2006 USTA BOYS 18 NATIONAL TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS
University of Illinois - Urbana, Illinois - July 29-August 1, 2006
July 31, 2006-Day Three
Which ever coast you are talking about, it's Southern all the way Tuesday as the top two seeds will play for the USTA National Boys 18 Team title.
It was a battle of the Californias first thing in the morning and the sunnier side won. The Southern California team dominated the day, first taking the doubles point and then capturing all but one singles. That is not to say that Northern California wasn't there. There were some great matches to be watched at the Atkins Tennis Center.
The closest of the matches was certainly Eric Ramos and Nicholas Meister. I caught some of the great points over there and could certainly understand how the score was stretched to Eric's 6-4,6-7(5),1-0(10-7) win. The crowd gathered around as, despite the heat, the boys managed to chase the ball around the court for an exciting match. It was exciting for a difference reason over at Steven Benevenuto and Gregory Hirshman's match as the arguments over line calls kept the linesman in place and the tempers up. Bozhidar Katsarov and Xavier Smith played out to a tiebreaker in a set full of close points, but Bozhidar easily took the second, 6-3. I didn't get to see much of Steven Johnson's win over Nicholas Lopez (6-2,6-2) or Ryan Thatcher's quick 6-1,6-1 defeated of Kevin Liang on the opposite courts.
Before the second semi of the day, I felt compelled to check out my hometown players at the University of Illinois' Blair Park. I had been so busy I didn't even realize until I got there that I had picked a great match to watch, Eastern vs. Florida -- the only seeds to fall in the first round. When I arrived the trainer informed me that the heat index was at 106 and it certainly felt it with little shade in site. I sat through some of the best doubles of the tournament before Florida took the point and I took a break from the heat.
After a quick change of clothing and air conditioning break, I went to see some of the second semifinal before heading back to the Florida-Eastern match. Though top two players, Davey Sandgren and Houston Barrick were once again struggling in their first sets, things seemed to be under the control of the Southern section at Atkins and I made the decision that the match back at Blair was the more exciting one. I was not disappointed.
Eastern and Florida's matches were running as close as can be. I just caught the end of Ryan Kim's 6-2,6-7(3),7-5 win over Sho Matsumoto -- played just like the score shows -- but Jonathan Fife had won and Eastern was still alive and kicking on three courts. Derek Difazio took one more for them as Jonathan Wolff and Richard Bonfiglio battled it out for the Florida, 7-6(6),6-2 win.
All of the excitement at Blair park was focused on David Fink and Curt Maddox. When I had arrived Maddox had taken the first set 6-3 and it was 3-3 in the second. As David's teammates gathered around me, he fought through some incredible points, with some break chances and even two set points at 5-4. At one of those points there was a line call argument and it seemed to have taken a lot of the Easterner's steam, but he kept in there with some aces to a tiebreaker. By this time all eyes were on the match and it wasn't until 3-3 that there was a break and Curt won it 7-6(4).
The finals and playoffs are tomorrow, but there doesn't appear to be an end in sight for the heat. Under the imposed "heat rules" the third match of doubles was now suspended if the point was clinched and, once a team had won the match there were no full third sets -- just tiebreakers. Tuesday's matches are at 8:00 & 11:30 am so we will be out of the sun by afternoon. I'm sure there will still be plenty of fire on the court as Southern and Southern California go for the trophy.Until tomorrow,
Above from top: Eastern & Florida teams line up before the match; David Fink
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