Five Shine @ITATennis Tulsa Fall All-Americans
Jeff McMillan, Tennis East Coast
Players from around the country competed in the Tulsa Fall All-Americans the past week and a half. The event in Tulsa is an annual tournament, mammoth in size and comprising players from nearly every D1 team in the nation. The tournament started in the pre-qualifying, continued through the qualifying draw and concluded in the main draw Monday. The players were placed in each draw based on pre-season ranking and previous season accomplishment. Players starting in the pre-qualifying draw had to win 7 matches in order to get into the 64 player main draw. 4 players fought their way all the way form the pre-qualifying draw and into the main draw: Jack Murray of North Carolina, AJ Catanzariti of Texas A&M, Jonathan Ho of Wake Forest and Thomas Stillman of Texas-San Antonio.
The 10-day event was full of great matches, upsets, emerging players and overall great play. Of the many players who played in Tulsa 5 in particular stood out:
Ben Lott: Drake. Junior from Newcastle, England.
QR1: def Wayne Montgomery, Georgia, 6-1 6-4
QR2: def Benjamin Lock, Florida State, 6-2 6-3
QR3: def Ashok Narayana, Columbia, 7-5 6-3
R1: lost to Jared Hitzlik, Illinois, 6-4 7-5
CON: def Harrison Adams, Texas A&M, 6-4 6-4
CON: lost to Chris Diaz, Ohio State, 7-5 6-2
Lott came into Tulsa as an unseeded player in the qualifying draw. He announced his presence in Tulsa with a dominating win over Wayne Montgomery of Georgia who was the hottest young player in the nation prior to this tournament, having just won the Southern Intercollegiate event in Athens. He followed that up with a routine win over Lock, who will likely be the #1 player for Florida State this year. He qualified for the main draw with a win over Narayana. His dream of winning it all was lost with a first round loss to Hitzlik but he backed up his qualifying success with a straight sets win over Texas A&M’s top player Harrison Adams. His tournament ended with a loss to eventual consolation draw runner-up Chris Diaz. Overall, it was a very impressive result for Lott of Drake, who always puts out a very solid tennis program.
Nicolas Alvarez: Duke. Freshman from Lima, Peru.
QR1: def Nathan Rakitt, Georgia Tech, 6-4 6-4
QR2: def Stefan Lindmark, Ole Miss, 6-4 7-5
QR3: def Tin Ostojic, Wichita State, 6-2 7-5
R1: def Andre Goransson, Cal, 6-0 3-6 6-2
R2: def Jared Hitzlik, Illinois, 2-6 7-5 6-4
R3: def Roberto Cid, USF, 6-3 5-7 6-4
QF: lost to Yannick Hanfmann, Southern Cal, 6-1 6-1
Alvarez was a highly touted freshman coming into Duke this year. He is an accomplished ITF player and figured to immediately make a big impact for the Duke Blue Devils. He proved those thoughts to be exactly right this week in Tulsa with his impressive display. He began his run with a win over Georgia Tech’s #1 player Rakitt and followed that up with two straight set wins over Lindmark and Ostojic. He then won 3 straight 3 set matches to get all the way to the quarterfinals. His wins over Hitzlik and Cid are the particularly good ones considering the elite nature of those two players on a national scale. He will be a big player in the ACC and the nation as a freshman this year.
A.J. Catanzariti: Texas A&M. Freshman from Pittsburgh, PA
PR1: def Sergio de Vilchez, Wichita State, 6-4 6-0
PR2: def Simon Freund, LSU, 6-2 6-3
PR3: def Matt Frost, Drake, 6-3 6-4
PR4: def Ben Davis, MTSU, 7-5 6-1
QR1: def Eric Johnson, Southern Cal, 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3
QR2: def David Biosca, ETSU, 7-6(2) 6-1
QR3: def Chris Diaz, Ohio State, 7-6(4) 4-6 6-3
R1: lost to Thai-Son Kwiatkowski, Virginia, 7-6(5) 6-4
CON: def Albert Wagner, Louisville, 6-1 6-2
R2: lost to Ronnie Schneider, North Carolina, 7-5 7-5
Catanzariti was the only player in the entire field to win 7 matches in a row to get into the main draw (the other 3 pre-qualifiers had byes in R1 so they only won 6 matches to get in the main draw). He mowed down players in the pre-qualies with the signature win being over Davis of MTSU. In qualifying he knocked off Eric Johnson, one of the key parts of USC’s national title team from last year. His win over Chris Diaz is the standout win of the tournament for the freshman. Catanzariti’s two losses were to two of the best players in college tennis and he was able to give them two tight sets each. Catanzariti proved this week that he will play a role in A&M’s season this year in the SEC.
Thai-Son Kwiatkowski: Virginia. Sophomore from Charlotte, NC
QR1: def Kevin Metka, Ohio State, 3-6 6-2 6-3
QR2: def Martin Redlicki, UCLA, 6-2 7-6(4)
QR3: def Felipe Rios, Baylor, 6-2 6-4
R1: def AJ Cantazariti, Texas A&M, 7-6(5) 6-4
R2: def Winston Lin, 6-2 6-7(5) 6-3
R3: def Austin Smith, Georgia, 6-1 6-7(3) 6-3
QF: def Julian Lenz, Baylor, 6-2 6-3
SF: lost Sebastian Stieflemeyer, Louisville, 6-1 3-6 6-1
The Virginia sophomore was a quiet rock last year as a freshman. He went through the whole season with only 1 loss with little fanfare. His stellar record may have gone unnoticed on the national scale because he was playing lower in the UVA line-up. But in Tulsa, Thai-Son showed that he will be unnoticed no longer. In his first match he avenged his only collegiate loss by rallying to beat big serving Buckeye veteran Kevin Metka. He then dispatched highly touted UCLA freshman Michael Redlicki, who is expected to be one of the best freshmen in the nation this year before finishing the qualifying campaign with a dominating win over Felipe Rios. After beating Catanzariti in round 1 of the main draw, Kwiatkowski showed his true potential. He defeated Winston Lin and Austin Smith, both of whom were top 15 players in the country last year. Thai-Son showed solid mental strength in each match after he lost the 2nd set and the momentum in both before putting together rock solid 3rd sets. In the quarterfinals Kwiatkowski dominated the #1 seed in Tulsa and Baylor kingpin Julian Lenz in a match that shows just how good the Cavalier is going to be this year. His run came to an eventual end to red-hot Sebastian Stieflemeyer in 3 sets but nonetheless it was an immense week for Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and shows that he will be one of the nation’s top players this year and will be a big part of UVA’s attempt to recapture the national title.
Sebastian Stieflemeyer: Louisville. Senior from Vienna, Austria
QR1: def Ace Matias, UNLV, 6-1 6-2
QR2: def Ricky Medinilla, Purdue, 6-0 0-6 7-6(3)
QR3: def Robert Kelly, North Carolina, 6-2 1-6 6-2
R1: def Bruno Semenzato, Duke, 4-6 6-2 6-0
R2: def Soren Hess-Olesen, Texas, 6-4 6-2
R3: def Samir Iftikhar, New Mexico, 6-1 7-6(1)
QF: def Dominic Koepfer, Tulane, 4-6 6-3 6-2
SF: def Thai-Son Kwiathowski, Virginia, 6-1 3-6 6-1
F: def Yannick Hanfmann, Southern Cal, 6-3 6-2
After the 10 day event, the many many matches and the players from around the country competing in Tulsa, an unlikely winner emerged. That unlikely winner was Sebastian Stieflemeyer, a senior from Austria for the Louisville Cardinals. Stieflemeyer has always been a solid #1 player for the Cardinals but never considered one of the nation’s elites. But that changed through a week of inspired play. His championship run almost ended in the qualifying draw after he barely survived a roller-coaster match with Purdue’s Ricky Medinilla. After the two traded bagel sets, Stieflemeyer outclassed the Mexican in the 3rd set tiebreak to keep his tournament alive. He then beat two ACC players in three sets each in order to get to a 2nd round showdown with Soren Hess-Olesen. Hess-Olesen was a big favorite coming in and a seemingly bad matchup for Stieflemeyer but the Louisville senior rolled through the Longhorn in two sets. Two fellow surprise players, Iftikhar and Koepfer, were Steiflemeyer’s next victims as he kept rolling into the semifinals. As previously mentioned, he knocked off the on-fire Kwiatkowski to set up a final with Southern Cal’s Yannick Hanfmann. Hanfmann, now a veteran, is one of the best players in the nation and arguably the one with the most ATP potential. He was expected to dismiss the upstart Stieflemeyer but the opposite occurred as Sebastian shockingly routined the USC Trojan to capture the title.
An overall amazing week that comes out of nowhere for Sebastian Stieflemeyer and it will be very interesting to see how he backs up this All-American championship.