Walker Falls in Semis
Oct. 19, 2003
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - And then there were two, but not the two that were seeded to be there. The top two seeds at the ITA Southeast Regional at The Racquet Club of Memphis were eliminated from the draw, Sunday. The last two singles players standing represent Conference USA and the SEC.
No. 2 seed Jesse Witten was the first of the top two seeds eliminated from the draw. Witten was downed in straight sets by No. 17 seed Lee Taylor Walker from the University of Memphis, 6-2, 6-3, in one of the quarterfinal matches.
No. 4 seed Romain Ambert from Mississippi State took care of the tournament's other top seed, using a straight set 6-3, 6-2 win over the No. 2 ranked player in the country to advance to the finals. There, he will face Tulane's Dmitriy Koch, who survived a 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 thriller against Walker.
Walker was actually up 6-5 in the first set when his first serve failed him on four straight points. Koch broke Walker's serve to pull to 6-6 and force the tiebreaker, then won the tiebreaker 7-5 to take the first set.
Walker came out in the second set renewed and found his first serve again, allowing him to go back to his serve and volley type of play. He was up 3-0 after holding his own serve twice and breaking Koch's serve once when the Tulane player began a comeback, eventually taking a 4-3 lead on a long point that featured Walker falling to the ground, then recovering two different times. Walker dug in and came back to win the second set tiebreaker to even the match at one set apiece.
Koch came out quick in the third set, going up 3-1 before Walker rallied back on a line call that was overruled by the chair umpire. The chair umpire overruled a Koch line call for the third time at deuce after Walker had won the point, giving Walker advantage for winning the point, and the game point after penalizing Koch after he had received his second warning earlier in the match, both after overruled line calls. Koch then double-faulted his next two serves, disturbed by the call, and Walker snuck back to 4-3 down. But Koch broke Walker's serve and served out the match. On match point, Koch served and Walker called the serve long. Koch played the returned ball and returned it down the line for a winner, while Walker stood in his spot preparing for the second serve. The chair umpire overruled Walker's call on the serve and Koch won the match, 6-3.
Koch will now face Ambert at 10 a.m., Monday, to determine the ITA Southeast Region singles champion. Both players have now received automatic bids to the ITA Indoor Championships, held Nov. 6-9 at the University of Michigan. Walker would need to receive an at-large bid to qualify for the same tournament.
The doubles portion of the tournament and the finals schedule depend on who wins the quarter and semi-final matches being played Sunday evening. Mississippi State's Ambert is currently in the doubles quarterfinal, having already played two singles matches Sunday, so the doubles final may be played Monday if Mississippi State's doubles team wins their quarterfinal match.
The Memphis men's tennis team will next be in action at the University of Tennessee Fall Invitational, Oct. 24-26th and the USTA Futures event in Hammond, La., that same weekend. The team will split between the two tournaments, then will finish their fall schedule in the Adult Southern Open, Dec. 27-31st.