Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Winston-Salem Open Sunday Recap: Jared Donaldson vs Sam Groth

The 2015 Winston-Salem Open first round match between 18 year old American wildcard, Jared Donaldson, and World No.54 Sam Groth of Australia was a roller coaster ride.  The encounter lasted almost three hours with the big serving Aussie triumphing in three tiebreaks.

Evening match on Stadium Court

Some of my readers are aware that I have been following Donaldson's career for a long time since he was a 16 year old playing juniors in South America.  I have watched him countless times on the streams, but this was my first time witnessing his match in person.  Even though it was not the outcome I had hoped for, it was an entertaining battle filled with some great shot-making and theatrical moments.

I arrived at Stadium Court during the middle of the first set after watching James Ward take the 1st set tiebreak over Hyeon Chung on the Grandstand (it was a high quality set by the way).  After taking a seat in the first row, I spotted Thanasi Kokkinakis and Bjorn Fratangelo in the upper deck taking in this match with interest.

Thanasi Kokkinakis and Bjorn Fratangelo
The first set was tight; neither player faced breakpoints according to the scoreboard stat.  The tiebreak was equally tight with both players playing well.  Jared hit a beautiful passing shot to get the decisive mini break and went on to win it 7-6(4).  (FYI, I didn't take a notebook with me so the information were off the top of my head).

Jared Donaldson has a habit of looking up at his camp
In the 2nd set, Donaldson broke Groth for the first time and consolidated after a tough hold for a 3-0 lead.  I was impressed with the young American's passing ability.  He moved well and kept the ball fairly low making it difficult for the Aussie, who liked to serve and volley, at the net.  When Jared had time, his ballstriking was a beautiful sight.  But consistency was a problem for the lanky teenager.  Few games later, a doublefault and three unforced errors came out of nowhere to give away the break advantage.  At 5-4*, Jared took a medical time out to get his foot check out.

Jared Donaldson getting foot treatment
After play resumed,  the Rhode Island native earned two match points on Groth's serve.  But the 6'4" veteran, who holds the fastest serve record of 163 mph, blasted bombs to fend them off and got himself out of trouble.

Sam Groth saving MPs with huge serves

Sam Groth serving bombs
Holds were exchanged in the next two games.  Unlike the first set tiebreak, this one was a little more dramatic.  Players struggled with unforced errors.  Groth shanked an overhead on one of his set points and later doublefaulted on another.  Donaldson then doubledfaulted to give the Aussie another chance to serve it out and he did to force a decider.

Donaldson and Groth were animated throughout the match.  They had no problems showcasing their frustrations.  The 6'2" American often berated himself with words like "awful" and "terrible".  His opponent also muttered negative phrases at himself.  It was the first time I heard him use profanity (to be fair, I don't watch him as much).  Balls were batted out of the stadium several times by both competitors and code violations were appropriately given.

Sam Groth
On to the 3rd set.  It was deja vu for Donaldson.  Like the 2nd set, he quickly got off to a great start only to be let down by his serve.  Groth took advantage of the teenager's lack of first serves to break back.  Afterwards, the players reduced their serve speed for more accuracy and held more easily.  The final tiebreak went the way of the veteran.  He served big and played well on big points.  However, there was a controversy on Groth's match point.  A line person called his serve out but then corrected the call.  Donaldson had already hit a backhand down the line return winner that would have given him the minibreak back.  He was visibly upset by the incident and continued talking to the chair.  Unfortunate timing, but the umpire couldn't do anything about it except to replay the point.  The Aussie went on to serve an unreturnble to seal the victory 6-7(4) 7-(8) 6-7(5).

Later, Sam Groth gave a post match interview.  The microphone malfunctioned so he went up to grab the chair's mic.  It was one of the hilarious moments of the night.  

Rough ending for Donaldson, but he competed well and has a bright future ahead of him.  My favorite Jared moment was when he sent the ball flying to the moon after Groth got the minibreak in the 3rd set tiebreak (right before MP).  Afterwards, he gave a sort of embarrassing smile.  The crowd chuckled because he rarely smiles.

Rough night for Jared Donaldson after being a set and break up

Jared Donaldson returning serve
Sam Groth survived Jared Donaldson


I noticed that when Jared's toss was slightly angled, the serve was more accurate.  When it was slightly vertical, his first serves missed by a lot.

Earlier, while waiting to get into Stadium Court, saw 19 year old Deiton Baughman working on his forehand (weaker side).  He lost to Martin Klizan in the 2nd round of qualifying in 3 sets.

Deiton Baughman

Work on that FH, Slim

 Some pictures from the Hyeon Chung and James Ward Match.

Hyeon Chung

Hyeon Chung cleaning his eyeglasses during changeover

James Ward during changeover

James Ward

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