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US Open National Playoff Qualifying-Florida Tennis: Day 2 Blog

May 29, 2010 07:00 PM
USTA Florida's Rick Vach blogs from the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Fla., the site of the inaugural US Open National Playoff Qualifying-Florida tournament:


Round of 16 competitors Darin Schultz (left) and Brandon Muth


An onlooker assesses the men's and women's draws

My road to qualifying for the US Open ended abruptly today -- not unlike those movies where the car is unknowlingly driving at breakneck speed toward an unfinished section of overpass, then flying off the edge -- when Bollettieri student Ian Laster of North Carolina administered a 6-1, 6-0 beatdown. I should have snapped a pic of Ian, who is the tennis player you would grow in a lab if you could -- 6-foot-2 and muscle-built, yet super-quick around the court. His flat serve made that "pop" sound that turned heads, and knocked racquets out of hands. My hands.

During the serving warm-up I almost took a serve in the stomach, it was like I was the dancing "Hit the Clown" target trying to just avoid getting beaned. I'm used to gently catching the warm-up serves of my fellow 45-year-old opponents, not trying to avoid taking them in the face. I heard laughing behind me from the people watching, so at least it provided some entertainment value.

It will be interesting to see how Ian fares in the quarterfinals against Mexico's German Sanchez, a fellow Bollettieri player who has been competing at low-level pro events this year in Mexico. There will be some good tennis on display tomorrow, and today I met some friends that came down from Sarasota to watch the action (and big props to the USTA Florida section staff that came out yesterday to root on USTA Florida staff and volunteers participating in the event).

Most of the round of 16 matches on Saturday featured one world-beater or another who had a forehand or serve or court coverage that would leave your mouth hanging open. That is, except the last match of the day, which exemplified the uniqueness of the USONPQ draw, which has no seeding (not to say these two didn't have their moments in what was a great match to watch). Darin Schultz, a 34-year-old 4.0-rated NTRP player from Punta Gorda narrowly lost to Brandon Muth, a 31-year-old NTRP-rated 5.0 player from Tampa, in two tightly-contested sets (while 4.0-rated, Schultz unloaded a 5.5-level serve on his opponent, keeping him in the match).

"My father-in-law told me that Bode Miller was doing it," Muth said of how he first heard about the event. "I think this tournament is great, it gives the USTA members exposure and engages them."

In contrast to the teenagers and pros in their 20s who were all business at the event, Muth and Schultz talked amicably during changeovers.

"I did the junior tennis thing and it was hyper-stress and I hated it," Muth said regarding the congenially-contested match. "I actually didn't play for eight or nine years, and since then I've started to come back. So this is fun, you meet nice guys and try hard and see what happens."

Muth will get a close-up look at some high-level tennis on Sunday when in the quarterfinals he faces Olivier Sajous, who has an ATP Ranking of 1113 and has played Davis Cup for Haiti.

High school freshman Jan Abaza remains a favorite in the women's draw, reaching the quarters Saturday with a 6-0, 6-1 win. But don't ask her who her next opponent is.

"I don't like to look forward to who I play because I have been having the problem of looking ahead and over-analyzing and seeing who lost to who and everything," Abaza said. "I just want to go out there and just play my game."

Former world No. 2 Tommy Haas also walked by the registration tent, looking amused, on his way to a practice session on the Bollettieri grounds. Also, Tournament Director Rick Workman assured me that he himself didn't play the tournament this year because he didn't want to win it and take away a qualifying spot from a player -- which is mighty nice of him.

Down to the final eight in the men's and women's draws, cities represented include Boca Raton, Bradenton, Dania, Deerfield Beach, Orlando, Parkland, Plantation, Sarasota, Tampa, and Windermere. The quarterfinals begin on Sunday at 9 p.m. at the IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy, where by Wednesday it will be determined which men's and women's champion from Florida advances to the National Playoffs and a shot at winning a wildcard into the US Open qualifying draw.

US Open Men's National Playoffs/Sectional Qualifying (Round of 16)

Brandon Muth Tampa, FL  def.  Darin Schultz Punta Gorda, FL  6-3; 6-3
Peter Carpenter Bradenton, FL  def.  Evgeniy Belov Tampa, FL  6-1; 6-3
Mark Oljaca Bradenton, FL  def.  Eric Tate Sarasota, FL  6-4; 6-1
Christopher Klingemann Bradenton, FL  def.  Mac Styslinger Birmingham, AL  6-1; 7-6(4)
Ian Laster Waxhaw, NC  def.  Rick Vach Jacksonville, FL  6-1; 6-0
German Sanchez Bradenton, FL  def.  Thomas Kroczek Cortez, FL  7-5; 6-1
Alex Bose Sarasota, FL  def.  Yaozhong Zhang Safety Harbor, FL  6-2; 6-2
Olivier Sajous Plantation, FL  def.  Dominic Cotrone Bradenton, FL  6-4; 6-1

US Open Women's National Playoffs/Sectional Qualifying (Round of 16)

C.C. Sardinha Bradenton, FL  def.  Linda Cantrell Tampa, FL  6-0; 6-1
Di Zhao Bradenton, FL  def.  Chantal Igherighe Tampa, FL  6-0; 6-0
Simone Vranov Windermere, FL  def.  Kim Kermet West Palm Beach, FL  2-6; 6-0; 6-2
Sherry Li Parkland, FL  def.  Lizeth Ramirez Sunrise, FL  6-0; 6-0
Maria Cespedes Orlando, FL  def.  Marina Krivonogova New York, NY  6-0; 6-0
Jan Abaza Deerfield Beach, FL  def.  Chelsea Underwood Winter Park, FL  6-0; 6-1
Elena Dragut Dania, FL  def.  Deja Kitchiner Citrus Springs, FL  6-0; 6-3
Libby Muma Boca Raton, FL  def.  Yasmine Xantos Bradenton, FL  6-3; 6-1

Got comments/input as a player or observer or internet lurker? E-mail vach@florida.usta.com and we'll get your comments in the blog.






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