Optus 14s quarterfinals complete
There were some upsets in the Optus 14s boys' quarterfinals but it was smooth sailing for the top four girls writes James Crabtree.
If not for the hard surface and distinctive blue courts an onlooker might have presumed Max Purcell and Benard Nkomba were playing on Paris clay. The rallies, which were more a war of attrition than aggression, were usually won by the counterpunching Purcell.
From over four feet behind the baseline Purcell scampered with a style reminiscent of Frenchman Gilles Simon, grinding against an opponent who resembles a young Gael Monfils.
The harder the younger Nkomba pushed the better Purcell repelled, typically, until he found the error he was looking for.
“We both tried hard and had long rallies,” Purcell said after the game in which patience and perseverance proved key in a contest to convert the points that really mattered.
Eventually Purcell rounded out the winner 6-1 6-2, a scoreline that was not symbolic of the contest.
In contrast to the Purcell match on court 13, Mike Vaughn secured his victory over number one seed Scott Jones with aggression. Despite his eleventh seeding, Vaughn, of Victoria, looked the more comfortable player, dominating his service games and in course taking the first set 6-4.
Not until Jones, of Western Australia, was down 2-5 and facing elimination did he relax. At this point Vaughn, thinking of victory, tightened up losing the next two games to love. At 5-4 on his serve Vaughn appeared to be on the brink only for Jones to save five match points, including one with a perilous driving forehand volley.
Soon the players traded games and were locked in a tiebreak. Jones raced ahead to a 5-1 lead and the crowd readied itself for a third set and a possible epic.
Now, perhaps thinking of victory again, Jones tightened up. Before anyone had time to reflect Vaughn was staging a Houdini trick of his own winning five successive points to secure another match point.
Seemingly mesmerised by his opponent’s resolve, Jones double faulted, sending Mike Vaughn through to the semifinal 6-4 7-6, in a match he claimed to be “The best I have played all week.”
On court 9, Stefan Skadarka and Richard Yang played an absorbing match that was unique for the differing styles of its combatants. Skadarka had adjusted his hat to a slant and moved with a hip hop swagger opposed to the workmanlike Richard Yang, in matching blue shirt and shorts. And it was third seed Yang who won 6-4 2-6 6-3 to move through to Saturday’s semifinals.
Rounding out the Under 14s was Alex De Minaur of NSW who was victorious 6-3 6-3 over Daniel Nguyen of Victoria. Minaur started well and Nguyen never caught up in a match featuring many high-profile rallies.
Meanwhile, in the girls’ event, Seone Mendez, Maddison INglis, Michelle Pits and Destanee Aiava – the event’s top four seeds – are all through to the semifinals.