USTA Juniors Win Five of Eight Singles Matches on Day 2 of Land Rover Napa Valley Classic

ST. HELENA, Calif., (Sept. 25, 2010) – Cal tennis fan Brad Gilbert stopped by the Meadowood Resort on Saturday to watch the youngest and most local USTA junior boy compete on the second day of the Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic.

Fifteen-year-old Mackenzie McDonald, who comes from the same Northern California town as Gilbert was raised 90 miles southeast in Piedmont, met his match against Illinois’ best player, Dennis Nevolo, falling 6-1, 6-2, on a day that saw the USTA’s eight top juniors win five singles matches against six of the nation’s best collegiate teams.

Gilbert said despite the result, McDonald, who is referred to as Mackie by his coaches and teammates, is still one U.S. tennis fans should keep an eye on in the future.

“It was good to finally get a sense of his game,” said Gilbert of McDonald, who won the 14s Easter Bowl Spring Nationals in 2009. “He’s just 15 so the next 18 months will tell a lot. But from what I saw, I would be surprised if he doesn’t become a top player.”

Nevolo, a junior who finished with 27 wins as the Fighting Illini’s No. 1 player last year, proved too strong physically for McDonald. “It was a tough match for me,” said McDonald, who fell to 1-1 in the round-robin formatted tournament. “I mean, he’s No. 1 for Illinois. I felt like he was pressuring me and overpowered me. That was actually my game plan going in against him since there were no expectations for me. But I wasn’t able to execute it.”

Gilbert agreed: “The guy he’s playing is 21 and just physically too strong. He just got overpowered.”

USTA coaches Jose Higueras, Jay Berger and Ricardo Acuna watched the match and were even able to go on court during the match and coach McDonald and the other players, something new for them but not new for the other college coaches.

“That’s one of the great things about this event,” said USC assistant coach George Husack. “We get a chance to see some of these juniors up close and actually be on the same court with them. It’s good to be in front of them. They see what I’m like on the court interacting with my players and I can also see how they’re reacting to the coaching that is going on with them with some of the USTA coaches.”

He continued: “I think the event also shows the college guys that these juniors aren’t messing around. They aren’t here just because it’s a great opportunity. They’re here to win.”

The USTA juniors were led by Jack Sock, Alexios Halebian and the two Mitchell’s, Krueger and Frank, who each won on Saturday and have two wins in two days. The final day of round-robin play is Sunday with the winners of each of the eight flights advancing to a single-elimination, 10-point tiebreak tournament.

Florida coach Jeremy Bayon was in agreement with the other seven collegiate coaches in his high praise of the event. “I think it’s a great idea and it’s a great format,” Bayon said. “It shows that the USTA and the college coaches can work together. Most of the freshmen and sophomores still know the juniors so it’s bring a great atmosphere. It’s good because it shows how good junior tennis is in the U.S. It shows that college tennis is also at such a high level.”

Count veteran Kentucky coach Dennis Emery as one in favor of the event. He couldn’t stop raving about the event. He said he got the coveted invite from Cal coach Peter Wright after Georgia had to drop out. “I think it’s a really unique event and I think it has so much potential to get even bigger,”  Emery said. “I think it’s great getting to see the USTA coaches on the court with their players. It’s a innovation that they don’t have in any other setting. I think that’s what makes it such a big thing for the USTA.”

Emery said he’s seen firsthand the positive support the USTA has recently given to college tennis. “I don’t think there’s been any question there’s a huge turn in the way the USTA is approaching college tennis,” Emery said. “As a 33-year Division I veteran, I can tell you it’s something that’s been long-awaited. It’s been a very serious commitment to college tennis on behalf of the USTA. I went to a coaching clinic in June in Boca and the entire program with Patrick (McEnroe) and Jose (Higueras) and Jay Berger was fascinating.

“Just the whole thing is on a good path right now. It’s a group of guys that I think understands that it doesn’t matter where the players are coming from but that they’re coming prepared and ready to play. It’s a much less territorial thing than in the past.”

Emery continued: “The thing that I’m most impressed with is that the juniors are not getting overpowered. I thought that the college guys would be able to come in and overpower them with their serves and their aggressive play. But that’s just not the case. I’ve been very impressed with how technically sound these junior players are. They play a lot of balls. I think the reason they are able to compete so well is because they are so technically sound. That’s the biggest thing I’ve seen.”

The winner of the tournament will receive a USTA-sponsored wild card into a USTA Pro Circuit event that is yet to be determined.

The juniors were selected by USTA Player Development based on ATP rankings (if applicable), national rankings and results, and a selection of younger players for developmental purposes.

DAY 2: Saturday’s Singles Results

Eric Quigley (Kentucky) def. Carlos Cueto (Cal), 7-6 (5), 6-2

Bjorn Fratangelo (USTA, Pittsburgh, Pa.) def. Raymond Sarmiento (USC), 6-0, 6-3

Dennis Nevolo (Illinois) def. Mackenzie McDonald (USTA, Piedmont, Calif.), 6-1, 6-2

JT Sundling (USC) def. Maks Gold (Kentucky), 6-0, 6-2

Vasko Mladenov (Texas) def. Bob Van Overbeek (Florida), 7-6 (4), 6-1

Abe Souza (Illinois) def. Pedro Zerbini (Cal), 6-4, 7-5

Bruno Abdelnour (Illinois) def. Hunter Harrington (USTA, Spartanburg, S.C.), 6-2, 6-3

Alex Musialek (Kentucky) def. Marcos Giron (USTA, Thousand Oaks, Calif.), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4

Ed Corrie (Texas) def. Nick Andrews (Cal), 6-1, 6-4

Mitchell Krueger (USTA, Aledo, Texas) def. David Holiner (Texas), 6-3, 7-6 (4)

Alexandre Lacroix (Florida) def. Johnny Hamui (Illinois), 6-2, 6-2

Jack Sock (USTA, Lincoln, Neb.) def. Christoffer Konigsfeldt (Cal), 6-4, 6-2

Mitchell Frank (USTA, Annandale, Va.) def. Anthony Rossi (Kentucky), 6-4, 6-1

Daniel Nguyen (USC) def. Jean Andersen (Texas), 2-6, 7-5, 6-1

Alexios Halebian (USTA, Glendale, Calif.) def. Nassim Slilam (Florida), 6-3, 6-2

Sekou Bangoura (Florida) def. Jaak Poldma (USC), 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (3)

DAY 2: Saturday’s Doubles Results

Nick Andrews / Christoffer Konigsfeldt (Cal) def. Mitchell Krueger / Bjorn Fratangelo (USTA), 8-6

Alexandre Lacroix / Nassim Slilam (Florida), def. Mitchell Frank / Jack Sock (USTA), 8-4

Zack Gilbert / Sky Lovell (Cal) def. Marcos Giron / Alexios Halebian (USTA), 9-8 (3)

JT Sundling / Raymond Sarmiento (USC) def. Mackenzie McDonald / Hunter Harrington (USTA), 8-4

DAY 3: Sunday’s Schedule

8:00 a.m.

Alex Musialek (Kentucky) v. Vasko Mladenov (Texas)

Bob Van Overbeek (Florida) v. Marcos Giron (USTA)

Alexios Halebian (USTA) v. Jean Andersen (Texas)

Jaak Poldma (USC) v. David Holiner (Texas)

Sekou Bangoura (Florida) v. Mitchell Krueger (USTA)

Ed Corrie (Texas) v. Bruno Abdelnour (Illinois)

9:15 a.m.

Christoffer Konigsfeldt (Cal) v. Johnny Hamui (Illinois)

Eric Quigley (Kentucky) v. Raymond Sarmiento (USC)

Pedro Zerbini (Cal) v. Anthony Rossi (Kentucky)

10:30 a.m.

Daniel Nguyen (USC) v. Nassim Slilam (Florida)

Nick Andrews (Cal) v. Hunter Harrington (USTA)

Alexandre Lacroix (Florida) v. Jack Sock (USTA)

Carlos Cueto (Cal) v. Bjorn Fratangelo (USTA)

Abe Souza (Illinois) v. Mitchell Frank (USTA)

Dennis Nevolo (Illinois) v. Maks Gold (Kentucky)

JT Sundling (USC) v. MacKenzie McDonald (USTA)

The USTA is the national governing body for the sport of tennis in the U.S. and the leader in promoting and developing the growth of tennis at every level — from local communities to the highest level of the professional game.  A not-for-profit organization with 750,000 members, it invests 100% of its proceeds in growing the game.  It owns and operates the US Open, and launched the Olympus US Open Series linking 10 summer tournaments to the US Open.  In addition, it owns the 90-plus Pro Circuit events throughout the U.S., is a minority owner and promotional partner of World TeamTennis, and selects the teams for the Davis Cup, Fed Cup, Olympic and Paralympic Games.  USTA Serves, the National Charitable Foundation of the USTA, provides financial support for disadvantaged youth and people with disabilities through tennis and education programs.  For more information on the USTA, log on to usta.com.

Elena and Stasur To Meet In the Fourth Round

Elena Dementieva has been to the US Open final before. Samantha Stosur is striving to get there. They will square off for a spot in the US Open quarterfinals in a clash of one of the best hard-court returners in the women’s game, Dementieva, against one of the most reliable servers in Stosur.

The 12th-seeded Dementieva deconstructed Daniela Hantuchova, 7-5, 6-2, to advance to the fourth round for the eighth time in 12 career Flushing Meadows appearances. Dementieva lost to Caroline Wozniacki in the New Haven semifinals and has continued her solid form in Flushing Meadows this week in winning all six sets she’s played.

French Open finalist Stosur smacked seven aces in sweeping Sara Errani, 6-3, 6-2. Since surrendering the first set of her opening-round 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-1 win over Elena Vesnina, Stosur has not dropped a set.

Dementieva has beaten Stosur four times in five meetings, including a 6-7(3), 6-1, 6-3 victory in their last meeting in Toronto last summer. Three of those five matches have spanned the three-set distance.

“We’ve had some good matches in the past.  I’ve beaten her once or twice, and then she’s obviously beaten me, as well,” Stosur said.  “So I think it’s gonna be whoever can, you know, execute the game plan better on the given day. But I know what I’m gonna want to do against her.  If I can do that, I think I have a chance.”

Dementieva has worked diligently to transform her serve from the side-arm, slingshot slice it was when she reached the 2004 US Open final, falling to Svetlana Kuznetsova, and though her serve is not a weapon it has become a much more stable shot.

Stosur is at her best hitting the kick serve to set up her favored forehand and in past matches Dementieva has tried to prevent the muscular Aussie from creating one-two combinations off her serve and forehand by directing her inside-out forehand to Stosur’s weaker backhand wing.

The fact that Stosur will hit the kick on both first and second serves can pose problems for some women, who are unaccustomed to returning off shoulder high balls.

“Samantha, Serena, they both have a very powerful serve, and especially second serve,” Dementieva said. “They have such a good kick.  The women don’t usually have this. It’s always very difficult to play against her.  She puts a lot of pressure on you when she’s serving.  But also, I think she’s very solid on the baseline, and, you know, very experienced player, singles and doubles. She covers the court very well and, you know, can finish the point at the net.  She has a great variety to her game.  It’s never easy to play against her.”

Rich Pagliaro is the editor of TennisNow.com.

Sweet Caroline Smiles To The Semis

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Although America’s Sweetheart is out, “Sweet Caroline” is still plaing music at the Open. And with Melanie Oudin going home, Caroline Wozniacki becomes the story in Flushing.

The attractive 19 year-old from Denmark, has slowly been improving and now has reached her first Semifinals at a Grand Slam. She is just soaking in every minute as she emerges into the tennis spotlight.

“It’s an amazing feeling, especially when you’re playing at night,” she said. “Playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium, 23,000 people watching you going on the court, I mean, you cannot really describe the atmosphere. It’s just magical. It’s amazing.”

What was amazing was how this cool Scandinavian came in with a game plan against the sentimental favorite Oudin. Instead of playing her game, she stayed back and let the 17 year-old’s inexperience come out. The result was a 6-2, 6-2 win and a trip to meet Yanina Wickmayer in the Semifinals.

“Yeah, today definitely I was like, I have to get as many balls back as possible and try to make her run,” she said. “Keep her on her backhand, but also, you know, make her run on her forehand. That was my goal, and I think it was a good way to play the match today.”

Even with Oudin on the court, it’s are to root against this attractive 19 year-old because of her sunny disposition. Her million dollar smile lights up the room as she graciously speaks about her opponents.

And that includes her Semifinal partner Wickmayer. Both player each other in juniors and Wozniaski says they are friends. Although she won’t let anything else out of the bag.

“I’ve tried not to watch too much tennis while I was here,” she said. “I mean, I watched Melanie’s matches because they were shown a lot. She’s a young player coming up, so I wanted to see her play. But I haven’t seen Yanina playing too much this tournament, but I know her really well from the juniors and we’ve played each other growing up.

“So, I mean right now I’m just so happy I’m in the Semifinals. I’m just going to enjoy a day off tomorrow, and I’ll talk to my dad who is also my coach about the strategy. But right now, I don’t really have any.”

One thing she will be doing is trying to stay positive and not let anything get to her. Against Oudin, Wozniacki just tried to stay positive through the whole match, which allowed her the easy victory.

“Today especially today it was important for me just to keep positive, try to just fight for every point,” she said. Because I knew if I show her too much emotions she will pick it up straightaway. I’ve seen that before in her matches. I mean, the crowd helped her through, as well. So today was just important, just to keep positive, keep fighting for every point.”

Off the court, Wozniacki just tries to keep it cool. Right now she doesn’t have a boyfriend, yet has a sense of humor about it. Earlier today Wickmayer joked to the Belgian press that there were 2000 boyfriends out there for her.

Not so in Denmark apparently.

“I haven’t read the newspapers in Denmark, but I’m sure they can find a boyfriend for me,” she said. “I don’t have any real boyfriends right now, and usually I keep to one.”

Don’t worry though with her style, looks and personality, Sweet Caroline should have no problem finding the right man.

Oudin’s Not Going Away

FLUSHING MEADOWS, NY – Don’t worry about Melanie Oudin. Her Open may be over, after her straight sets, 2-6, 2-6, loss to Caroline Wozniacki, but her career is just beginning.

We saw a star being born in Flushing Meadows. A determined girl, who knows she has a lot to learn in her career and her sport before she can be a champion.

“I’ve never been to the quarters of a Grand Slam,” she said. “I’ve never been this far, so for me, I have to learn how to handle the grueling two weeks in a Grand Slam. And mentally, physically, I mean, my body has had a lot of matches and a lot of time on the court. Mentally, it takes a lot to fight through those matches three sets three times in a row.

“So for me, I think I’m going to need to learn how to handle that, and I need to improve. I think I need to get quicker and even stronger and I definitely can improve a lot of things in my game.”

First she’s playing in Quebec City next week in the Bell Challenge then maybe some time off. Although Oudin says her life is the same, it’s not. Her life has changed, as she’s become a national sensation. But yet, there’s still the wholesome attitude, which wowed the New York crowd as it came out so natural.

Even today, Oudin seemed overwhelmed as was almost in tears as she was peppered with questions. With time she will overcome that and with time she will take her top spot in the rankings.

“She’s only 17 years old,” said a very gracious and happy Wozniacki. “She has been playing some great tennis. I think that, you know, she had a lot of attention here, and I think the way she handled all the attention, I think she did very well. I think she has a great team around her, and I’m sure that she’ll win many, many more matches in the future, as well.”

Wozniacki came in with a game plan. Unlike the Russians Oudin took down, the Danish princess played a defense match and forced Oudin to make mistakes. Instead of taking the 17 year-old for granted, the 19 year-old forced the Georgian to make the shots, which at times came up short.

With time, though, Oudin will learn how to face an opponent like Wozniacki. She will force an opponent to play her game her game, instead of relying upon guts and guile.

“I think it’s going to be experience and working hard,” Oudin said. “I’m going to have to go back home and just keep training like I do. I’m sure that, you know, if I keep working hard, hopefully I can do this again.”

Our gut says she will, but remember next time, Oudin will be in the spotlight. After this year’s Open only a foolish opponent will take her for granted and in her next tournaments, she will be the featured match and in the spotlight.

Yet, this girl can handle it. With a good family base behind her, Oudin will stay as normal as she possibly can be. Right now, that’s pretty regular.

“I’m basically a normal 17 year-old kid,” she said. “I still go to movies and go to the mall. Like to shop. Here we’ve saw a couple of plays. I just like going back and watching TV. I have a Wii at my house. I love playing that.

“Just different things, like board games and cards with my grandma. I mean, I just love doing all of that stuff, so basically I’m just a normal kid.”

Even though, she will find out that some things will change, Oudin seems ready for the challenge. She is out of the shadows and now the girl everyone is gunning to get. Yet, as we have seen in these last two weeks, this “normal girl” from Marietta, GA can handle anything that’s tossed at her.

Murray Just Too Much For Dent

Taylor Dent’s comeback story ended thanks to Andy Murray. The 2008 U.S. Open runner-up just had too much game for the 28 year-old American, coasting to a straight sets 6-3, 6-2, 6-2 victory at Ashe in Flushing tonight.

Against a good opponent whose serve-and-volley style tested his return game, the No.2 seeded Scot had all the answers in a virtuoso performance that makes him a strong contender to dethrone Roger Federer.

Amazingly enough, Murray got almost every powerful Dent serve back failing to return only six. That included two 145 MPH aces from the passionate guy who tried his best to make it a match with some crafty volleys which made for entertaining tennis.

But nothing was stopping Murray who after trading breaks in the first three games ratcheted up his level with a returning exhibition that made Tennis Channel analyst and former five-time Open winner Jimmy Connors proud. The precision with which he played made it difficult on Dent.

With the opening set still on serve at 4-3, Great Britain’s only hope at erasing Fred Perry’s name from the record book made his move earning a second break with a passing shot. He then served it out.

Dent continued to remain aggressive getting into net often but while he stuck to his game plan, the grinding Murray countered with quality shot making which included several of his 39 winners. Even when Dent had the edge in rallies with nifty touch, the younger 22 year-old scrambled after lob volleys running down every shot sending a message.

His return game was so effective that it made Dent pick his spots with the big man often staying back on second serves. Not shockingly, he didn’t win many points on seconds with Murray claiming 16 of 27. So much of a zone was he that he broke Dent consecutively to cruise through the middle set putting a damper on what fans came to see.

By the final set, even though Dent held twice for 2-1, the collective writing was on the wall because Murray was holding easily continuing to put the pressure squarely on his opponent’s shoulders. Eventually, his persistence paid off with a break for 3-2 thanks to some splendid return winners from both sides of the racket.

Though he didn’t get many chances converting one of two for the match, Dent had one opportunity to get it back. But Murray quickly erased it with a service winner taking the next couple of points for 4-2.

With the crowd sensing the end, they continued to urge the underdog on. But Murray would have none of it continuing to punish Dent serves by producing even more return passes. Clearly after dropping a set in his second round win, nothing was stopping him.

Even the net cord was on his side with a backhand fooling Dent to help get the double break that allowed him to serve out the match.

On his second match point, he punctuated it with a perfect backhand lob that initially was ruled out. But from the naked eye, it looked to catch part of the line. Obviously, Murray challenged and the replay showed that it barely got the edge giving him a third round victory.

The road will get tougher with 19 year-old Croat Marin Cilic next up in the Round of 16. The 16th seed was a 6-1, 6-4, 6-3 winner over Denis Istomin.

Also in that part of the section No.6 seeded Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro advanced in four sets over Austrian Daniel Koellerer 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Last year’s quarterfinalist aims for a second straight against 2003 finalist Juan Carlos Ferrero (24), who moved on when No.9 Frenchman Gilles Simon retired. Ferrero led 1-6, 6-4, 7-6 (5), 1-0.

If the higher seeds advance, it would setup a quarter rematch between Murray and Del Potro which Andy won in four last year.

Meanwhile, No.3 seeded Rafael Nadal kept it going with a straight set win over Spanish countryman Nicolas Almagro 7-5, 6-4, 6-4. The six-time slam winner won without a problem despite needing the trainer to treat a reinjured abdominal strain late in the third set. The tough champ closed it out in style with a whipping backhand crosscourt before getting a pat on the back from Almagro.

“I don’t want to talk about injuries,” Nadal pointed out. “Sorry. No, no. I am a little bit tired to talk about injuries.”

Who could blame him? He gives his all every point and will need to even more against electrifying 13 seed Gael Monfils, who ousted Jose Acasuso in straights 6-3, 6-4, 6-1. No doubt Monfils speed and athleticism along with shot ability should be a good test for Rafa in Round Four.

The winner gets either No.7 Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga or No.11 Chilean Fernando Gonzalez. Each posted straight set wins over Julien Benneteau and Tomas Berdych respectively.

In the women’s portion of the night session, it was 10th seeded Italian Flavia Pennetta showing true mettle by saving six match points late in the second including a pair in a tiebreak before pulling out a well earned 3-6, 7-6 (6), 6-0 win over No.7 Russian Vera Zvonareva. For her trouble, she draws defending champ Serena Williams in the quarters.

Unfortunately, the bigger story was Zvonareva, who imploded even letting off some steam at the chair umpire during a changeover about a bad tape job on a her knee.

“I knew I didn’t have the physical ability for a third set,” the emotional Russian admitted while denying she lost it. “I knew that in the middle of the second set.”

“She’s always like this,” the triumphant Pennetta assessed. “I know her. She can cry on the court, and then next point she fight and she play good tennis.”

Note: Fourteen of the top 16 men have advanced to the Round of 16 setting a new mark at the Open. The previous high was a dozen back in 1992. The 14 also matched a grand slam record set at the 2007 Australian Open. Their record is 28-2 entering Week Two with just No.5 Andy Roddick (John Isner in 5) and Simon (ret. vs Ferrero in 4) eliminated.