There aren't many 16-year-old tennis players who scare top-seeded Jesse Witten. But Friday night, before yesterday's semifinal match against 10th-seeded Sam Warburg, Witten said he didn't get much sleep.
It didn't show on the court, though, as Witten easily handled another opponent at the 16-and-under USTA clay-court championships at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville, defeating Warburg, 6-3, 6-0. In today's final, Witten will face 22nd-seeded Jeff Kazarian, who beat unseeded 14-year-old Kean Feeder, 6-2, 6-3, in the other semifinal match.
"If I play like this tomorrow, I'll be fine," said Witten, of Naples, Fla., who has yet to drop a set in the tournament. ". . . This was the only match I was really worried about."
Witten said he awoke at 5 a.m. yesterday because he was worried about facing Warburg, of Sacramento. Seeded 23rd at last year's clay-court championships, Warburg took then-unseeded Witten to a third set before Witten finally prevailed in the tiebreaker, 7-5. Witten lost in the quarterfinals of last year's tournament to eventual champion Eric Nunez.
This year, Witten has faced just two seeded players, and only Friday's quarterfinal against 17th-seeded Joseph Kao -- a 6-4, 6-4 win -- forced Witten to play for more than an hour. Yesterday's match against Warburg lasted just 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, Feeder's combination of consistent groundstrokes and mental toughness met their match against the 16-year-old Kazarian, of Rolling Hills, Calif., who has never advanced past the third round in a national tournament. Most of Feeder's success in the earlier rounds had come from hitting every ball back and avoiding unforced errors. But Kazarian played the same type of game yesterday and had little trouble with the upstart underdog from Portland, Ore.
"I never expected to be in the finals," said Kazarian, who came into the tournament with a sore shoulder. "I just wanted to come in and win a couple of rounds, but my shoulder started feeling better and I just kept winning."
Feeder's improbable run to the semifinals of the 192-player field included upsetting four seeded players, including seventh-seeded Roger Gubser and ninth-seeded Chris Brandi. His consistent play has gotten under the skin of his opponents at times, causing opposing players to throw their rackets across the court and hit tennis balls onto the adjacent golf course.
David Emery, an All-Met from W.T. Woodson High School in Fairfax, made the best run of any local player. Emery advanced to the round of 64 before falling to 11th-seeded Ikaika Jobe of Honolulu, 6-3, 6-2.