By Jeremiah Yolkut, USTA
ANTALYA, Turkey – After a challenging 2009 Invacare World Team Cup (IWTC) the U.S. men returned to action starting the 2010 IWTC in World Group 2. As a result of finishing last in World Group 1 in 2009, the Americans will now have to climb back into the top pairings for 2011.
Jon Rydberg kicked off the 2010 campaign after missing the 2009 IWTC. Rydberg was eager to take the court after being away from an event he had attended consistently over the past decade. He came out strong painting the lines with his powerful returns and big serve. He was vintage Rydberg, taking control of the match early and never looking back. His Israeli opponent, Avi Weinberg, was overmatched and looked bewildered throughout the 6-1, 6-0 thumping. From his backhand winner to take the first set to his cool demeanor in the second, Rydberg showed why the Americans missed him in 2009.
It was then Paul Moran’s turn as the No. ranked American in the tournament to face-off against Team Israel. Moran faced the imposing Daniel Kordoni in the second match of the tie. Moran came out strong looking like a veteran on a mission. He cruised through the first set staying on serve and keeping the ball away from the large Israeli en route to a 6-1 destruction. In the second set Kordoni awoke and Moran stopped pushing to the ball allowing the imposing Israeli a glimmer of hope. Moran was sporadic, hitting balls out and allowing Kordoni to get comfortable. It didn’t take long for Moran to lose his cool and confidence dropping the second set 3-6. The match headed for the tie-break where Moran took charge and fended off the tough Israeli 10-6, taking the match and set for Team USA.
Moran and Rydberg paired up for the doubles and came out strong taking the Israelis out in straight sets 6-3, 6-1 to sweep the tie.
USA vs. Israel
Jon Rydberg vs. Avi Weinberg
Paul Moran vs. David Kordoni
6-1, 3-6, 10-6
Jon Rydberg and Paul Moran vs. David Kordoni and Asaaf Stokol
The men will play Sri Lanka on Wednesday.
Nick Taylor led the quad team’s second day efforts as he faced off with long-time foe Giuseppi Polidori in the first quad match of the day. Taylor was challenged in the first set as Polidori didn’t let the red clay slow him down. Polidori got to Taylor’s lobs and tried to go on the offensive against his American opponent. It took Taylor a bit longer than usual but ultimately he overcame the Italian’s challenge taking the first set 6-3. In the second set it was much of the same with Polidori’s drop shots fending off Taylor for a bit until the No. 4 ranked American duplicated his first set success, winning 6-3.
David Wagner was up next and would have the usual duty of trying to close out the tie with a No. 1 singles victory. It would be a familiar foe from Italy who would try and get in his way. Antonio Rafaelle came out strong keeping the American champion off his game and using the clay to his advantage. The first set was close, but Wagner weathered the storm taking the opener 7-5. The second set was much of the same, but Wagner accepted that it would not be his typical win and advanced the quad team with a 6-4 second set victory.
In the doubles Wagner and Taylor looked cool and collected finishing off the day with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Team Italia.
USA vs. Italy
Nick Taylor vs. Giuseppe Polidori
David Wagner vs. Antonio Rafaelle
David Wagner and Nick Taylor vs.Giuseppe Polidori and Antonio Rafaelle
The quad team will play Israel on Wednesday.
In a World Team Cup first the United States junior team faced Iraq on Tuesday. Ryan Nelson and Mackenzie Soldan took on the developing wheelchair tennis nation in a most unique setting with tennis as the main topic of conversation.
Ryan Nelson pushed off first with the rookie IWTC nation and faced Mohammed Talib in an early afternoon showdown. Talib was strong and precise, getting Nelson off his usually relaxed game in the first set. Smattering balls from sideline to sideline, Talib was in control and seemed over-powering to the determined Utah native. The set was quick and fast and Iraq was off to a 1-0 lead after the 6-2, 6-0 victory.
It was only about 10 minutes after the conclusion of the first singles match that the U.S. delegation realized that something was off. The second singles chair umpire called the same name as the winner of the first singles. The official quickly realized an error had taken place and the Iraqis had played their players in the incorrect order. The head referee was called courtside along with U.S. National Head Coach Dan James and the following was decided: The official policy stated that if a player who is not nominated for a particular match plays in said match, the match is defaulted to the other team. In this case, however, the U.S. decided in the spirit of the competition to let the match stand and give Iraq the 1-0 lead in the tie. The U.S. believed that since Iraq is in its first year of junior competition the team made an honest mistake and the result of the actual match played should still count.
It would be up to Mackenzie Soldan, the tough and determined Kentuckian, to get Team USA to the doubles. Soldan did not disappoint, taking Hamid Hussein and giving him a taste of her pure passion and tennis brilliance. Soldan made few errors and served well, beating the young Iraqi, 6-1, 6-1 in under 45 minutes.
The wild day of junior tennis would come down to one final match as the Iraqi team looked to upset the favored Americans in doubles. Soldan and Nelson were clearly determined as the first set got under way to stay away from unforced errors and poor serving. It was at 4-2 when Nelson hit a winner down the line that Team USA was ready to put the finishing touches on the job at hand. Soldan led the rest of the set fending off Hussein and Talib on way to a 6-4 opening set victory. In the second set, the Americans started to show their wear, dropping the set quickly 1-6 and forcing a deciding 10 point tie-break. In the tie break the teams went back and forth early with Iraq showing a charge after going down 0-2. The pressure in the stands was mounting as the Iraqi contingency and U.S. delegation traded friendly cheers of national pride. The tension on the court was high as both sides made mistakes and missed what normally were easy returns. While the crowd could tell both sides seemed tight, it was clear that Nelson and Soldan wanted to finish a long day of tennis with a win. After trading points throughout and putting on a spectacular show, the Americans took the tie-break 11-9.
While the final result points to an American victory it was clear there was a much larger message sent in playing the tie in this manner. The U.S. demonstrated character and strength in allowing the Iraqis to get a second chance after an honest error. Soldan and Nelson got to see how good tennis combines with ethical decisions to create positive outcomes. The delegation represented the USA well and gave the IWTC audience a great tennis match and an even better life lesson.
USA vs. Iraq
Ryan Nelson vs. Mohammed Talib
Mackenzie Soldan vs. Hamid Hussein
Ryan Nelson and Mackenzie Soldan vs. Khalil Hussein and Mohammed Talib
6-4, 1-6, 11-9
The juniors play the Netherlands on Wednesday in their final round robin match of the pool.
The U.S. women were up next as they faced Great Britain in their second round match of the 2010 IWTC.
For the second straight day Dana Mathewson would lead the U.S. ladies into battle as she faced veteran Kay Forshaw in the opener. For Forshaw, nothing came easy as double faults were the story of her day. For Mathewson, this offered a chance to focus on keeping her serve on target and doing just enough to take care of the past British Paralympian. Mathewson played a bit hesitant at times but still put away Forshaw in relatively quick order 6-3, 6-4.
Emmy Kaiser took center court next in her battle with Jordan Whiley, the No. 1 British star at the IWTC. Kaiser played well; hitting the ball cleanly and causing Whiley to get off her game early. The top U.S. woman had her chances to take the set at 5-3 but couldn’t put Whiley away, allowing her a window of opportunity that would prove tough to overcome. After attempting to close it out again at 5-4, Kaiser went back and forth with Whiley and headed for a tiebreak. Whiley managed to find her groove in the tie-break winning 7-6 (5) and started the tie off with a critical win.
The second set offered a chance for redemption as Kaiser managed to battle her way back into the match. The set wore on but the strong American stayed focused and took the set 7-5, showing her drive to push the match into a deciding third set.
In the third Kaiser jumped to an early 2-0 lead before Whiley got back to basics using her strong form to quiet the U.S. star and easily take the set 6-2.
The doubles would be the decider on this evening in Antalya and the long match was a struggle for the American women. Louise Hunt teamed with Whiley and the Brits came out swinging. Taking an early lead and never looking back Hunt played off Whiley’s lead and never allowed the Americans to expose her weaknesses. The U.S. ladies fell quickly and fast losing the match 2-6, 1-6 and the overall tie 1-2.
USA vs. Great Britain
Dana Mathewson vs. Kay Forshaw
Emmy Kaiser vs. Jordanne Whiley
6-7 (5), 7-5, 2-6
Emmy Kaiser and Dana Mathewson vs. Jordanne Whiley and Louise Hunt
The US women will face Switzerland on Thursday.