Oosterbaan and Solovyev Capture Singles Titles at 16s National Open in Kalamazoo
by Colette Lewis
, 8 July 2011
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Paul Oosterbaan is familiar with important junior tennis tournaments in his hometown - he lives in Kalamazoo, where the USTA Boys 18s and 16s National Championships have been played for 68 years. But the 15-year-old hadn't yet earned his way into the tournament, so last weekend's Boys and Girls 16s National Open, contested on Kalamazoo College's Stowe Stadium courts for the first time, provided a golden opportunity to assure his debut there in August.
Although he didn't consider his home court advantage all that significant, noting that many of the 32 competitors in the boys draw had probably played in Kalamazoo before, Oosterbaan found some level of comfort in the surroundings, which included sunny skies and warm temperatures throughout the holiday weekend. Not only did Oosterbaan collect his first National Open title, he also recorded a personally significant win on his way to the final.
The seventh-seeded Oosterbaan defeated top seed Martin Redlicki in the quarterfinals 6-4, 6-0, and it wasn't simply his comeback from 4-1 down in the first set that made it memorable for the rising Portage Northern High School sophomore.
"That was a big win for me," the 6-foot-4 Oosterbaan said of the equally imposing Redlicki. "I hadn't beaten him three or four times, so I was really excited to get the win. That was my best match of the weekend. I was serving really well and everything was clicking."
Oosterbaan, who did not lose a set in his five wins, was twice a point away from dropping the first set in the final against No. 8 seed Hayden Sabatka of Lone Tree, Colo.
Sabatka served for the opening set at 5-3, but didn't convert, hitting a forehand approach wide at 30-40 to put Oosterbaan back on serve at 4-5. Sabatka earned a set point at 30-40, which Oosterbaan saved with an ace, and another two points later, when Oosterbaan hit an inside-out forehand winner to stay in the set.
At 5-5, Sabatka was broken again, with Oosterbaan's defense playing a key role. Sabatka watched two good overheads come back as excellent defensive lobs from Oosterbaan and when Sabatka netted his third attempt, he couldn't resist berating himself, which resulted in a point penalty for audible obscenity. That was a game point, which gave Oosterbaan at 6-5 lead and he then held, helped by an ace and some indifferent second-serve returns by Sabatka.
Oosterbaan got a quick break to open the second set, but gave it right back in the second game, and despite his lead, his frustration began to grow.
After a double fault in the fourth game of the second set, Oosterbaan threw his baseball cap over the fence, and perhaps that helped him refocus. He held serve the rest of the match, although he confessed to being unhappy with the performance of his primary weapon.
"My serve was all over the place today," said Oosterbaan, who calculated his first serve percentage as under twenty percent. "I was trying to get some first serves in the court today, but I couldn't even do that."
Oosterbaan got a break in the next game and held for 4-2, and after his third break of Sabatka, served out the match, throwing in a second serve ace in the final game.