At The Open
With Marcia Frost...
Tuesday, September 6th
Junior Championships, Day Three
As I get ready to leave the National Tennis Center in daylight for the first time in weeks (working only a 10 hour day), I do my best to avoid burnout, but today I saw the effects of a long, hard summer on many a junior tennis player.
In general, I am finding that the level of junior tennis appears to be going down as the days go by. A multitude of teens who have played none stop tennis for months are starting to feel the effects. I saw many a player today look like they had reached the peak of burnout. I feel the many upsets could be contributed a lot to this. When you see the No. 4 girl and the No. 2 boy in the world have difficulty getting serves over the net, it should be a signal that it's time to take a break. Unfortunately, a Grand Slam event is not the best place to take a break, it's a place that most of these kids have been working their whole lives to get in. So the play must go on for as long as they can keep themselves in it.
I spent two and a half hours watching Caroline Wozniacki and Jamie Hampton and I'm still not sure exactly what happened. It will probably go down as one of the strangest matches I've ever seen. The two 15 years olds were born only two weeks apart, but Caroline (seeded fourth) hails from Denmark and Jamie is from the United States. (Alabama to be exact.) The match progressed through mostly short points and trading breaks until 4-2 when the third argument over a line call caused Caroline to request a referee. The referee would not change the call and, though the crowd questioned the fact that all three questionable calls were under the same linesperson, the players did not. It was enough to rattle the seed and she lost the next two games and the set.
In the second set Jamie made constant errors and Caroline was consistent. There was no real power and certainly no great serves here. In no time Caroline had the second set 6-2 and it looked like she was going to take it all the way to a 4-0 lead in the third. Then, out of virtually no where, Jamie came alive and Caroline reverted back to her mishits! The Southern teen won the next six games and the match before an amazed audience.
I was still a bit shocked when I headed over to see American wildcard Wil Spencer against the No. 2 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia. Once again I witnessed two incredible players without their best games. The points went back and forth -- more on errors than winners -- to a tiebreaker in the first. Wil just couldn't get in it and he bowed, 7/1. The second set stayed on serve nearly until the end and Marin got the one break needed for the 6-4 win.
The best match by far that I saw today was Evgeniy Kirillov (No. 14) and Alex Clayton. I have seen a lot of great Alex Clayton matches over the last few months so I was not surprised. Once again, though, the level of tennis was up a bit, both players looked worn early on. The hard serves were not quite as hard and they seemed to run down a little less than usual. It was a 6-4 first for Alex, followed by a reverse for Evgeniy. The third went to a tiebreaker with the Russian dominating to a 6-1 lead, but Alex managed to save three match points before succumbing 7/4.
Top seeded Donald Young survived a scare by Canada's Phillip Bester in three. Fellow American Jesse Levine (No. 16) was not so lucky and fell to Piero Luisi of Venezuela. Tenth seeded Timothy Neilly was upset on his home soil by Kei Nishikori of Japan, while compatriot Tim Smyczek overcame No. 9 Thiemo de Bakker of the Netherlands.
There was another big surprise in the girls draw today. Elizabeth Plotkin of the United States took out second seeded Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland in straight sets -- 6-4,6-4.
The doubles are still going on so I will report on them tomorrow -- because I am heading home before dark.