Friday, October 9, 2015

Young and restless: Americans upset three seeds

Taylor Fritz, a 17-year-old wild card from the San Diego area,
saved three match points in a 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7) win over
No. 3 seed Dustin Brown of Germany. Photo by Paul Bauman
   SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The future of U.S. men's tennis looks brighter every day.
   Young Americans won all four singles matches, including three upsets, on Thursday to reach the quarterfinals of the $100,000 Sacramento Challenger.
   The youngest of the Americans, 17-year-old wild card Taylor Fritz of Rancho Santa Fe in the San Diego area, provided the biggest and most dramatic surprise at the Natomas Racquet Club.
   Fritz, who won the U.S. Open boys title last month, overcame a sore shoulder and three match points to stun third-seeded Dustin Brown, 30, of Germany 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7) in 2 hours, 25 minutes.
   Brown shocked Rafael Nadal on Centre Court at Wimbledon in the second round this year to improve to 2-0 against the 14-time Grand Slam champion.
   "It's such a huge win," Fritz gushed. "To be a wild card in a Challenger and beat such a strong player, it means a lot. It's great I get to keep moving forward."
   So do Mackenzie McDonald, 20, of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area and Marcos Giron, a 22-year-old qualifier based in Carson in the Los Angeles area.
   McDonald topped fourth-seeded Tim Smyczek of Tampa, Fla., 6-1, 7-5, and Giron beat eighth-seeded Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2).
Brown shocked Rafael Nadal on Centre
Court at Wimbledon this year to improve
to 2-0 against the 14-time Grand Slam
champion. Photo by Paul Bauman
   Seventh-seeded Jared Donaldson, who trains in Irvine in the L.A. region and is celebrating his 19th birthday today, advanced to the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year. He defeated American Tennys Sandgren 6-1, 6-4.
   Sandgren won the 2012 Sacramento doubles title with former University of Tennessee teammate Rhyne Williams and played for the Sacramento-based California Dream of World TeamTennis in July.
   Fritz and Donaldson have good size, but McDonald and Giron are small, which probably limits their potential.
   Six of the Sacramento quarterfinalists are American. Top-seeded Denis Kudla, 23, and qualifier Nicolas Meister, 26, advanced Wednesday. Either a wild card or qualifier will play in the final.
   McDonald is a junior All-American at UCLA, although he said he might turn pro after this week, and Giron and Meister are former Bruins. Giron, who's listed at 5-foot-11 (1.80 meters) but looks smaller, won the NCAA singles title last year.
   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.
   Brown, No. 108, is not the highest-ranked player Taylor has beaten. He defeated then-No. 66 Pablo Carreno Busta of Spain on grass in the first round at Nottingham, England, in June on the elite ATP World Tour before losing to then-No. 16 Feliciano Lopez of Spain.
   The Fritz-Brown match was a battle of big servers. Fritz, 6-foot-4 (1.93 meters), fired 13 aces and committed two double faults. Brown, 6-foot-5 (1.96 meters), had 21 aces and 10 double faults.
   Fritz saved 13 of 14 break points and Brown five of six.               
Mackenzie McDonald, 20, of Piedmont in the San Fran-
cisco Bay Area eliminated fourth-seeded Tim Smyczek
of Tampa, Fla., 6-1, 7-5. Photo by Paul Bauman
   "I just told myself to keep holding serve because I knew if I dropped my serve the match was essentially over," Fritz said. "That's what he does best -- serve it out and hold serve. I just told myself, I need to get to the tiebreaker, and once I get to the tiebreaker just compete my ass off and hopefully I can take it."
   Fritz led 3-0 and 4-1 in the third-set tiebreaker, but Brown fought back to 5-5. Brown then survived two match points against him, but laced a forehand long on the third one. Brown, who had swatted a ball into the next area code after double-faulting to trail 3-0 in the tiebreaker, smashed his racket on the court after dropping the match.
   He was not available for comment.
   Smyczek was mentally drained after saving four match points against his close friend and training partner, Kudla, to win the $100,000 Tiburon Challenger on Sunday and two more in his first-round victory over 17-year-old U.S. sensation Frances Tiafoe on Tuesday.
   Smyczek, 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters), survived three more match points against McDonald, 5-foot-10 (1.78), before netting a backhand on the fourth.
   "I wasn't very good mentally today, and Mackie played real well, so credit to him," said Smyczek, ranked 98th. "He hit the ball great."
   McDonald, who's coached by former top-10 player Wayne Ferreira, will face the 6-foot-2 (1.88-meter) Donaldson in the quarters.
   McDonald became the only unranked teenager to qualify for an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, the highest men's level besides the Grand Slams, at Cincinnati in 2013. In the first round of qualifying, he knocked out then-No. 79 Nicolas Mahut of France.
Qualifier Marcos Giron, the 2014 NCAA singles champion from
UCLA, beat No. 8 seed Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2).
Photo by Paul Bauman
   In addition, McDonald has reached two Challenger semifinals, last week in Tiburon as a wild card (although sixth-seeded Bjorn Fratangelo retired from their quarterfinal match at 0-4 with a lower-back injury) and last year in Winnetka (Ill.) as a qualifier.
   In the $50,000 Winnetka Challenger, he ousted Sam Groth in the first round. Groth, now ranked 53rd, is credited with the fastest serve in history, 163.7 mph (263.4 kph) in the 2012 Busan (South Korea) Challenger.
   McDonald displayed a tremendous all-around game against Smyczek. McDonald had good pop and excellent placement on his serve, slugged strong returns, ripped groundstrokes, hit crisp volleys, showed good touch with half-volleys and stayed poised.
   "I'm really happy with my composure out there," McDonald said. "It's easy to play a top-100 player and get nervous or do things different. I thought I played really well. I played the (aggressive) style I like to play, and it went well."
   McDonald pounded eight aces, including four in one game (three in a row).
   "I hadn't (hit a lot of aces) all week," he said. "I actually changed my serve a little bit yesterday, so it worked. (I stopped) moving my left foot. I (had been) moving it and sliding, and my ball toss was out of place. I just made (the serve) more clean and more simple." 
   Smyczek raved about McDonald's game after their first career meeting.
   "Judging from today, he's really good," said Smyczek, the runner-up to Donald Young in the 2013 Sacramento Challenger. "He's very, very fast. He serves very well."
   Does Smyczek see any weaknesses?     
   "Sure didn't today," he asserted.
   Immediately after the match, Smyczek practiced for 90 minutes with his coach, Billy Heiser.
   "I wasn't happy with how I played today, so I wanted to see if I could correct it as soon as possible," Smyczek explained.
   What aspect of Smyczek's game displeased him?
   "You name it," he said. "Nothing really went well for me today."
   Did the workout help?
   "It helped me work off a little steam," he said. 
At Natomas Racquet Club
Second-round singles
  Mackenzie McDonald, Piedmont, def. Tim Smyczek (4), United States, 6-1, 7-5.
  Taylor Fritz, United States, def. Dustin Brown (3), Germany, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7).
  Jared Donaldson (7), United States, def. Tennys Sandgren, United States, 6-1, 6-4.
  Marcos Giron, United States, def. Blaz Kavcic (8), Slovenia, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (2).
Doubles quarterfinals
  Johan Brunstrom, Sweden, and Frederik Nielsen (1), Denmark, def. Ariel Behar, Uruguay, and Ruben Gonzales, Philippines, 6-2, 6-4.
  Daniel Brands and Dustin Brown, Germany, def. Carsten Ball and Matt Reid (4), Australia, 7-6 (3), 6-3.
  Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka, United States, def. Marcos Giron and Tommy Paul, United States, 6-7 (6), 6-4 [10-7].   
Today's schedule
Court 1
(Starting at 10 a.m.)
   Taylor Fritz, United States, vs. Marcos Giron, United States.
(Not before 11:30 a.m.)
   Denis Kudla (1), United States, vs. Daniel Brands, Germany.
   Jared Donaldson (7), United States, vs. Mackenzie McDonald, Piedmont.  
Court 7
(Starting at 11 a.m.)
   Matt Reid, Australia, vs. Nicolas Meister, United States.
(Not before 1 p.m.)
   Taylor Fritz and Reilly Opelka, United States, vs. Blaz Kavic and Grega Zemlja, Slovenia.

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