Gail Brodsky (Photo by Tom Grason)
By Steve Pratt
NORCROSS, Georgia – There were no shortage of intriguing storylines Friday during the opening day of the 2011 Kia Motors USTA Australian Open Wild Card Playoff taking place at Racquet Club of the South.
Top-seeded Bobby Reynolds was upset by former University of Tennessee star Rhyne Williams, 4-6, 6-4, 10-8.
Fan-favorite and last year’s finalist Jack Sock had to retire from his match because of cramps against rival Denis Kudla after failing to close him out in a second-set tiebreaker.
Sixteen-year-old Madison Keys survived match point and came back to beat No 3 seeded and Atlanta-area trained player Jamie Hampton, 3-6, 6-4, 9-7.
Coco Vandeweghe held off 15-year-old Taylor Townsend of nearby Stockbridge, 6-4, 6-4 in a two-hour match that featured several long games.
Five players from the Atlanta metropolitan area played on Friday with only Robby Ginepri of Kennesaw moving on to Saturday’s semifinals by way of his 7-6 (4), 6-0 win over reigning NCAA singles champion Steve Johnson of Southern California.
“It’s always a little more nerve wracking playing in front of the hometown crowd,” said Ginepri, a former US Open semifinalist. “But I got to experience that for the first time earlier this summer at this same club (Atlanta Tennis Championships). Even though it’s 35 or 40 miles it’s always good to sleep in your own bed and be close to home.”
Ginepri said this was his first real competitive event since the US Open although he took part in the USTA National Father-Son event last month in Southern California. “It was so fun,” said Ginepri, who teamed with his father to make the consolation final. “I’ve never done anything like that before so it was a great experience. They had players from 8 years old all the way to 77 out there. It’s just a genius idea and I look forward to playing it again in the future.”
Ginepri said he would have preferred to play Acworth’s Reynolds on Saturday in what would have been an all Cobb County matchup. “I think we played in high school and split sets but then stopped because the match was decided,” he said. “We might have played a couple of times in the juniors but never professionally.”
Ginepri and Reynolds were supposed to have met in the semifinals of the Vancouver event earlier in the year but Reynolds was forced to pull out because of an injury. “I’m sure sooner or later we will play,” Ginepri said. “Somewhere down the road we’ll meet.”
The 3-hour and 20-minute long Williams-Reynolds match was the best of the day with Reynolds staving off numerous match points before Williams finally prevailed. “We had some crazy rallies,” Williams said. “I was just praying one of those passing shots would be a winner, and luckily, I hit it in the right spot and he guessed wrong. Hopefully, I’m not too sore tomorrow.”
Williams beat Ginepri 6-2, 6-4 earlier this summer at the Aptos Challenger. “I played the match of my life,” he said. “Hopefully I can do that again because he’s a really good player, obviously. He was a semifinalist in the US Open. It’s going to be tough. I know he’s going to have the crowd behind him too. That’s what it sounded like.”
Kudla had lost to Sock four times in a row in a three-month period last year, including the US Open junior final. “You never want to finish a match like that,” he said of Sock’s defaulting. “You kind of have a little relief that you get to move on in the tournament but you never really get to finish the match. I’ll take it.”
Kudla meets Jessie Levine in the semifinals. “I’m finally healthy,” Levine said after his straight-set win over Daniel Kosakowski, 6-2, 6-4. “Because my ranking fell off I’ve had to go out and play some Futures events. Hey, it’s all part of the job. But it was nice to play in front of a nice crowd today after playing in front of 20 or 30 at a smaller tournament.”
On the women’s side top-seeded Vandeweghe used a new serving motion effectively to beat the aggressor Townsend in two hours. “I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my match,” said Vandeweghe. “I hit six big serves to save three break points in one game and controlled all my service games.”
She added, “(The match) didn’t feel long. I was enjoying it. She played a pretty aggressive playing style. We were both battling out there.”
Vandeweghe was watched intently by her new coach former ATP star Jan-Michael Gambill. Regardless of her result here, she is still planning on going Down Under to start the season. “I will play Auckland, Hobart and then Australia,” she said, adding this and Memphis are her only indoor events all season. “I enjoy it here, the facility, the people. I just love everything about playing here.”
Keys took control of her match against Hampton at 4-2, 40-15 in the third set before Hampton charged back to win that game and then go up 5-4 and held a match point at 7-6.
Keys is the reigning USTA wild-card champion receiving the automatic bid into the US Open back in August after winning the College Park, Md., event. She used the wild card to beat Jill Craybas in the first round before falling to No. 27 seeded Lucie Safarova, 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. “I thought I played well in that match,” she said. “But it was still the worst feeling in the world to lose. I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I would be. Being on Armstrong in your first US Open is just such an amazing experience.”
Gail Brodsky disappointed local fans who will not get to see Marietta’s Melanie Oudin play this weekend, beating the local star in three sets, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Brodsky has been training the last few months at the USTA Training Center – East with USTA national coach Jorge Todero. “I love the city and like the spirit of the coaches there,” she said of training in New York.
Friday’s Quarterfinal Scores
No. 8 Rhyne Williams (Knoxville, Tenn.) def. No. 1 Bobby Reynolds (Acworth, Ga.), 4-6, 6-4, 10-8
No. 2 Jesse Levine (Boca Raton, Fla.) def. No. 7 Daniel Kosakowski (Downey, Calif.), 6-2, 6-4
No. 3 Denis Kudla (Arlington, Va.) def. No. 6 Jack Sock (Lincoln, Neb.), 3-6, 7-6 (4), 5-4, ret.
No. 4 Robby Ginepri (Kennesaw, Ga.) def. No. 5 Steve Johnson (Orange, Calif.), 7-6 (4), 6-0
No. 1 Coco Vandeweghe (Newport Beach, Calif.) def. No. 8 Taylor Townsend (Stockbridge, Ga.), 6-4, 6-4
No. 5 Gail Brodsky (Brooklyn, N.Y.) def. No. 4 Melanie Oudin (Marietta, Ga.), 6-4, 4-6, 6-4
No. 6 Madison Keys (Boca Raton, Fla.) def. No. 3 Jamie Hampton (Auburn, Ala.), 3-6, 6-4, 9-7
No. 2 Alison Riske (McMurray, Pa.) def. No. 7 Grace Min (Duluth, Ga.), 6-0, 6-0
Saturday’s Semifinal Schedule
Beginning at 1 p.m. on Court 2
Alison Riske vs. Madison Keys
Followed by Denis Kudla vs. Jesse Levine
Beginning at 2 p.m. on Stadium Court
Coco Vandeweghe vs. Gail Brodsky
Followed by Robby Ginepri vs. Rhyne Williams
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