Thursday, October 13, 2016

No. 1 seed Tiafoe, No. 3 Smyczek ousted in Fairfield

Quentin Halys, 19, of France stretches for a forehand during his
victory over top-seeded Frances Tiafoe, 18, in the second round
of the $100,000 Fairfield Challenger. Photo by Paul Bauman
   FAIRFIELD, Calif. -- Well, it was nice while it lasted.
   Top-seeded Frances Tiafoe's stay in the top 100 in the world rankings will last one week after his 6-2, 4-6, 7-5 loss to fellow teenager Quentin Halys on Wednesday in the second round of the $100,000 Fairfield Challenger at Solano Community College.
   Tiafoe, who rose 17 places to No. 100 by winning the $100,000 Stockton Challenger last week, will drop only about three notches when the new rankings are released Monday. But now he's on the verge of having to qualify for Australian Open in January rather than getting straight into the main draw.
   Tiafoe isn't worried about his slip in the rankings.
   "That's alright," said the 18-year-old native of Hyattsville, Md., a semifinalist in Fairfield last year. "It's not a big deal. I've just got to keep working and getting better because obviously my goal is to be higher than 80 or 90 in the world. Hopefully I'll be top 20 or top 10 one day, so I'm working toward that."
   It was a bad day for highly seeded Americans against Europeans. Also, No. 3 Tim Smyczek (pronounced SMEE-check) lost to hard-serving Joris De Loore of Belgium 6-4, 7-6 (5).
   Tiafoe hopes to make big runs in $50,000 Challengers next week in Las Vegas and the week of Oct. 31 in Charlottesville, Va., then end his season.
Tiafoe fell to 0-5, including two junior matches, against Halys. "I haven't
really found any answers for him yet," Tiafoe said. Photo by Paul Bauman
   "I'll play until I feel I'm secure in the top 100 and secure for the Australian Open," said Tiafoe, who led No. 20 seed and then-No. 1 American John Isner two sets to none in the first round of the U.S. Open in August before losing in a fifth-set tiebreaker. "If I have to keep playing until Champaign (Ill., the season-ending Challenger in mid-November), I will, but I'm trying to make it not so many events.
   "It's been a long season, and I'm really tired. It's definitely tough to bring good tennis if I have to do it a lot of weeks, so I'm trying to focus on the next couple (tournaments)."
   Tiafoe's loss to Halys (pronounced Ah-LEECE) was hardly shocking. The 19-year-old Frenchman entered the match 4-0 against Tiafoe, having beaten him twice in the juniors (saving one match point) and twice on clay this year. Halys also was fresher after losing to qualifier Brydan Klein of Great Britain in the first round in Stockton. Plus, Tiafoe had an unfavorable schedule in Fairfield.
   "I mean, it's tough," Tiafoe moaned. "I played Sunday, had one day off and played Tuesday and Wednesday. I was hoping for a Tuesday-Thursday. Obviously, I wasn't so interested in the doubles match (later Wednesday), but luckily we were able to win."
   Tiafoe, playing half-heartedly at times, and Darian King of Barbados survived a match point and edged qualifiers Michael Kwong of Australia and Matt Seeberger, a 32-year-old San Francisco native and former UC Santa Cruz star, 4-6, 7-5 [10-8] in the opening round.
Joris De Loore of Belgium beat a highly seeded
American in the early rounds for the second
consecutive week. Photo by Paul Bauman
   In singles, Tiafoe escaped one match point serving at 4-5 in the third set when Halys, ranked No. 170, netted a low slice backhand. But after Tiafoe held for 5-5, Halys held his serve and broke Tiafoe for the match.
   From 30-30 in the last game, Tiafoe netted a backhand and had an opportunity for a forehand putaway, but it clipped the tape and went wide. Tiafoe furiously smashed his racket on the court three times.
   Halys, who reached the second round of the Australian Open and French Open this year, said his "game plan was to be very aggressive because I knew he was very confident from the last few weeks and he's in good shape now. I know him since a very long time and we always have tough matches (except the first one). Today it went my way."
   The 6-foot-3 (1.91-meter), 166-pound (76-kilogram) Halys pounded 12 aces, committed eight double faults and saved 12 of 14 break points against him.
   "He has a good serve," Tiafoe observed. "He can hit big at any time. He's pretty erratic. He doesn't really give you much rhythm. He'll miss shots, and you'll be like, 'Wow, it's bad,' and he'll hit some shots where you're like, 'Wow, it's really good.' He's definitely tough to play, and I haven't really found any answers for him yet."
   De Loore, ranked No. 184, upset a highly seeded American in the early rounds for the second consecutive week. He ousted top-seeded Bjorn Fratangelo in the first round in Stockton before losing to eventual runner-up Noah Rubin, 20, of the United States.
   Against the 134th-ranked Smyczek, De Loore blasted 13 aces and had only one double fault. He put in 71 percent of his first serves, won 85 percent of the points on his first serve (41 of 48) and saved five of six break points against him. De Loore, who moves well at 6-foot-3 (1.90 meters), also displayed impressive groundstrokes.
Smyczek, only 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters), lost to the hard-serving
De Loore, who's 6-foot-3 (1.90 meters). Photo by Paul Bauman
   "If I keep serving like this, every game (opponents) have to be at their best to beat me," said De Loore, who has defeated three top-100 players this year. "The return is one of the points I have to work on, but today I returned good."
   The key point in the match came at 5-5 in the second-set tiebreaker. Returning Smyczek's second serve, De Loore slugged a forehand cross-court passing shot. De Loore then hammered an ace for the match.
   "That 5-all point in the tiebreaker -- I was actually getting a weak reply when I could get him jammed to his forehand side -- but that one, he took a rip on, and it panned out for him," said Smyczek, who pounded seven aces despite being only 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters).
   In Friday's quarterfinals, De Loore will meet No. 5 seed Alessandro Giannessi of Italy, and Halys will play No. 8 Maximilian Marterer of Germany. The other quarterfinals will be determined today.
   Marterer, a 21-year-old left-hander, withstood 20 aces to beat 6-foot-11 (2.11-meter Reilly Opelka, a 19-year-old American wild card, 3-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5. Opelka was playing in his first tournament since retiring from his second-round qualifying match in the U.S. Open with his sixth stress fracture in one foot or the other in 18 months.
   "I felt it today," Opelka said.
   Opelka broke through in Atlanta on the ATP World Tour earlier in August, beating then-No. 28 Kevin Anderson, who's 6-foot-8 (2.03 meters), en route to the semifinals.
   Rain is forecast for Friday through Sunday in Fairfield.
   Here are the updated singles and doubles draws and today's schedule. The tournament is being streamed live.

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