Aug. 9, 2011
Tennessee freshman Hunter Reese earned a third-set tiebreaker win Tuesday to advance to the fifth round of the USTA Boys 18s National Championships in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Reese upset 12th-seeded Gordon Watson 6-3, 6-7 (3), 7-6 (5) in the longest match of the afternoon at 3 hours and 43 minutes.
Reese, the 21 seed, was denied two match points at 6-5 in the third set, so the match came down to a tiebreaker. He said while he never thought he would be on court for nearly four hours, he still had energy to spare for the final points of the set.
"I actually felt really good at the end of the match," Reese said. "When the tiebreaker started, I thought I could just keep playing. I was still pumping my serve, and my legs weren't tired. I still don't feel tired now."
Reese now faces UCLA signee and fourth-seeded Marcos Giron in Wednesday's round of 16 match.
This week marks the final junior tournament in Reese's career, which has been a success. Even while attending his first semester of classes at UT, the native of Kennesaw, Ga., won a USTA Boys 18s National Open singles title in Waco, Texas, and reached the doubles semifinals at the international Easter Bowl in California.
"Sitting on the bench after losing doubles a few days ago, it kind of hit me that it was my last junior doubles match ever," Reese said. "I've been playing junior tournaments the last five or so years of my life, and now it's almost over.
"Hopefully that same feeling won't hit me in singles until the 14th, the day of the finals."
The junior career of incoming freshman Brandon Fickey ended earlier than he would have liked. He was forced to retire in the second round after rolling his ankle with a lead in the third set against 11th-seeded Brett Clark on Sunday.
Reese has won a pair of three-set matches at Kalamazoo so far. Both times, he wore the same shirt for the final set: a Tennessee jersey with former teammate Matteo Fago's name printed on the back.
He wore the graduated senior's uniform to great success in his 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 victory over Alexander Steinroeder in the second round.
"Matteo and I both wanted each other's shirt, so we traded one at the end of the season," said Reese, who redshirted at Tennessee during the spring season. "In my first match, I just had it in my bag. I needed to change shirts before the third set, so I just put it on without really thinking about it.
"After I won, the umpire came up and told me, 'You played pretty well once you wore that Fago shirt.'"
After that, Reese left nothing to chance and packed his teammate's shirt into tennis bag for his fourth-round match. When it came time for the third set Tuesday, he knew what he would be wearing. With the Fago uniform on, Reese played his way into the final 16.
"Maybe it's my lucky shirt now," Reese said.