Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Altamirano, 17, outclassed in U.S. Open

Collin Altamirano, practicing recently at Arden
Hills in Sacramento, lost to 22nd-seeded Philipp
Kohlschrieber 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 in the first round of
the U.S. Open. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Editor's note: An in-depth feature by Paul Bauman on junior national champions Collin Altamirano and Jenson Brooksby, both of whom train at the JMG Tennis Academy at Arden Hills in Sacramento, will be posted next week.
By Clint Swett
   NEW YORK -- If 17-year-old Collin Altamirano wondered about the difference between top-level junior tennis and the Grand Slam-level professional game, Philipp Kohlschreiber gave him a pointed lesson today.
   The 29-year-old German, seeded No.  22 and playing his 11th U.S. Open, dominated for much of the match in downing Altamirano 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 on a breezy morning at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
   Altamirano lives in Elk Grove and trains at the JMG Tennis Academy at Arden Hills in Sacramento, and the crowd of perhaps 500 on Court 11 was solidly in his corner.
   But the moral support couldn’t help Altamirano counter Kohlschreiber’s big serve, balance and foot speed, which Altamirano said were what distinguished the German from other players he has faced. 
   While Altamirano often matched the German’s heavy groundstrokes from the baseline, he could rarely take the offensive on Kohlschreiber’s serve and almost never forced the German into off-balance shots. When Kohlschreiber took control of a point, it almost invariably ended in a winning shot or an Altamirano error.
    “I felt the difference was that I never made him uncomfortable out there, and when he was running me, I just didn’t have an answer,” Altamirano said.
   Indeed, Kohlschreiber whipped 37 winners to just 10 for Altamirano. Kohlschreiber also gunned in 10 aces, compared to Altamirano’s three, and allowed no break points. In fact, Altamirano won only 24 percent of the points against Kohlscrheiber’s serve.
   Altamirano’s coach, Joseph Gilbert, said junior players rarely see serves as fast as the pros'.
   “When you are playing in the juniors, the average (first-serve) speed is maybe 110 mph (177 kph),” Gilbert said, noting that Kohlschreiber consistently pumped in serves in the 120-mph (193-kph) neighborhood.
   Altamirano also admitted to a case of nerves before taking the big stage.
   “I would have liked to have played better, but I tried to do too much, especially in the beginning of the match,” he said.
   The 6-foot-2 Altamirano earned an automatic wild card in the U.S. Open by winning the USTA Boys 18 National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich., this month. His march through the draw there included a 6-0, 6-1 thrashing of  No. 1 seed Gage Brymer of Irvine. But that sort of dominance was hard to find on Court 11 today.
   Still, Gilbert said he was "proud of how (Altamirano) competed out there.”
   Barry Gilbert, the brother of ESPN analyst and renowned coach Brad Gilbert, dropped by the match and pronounced himself “impressed” with Altamirano’s game.
   “I think he's as good as Jack Sock was when he was 17," Gilbert said, referring to the 20-year-old American now ranked No. 86 in the world. “I’m going to tell my brother about this kid.”
   So it’s back to the practice court, where Joseph Gilbert said the focus will be on improving Altamirano's serve, service returns and foot speed.
   “It’s pretty simple about what needs to improve to play at this level,” said Gilbert, who's not related to Brad and Barry. “But it will take a lot of work.”

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