Wednesday's round of 16 at the USTA Boys 18 and 16 Nationals started at 9:30 a.m., finished at 6:30 p.m., and featured plenty of drama in those nine hours of play. It didn't produced many upsets, however, as seven of the top eight seeds reached the quarterfinals in the 18s division, with only Mackenzie McDonald, the No. 4 seed, failing to make the final eight.
No. 30 seed Shane Vinsant, who beat McDonald on Tuesday, continued his run today with a 7-6(1), 6-2 victory over No. 28 seed Harrison Richmond and will meet Jared Hiltzik, the No. 6 seed, in one of the two quarterfinal matches scheduled for Thursday. Hiltzik advanced by virtue of a 6-1, 7-6(5) win over No. 9 seed Spencer Papa, a match that featured two unusual occurrences. Playing on Court 1, which, along with Courts 2 and 3, has a radar gun, Hiltzik cracked a big serve in the first set. A glance up to the radar display showed the serve speed registering as 166 mph, which would be a world record.
"When I saw it, I looked up at my coaches and they were laughing the entire time, yeah right. I could hear them from up there," said Hiltzik, who said his top serve speed would probably be in the 123 to 125 mph range. "They knew I would get a big head because of it."
That serve was part of a nearly flawless first set that Hiltzik played, but in the second set, Papa eliminated most of the errors he was making to assist Hiltzik in the first, and Hiltzik was content to play less aggressively than he had.
"In the first set, I really came out with a game plan and was playing really, really well. I was loose," said the 18-year-old from Wilmette, Illinois, who was serving for the math at 5-3 in the second set. "In the second set I just went back to some old habits, thought too much about the match. He started making more shots, but that was because my level decreased."
The tiebreaker didn't go well for Hiltzik either, at least not until he fell behind 5-3. He hit a forehand winner for 5-5, then played some eye-popping defense on the next point, which Papa seemingly had won several times. Hiltzik final dipped a perfect running forehand pass by Papa who was waiting to put away a floater at the net, and when Papa lost the point, he threw his racquet, and when it landed on the other side of the net, the chair umpire announced a point penalty for racquet abuse, which ended the match.
"He was calm the entire match, and then just that one outburst," said Hiltzik. "The tiebreaker wasn't looking too good, even though I was up, it wasn't feeling too great. I got way behind in that point, but just hung in there and when he came up, I just used my speed to pass him. My defensive game is really good, it's just my offense that has to improve."
To that end, Hiltzik was out on an unoccupied court practicing with his coach Billy Heiser immediately after the match.
The other quarterfinal on Thursday will feature No. 8 seed Alexios Halebian against No. 2 seed Michael Redlicki, both of whom won three set matches to advance. Halebian defeated 14-year-old Stefan Kozlov 6-3, 1-6, 6-4, while Redlicki beat 16-year-old Deiton Baughman 6-3, 6-7(7), 6-1.
The two quarterfinal matches scheduled for Friday will find top seed Mitchell Krueger against No. 5 seed Noah Rubin, the third time they have met in late in a major junior event. Krueger defeated Rubin 6-4, 6-1 to win the ITF Pan American Closed final last October, and then beat him 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-2 in the semifinals of this past April's International Spring Championships in Carson. On Wednesday, Krueger defeated unseeded Mihir Kumar 6-3, 6-2, while Rubin had considerably more trouble with his unseeded opponent, Nick Wood. Wood forced a third set, but Rubin prevailed 6-3, 3-6, 6-2.
Last year's 16s champion Ronnie Schneider extended his Kalamazoo win streak to 11 matches with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 win over No. 31 seed Harrison Adams. Schneider's opponent in Friday's quarterfinal will be No. 3 seed Dennis Novikov, who beat No. 10 seed Thai Kwiatkowski 6-4, 6-4 on Wednesday afternoon.
In the 16s, top seed Mitch Stewart has been flying under the radar, or at least playing in the shadow of No. 2 seed and Kalamazoo resident Paul Oosterbaan. Oosterbaan drew the biggest crowd yet to watch his 7-5, 6-4 win over No. 16 seed Nathan Ponwith, while Stewart took care of No. 10 seed Will Showers 6-3, 6-2. But Stewart's efficiency in getting on and off the show courts has been part of the reason he hasn't drawn much attention.
"Three of my four matches have been on the center stage," said the 2012 Clay Court champion. "I just love this tournament though. You don't need to be recognized to have fun here. It's the best tournament in the country, I love it."
Stewart had beaten Showers in the quarterfinals at the Clays, but said Showers tried a different strategy today.
"In the beginning of the match he was just sort of grinding, moonballing," said Stewart. "At clays he was actually trying to hit big. I don't know if he thought he could hang with me in a rally, but he actually tried this time. But once he started getting tired he went back to hitting big, and that's kind of falling into my trap. They're prone to make more errors and my whole game is just running every ball down and not making errors."
Stewart will play Logan Staggs, the No. 13 seed, in one of Friday's quarterfinals. Staggs defeated unseeded Chase Colton 6-3, 7-5 to advance in the evening's last singles match.
Oosterbaan will play No. 7 seed Tommy Mylnikov in Thursday's quarterfinal. Mylnikov, a semifinalist at the Clays, beat unseeded Cameron Klinger 6-3, 7-5 Wednesday afternoon, using his big ground strokes to overcome 2011 14s National champion Klinger.
The other quarterfinal on Thursday will feature No. 32 seed Sasha Gozun against unseeded Shane Monroe. Gozun, who had played for nearly four hours in his win over No. 4 seed Logan Smith on Tuesday, had another marathon, this time beating unseeded Shawn Hadavi 2-6, 7-5, 7-6(4). Ironically, that was the exact same score of Hadavi's win over William Little on Tuesday, down to the last point of the tiebreaker. Monroe defeated unseeded Michael Genender 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.