Thai-Son Kwiatkowski knows better than to shout or sulk too much on the tennis court after a bad point. His father, Tim, is an emergency room physician. He deals with real trauma on a daily basis, and nothing that goes on this week at the Orange Bowl International Championship qualifies.
“My dad is able to put things in perspective for me, which helps a lot,’’ Kwiatkowski said Friday, after advancing to the 18s semifinals with a 6-2, 6-2 win over fellow American Deiton Baughman at the Veltri Tennis Center in Plantation.
“I think that’s a good thing my dad brings when he travels to tournaments with me. He keeps it more or less fun, even-keeled, it’s not the be-all, end-all this tournament.’’
Kwiatkowski knew he was in for a tall task Friday against Baughman, a 6-5 Californian whose father, Brad, a former Los Angeles gang member, is a mixed martial arts trainer. The father had the kid run 100 stadium steps up and back 10 times when he was 10 years old, and continues to train him as he would a fighter. Kwiatkowski methodically took over the match early, and took Baughman out of his rhythm.
“I had to find a way to win points by moving him, giving him off-pace shots,’’ Kwiatkowski said. “He’s got a great serve.
“Normally my game is to hit high and heavy and get the ball above a guy’s shoulders, but when the guy’s 6-5, his shoulders are a little higher than the rest of the people I’m playing. I had to figure out a good strategy with my coach, and it worked.’’
The maturity and perspective Kwiatkowski exhibits during matches carries over off the court. Two weeks ago, he signed a scholarship offer with his parents’ alma mater, the University of Virginia. Though he dreamed of turning pro since he was a young boy, he believes he will mature in college, better his game while getting an education, and hopes it is a stepping stone to a pro career down the line.
“Ever since I was a boy, I knew I was either going to go pro or go to UVA because both my parents went there,’’ said Kwiatkowski, who is of Vietnamese and Polish descent.
“I know I’m going to have a great experience there. My dad is a huge diehard basketball and football fan and when they lose their games, he doesn’t speak for a few hours.’’
Asked if his father takes his losses or the Cavaliers’ harder, Kwiatkowski said: “For sure Virginia’s. When I lose, he just gives me a hug. When Virginia loses, he doesn’t even want to look at the TV.’’
Kwiatkowski, the No. 9 seed, will face 10th-seeded Lasio Djere of Serbia on Saturday. Djere rallied to take down top-seeded Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy 6-7 (2-7), 6-2, 6-1 in Friday’s quarterfinal.
On the girls’ side, No. 1 Taylor Townsend, who trains in Boca Raton, outlasted No. 5 Carol Zhao of Canada 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (7-2) in a match that lasted 3 hours 49 minutes. It was one of the longest matches of the week.
Townsend and No. 2 seed Katerina Siniakova of Czech Republic are on course to meet in Sunday’s final if they win their semis. Siniakova advanced to the semifinal with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 victory over gritty Chalena Scholl of Pompano Beach. If Townsend reaches the final, she’ll finish the year No. 1, the first U.S. girl to do that since Zina Garrison in 1982.
In the 16s finals Saturday morning, Tommy Paul of Coconut Creek will face Andrey Rublev of Russia. Paul beat Sameer Kumar 6-0, 6-7 (5-7), 6-2 in the quarterfinal Friday. The vocal and animated Rublev beat American Dennis Uspensky, 6-1, 4-6, 6-1. The girls 16s final will be an All-American match between Usue Arconada of Maryland and Chloe Oullet-Pizer of North Carolina.