Sock and Redlicki Crowned National Champions
Any USTA gold ball is special, whether it’s the second or the 20th. But a gold ball won at Kalamazoo has something extra attached – a place on the long list of National Champions and a trip to New York to play at the U.S. Open. Jack Sock, the 18s champion, and Michael Redlicki, who triumphed in the 16s, survived a week of heat, humidity and rain disruptions to finish atop the 192-player fields gathered for the tournament’s 68th year.
The fourth-seeded Redlicki, who won his first gold ball last month at the Clay Courts, brought confidence and his 6-foot-7 frame to Kalamazoo, both of which served him well early in the tournament. In his fourth round win over No. 15 seed Andrew Korinek, Redlicki endured two rain delays and the only loss of a set he would experience all week.
In the quarterfinals, the left-hander from Hawthorn Woods, Ill. defeated No. 5 seed Gordon Watson, who Redlicki had beaten a few weeks before to win the Clay Court championship. Then it was on to No. 2 seed Mitchell Krueger, where Redlicki’s ten aces were instrumental in his 7-6(6), 6-4 semifinal win.
In the final against top seed Shane Vinsant, Redlicki admitted that nerves kept him from playing his best at the start, but he recovered in time to post a 7-5, 6-4 victory.
“I was extremely nervous,” said Redlicki, who had lost to Vinsant in straight sets at April’s International Spring Championships in Carson. “This crowd, the really nice flowers, the big bowls, at the beginning I had to get used to it.”
Vinsant was also not at his best in the opening stages of the match, with both players suffering numerous double faults and framed shots in the first set. Vinsant got the initial break, but Redlicki got it right back and two holds made it 4-3. With Redlicki serving down 3-4, Vinsant had three break points, but couldn’t convert them, more due to Vinsant’s errors than to Redlicki’s clutch play. In the middle of that lengthy game, Vinsant could be heard saying “I’m playing awful,” and once Redlicki held for 4-4, he gave a big fist pump and a loud c’mon.
That emotional momentum carried over in the next game, as Redlicki broke at love, hitting a nifty backhand pass to take a 5-4 lead. Although Redlicki was unable to serve out the set on his first try, Vinsant was immediately broken again, and with his second opportunity, Redlicki got the job done.
Redlicki broke Vinsant to take a 5-2 lead in the second set, but again couldn’t finish it out on his serve. The sun, which had returned after an isolated, heavy morning shower, was causing him to make adjustments in his service toss, and there were times when his usually big serve dropped in the box at 60 mph, according to the radar gun on court 1. Redlicki had the luxury of a second break however, and again he took his second chance, punctuating his win with an ace at 40-15.
“That’s how I finished Clay Courts and that’s how I finished Kalamazoo,” Redlicki said of that last point. “Maybe I served better yesterday, but today I served well enough to get the job done. “
After collecting his second straight gold ball, Redlicki began looking forward to his trip to New York to play in the U.S. Open Junior Championships.
“New York City, that’s going to be insane,” he said. “I went there in 2003 to watch Nadal as a 16-year-old [Nadal was actually 17]. I remember that was the greatest experience of my life, just being a spectator. Now being a player, it’s going to be eight times better.”