At The Open
With Marcia Frost...

Wednesday, August 22nd-Qualifying, Day Two
It was Thursday before I made it home from Wednesday's U.S. Open Qualifying matches yet there was a lot of tennis left to see after my 13 hours (not including commuting) there.

Thanks to a parking snafu, I made it to the Tennis Center just after Ohio State's Bryan Koniecko and junior Hilary Barte lost their matches, but I did make it to the end of the Alison Riske vs. Sorana Cirstea. And I'm glad I didn't miss that one.

Seventeen year old Alison Riske, the finalist at the Girls 18 Nationals, had won the first set against the No. 30 seed, 6-2 and was down 5-6 when I got there. She seemed to have a lot of confidence as she won the next game and headed into a tiebreaker. I often see juniors come out on the crowd-filled courts here appearing like a deer in headlights -- total panic. That was not the case with Alison as she never looked doubtful for a moment that she belonged here. She held tight even after losing three match points in the breaker and took the match with a big smile at 7-6(4).

Most of the afternoon was spent in a long rain delay. Though it never really poured heavily, the drizzle and light rain was enough to keep the courts unplayable. That didn't defer the local fans as they came to see New Yorker Stephen Bass, a recent Notre Dame graduate who hit the circuit this summer, go up against 32-seeded Bjorn Phau of Germany.

The last time I saw Stephen Bass was at the NCAAs. He was nursing a sprained ankle and feeling like it had made the difference in Notre Dame's tough 4-3 loss to Southern California in the Round of 16. There was no hint of an injury on Wednesday as Stephen and Bjorn played a quick servers duel in the first set with the one break -- which actually came in the first game of the match -- making the differnce for the German's 6-4 set. In the second set there were more winners and more rallies as both players brought out their best. Again, there was a break for the seed and before long it was 5-3 and there was a match point.

There are some players that crack under pressure and others that bring out their best. It was the best in Stephen Bass that came out with some incredible winners to save three match points and take the second set, 7-5. He kept that momentum going until 3-2 in the next, when Bjorn's return was as powerful as his serve and he lost a break. That break held and Stephen fell, 6-4 in the third.

The rain delays caused the fifth on matches to start between 8:-9: pm under the lights. I spent the latter part of the night back and forth between two exciting matches. The first was between 15 year old junior Coco Vandeweghe and Spain's Maria Jose Martinez Sanchez. The first time I had seen the animated Coco play since the 12s had been recently in Berkeley and I was glad to have the chance to do it again. The first set was much closer than the 6-2 score for the elder, with long games and exciting points. The second was pretty much the same with one big difference -- Coco won more of the important points and the score showed it to her 6-4 set.

I left Coco periodically to catch the battle of the former college players -- Lester Cook (Texas A&M) and Ryler DeHeart (Illinois). Ryler had been out on the tour this past year and Lester was in for an additional year, both having finished their degrees. I hadn't seen Lester Cook play in a long time and was surprised at how he could get to just about anything -- even the powerful serve and volley of his opponent. It was that which made a slight difference in the first set, which he won in a 7-4 tiebreaker. The serve wasn't the star as much in the second as both players traded breaks. The last break belonged to Ryler DeHeart and he was serving for the set at 5-4 when the rain returned and halted play. It was also a defining moment for Coco Vandeweghe as she was up 4-2 in the third.

With rain delays to make up, the schedule for Thursday is packed with matches. There are still first rounds to be played on this third day of Qualifying and it's starting to look like we may run into the weekend. The players and fans will be happy to know, however, that the rain appears to be gone and the temperatures (which were chilly on Wednesday) will be back to summer.

Until Tomorrow,
Marcia Frost



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