El Mihdawy beats Jenkins in Thrilling Third Set Tiebreak in 16s; Smyczek and Levine to Meet Saturday in Semis
Five times the tournament's most exciting match hung in the balance, but continued. It wasn't until the sixth and final match point that the crowd could exhale after Adam El Mihdawy and Jarmere Jenkins battled for over two hours in their 16s quarterfinal Friday. El Mihdawy, the fifth seed, finally grabbed his fifth chance in the third set tiebreak to earn a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9) victory.
Jenkins, the fourth seed, saved the match for the first time at 4-6 in the tiebreak with a service winner. El Mihdawy then double-faulted to waste chance #2.
"As soon as I missed the first serve I knew I was double-faulting," the 16-year-old from Long Island City, NY said after the match. "I didn't have a choice, I had to," he joked.
The third match point, at 7-6, Jenkins again bombed a service winner, and at 8-7 saved another at the net. The lunch crowd, enjoying the perfect tennis weather, cheered heartily as the tension mounted with each point.
At 8-8, Jenkins tried an ineffective drop shop, but inexplicably El Mihdawy netted the easy putaway. Now it was El Mihdawy's turn to face the pressure of a match point, and Jenkins controlled the action from the beginning. With El Mihdawy pulled off the court and deep behind the baseline, Jenkins stood at the net waiting to put away the volley and the match, but somehow El Mihdawy flicked an unreachable crosscourt passing shot by him and it was 9-9.
After another change of ends, Jenkins served again, but hit a backhand wide to give El Mihdawy one more chance. This time he made sure on his first serve and pasted a backhand winner to record his second third-set tiebreak victory in as many days.
"I wasn't as nervous going into the tiebreaker," said El Mihdawy, who defeated 11th seed JT Sundling in a third set tiebreak on Wednesday. "It gave me a little bit more confidence."
On Saturday, El Mihdawy will face second seed Ryan Thacher, who also needed to survive a long tiebreak to advance, although it was in the second set, not the third, in his 6-1 7-6(8) victory.
Unseeded Ty Trombetta was overwhelmed in the first set by the 6-foot-3 lefthander from Southern California, but when Thacher failed to serve it out at 5-3, Trombetta seized the opportunity.
"I played a poor game," said Thacher, who turns 17 in October. "And he started elevating his game and anticipating where my balls were going to go and running them down. Then it got nitty-gritty."
Trombetta, of Hallendale Fla., held set points at 6-5 and 8-7 in the tiebreak, and Thacher a match point at 7-6, but he finally ended it with a backhand volley winner at 9-8.
"He could have easily gotten demoralized being down a set and a break with me serving for the match," said Thacher. "But he stayed in there and that's to his credit; if a couple of things had gone his way it could have been a third set."
Thacher and El Mihdawy last played in the finals of the Winter Nationals in Scottsdale in January, a meeting Thacher won easily.
"He really took himself out of the match early," Thacher said. "I anticipate that he'll fight a lot more. There's a few things I remember about the match, but as a whole, it may be as if we've never played before."
In the other 16s semifinal, 12th seed Alex Domijan faces top seed Brennan Boyajian.
After the thrills of the 16s matches, the 18s quarterfinals were anticlimatic. Tim Smyczek, the third seed, defeated fifth seed Alex Clayton 6-4, 6-2, but didn't look at the match as routine.
"It may have looked easy," said the 18-year-old from Hales Corners WI, "but it wasn't as easy as the score showed."
Smyczek credited his return and an off day by Clayton serving for the bulk of his success.
"He always serves big," said Smyczek, "but today he was just missing a lot of first serves and I was able to capitalize on his second a lot."
In Saturday's semifinal Smyczek will meet second seed Jesse Levine who dominated seventh seed Kellen Damico 6-1, 6-1.
"I know Kellen didn't play his best tennis obviously" said Levine, who has lost only 12 games in his five matches. "I did my best to try to keep him out of his game."
Smyczek and Levine met in the quarterfinals in 2005, with Levine winning that contest. "I know he's going to be out for some revenge," said Levine, 18. "Everytime we've played it's been a tough match. I'll definitely have a game plan going into it."
Levine credits his work at the Bollettieri Academy in Bradenton Fla. for preparing him for the high level of tennis he's played in the past few months.
"I've been hitting a lot with guys like (Tommy) Haas and (Max) Mirnyi and I get to play sets with them all the time," said the lefthander from Boca Raton, Fla. "It's a different mentality they have, and a different ball as well....some of other guys haven't had that experience. It's definitely helped me a lot."
Saturday's other semifinal will pit top seed Donald Young against No. 4 seed Marcus Fugate.
The doubles finalists were decided Friday afternoon in both divisions.
Unseeded giant-killers Nicolas Andrews and Jamie Hutter, who had upset the top seeded team of Boyajian and Zach Hunter on Thursday, could not find a way to stop the third seeds--Jenkins and partner Austin Krajicek, 6-3, 6-3 winners. Jenkins and Krajicek, who have been playing together for a year and call themselves "shake and bake," meet the newly formed team of Adam El Mihdawy and Bradley Klahn. Fifth seeded, El Mihdawy and Klahn, who teamed up only because Klahn's previous partner withdrew with an injury, overcame another new combo, Devin Britton and Waylon Chin, the second seeds, 6-2, 4-6, 6-2.
In the 18s it will No. 1 versus No. 2 as Clayton and Young, the 2005 US Open Junior Champions, go against Jamie Hunt and Nate Schnugg. Clayton and Young put an end to the run of unseeded Steve Forman and Cory Parr 6-4, 6-4, Friday afternoon, while Hunt and Schnugg took the last four games of the match to squeeze by the fifth seeded team of Chase Buchanan and Fugate 6-1, 5-7, 7-5.
"He dips it, and I rip it," said Clayton in describing their style. "Clayton's serve brings us out of a lot things," Young said, while Clayton credited Young's crosscourt return and lefty forehand as a strength of the team.
The doubles finals will follow the singles semifinals on Saturday afternoon.