Anderson, Rowe excel in singles, doubles play

By Eric Chima

In the past year, Ryan Rowe and Kevin Anderson have made names for themselves on the tennis court with their stellar doubles play. But at the All-American Championships Thursday, the pair showed they could excel in singles too.

The unseeded Rowe upset the tournament’s third-seeded player, Travis Helgeson of Georgia, to join Anderson in the round of 16. Anderson and Rowe, the defending national doubles champions, then went on to win their first-round doubles match to complete a perfect 5-0 day at the All-American.

The story, though, was Rowe. After a relatively smooth first-round win, he faced the formidable Helgeson, one of two Georgia players seeded in the top three.

“Ryan was awesome,” said assistant coach Kent Kinnear, who accompanied the pair to Tulsa. “He just played really smart out there. I’m so proud of him.”

Rowe was impatient at first, Kinnear said, trying too hard to dominate the match and making a number of unforced errors. Once Rowe settled down, though, he was able to take control of the points and win the first set 6-3. Helgeson hung tough in the second set, but Rowe pulled it out 7-3 in a tiebreaker.

Anderson, meanwhile, worked quickly in taking his first two matches. He beat Jordan Delass of Georgia Tech handily 6-2, 6-2 in the first round, then defeated Kaden Hensel of Tennessee 6-4, 6-2 in the second. He controlled both matches with some big serving, Kinnear said.

“Kevin’s matches were pretty routine,” Kinnear said. “When he serves that well, he doesn’t get broken, and that’ll give him half the games right there.”

After the singles rounds, Anderson and Rowe faced a surprisingly stiff early test from Joey Atlas and Peter Rodrigues of Duke. Both teams came out playing very well, but Atlas and Rodrigues could not keep up their high level and Anderson and Rowe went on to a deceptively lopsided 8-3 win.

“Duke came out firing and our guys did a good job of firing right back,” Kinnear said. “There were a couple of games where our guys had to really come up with some shots, and then they just rolled from there.”

The quick wins were particularly convenient, Kinnear said, because Anderson had been battling a sore arm in the days leading up to the tournament. If he continues winning in both the singles and doubles draws, his time on court could add up quickly.

In the round of 16, Anderson will play Adam Holstrom of Denver, who upset sixth seed Erling Tveit of Mississippi, 6-3, 6-2. Anderson, seeded in the top 16, beat Tveit 6-2, 6-2 earlier this year. Holstrom is a big hitter on a hot streak, a potentially dangerous opponent for Anderson. If he gets through that match, he may have to face John Isner of Georgia, the No. 1 seed and defending champion.

For Rowe, the third round could contain a particularly troublesome matchup, said head coach Brad Dancer, who is not traveling with the team.

Rowe will face Bryan Koniecko of Ohio State, a speedy player known for strong defense. For a player like Rowe, who likes to control points but is prone to errors, Koniecko can be a frustrating opponent.

“Koniecko is a tough matchup, both mentally and physically,” Dancer said. “Ryan is going to have to keep under control.”

In all, the first day went as well as Anderson and Rowe could have hoped. It was the first time either player has made the third round of an ITA singles event, but with their doubles success, both are accustomed to going deep into a tournament.

They might face an additional foe in their second-round doubles match when the pair will face Diego Camacho and Ross Cunningham of Tulsa with the opponents’ home crowd behind them. Kinnear, though, was confident his powerful doubles team would be up to the task.

“It might add to the atmosphere a little bit,” Kinnear said. “But our guys will focus on executing, and it shouldn’t make much of a difference.”