Surviving and advancing into Semifinal Saturday

Surviving and advancing into Semifinal Saturday

FARMERS BRANCH, TX - It’s late in the week here at Nationals, and the tension grows with each match as we get deeper and deeper into the draws.

The stress continued to mount Friday with the men’s doubles quarterfinals featuring No. 1 seeds Ben and Collin Johns taking on No. 8 seeds James Ignatowich and Tyler Loong.

Ignatowich and Loong entered the match as underdogs but held a 2-1 advantage through three games, thanks to some new tactics from the lefty Loong.

“He was attacking off the backhand wing, which he doesn’t usually do,” Ben noted. “He was lobbing really well, too. It just made it very difficult to play because it’s almost like a new player when he’s got those new shots.”

Things got worse for the Johns brothers early in the fourth game when an errant counter hit Collin in the face off the side of Ben’s paddle from dangerously close distance.

An injury timeout for the former professional tennis player ensued, with Johns eventually being able to continue with the match.

The highly decorated tandem turned the tables after the pause in play, with the No. 1 player in the world taking over the match.

“Out of the injury timeout, [Collin] told me that I needed to take over a little more and do a little more work because his head was hurting a little bit, and that’s what I needed to hear,” Ben revealed.

They took the fourth game 11-4 to force a decisive game 5, eventually emerging victorious 11-9 to punch their ticket to the semifinals.

A few hours later, another heavyweight match on the men’s side took to Championship Court as No. 4 seeds Federico Staksrud and Pablo Tellez took on No. 5 seeds Julian Arnold and Thomas Wilson.

Both teams came into the matchup in fine form, with neither having dropped a game in their first two matches.

Arnold and Wilson struck first and took game 1, with Arnold’s trademark ‘Andiamo!’ shouts ringing out over the crowd’s applause.

The pair’s versatility and willingness to speed up from virtually anywhere on the court made it difficult for Staskrud and Tellez to settle in initially, but the South American duo eventually found their rhythm in game 2.

Playing the left side, the crafty Argentinian Staksrud kept his opponents at bay with his slice backhand crosscourt dink to create opportunities for his lefty Columbian partner.

“I think I’m really consistent on the left side with the crosscourt dinks, and Pablo is one of the best counter-punchers in the game from the right side, so it’s really difficult for them to change directions because Pablo is either gonna hit an Erne or counter punch back at him,” Staksrud explained.

Adhering to this pattern and letting out some yells of their own allowed the pair to take the next three games to advance to the semis.

Their opponents? Ben and Collin Johns, against whom they have shared some tight matches in the past. In their quarterfinals match at PPA Cincinnati, the Johns brothers took it 12-10 in the third.

Staksrud expects a battle of the same caliber on Saturday.

“I think we’re gonna see a lot of dinking, a lot of waiting,” he shared. “The key is gonna be who gets up to the kitchen line the most.”