2006 USTA BOYS 18 NATIONAL TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS
University of Illinois - Urbana, Illinois - July 29-August 1, 2006
July 29, 2006-Day One
The first USTA National Boys' 18 Team Championship at the Atkins Tennis Center got underway today under sweltering heat. I'm told this is not unusual for Illinois in July and the players seemed to adapt quicker than I did. Still, by the end of the day, the tempers were soaring as high as the temperature
It is not unusual to see the heat effect players (it certainly got to me), but I actually watched arguments over line calls on three courts at the same time. It was Eastern vs. Middle States and the latter -- one of only two teams here that had to play two matches today -- pulled off the upset despite the conditions. It was a fight from the start with the doubles point decided at 8-6 in the third match and a short rain delay did nothing to dampen the spirits of the team led by Maksim Tikhomirov, though he retired in the third set with cramps during his match against Adam Schwart. There were three three-setters and the last match of the day was not a disappointment. Middle States will certainly be a team to watch this weekend.
My first day at the University of Illinois had started much different than it had ended. The second-seeded Southern team had -- in gentlemanly fashion -- easily eliminated Northern. Houston Barrick and Davey Sandgren, who have been racking up titles all year as they lead the nation's Boys 18, are the leaders of the team. I watched Houston struggle a bit and even lose the first set today from Michael Sicora, but he hung in for the 3-6,6-2,6-2 win. Teammate Andrew Crone played a great one against Andrew Lee which I also caught a bit of, with a a 7-5,7-5 victory and Southern shut out their opposition.
There are three sites being used all within the campus so I spent a good part of the day getting acclimated to the locations and didn't sit through any complete matches (I have four more days to go so I'm sure I'll see plenty). There were quite a few teams dominating the day in addition to Southern. Northern California blanked Pacific Northwest and Mid Atlantic's only loss was on a retirement by German Boryachinskiy. Eastern (5-8) and Florida were the only seeds to fall.College format is used for this event with three eight-game pro set doubles followed by six singles. It is a great experience for the boys to play, especially at a university where they can experience the campus setting. Despite the ending to the day, I was impressed with the sportsmanship I had seen previously and hope that the majority of players continue to put on their best for all the coaches watching. I know the level of tennis is certainly going to continue to climb as the days go on. Until tomorrow,
above from top: Derek Difazio, Andrew Lee
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