 3 Seed Bryde in Kalamazoo 18s Fourth Round Action; Top 16s Seed Nakashima, No. 2 Seed Dale Tested but Survive

©Colette Lewis 2017--
Kalamazoo MI--

The first three rounds of the 18s at the USTA National Championships featured little intrigue and that looked to be continuing in round four when top seed Sam Riffice and No. 2 seed Patrick Kypson cruised in their Stowe Stadium show court matches Tuesday.  But on the back courts, drama was available on nearly every court, with five of the Top 16 seeds falling, including No. 3 seed and 2016 semifinalist Trent Bryde.

No. 29 seed Ryan Goetz didn't look like he was going to be the player to take out the first Top 4 seed in either age division when he fell behind Bryde 3-0 in the first set. But the 17-year-old from New York won the final four games of both sets to claim a 6-4, 6-3 victory.

Serving for the first set at 5-4 ad in, Goetz was given a point penalty for an audible obscenity, but managed to compose himself and close out the set.

"The emotions were running and I got a point penalty on my set point," said Goetz. "At deuce I won the point, but I got coded before that and we played a point, and then the ref on the sideline came over and give me a point penalty.  So I had to fight through that and I closed it out on the third or fourth set point."

Goetz sensed Bryde was struggling as they began the second set.

"I had to stay with him and wait for my opportunity," said Goetz. "I was feeling he was getting shaky and I was playing better and better after every game, feeling more and more confident. I had to wait for my opportunity and that came at 3-all."

Goetz, a finalist at the Clay Courts last month, spent a long stretch in Europe during May and June, picking up wins and confidence.

"Clay Courts, Europe, that all helped," Goetz said. "It made me match tough. I played a lot of singles matches, a lot of doubles matches, so I was match tough, ready for every match. I played great players over there and throughout Clay Courts, so I felt comfortable playing a guy like Trent, who was Top 10 ITF."

Goetz noted all the college coaches watching his match, but the rising senior said he is going to take his time before he makes a decision.

"I don't know when I'll make my decision," Goetz said. "I'll take my officials, probably all five of them. I'll be patient with it. I like to take my time with this, because it obviously affects the rest of my life, really. That's the biggest decision so I want to take my time."

Goetz, who won the Eddie Herr 16s title in 2015, said this win was probably the biggest of his career.

"It's probably the biggest ranking-wise, and what he's done," Goetz said. "He won the Grade A in Brazil, he's always done well, he's in every match it seems, so it was good to get the win, especially in straight sets."

Goetz will play another 17-32 seed with a one-handed backhand, No. 25 seed Mason Beiler, who beat No. 13 seed Brian Cernoch 6-3, 1-6, 6-1.

According to No. 30 seed Timothy Sah, Kalamazoo brings out the best in his tennis, and he has the results to prove it.  Last year Sah reached the quarterfinals with a win over No. 3 seed JJ Wolf.  This year, Sah earned a rematch with Wolf in the same round by beating No. 14 seed Andrew Fenty 7-5, 6-7(4), 6-1.

"It's just a great atmosphere," said the Stanford rising freshman. "I really like how the courts play, there's so many people watching, it's such a prestigious tournament. I've been looking forward to it all year."

Sah had the unusual experience of talking to his longtime coach Steve Adamson during the break between the second and third sets.

"This is the first time he's traveled with me outside the state," said the San Diego California resident. "It's awesome having him here. There were a few other guys who I train with here and they came out for the third set too. It's nice to play with some support."

Sah said he executed well in the final set.

"I just tried to keep my energy up and stick to the game plan," Sah said. "In the third set against a good player you're going to be tired. But I tried to make sure I kept to my game plan."

No. 5 seed Wolf earned another shot at Sah with a tough 7-6(8), 6-3 win over No. 28 seed Jake Sands. Sands had a set point at 7-6 in the tiebreaker, but Wolf, a rising sophomore at Ohio State, saved it with a good first serve. Sands saved two set points, but his two unforced errors at 8-8 gave Wolf the first set, and Wolf won the second with less accumulated tension.

In addition to Bryde, Cernoch and Fenty, two other Top 16 seeds were eliminated. No. 32 seed Britton Johnston beat No. 16 seed Harris Walker 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 and No. 27 seed Trey Hilderbrand took out 2016 16s champion Lukas Greif, the No. 15 seed, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

No. 10 seed Vasil Kirkov, who reached the 18s final last year, saved a match point in his 1-6, 6-1, 7-5 victory over unseeded Austin Di Giulio.
Serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set, Di Giulio went down 15-40, but then won three straight points to earn a match point. Kirkov saved it, hitting a drop shot winner that caught Di Giulio by surprise then won the next two points, broke and held for the comeback win.

In the 16s division, all four top seeds moved into the round of 16, but not without some anxious moments for the top three.

No. 2 seed Andrew Dale fought back for a 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 32 seed Theodore McDonald, and No. 3 seed Siem Woldeab won his third consecutive three-setter, beating No. 37 seed Emilio Nava 6-4, 6-7(3) 6-0.  No. 4 seed Will Grant earned a straightforward 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 29 seed Robert Cash but top seed Brandon Nakashima got his first test of the tournameant from No. 20 seed Cannon Kingsley, earning a 7-5, 6-3 victory.

"He had a little bit of a slow start the first couple of games, but after that he was playing pretty well," said the 16-year-old from San Diego, who got an early break to open the match. "I knew today was going to be a tough one and I had to step up my game to get through today."

Nakashima won the Southern California 18s sectionals this summer and would have qualified for the 18s division here, but he and coaches Larry Stefanki and Christian Groh decided the 16s were the better option for him.

"It was a tough decision, but my coaches back in San Diego wanted me to play 16s, to get the gold ball and eventually into the US Open," Nakashima said. "I have two more years to play 18s after this, so it should be good."

Nakashima is now wearing Lacoste clothing after years with Nike.

"After this tournament last year, Nike dropped me because I wasn't playing enough ITFs and I wasn't home schooled," Nakashima said. "A few weeks before this tournament my coach helped me get a sponsorship with Lacoste and we just got the clothes right in time before we left for here."

Nakashima's opponent in Wednesday round of 16 is No. 24 seed Spencer Whitaker, who beat No. 11 seed Andrew Zhang 6-1, 6-1.

Matthew Che is the only unseeded player left in either division, after he beat a seed for the second consecutive day.  Che, who beat No. 5 seed Jacob Bullard on Monday, came back to defeat No. 22 seed Phillip Jordan 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. He will face 16s Clay Courts champion Garrett Johns, the No. 12 seed, who also needed a comeback against No. 18 seed Eliot Spizzirri, recording a 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 win.

18s doubles had the day off on Tuesday, but the 16s third round of doubles was completed, with top seeds Robert Cash and Ryder Jackson moving on with a 6-1, 6-4 win over unseeded Jonathan Dzung and Spencer Gray. No. 2 seeds Spizzirri and Whitaker also advanced in straight sets, beating No. 30 seeds Georgi Mavrodiev and Scott Sculley 6-3, 6-4.

Wednesday evening is the traditional Night at the Nats, with round of 16 doubles in both divisions beginning around 5 p.m. The 16s doubles will be at Western Michigan University.

Complete results from Tuesday's matches are available at ustaboys.com.

Live streaming is available at http://ustaboys.secantnet.net/