by Michael Augsberger, The Tennis Curator editor
Simon Myslivec (CZE) defeated Desmond Ayaaba (GHA) to take the first semifinal.
The Final will come down to Jack Ling and Simon Myslivec at 10 am Thursday after both stampeded in today's morning semifinals. Despite the loss, Nsahno Ndonfack won the match of the tournament to get to the semis, resuming his quarterfinal in the third set and emerging over William Freshwater in a thrilling tiebreak, 9-7.
It would end up a fine semifinal run for the Cameroonian. Both African players, like Morocco in the World Cup, could advance no further after running into two giants at the top of their games. Jack Ling, an American who trains at host site Sanchez Academy, defeated Ndonfack 6-0, 6-2.
"When his serve and forehand are on, it's good," Ling said of his opponent. "Early on he was hitting winners left and right."
But Ndonfack squandered multiple 40-15 leads on serve, including at 2-2 in the second set, which was the difference in the match. "Coming back from that gives me confidence and messes his game up," Ling said. "Tight moments that after I come back I have control, but if I hadn't it would have been 50-50 at that point."
The thrilling quarterfinal that landed Ndonfack in the semi was about as 50-50 as possible. Both players had match points in the third-set tiebreak. After Freshwater broke back from 2-4 to send it to a tiebreak, the Cameroonian went up 4-0 only to drop six straight. At 6-4, he saved two match points, including when Freshwater lined up a backhand pass that just missed.
"I went for my shots and missed them," the American said. "I hit a lob at 6-5 that I might take back if I could, but I really wasn't in a great position either way that point."
Not totally gone was the animosity from yesterday before the rain delay. Both players had been warned by the chair then for unsporting behavior. Today, Ndonfack challenged a baseline call that was overruled. He struck the ball across the court in anger for a point penalty. That put him down 15-30, but he calmed himself to win three successive points and hold.
Freshwater, a two-sport middle infielder who won't choose favorites between baseball and tennis, realized the stakes and was glad for the rain delay to cool off. "Yesterday the emotions affected me more. It helped him more than it helped me. So today I just let it go."
"I'm a little older than William, hit harder, more spin," Ling said, evaluating the matchup against Ndonfack. "I can finish the points. [Ndonfack] runs down every ball but sometimes his balls can sit. A younger player like William might not hit through him, and their match was as tight as it can get. But me, now I have the power and weapons to hit through."
Top-seeded Simon Myslivec of the Czech Republic made quick work of Ghana's Desmond Ayaaba in a highly anticipated semifinal on stadium court. The winner needed only fifty-two minutes to seal his entry to the final, 6-0, 6-2.
"I'd like for the final to be this afternoon even," the Czech said post-match. "My shoulder gets worse and worse each match, but it isn't too bad with such short matches. I'm postponing the full therapy with the physio until after the whole thing is over."
Ling could be the first to truly test him. The two played in a practice set on hard court last week, but clay will be different. "He's good on both sides," Ling said. "He can attack on backhand too, so I can't just rely on going after him there. Gotta try to move him."
Learning Spanish while homeschooling and training here, he also appreciates the chance to play an international final. "It's giving kids an opportunity from these places," he said. "We're very lucky here, we have everything we need. And it's exposure to other countries, that's special too. I haven't seen the kinds of games players have from other places except for China."
Freshwater agreed. "These game styles are different from the way kids play here everyday in America," he said. "Nsahno fought a bit more than the kids I play against a lot."
Full Scores - Wednesday, Dec 21
Schedule of Play - Thursday, Dec 22
8:30 am ET, Third Place Match
Court 3: Desmond Ayaaba (GHA) v Nsahno Ndonfack (CMR)
10 am ET, The Final
Court 2 (TV): Simon Myslivec (CZE) v Jack Ling (USA)