The Italia Cup team consists of four players, Ross Duncan (Aliso Viejo, CA) captain and #1, , Mark Tepes (Medford, NJ), Gabriel Venter (Blue Ash, OH) and Justin Touchstone (Weston, FL). They are competing in the 35 and over age division. They were seeded #4 but lost to a very tough Romanian team on Tuesday.
Friday Blog: Australia d. USA; USA finishes 10th
Today we played Australia and since it was our last match I decided to give Gabe and Justin the opportunity to play singles and Mark and I would play doubles instead.
At the number two singles Justin won the first set 6-1 and was looking like a lock to win the match but the Aussie came storming back to pull out a very tight second set 6-4. Midway through the second set at 4-3 30-40 Justin serving on break point the net broke and we had about a 20 min delay. This intermission seemed to favor the Aussie as he broke serve to level the match and then pulled it out 6-4. Things were looking good early as Justin went up 2-0 but unfortunately the tide turned and the match was won 6-2 in the third.
In the other singles Gabe played a very consistent baseliner in cold and rainy conditions which made it really hard to put the ball away. The clay is already so much slower and this just accentuated the slowness of the surface.
In a very tight first set with almost every game going to deuce Gabe found himself a set down 7-5 that really could have gone either way. In the second set the Aussie seemed to take his game up a level and started to dictate more points from the baseline winning the set 6-1.
After sitting on the bench for the morning I was ready to play doubles and to use it as an opportunity to see how Mark and I would play together. Unfortunately due to a long week of clay court matches and cold conditions the Australians did not feel up to the task and ITF rules state that they do not have to play in this situation when the tie has been decided already.Needless to say it was disappointing for us as we really wanted to get out there and show them our stuff.
Starting out as the fourth seeds and ending up in tenth place was very humbling for us. I know that we will definitely come back next year hungrier and full of motivation to do better. Our immediate job now is to support the USA teams that are still in and that have a chance to bring a cup home and to take the lessons learned which there are plenty from this experience to help us be better players as we prepare to try and make next years team.
Thank you for all your support this has been an amazing experience for all of us!
Thursday Blog: Sweden d. USA
Today we played a very good Swedish team and unfortunately things did not go our way. Sweden was simply too good for us and were the deserved winners of this tie.They got revenge on us from last year as we swept them and they returned the favor on us this year.
Mark played a very flashy lefty who has a big serve and a big forehand. Sometimes he can go wayward but not today he was totally on fire.
In my match it was much the same.My opponent did not have as big of a serve but had a monstrous forehand.I was up 30 or 40 love in multiple games but was not able to convert my opportunities to keep the pressure on him which was more than frustrating. Mark I ended both ended up losing 3,0.
In doubles Justin and Gabe lost a very close first set but were unable to stay with the Swede’s in the second.
On a more positive note for us we attended the official dinner to celebrate the centenary of the ITF and they did an incredible job despite some challenges. We were all going to have dinner outside together but since the weather was not good they divided the teams into two separate locations.It was impossible to know that this was their back up plan as they executed it to perfection with incredible food and a good atmosphere with a live band and some dancing.
Next up for us tomorrow are the Australians who are also not clay court specialists so we are hopeful for a good performance.
Wednesday Blog: USA d. South Africa
After coming off a tough loss yesterday against Romania it was really important for us to rebound against a resilient South African team.
Mark Tepes lost a tough long first set in conditions that make it really hard to finish points. The clay out here in Antalya is really slow and a good defensive game really allows you to neutralize the point and make you opponent have to rebuild the point over and over again. This pattern seemed to be repeating itself and despite having his chances the first set slipped away 7-5. Mark then came back strong breaking the South African in the first game and held on to win the set 6-2 playing much better. The third set was a little closer but when it mattered most Mark raised his level and pulled out the win 6-3 in the third.
I played against a lefty that had taken Pescario to three sets and being born in South Africa I felt extra pressure as I really did not want to lose to my country of birth. I started off shaky with the nerves getting to me going down 2-0 with a lot of unforced errors but then pulled my way back into the match eventually winning the set 7-6.(7-1 in the breaker ) but only after being down a set point. After having the first set under my belt I was finally able to play my game with more confidence and won the second set 6-1.
In the doubles Gabe and Justin had another marathon match. It seemed to replicate the match against Romania where they got off to a slow start but just eventually wore their opponents down winning 6-4 in the third.It is really hard to be out there for four or five hours coaching and supporting and to then be ready to play right away.
Clay court doubles really has some fun athletic points and they were on display in a very entertaining match.
Tomorrow we have a very good Swedish team who’s number one singles player has a win over Soderling and their number two is their number one from last year so we have out work cut out for us but we are very excited as this is why we are here to play hard tough fun matches.
So far all of us have had slow starts to all of our matches so we strategized and hope to have much better starts tomorrow.
Being here together with all the other teams has really been such a fun experience.I really love how all the other USA teams always stop by to show their support. I am very proud to be an American !!
Thank you to Carolyn as well for letting us use her flag during out match.
Good luck to all the teams tomorrow !
Tuesday: Romania d. USA (Comments by Carolyn Nichols)
Romania was just really tough. The #1 player was top 75 and the #2 player was a clay court specialist…great lobs, and great dropshots and counterpunching skills. Ross Duncan, left below and Mark Tepes, right below.