By Jeremiah Yolkut, special to USTA.com
SEOUL, Korea -- Thursday was another busy day for Team USA at the Olympic Tennis Centre in Seoul, as three out of the four U.S. teams were in action. For the US junior team it was a semifinal against Great Britain, which meant high drama in Korea.
The juniors started the day off with a bang, as Shelby Baron hit through her opponent and decisively took control of the first match. It was a critical win, as Chris Herman would have a tough task taking on Alfie Hewitt, the World Junior Master Champion in the No. 1 singles. Herman battled in the first set, but Hewitt was too much and wouldn’t allow Herman the opportunity to set the pace in the match. Herman’s losing battle meant a deciding doubles would dictate which team would head to the final.
In the doubles, the American duo came out on all cylinders. The first set started with both teams trading games, but the confidence and poise of Herman and Baron was too much for Team England. In the second set the Brits came alive, staying on serve and managing a small comeback by the young pairing to force a match tie break to decide the winner. After dropping the first few games, the U.S. tied it up and fought back to take a slight lead at 6-5. Baron’s serving and Herman’s cool volleys allowed the juniors to ultimately take the set and win the tie. The win means the U.S. juniors are heading to their first final since 2003.
On Friday, the team will face The Netherlands in a rematch from earlier in the week and try to avenge their pool play loss.
The U.S. men had a tough matchup with Japan in the afternoon. Jon Rydberg battled in all three sets, but with too many unforced errors and a strong Japanese opponent he dropped the first singles. Steve Welch faced former World No. 1 Shingo Kunieda and fought hard, but could not overcome Kunieda’s quickness in a straight sets loss. In the doubles the U.S. men were again tested and lost the doubles, along with the tie, 0-3.
The U.S. women were back in action after a day off with a chance to secure a spot in the 5-6 playoff. They did just that with solid performances in singles by Kaitlyn Verfuerth and Emmy Kaiser, capping it off with a winning doubles by Verfuerth and Mackenzie Soldan. The U.S. women will face off against Thailand on Saturday.
Japan (3) d. USA (8) 3-0
Takashi Sanada (JPN) d. Jon Rydberg (USA) 6-4, 2-6, 6-4
Shingo Kunieda (JPN) d. Steve Welch (USA) 6-1, 6-2
Satoshi Saida/Shingo Kunieda (JPN) d. Jon Rydberg/Steve Baldwin (USA) 6-1, 6-3
USA d. Chile 3-0
Kaitlyn Verfuerth (USA) d. Francisca Mardones (CHI) 6-4, 6-0
Emmy Kaiser (USA) d. Maria Antoineta Ortiz (CHI) 6-0, 6-2
Kaitlyn Verfuerth/Mackenzie Soldan (USA) d. Francisca Mardones/Macarena Cabrillana (CHI) 6-3, 6-3
USA (6) d. England (1) 2-1
Shelby Baron (USA) d. Lauren Jones (GBR) 6-1, 6-0
Alfie Hewett (GBR) d. Chris Herman (USA) 6-4, 6-2
Chris Herman/Shelby Baron (USA) d. Alfie Hewett/Lauren Jones (GBR) 3-6, 6-2, 10-7
Quads: USA vs. England
Men’s: USA vs. England