KALAMAZOO, MI — For just the second time in the tournament’s 71 years in Kalamazoo, an unseeded player has advanced to the championship singles match at the USTA Boys 18-16 National Championships.
Unseeded Collin Altamirano, of Yuba City, Calif., upset top seed Gage Brymer, Irvine, Calif., 6-0, 6-1, in one Saturday semifinal to advance to today’s best-of-five final.
He’ll play 14th seed Jared Donaldson, of Cumberland, R.I., who defeated No. 2 Noah Rubin, of Rockville Centre, N.Y., 7-6(4), 7-5, on Saturday.
The match, which will be streamed live by Public Media Network and Secant Technologies at ustaboys.secantnet.net, is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Sunday. The 16s championship match is set for 11:30 a.m. and will also be streamed live.
The winner of the 18s final earns a wild card into the main draw of the U.S. Open and the 16s winner goes into the U.S. Open juniors main draw.
“I’m the 14th seed, so I guess I’m not supposed to be here either,” Donaldson said about facing an unseeded player. “I guess it’s an unlikely match. If anyone had asked us at the beginning of the tournament who would get to the finals of the tournament, nobody would have said Donaldson would be in the final. I bet nobody would say Altamirano would be in the final, either.”
Altamamirano credits his coach, Joseph Gilbert, for the strategy to defeat Brymer.
“Keep hitting heavy, run down a lot of balls and run him around and watch him miss,” Altamirano said. “That’s what I did and I did it perfectly.” Blueprint for beating Gage Brymer
Altamirano didn’t make the tournament last year because of an injury and, as a first-year 18s player this year, he didn’t expect to be seeded since he’s been playing most of the time on the Futures tour rather than junior tournaments.
“My goal is to turn pro, be the guy on TV,” he said. “This next year is really gonna show if I can jump up in the rankings and get up there. If I get in a good position, I might have to go pro.”
One step would be to win the U.S. Open wild card
“It’s the goal,” Altamirano said. “It’s obviously the ultimate prize in junior tennis. My coach, how he puts it is all the other ones are warmups for this one. This is the tournament I care about most.”
Donaldson said toward the end of his first set, he thought briefly it might go three sets because it was “getting a little dicey. I was like, ‘Oh man, if I’m going to win this, I’m gonna have to go three.’
“Noah doesn’t give an inch and I try not to give an inch, either. I knew it was just going to be a battle out there because Noah is feisty. He’ll scrap, he’ll run, he’ll do whatever it takes to win. But so will I. Today I think I just won a few more key points than he did.”
The only other unseeded player advancing to the championship match was Cecil Mamiit in boys 18s in 1993. He lost to Paul Goldstein in a match that was shortened to the best of three sets and moved indoors to the Markin Center midway through the match because of rain.