Top Two Seeds Meet in Both 16s & 18s Singles Finals on Sunday
The top two seeds in each division will meet in Sunday's finals at the National Championships in Kalamazoo.
No. 1 seed Brennan Boyajian and No. 2 seed Ryan Thacher earned their chances at the 16s title with straight set victories under the clear blue skies and low humidity that have been the norm all week.
In the 18s, top seed Donald Young will defend his title against second seed Jesse Levine, with the winner earning a main draw wild card for the U.S. Open later this month.
Boyajian formulated a strategy to counteract the power of Alex Domijan, his semifinal opponent and it lead to a 6-3, 6-4 victory.
"I was going to his backhand, but also making him hit on the run," said Boyajian. "Don't just keep it to his backhand, because then he'll get used to it and start hitting that. I knew I couldn't just loop the ball...or give him a short ball. He'd hit a winner."
Domijan, who trains at the Saddlebrook Tennis Center near Tampa, is only 14, but already over 6-foot-4. As the 12th seed, he was a surprise semifinalist, and he was optimistic despite the loss.
"I thought I played well today," said Domijan. "He's improved his game a lot. I used to play him a lot--not recently--and he just used to get the ball back. Now he's added a lot of offense to his game, and that made it very difficult to beat him."
Without a huge serve to rely on, Boyajian often finds himself battling for every game, but it was Domijan that gave up the key service break in the second set. At 3-3, Domijan survived an eight deuce game, but after Boyajian held for 4-4, Domijan was quickly broken and the 2006 Easter Bowl and Clay Court champion served it out.
His opponent in the Easter Bowl final will be across the net again on Sunday, as the No. 2 seeded Thacher dispatched fifth seed Adam El Mihdawy of Long Island City New York, 6-4, 6-0. Thacher broke El Mihdawy only once in the first set, with the key point of the match coming at 5-4 40-30, Thacher's set point.
Every kind of stroke was displayed, but the 6-foot-three inch lefthander from Studio City Calif. executed the "tweener" which kept him in the point.
"I think it's a totally useful shot," said Thacher. "I don't do it to get the crowd all riled up. I think it was the best way I could have gotten to the ball. I actually mis-hit it, but it turned out better that way, because it got up high on him and he wasn't expecting it."
Thacher eventually won the point with a backhand down the line and a demoralized El Mihdawy threw his racquet, drawing a point penalty. He never recovered his game.
"The second set I got a little tired," said El Mihdawy. "There were some good points, I just didn't win any of them."
"Adam hits his share of winners," said Thacher. "But going for as much as he does, he'll make mistakes also. I feel like I move around the court pretty well and I can run down shots, so if I keep the majority of my balls in the court, it would be a good strategy for me."
Thacher, who went down in straight sets to Boyajian at the Easter Bowl, described his play in that match as "frankly pretty stupid." He said he expects to keep it together better on Sunday, "and hopefully have a better result."
For his part Boyajian is expecting a battle. "There's going to be long points, baseline points, but a good match for sure."
In the 18s, Donald Young thoroughly dominated No. 4 seed Marcus Fugate, breaking the hard-serving righthander from New York five times, while losing his own serve only once in a 6-3, 6-1 win.
Young approached the net often, and his aggressive play was a response to his loss to Fugate in a Florida Futures event in January.
"Last time, he attacked me and came in, and that's how he beat me," said the 17-year-old, who now lives in Atlanta. "I missed a couple of shots when he put the pressure on me, so I tried to do the same."
"I couldn't physically stay in the points as long as I wanted to," said Fugate, 18. "So I was trying to go for a little more, a little too early and it didn't pay off."
The only three-set match of the day saw second seed Levine outlast third seed Tim Smyczek 6-7 (2), 6-1, 6-4, in a battle of depth and pace from baseline to baseline.
Levine, of Boca Raton Fla., spurted to a 4-1 lead in a first set that lasted over an hour. Smyczek got that one break back when Levine couldn't covert four set points at 5-3, and when a close baseline call deprived him of the first set, Levine lost his composure.
Slamming a ball so forcefully that it shot into the crowd, Levine received a point penalty for ball abuse, drawing boos from the large crowd. With a 15-0 lead in his next service game, Smyczek held, then broke a still angry Levine at love, but couldn't serve out the set, which lead to tiebreak, notable mainly for Levine's frequent double faults.
"Maybe for the rest of the first set I let it carry over a little bit," said Levine. "I was thinking too much about last year," he said, referring to his difficulties with line calls in a three-loss to Sam Querrey in the 2005 semifinals. "It definitely took its toll the rest of the first set."
With Levine struggling with his emotions, Smyczek, from Hales Corners, Wisc. couldn't capitalize and proceeded to lose nine straight games after winning the first game of the second set.
"I was able to fight back a little bit in the third," said Smyczek, who evened the match at 4-4, "but when it came down to it, I'll just say I had another tough call go against me." At 4-5 30-15, Smyczek hit what he thought was an ace, but it was called a fault, and when his second serve missed, his position was precarious.
"It seemed like every time there was a ball anywhere near the line for either of us the line judges were pretty eager to have their voices heard," Smyczek said. Two points later, he was shaking Levine's hand at the net and wishing him well in Sunday's clash of lefthanders.
The doubles championships were decided on Saturday afternoon, with top seeds Alex Clayton and Donald Young securing the title with a 6-1, 6-4 win over an ailing Jamie Hunt and his partner Nate Schnugg, the second seeds.
Hunt took the court more for his partner than for himself, a victim of an upset stomach that had surfaced after breakfast. Down 5-1 he vomited several times, and took a medical timeout and looked on the verge of retiring when in the next game, he was sick again.
"You can't retire in this kind of match just because you're throwing up a little bit," said a pale and shaky Hunt afterward. "I just tried my best."
At 3-2 in the second set, Hunt was sick again, but continued to play and managed to hold his serve for 4-4. But the strength of Clayton and Young, the 2005 US Open Junior Doubles Champions, told in the end, as they broke Schnugg for the victory and the main draw U.S. Open wild card that goes with it.
"It was pretty honorable that he kept on playing when he was throwing up like that," said Clayton during the rather subdued postmatch interviews. "He fights hard, I've know it for a while. I'm sorry that he got sick."
In the 16s doubles, fifth seeds El Mihdawy and Bradley Klahn, playing together for the first time, defeated the third seeded team of Jarmere Jenkins and Austin Krajicek 7-6 (2), 6-2 to capture their first gold balls as USTA National champions.
"Throughout the first set we didn't have many break point opportunities," said Klahn, of Poway Calif. "They served well, and played well. But in the tiebreak, we stepped it up, made a lot more returns, made them play some volleys and we got a few errors out of them."
El Mihdawy, who lives only minutes away from the National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow New York, is counting on a wild card to the U.S. Open Junior Championships for he and Klahn, although Klahn admits that although it was a goal to win in Kalamazoo, it was not expected.
"We're both good singles players," Klahn said. "so I expected us to do well, but winning it is a little bit of a surprise, considering there's a lot of good teams in the tournament. But it was always possible."
The 16s singles championship match begins on Sunday at 11:30 a.m., followed by the 18s final, which will be best of five sets.
Source: Colette Lewis (Tournament Office)