It was a perfect day in College Park for the Junior Tennis Champions Center’s 11th annual Free Tennis Day. As a connoisseur of Kids Days, if there is such a thing, I particularly enjoyed this one. This was a Kids Day with a twist. There was no moon bounce and no face painting going on here. This was the real deal.
You’re not just having fun, kids.
You’re being watched. And timed. And measured.
If you’re a tennis parent who even once fantasized about your 4 year old playing college tennis someday, this was your kind of Kids and Parents Day. Mine slept on the ride from Baltimore to the JTCC and woke up on the wrong side of the car seat. She was #48 and she defaulted when she demanded to be carried in from the car. Annabel settled on hitting solo against the wall.
There were over 350 people on hand for the event and at least 125 kids participating. Over the next two weeks, the JTCC’s coaching staff will deliberate over the participant’s performances. 20 of the entrants will receive offers for summer camp scholarships and one will receive a scholarship into the Junior Tennis Champions Center. Remember, this is the same event where today’s Tallahassee Champion Denis Kudla was ‘discovered’ 10 years ago ‘on this very night’, and you begin to understand the allure of this free-for-all event. It’s democracy in action in tennis.
The most unusual part of the day occurred when Slice, the Ms. Pac-Man of the Washington Kastles, was spontaneously attacked by children in an impromptu and slightly-frightening display. By the time the cameras (camera) got there, the little ones had switched to fists from racquets. Slice took it in all stride and has a bright future in elected office. Anyone who can take that kind of feedback at a Town Hall meeting and shake it all off is a lock for Congress.
Stebe-Smyczek and Harrison-Kudla: Your @TallyChallenger Semifinal Matchups
Cedrik-Marcel Stebe will be looking to improve his career record to 2-0 against Tim Smyczek in the first Tallahassee Challenger Semifinal match. Stebe, the only non-American left in the draw, took out Frank Dancevic 6-4 6-3, while Smyczek beat Alex Kuznetsov via 1st set retirement. Kuznetsov was, as I expected, dealing with shoulder problems and found no further reason to continue after clinching the Wild Card the day before. The only previous meeting between Stebe and Smyczek was in Australian Open qualifying this year and Stebe won in straight sets. This will be their first meeting on clay.
Ryan Harrison survived Donald Young 7-6 6-4, while Denis Kudla upset Facundo Arguello by the same score. Harrison beat Kudla in their only meeting, but that was 3 years ago on grass in Newport. Both players are in good form and it should be a great match.
Interview from @TallyChallenger: Gerald Melzer
Gerald Melzer was a good sport in agreeing to an interview with Steen Kirby following a loss in Tallahassee at the hands of Tim Smyczek. There is breaking news in this interview: 22-year-old Melzer may be the first ATP player to admit that he counts ranking points. He also said having a more famous older brother on tour is helpful, but as you might imagine, they don’t get to see each other very often.
You’ve won ten futures titles. Tell me about the difference between Futures and Challenger events.
It’s totally different. In Futures, today would have been enough. There’s a reason why (Smyczek) is #120 in the world. It’s tough. On Challengers, they don’t give you that much anymore. Not a lot of unforced errors and they fight in the end. It’s a different level.
Do you enjoy playing in the U.S.?
Yeah, definitely. I like the green clay, and especially to play the Americans on clay! Even though I lost today, I had a good week in Houston and the week after I played the semifinals in Panama. I hope I can keep it up.
Your goals for 2013?
With those points, I’m like 235 now. It’s by far my career high. It would be nice to play all the Grand Slams and to finish the year under 200.
Are you friends with Austrian compatriot Dominic Thiem?
He’s a good friend of mine, he’s a good buddy. He’s playing really well and I’m sure he’s going to make his way on the tour.
You have a good record in doubles. Do you enjoy playing doubles and does it help the singles game?
Definitely it helps. I play just for fun. Too bad I couldn’t play the last weeks like in Panama because of qualies the next week. I think it definitely helps on the volleys and it’s fun.
Is it a boon or a bane to have a well-known ATP Pro like Jurgen Melzer as your brother?
There are two sides, but it definitely helps more than it affects my game. You know how it is up there. I can only take good stuff out of it.
Do you work at all with his coach and team?
I have my own coach. I actually never see my brother. I see him five to ten times per year. It happens sometimes that I don’t see him for five or six months.
Kuznetsov Secures French Open Wild Card, Ryan Harrison Extends Winning Streak at Tallahassee
Alex Kuznetsov worked through a three set win over Peter Polansky 6-2, 6-7, 6-1 and secured the French Open Wild Card after Facundo Arguello grunted out a win over Wayne Odesnik 6-3, 6-3. Facundo smiled as he walked up to the net and did the familiar Del Potro-style kiss to the sky in victory. Kuznetsov may be dealing with some shoulder issues now, but he can rest much easier with his slam spot secured.
Tim Smyczek got through a tight first set with Gerald Melzer and won 7-6, 6-0. Smyczek was up an early break in the first but slipped on the ground and thereafter gave up the break. Still, he held serve until the tiebreak, won it, and then Melzer faded away fast.
Donald Young had no trouble with Mischa Zverev in beating him for the 2nd time this year, 6-2, 6-2. Young looks to be improving and you can’t help but notice that his on and off court demeanor and attitude seems much improved from where it was last year.
Same can be said for Ryan Harrison, though he did go berserk and snap a racquet in the second set today of his 7-5, 7-5 win over Alex Bogdanovic. Bogdanovic fought hard and made Harrison work for everything in a match played under a steady drizzling rain. In the end, a confident Harrison grabbed the win and advanced to the quarters. He hasn’t lost a match since the first round in Sarasota.
Cedrik-Marcel Stebe survived the young Korean Suk-Young Jeong 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 and cruising in the end. The streaky Denis Kudla managed to muscle his way past Bradley Klahn 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 in a two-hour marathon.
In the nightcap, Frank Dancevic ended the singles run of qualifier Christian” Harrison 6-4, 6-3.
In doubles, Sekou Bangoura and Reid Carleton got a walkover over Kuznetsov/Zverev, Aubone/Mirzadeh beat Davis/R. Harrison 6-2 7-6 and Krajicek/Sandgren took out Basilashvili/Melzer 6-4 6-4.
Melzer-Smyczek, Arguello-Odesnik Headline Wednesday @TallyChallenger
For our final day of onsite coverage in Tallahassee, a pair of early matches will be highlighted.The first is an 11 AM start between Gerald Melzer and Tim Smyczek and the second an after noon start between Facundo Arguello and Wayne Odesnik.
Melzer looked good in his opening round win on Monday, and is comfortable on the clay, while Smyczek also won his opening round match yesterday with enough ease. Smyczek has more experience and has the better ranking, but Melzer has the surface edge. They are also both great movers who employ a full repertoire of shots. They have never met before.
Arguello, meanwhile, is out to avenge his 3-6 0-6 loss to Odesnik two weeks ago in Sarasota in what is their only career meeting. Arguello seemed to struggle through a tough Round 1 match in yesterday’s fiery heat but Odesnik dealt with the same heat and worked out a tough three set win. Fitness should be at a premium in this match between two clay courters.
In other action, Alex Kuznetsov can move even closer to clinching the French Open Wild Card if he can beat Peter Polansky, who cruised through his first round match, while Kuznetsov had a slow start and needed three sets.
Donald Young will take on Mischa Zverev and will be looking to extend his career record to 3-0 over the German in their first meeting on clay.
Ryan Harrison will be looking to keep his win streak alive against Alex Bogdanovic, while Suk-Young Jeong will look to continue his success against Cedrik-Marcel Stebe, who should be fresher after a day off.
Denis Kudla will play Bradley Klahn for the first time on clay. Last year, they split meetings at one each.
In the singles night cap, Frank Dancevic takes on Christian Harrison.
In doubles, Krajicek/Sandgren will play Basilashvili/Melzer, Bangoura/Carleton will play good friends Kuznetsov/Zverev, and former FSU teammates Aubone/Mirzadeh will take on Davis/R. Harrison.
2013 @TallyChallenger Tuesday Recap: Kuznetsov and Odesnik Keep Wild Card Race Alive, Jeong Upsets Russell
2013 @TallyChallenger Tuesday Recap: Kuznetsov and Odesnik Keep Wild Card Race Alive, Jeong Upsets Russell
Alex Kuznetsov and Wayne Odesnik kept the French Open Wild Card race alive for another round as both advanced today in Tallahassee. Kuznetsov looked sluggish at the start against a shot-spotting Jack Sock, but recovered in the 2nd and 3rd sets for a 3-6 6-2 6-3 win. Sock hit the ball well, but his footwork failed him as he was slipping and stumbling on the clay on which he obviously wasn’t used to playing.
Odesnik won a back and forth battle with Denys Molchanov 4-6 6-3 6-4, similar to their previous 3 set match in Sarasota 2 weeks ago. Odesnik is usually quite a rowdy player, but it was Molchanov who provided the spark and spice this time, yelling at himself, and at times, towards his girlfriend sitting in the stands, in Ukrainian, and doing enough physical monologuing to qualify as an announcer for his own match. He may well have found a future career. He also hurled his racquet into the fence after being broken in the 3rd set. Both guys had struggles holding serve at times
The Harrison brothers both grabbed wins: Christian the Younger over Steve Johnson 7-6 6-1, in a match with 1 competitive set and then a letdown from Johnson. The air really came out of his game after losing the opening set tiebreak, and similar to Jack Sock, he struggled with his surface footwork and just didn’t look comfortable moving around
Ryan the Elder found himself in a much tighter match with Taro Daniel, 6-3 6-7 7-6. Daniel showed a lot of big game to hang with the number 2 seed and ATP regular, but Harrison just had that little bit of extra skill that put him over the top in the key moments
Suk-Young Jeong upset top seed Michael Russell 7-6 6-3, as his coaching team cheered him on. Both players were hesitant to get overly aggressive, but Russell never seemed comfortable and was totally out of sorts the entire match, exclaiming loudly near the end “it’s so different than last week!”
In other singles action, Frank Dancevic got past Ilija Bozoljac 7-5 6-3, Tim Smyczek scooted past Greg Jones, who struggled on serve, 6-3 7-5, and Bradley Klahn rolled past Nico Barrientos 6-3 6-2. Mischa Zverev handled Nikolosz Basilashvili 6-4 6-0, Peter Polansky was in a good mood as he finished off Dominic Cotrone 6-2 6-4 and Donald Young struggled a bit with Michael Venus’ serve but Young cracked the code and advanced 7-5 6-4.
In the night cap, Denis Kudla struggled a bit on serve but held strong from the baseline and beat Somdev Devvarman 7-6 6-4, Devvarman giving away the breaks he did have in the match
The match of the day in terms of ball striking alone would have to be Facundo Arguello’s 7-5 7-6 win over Reid Carleton. Both players dealt with burning sun and scorching heat as a visibly tired Arguello labored away against a gritty Carleton. Both players were throwing missiles at each other and grunting loudly. Arguello is also quite a verbalizer and was snapping at his coach in Spanish after almost every point, during changeovers and everything else. Carleton countered with “c’mons” of his own but just didn’t quite have enough to beat the skilled Argentine
In doubles Rice/Thornley beat Gonzales/Letcher 1-6 6-2 10-6, Jones/Polansky beat Barrientos/Molchanov 6-4 6-7 10-6, C. Harrison/Venus beat Bucaro/Lock 6-3 6-4, Kante/Takura beat Saleh/Santiago 6-4 6-4 and Basilashvili/Melzer beat Reed/Sock 4-6 6-3 10-7.
Atlanta Men Crowned National Champs at USTA 9.0 Super Seniors
SURPRISE, Ariz., April, 29, 2013 – The men’s team from Atlanta, Ga., representing the USTA Southern Section, captured the national title at the USTA League 9.0 Super Senior National Championships held at the Surprise Tennis and Racquet Complex in Surprise, Arizona.
The Atlanta defeated a team from Laguna Niguel, Calif. 2-1 in the Championship match. Earlier in the day, the Atlanta team defeated a team from Bass River, Mass. 3-0 in the semifinals. They advanced this far by winning their round-robin flight contested Friday and Saturday.
The team is captained by Hugh Thomson and features Stephen Duffel, Tom Smith, Dale Quigley, Roger Pearce, Marty Pearson, Larry Saheim, Robbin Merriman and plays at the Northeast Georgia Tennis Center.
The top four teams in order of finish are: USTA Southern (Atlanta, Ga.), USTA Southern California (Laguna Niguel, Calif.), USTA New England (Bass River, Mass.) and USTA Eastern (Syosset, N.Y.).
This year’s USTA League 9.0 Super Senior National Championship has drawn the top 21 teams, with 13 men’s teams and 8 women’s teams from all of the United States.
USTA League celebrated its 30th Anniversary in 2010. Since its inception in 1980, USTA League has grown from 13,000 participants in its first year, to over 820,000 players across the nation today, making it the world’s largest recreational tennis league.
USTA League was established to provide adult recreational tennis players throughout the country with the opportunity to compete against players of similar ability levels. Players participate on teams in a league format, which is administered by the USTA through its 17 Sections. The league groups players by using six National Tennis Rating Program (NTRP) levels, ranging from 2.5 (entry) to 5.0 (advanced). USTA League is open to any USTA member 18 years of age or older. It features Adult and Mixed Doubles divisions, as well as a Senior Division (age 50 or older) and a Super Senior Division (age 60 or older).
Beginning with the 2013 National Championship season, USTA League changed its structure and format. The change offers USTA League participants among three age categories (Adult 18 & Over, Adult 40 & Over and Adult 55 & Over and Mixed 18 & Over) to better align participants with players their own age. The restructuring guarantees more frequency of play opportunities at more appropriate age groups.
Head Penn Racquet Sports is in its 26th year as official ball of USTA League.
For more information about USTA League or the USTA as a whole, visit http://www.usta.com.
Taro Daniel and the Big Red Tablecloth
Steen Kirby is an excellent interviewer and a budding cinematographer. I’m going to break down and buy him a tripod. Here’s his interview from Tallahassee with Taro Daniel.
Last week you qualified in Savannah and won a couple of rounds. Talk about your play there.
Passing the qualies helped me a lot for playing better in the main draw, gave me some confidence, more groove. That definitely helped me play looser and play at a higher level.
We had a reader ask if you were going to continue to play for Japan even though you have dual citizenship.
I think I’ll keep playing for Japan. I think that I am more Japanese than American and think there will be some great benefits if I can become a great tennis player there.
Do you have a good relationship with Ito and Soeda and the other Japanese players? And what do you think of the state of Japanese tennis?
My relationship with them, I don’t really know them really close. I saw them for the first time and said hi to them the last time I was there. They were all really nice guys. I feel like tennis there is really good compared to the past and I hope tennis in Japan just keeps getting better and better.
You recently reached a career high ranking of 248. What are your short-term goals?
I don’t check all the numbers and results. It puts my head where it’s not supposed to be. Just keep playing at a higher level and improve as much as possible.
What about the financial difficulties on the Challenger level?
Some more open financial help of players would be more appreciated. It’s a real expensive sport, even though there’s prize money. Unless the Federation is covering your expenses, it’s really tough to keep it up. I don’t have any specific suggestions, but some help would be great.
You trained in Spain. Is clay your favorite surface?
I am definitely comfortable on clay. I’m a little more comfortable on clay. When I’m feeling great with my tennis, I prefer hardcourt. I like them both, but I think liking clay makes me like anything.
Describe your training regimen in Spain.
It’s really simple. There not much secrets to how we play. You have to be solid and you have to construct points. It’s not very technical or super-detailed. I think growing up on clay and hard courts helped with the general construct of the game.
Because of rain, the Battle of the two Virginia residents in the tournament was postponed 24 hours. Denis Kudla and Somdev Devvarman will be hoping to get it on Tuesday night, but before that, tons of other matches will be served up on the Har-Tru clay.
Starting with Christian Harrison and Steve Johnson. The younger Harrison blitzed through qualifying and is looking sharp as he prepares to take on Johnson, who according to an article in the local newspaper, is going through the slow learning process of clay court tennis. At the same time, Michael Venus will take on Donald Young, Mischa Zverev will face Nikoloz Basilashvili, and Greg Jones will play Tim Smyczek.
Those matches, weather permitting, will be followed by Jack Sock and Alex Kuznetsov, who will be looking to clinch his French Open wild card. Also scheduled for action are Bradley Klahn and Nico Barrientos and Facundo Arguello vs. Reid Carleton. Peter Polansky and Domonic Cotrone will also resume their suspended match.
On the stadium court, Michael Russell, who was spotted on the practice courts hitting with Tim Smyczek, will play Suk-Young Jeong, and Taro Daniel will play Ryan Harrison. On the outer courts, Wayne Odesnik will play Denys Molchanov and Frank Dancevic will play Ilija Bozoljac.
The doubles matches are Kante/Takura vs. Saleh/Santiago, Bucaro/Lock vs. C. Harrison/Venus, Reed/Sock vs. Melzer/Basilashvili, Jones/Polansky vs. Barrientos/Molchanov and Rice/Thornley vs. Gonzales/Letcher.
And don’t worry. A Taro Daniel interview is forthcoming.
Stebe Outlasts Sandgren, Melzer Advances in Rain-Shortened Monday @TallyChallenger
Under pleasant conditions for most of the morning, many Tally challenger players made quick starts, including Ilija Bozoljac and Greg Jones who both qualified. Bozoljac advanced 6-2, 6-4 over a flummoxed Greg Ouelette, dizzying the American with drop shots galore, and Jones 6-2, 6-0 over Jean-Yves Aubone, who was frustrated by the Aussie’s mix of power and volleying. After being broken in the 2nd set, Aubone took a ball from his pocket and hit it in into Georgia.
In the maiden main draw match of the tournament, Gerald Melzer recovered from a slow start to dominate Salif Kante 6-2 6-0, and Alex Bogdanovic took out Austin Krajicek 7-5 6-1.
The match of the day session was Cedrik-Marcel Stebe’s 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over Tennys Sandgren. Stebe was locked into errors into the first set but found his range in the 2nd and 3rd sets. Eventually Sandgren, who seemed to rely on raw power to win points, let his mental frustration get the best of him.
At one point, after being broken in the 2nd set, Sandgren spiked a ball into the ground and yelled “How do you lose that point?!”. He also banged his racquet into the fence. Sandgren took a 3-0 lead into the 3rd, but it slipped away and he lost 6 straight games to the mellow German Stebe, who dug away.
Unfortunately, rain intruded on the remaining day matches, leaving Peter Polansky, who was up 6-2 1-0 over Dominic Cotrone in a lurch, and cancelling the matches of Bradley Klahn/Nicolas “Nico” Barrientos and Denis Kudla/Somdev Devvarman. Along with the doubles match between Bucaro/Lock and C. Harrison/Venus, those matches are all moved to tomorrow.
The qualifiers are now placed. Bozoljac will play Frank Dancevic, Christian Harrison will play Steve Johnson, Jones will play Tim Smyczek, and Venus will play Donald Young.
—Steen Kirby (story and photos)