Saturday Promises Exciting Matchups In Doubles Championships
Fans in Kalamazoo can make their own claim to the longest drought in tennis. After all, there do exist British tennis fans who can still remember seeing Perry win his last championship. The city of Kalamazoo has played host to the Boys 18 & 16 Super National Championships for 60 years, starting in 1943. No hometown player had ever made a final here in any draw, let alone won a title, though the fans here have embraced many champions throughout the years as their own.
On Friday afternoon, Nick Rinks took a giant step toward ending Kalamazoo's lamentable streak. He and partner Vahid Mirzadeh of Wellington FL defeated the heavy-hitting 8th seeds Scoville Jenkins of Atlanta GA and Nathan Sachs of Alpharetta GA 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-3 in the semifinals of the 16 doubles championships. When Rinks takes the court on Saturday, he will be the first Kalamazoo player to experience a championship final.
Opposing Mirzadeh and Rinks in Saturday's championship match are 11th seeds Adam Loucks of Irvine CA and Brandon Wai of San Diego CA. On Friday evening, Loucks and Wai defeated 10th seeds Alex Kuznetsov of Richboro PA and Michael Johnson of Bradenton FL 6-3, 6-2. In five matches in doubles play this week, Loucks and Wai have yet to drop a set.
The 16 doubles championship is scheduled for Saturday afternoon at 2:30 PM with the 18 doubles championship to follow.
The 18s doubles championship on Saturday features defending champions and top seeds Rajeev Ram of Carmel IN and Jonathan Stokke of Durham NC versus surprise finalists John Isner of Greensboro NC and Brett Ross of Roswell GA, the ninth seeds.
Ram and Stokke looked every bit the number one seeds in their routine 6-1, 6-3 victory over the 3rd seeded team James Pade of Woodside CA and Douglas Stewart of Malibu CA. Ram and Stokke have yet to lose a set in the doubles draw this year and have lost more than five games in a match only once.
Not that Ram and Stokke's dominance should intimidate 9th seeds Isner and Ross. On Friday night, the duo added a thrilling victory over 2nd seeds Stephen Amritraj of Calabasas CA and Prakash Amritraj of Encino CA to their expanding list of upset victims.
Early in the semifinal match, a #1 seed versus #2 seed final seemed probable as Amritraj and Amritraj stormed out to a 6-2 first set victory. Isner and Ross were able to convert a late break in the second set for 6-4 set win. Neither team could do much against the other team's serve in the third set. Trailing 4-5, Stephen Amritraj put all six of his first serves in play and won the game to even the set at 5-all. The 2nd seeds might have had a chance to break Ross's serve in the next game, but a controversial non-call on the service line at 40-30 left Isner and Ross celebrating a 6-5 lead and Prakash Amritraj tossing his headband in frustration. When no overrule was forthcoming, he was able to calm his nerves and easily hold to force the third set tiebreak.
In the tiebreak, Isner took advantage of his opponents' unwillingness to attempt a lob over his 6 foot 7 inch frame and hit several volley winners with his racquet inches from the net. He and Ross led 5-1 at the changeover. Prakash Amritraj hit a service winner to cut the lead to 5-2, but the match looked all but over as Isner had two serves and had given the second seeds trouble all match with his high kicker. Remarkably, both Stephen and Prakash handled the Isner serve and earned back both mini-breaks with service returns that Isner could not handle. Stephen then double faulted to give Isner and Ross two match points up 6-4. Isner wasted no time putting away the match when, off a second serve, he ripped a solid return at Stephen's feet and then stabbed a backhand volley winner past the off-balance Amritraj.
Saturday's 18 doubles final match offers a lot of intrigue for tennis fans. Isner and Ross are looking for their fourth straight upset of a higher seeded team. They have already defeated the 8th seeds, the 4th seeds, and the 2nd seeds in the draw. Ram and Stokke are hoping to defend their 2001 18 doubles championship and return to the Main Draw at the 2002 U. S. Open Doubles Championship in Flushing NY. Rajeev Ram also has a chance to exact a certain amount of revenge, since John Isner knocked him out of the singles main draw in the fourth round.