FLUSHING, N.Y. – The 2015 American Collegiate Invitational at the US Open didn’t start on time and ultimately saw two of the eight scheduled matches unable to come to a conclusion.
What transpired in the middle was some high-quality tennis, though.
All four men’s quarterfinal matches were completed, as were two of the women’s quarters, as the action took place Thursday under overcast skies with hints of sunshine on courts four, five and six at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York.
Virginia’s Ryan Shane, the No. 1 seed in the men’s draw and defending NCAA National Singles Champion, punched his ticket to Friday’s semifinal round with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over UCLA’s Dennis Mkrtchian.
“I think the match was 45 minutes, so that was good looking forward to the rest of the schedule,” said Shane, who finished the 2014-15 season with a 36-8 record and No. 2 national ranking in the final Oracle/ITA Collegiate Tennis Rankings. “I didn’t serve that well, but I was proud of the way I fought and stayed in points and tried to come out with more of plan and not just hitting the ball.”
Shane will face Vanderbilt’s Gonzalez Austin in the semifinal round. Austin advanced past Columbia’s Winston Lin in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3.
“The biggest thing about (the ACI) is that there really can’t be an upset,” said Austin, who graduated from Vanderbilt and is now pursuing a professional tennis career. “Everyone is very solid and anyone can beat anyone in this draw, so winning the first set today was huge. Even after then, I was really poised and wanted to make sure I stayed focused through the second set, because even after a good start you can let it slip away, so it’s about focusing the whole way through the match.”
The toughest match in the men’s draw was the three-set battle between Virginia’s Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and Jared Hiltzik of Illinois. Kwiatkowski darted off with the first set, 6-2, before Hiltzik rallied to claim the second, 6-3. Hiltzik led 4-3 in the third, but Kwiatkowski stayed the course and won four of the last five games to close out the match, 7-5.
“After the first set, (Hiltzik) raised his level of play,” said Kwiatkowski, who was facing Hiltzik for the first time. “I stayed the same and stayed composed, which is something I’ve had trouble doing in the past. Down a break in the third, it was definitely a tough moment, but I just tried to put as many returns on the court as possible and tried to turn it around. I got a few lucky points and that’s tennis in the third set; just one or two lucky points, and that’s the match.”
Mackenzie McDonald of UCLA rounds out the men’s semifinals, where he will face Kwiatkowski. McDonald earned his spot with a 6-1, 6-4 win in his quarterfinal match against Notre Dame’s Quentin Monaghan.
“I thought it was a good match for me; it’s been a little more than two weeks since I played my last competitive match,” said McDonald. “To go out and win in straights, it’s always good.”
In the women’s draw, UCLA’s Chanelle Van Nguyen bested top-seeded Brooke Austin of Florida, 7-5, 6-3, to move on to the semifinal round.
“I started to play better in the second set,” said Van Nguyen, a two-time ITA All-American. “I also changed racquets. The first one I was using felt really loose and felt like if I just tapped the ball, it’d go flying. So, I switched to one of the freshly-strung racquets and that really helped.”
Lauren Herring of Georgia was also able to complete her quarterfinal contest on Thursday versus Cal’s Maegan Manasse. The duo played into a tiebreak in the first set, where Herring eked out an 8-6 decision. She cruised in the second set to win the match, 6-1.
“All eight players are good, so you know that you’re going to get a good match,” said Herring, a three-time ITA All-American in singles and two-time All-American in doubles. “I think Chanelle and I are going to have a really tough, long match.”
Two women’s quarterfinal matches were still on the court when the final band of rain arrived. UCLA’s Robin Anderson was up a set on Florida’s Josie Kuhlman, while Julia Jones of Ole Miss led Virginia’s Julia Elbaba after taking the first set 7-5.
The ACI, which takes place Sept. 10-12 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, New York, is open only to American college players. The field, which was still being finalized by the USTA, will feature eight men and eight women. The student-athletes will compete in a single-elimination tournament, with the champions earning main-draw wild cards into the 2016 US Open if either is ranked No. 120 or better by the 2016 US Open entry deadline next summer. Otherwise, the winners will receive qualifying wild cards. The champions will also get wild cards into two USTA Pro Circuit events, while each runner-up will earn one wild card.
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