2008 USTA NATIONAL SPRING CHAMPIONSHIPS
presented by Sea Island Resorts and
hosted by the City of Delray Beach, Florida
April 6-12, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008-Day Five
It was another beautiful day as the Florida humidity is no where to be found while the 80 degree temperature is present. The wind has died down as the nerves increase with the players trying to fight their way into the finals. Three out of the four semifinal matches went the distance, but in the end there are no major surprises.
Eighth-seeded Hayley Carter and 10th-seeded Alexandra Kiick started off rather slow. In fact, both players looked rather worn out and it didn't look like either could put much into it. I was certainly wrong on that one. They both came alive as needed, trading breaks and keeping the match even. Despite mostly short points, it was a slow match until Hayley held a break and took the first, 6-4.
The second set was not much different than the first, only it was Alexandra who had a slight edge as they lobbed the ball and had rally after rally at the baseline until Alexandra had it at 6-3. The final set was an entirely different match as a place in the final was on the line and the points became more exciting and the games closer. It was as close as the 6-4 score to Hayley Carter.
It was just plain unpredictable between 12th-seeded Hanna King and seventh-seeded Gabrielle Smith. I had heard quite a lot about Hanna, the tallest player whose strength matched her height. In the first set it certainly appeared that way as -- even though there were a number of multiple deuce games -- she took it 6-0. The second was much different. Gabrielle's service games were still long, but so were Hanna's as the smaller fought back and had just as many winners. Before Hannah new it, Gabrielle Smith had her first break for 6-5 and soon the set at 7-5.
I missed the beginning of the third set, though I was told they traded breaks, while I watched the end of the other match, but I saw the fire back in Hanna King's eyes and she took it all the way to 6-4.
Overall, there was certainly more variety in the boys matches than the girls. The tiny Brooklynite, Daniel Kerznerman, was a prime example. The second seed had the same fire he's been demonstrating all along and Friday it took him all the way. Fourth-seeded Jack Murray just didn't know what to do as Daniel did him one better at every great shot. He had the first at 6-4 and, even though the score wasn't as close in the final 6-3, the beginning of the second was filled with extremely close games before the quicker finish.
Top-seeded Baker Newman and seventh-seeded Grayson Goldin may be doubles partners, but they were on opposite sides of the net for the semifinal and it was each man to himself. The first set went all the way to a 7/5 tiebreaker in favor of the No. 1 and he seemed to be pumped to take it all. But Grayson was not down and he came out swinging. Before Baker knew it, he was down 1-4 and the set was getting away from him. He stepped it up a bit, with his best -- a never-fail approach that amazed me each time -- to tie it at 4-4. Grayson returned some winners and soon had a break and the second at 6-4.
The third set between Baker Newman and Grayson Goldin was very similar to the second. There was an early lead for Grayson and a comeback for Baker, but it was much shorter lived and Grayson took his determination to a 6-3 finish.
While the semifinals were going on, I caught a few glimpses of the talk of the tournament -- Sofia Kenin. The tiny nine year old -- who is barely taller than the fence or net -- is incredibly talented. Today she fell to Jessica Ho in a touch 4-6,6-2,6-3 semifinal in the Southwest draw. She is definitely a player to look for in the future and she has lots more years in this age division alone!
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