Friday, October 9, 2015

Wild cards to meet in Sacramento Challenger semis

Taylor Fritz, a 17-year-old wild card from the San Diego area,
dismissed qualifier Marcos Giron, the 2013 NCAA singles
champion from UCLA, in 68 minutes. Photo by Paul Bauman
   SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- One wild card was a no-brainer.
   The other was controversial.
   Taylor Fritz is the No. 1 junior in the world at 17 years old. He beat Spain's Pablo Carreno Busta, then ranked No. 66 among men, on grass in the first round in Nottingham, England, in June on the elite ATP World Tour and won the U.S. Open boys title last month. And he's American.
   Case closed. You want a wild card into the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger, Taylor? You got it. The USTA chose Fritz and American Sekou Bangoura, 23, for its two wild cards.
   Matt Reid had pretty good credentials, too. Two years ago in Sacramento, he reached the singles quarterfinals and won the doubles title with John-Patrick Smith. The only problem is he's not American.
   No matter. Tournament director Brian Martinez picked Reid, a 25-year-old Australian, and Alex Kuznetsov, a 28-year-old American and two-time Sacramento singles semifinalist, with his two wild cards.
   Fritz, ranked No. 694, and Reid, ranked No. 357, turned out to be wise selections. They are scheduled to meet on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. in the semifinals at the Natomas Racquet Club. It's rare for one wild card to reach the semis, let alone two.
Matt Reid, a 25-year-old wild card from Australia,
needed 2 hours, 25 minutes to subdue qualifier
Nicolas Meister. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Fritz, 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters), dismissed 22-year-old qualifier Marcos Giron, the diminutive 2013 NCAA singles champion from UCLA, 6-3, 6-4 in 68 minutes today.
   "It means a lot to have a good run in my second Challenger," said Fritz, who lost in the first round in the $100,000 Aptos, Calif., Challenger in August to 28-year-old left-hander Mischa Zverev of Germany. "It's really encouraging."
   After having his right (serving) shoulder treated several times in his 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7) victory over third-seeded Dustin Brown on Thursday, Fritz had no problems with it on Friday.
   Fritz's mother (Kathy May), father (Guy Fritz) and uncle (Harry Fritz) all played professionally.  May climbed to No. 10 in the world and played in three Grand Slam quarterfinals. Guy is one of Taylor's coaches.
   Taylor said he has improved dramatically since Aptos while training at the USTA center in Carson in the Los Angeles area.
   "I've been working really, really hard. It showed today after I won 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, won a doubles match and came back and played a pretty physical match today. It's something I couldn't have done a couple months ago," said Fritz, who's from Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area, . 
   Reid needed to be in good shape, too. He turned back U.S. qualifier Nicolas Meister, another former UCLA All-American, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-4 in 2 hours, 25 minutes as the temperature topped 80 degrees (26.7 Celsius).
   Like Fritz, Reid said advancing to the semis as a wild card "means a lot. I've had a rough year with results. I'm really happy to be able to win a few matches before I go home."  
Top-seeded Denis Kudla eliminated Daniel Brands
of Germany 6-4, 6-3. Both players have reached the
fourth round at Wimbledon. Photo by Paul Bauman
   After the Fritz-Reid encounter, top-seeded Denis Kudla of Tampa, Fla., will face seventh-seeded Jared Donaldson of Irvine, Calif.
   Kudla, only 5-foot-11 (1.80 meters), used a strong return to neutralize the powerful serve of 6-foot-5 (1.96-meter) German Daniel Brands of Germany in a 6-4, 6-3 victory. Both players have reached the fourth round at Wimbledon, Kudla this year and Brands in 2010. Brands is five years older at 28.
   Donaldson, playing on his 19th birthday, outclassed Mackenzie McDonald of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area 6-4, 6-1. Donaldson won the $50,000 Maui Challenger in January.
   Martinez said he "got a little bit of grief because I didn't give the wild card to an American, but we're hosting Americans, and having (the tournament) in America is enough for Americans. If you look at the draw, there are 20 some odd Americans. There are plenty of opportunities without a wild card. I'm fine with the decision I made."
   Reid overcame a bad line call that trimmed his lead to 4-3 in the second-set tiebreaker against Meister.
   "I was fuming," said Reid, who recorded the only service break of the third set in the last game. "It's been a long week and a long trip. I thought that was the end, to be honest. I'd just had enough. I guess I was lucky that I started off pretty well in the third (set). I was serving first, and I was in front the whole time."        
   Reid and Kudla are each 1-0 against their semifinal opponents.   
Seventh-seeded Jared Donaldson, playing on his 19th
birthday, outclassed Mackenzie McDonald of Piedmont
in the San Francisco Bay Area. Photo by Paul Bauman
   The 5-foot-11 (1.80-meter) Reid outlasted Fritz 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the first round of a $10,000 Futures tournament in Costa Mesa in Southern California in September last year.
   "He was unknown (to) me back then," admitted Reid, who was seeded first in the tournament and eventually lost in the quarterfinals. "I thought it was going to be a great draw, but it was an absolute battle. I told him after the match that he was going to be a great player, and he's already No. 1 in the world in the juniors, so he's started pretty quick."
   Fritz smiled while recalling the Costa Mesa match.
   "That was so long ago," he said. "At the time, it was a really tough matchup for me. I had a lot of chances in that match. I really could have won it. It would have been a huge win for me. I'm not even near the player I was back then, so I'm really excited for tomorrow."
   In addition to his improvement in the past year, Fritz will be fresher than Reid after Friday's matches. Fritz wouldn't declare himself the favorite but said, "I like my chances a whole lot more than the last time."                    
   Kudla beat Donaldson 6-3, 6-3 on clay in the second round of qualifying in Houston in April on the ATP World Tour.
   "He (hits) very big on the baseline," said Kudla, who was born in Ukraine and moved to the United States at age 1. "I know he's not that comfortable moving forward, but his forehand and backhand are as good as anyone's. He crushes it on both sides, so it's tough to slow the points down when he's playing well.
   "But he can be all over the place with his mind. I feel like if you can be mentally tough, you can find ways to break it down that way and the match can go in your favor."
At Natomas Racquet Club
Singles quarterfinals
   Taylor Fritz, United States, def. Marcos Giron, United States, 6-3, 6-4.
   Denis Kudla (1), United States, def. Daniel Brands, Germany, 6-4, 6-3.
   Jared Donaldson (7), United States, def. Mackenzie McDonald, Piedmont, 6-4, 6-1.  
   Matt Reid, Australia, def. Nicolas Meister, United States, 7-5, 6-7 (4), 6-4.
Doubles semifinal
   Blaz Kavic and Grega Zemlja, Slovenia, def. Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka, United States, 7-5, 6-3.
Saturday's schedule
Court 1
(Starting at 10:30 a.m.)
   Taylor Fritz, United States, vs. Matt Reid, Australia.
   Denis Kudla (1), United States, vs. Jared Donaldson (7), United States.
(Not before 1:30 p.m.)
   Johan Brunstrom, Sweden, and Frederik Nielsen (1), Denmark, vs. Daniel Brands and Dustin Brown, Germany.

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