Wen overcomes ailment to advance to semifinals

No. 4 seed Phillip Deaton reaches high to start a forehand in a quarterfinal victory Thursday. (Photo by James Beck)

Winning a national championship isn’t easy. Just ask top seed Evan Wen and No. 4 Phillip Deaton about what it takes to maintain their chances of winning the USTA Boys 12 National Clay Court Championships.

Neither is there yet, but with the help of their exceptional wills to win both are one match closer, although only one can win the singles titles.

The two doubles partners will oppose each other in Friday’s singles semifinals at 11 a.m. at LTP Tennis and Swim Club in Mount Pleasant.

Wen had to fight off a stomach ailment the entire second set in Thursday afternoon’s heat, and finally had to call for the trainer. Yet, he outlasted 16th seed Ryan Colby of Alexandria, Va., 6-4, 7-6 (4).

“It was really painful,” the tall (6-1) and powerful 12-year-old said. “I just told myself not to think about it until after the point(s).”

Over and over again, it went until Wen drilled the last of his sizzling forehands for a winner to end the match in the second-set tiebreaker. He was down 5-4 in the second set when he grabbed his stomach and bent over in pain. That’s when the trainer was called.

“These are the kind of tough matches you’ve just got to get through, and Evan found a way to do it,” said Clay Bibbee, Wen’s longtime coach from Morristown, N.J.

Wen played a doubles match later in the day with Deaton. “Of course, I’ll play tomorrow. I’ve never pulled out of a real match,” Wen said.

The 4-foot-9 Deaton had to go the distance in singles before pulling out a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 over unseeded Alvaro Pedraza of University Park, Md. Deaton, a left-hander with true grit and talent, trailed 4-3 in the third set. He stayed alive with a string of amazing and acrobatic recoveries.

“I had to fight for every point. I just kept telling myself to focus on every point,” said Deaton, who didn’t complete his singles match until just past 6 p.m., four hours and a half after he first took the court but had to leave the court when thunder hit the area.

“I just gave it my all. That’s what I’m most proud of.”

Can Deaton upend Wen, who defeated him in straight sets in the Winter Nationals?

“I have the mentality that I can beat anyone in the tournament,” Deaton said.

The other semifinal at 12:30 p.m. Friday will pit No. 3 seed Jack Anthrop of Orlando, Fla., and hard-hitting No. 6 Victor Lilov of Raleigh.

Quarterfinal Results

Evan Wen, Morristown, N.J., def. 16-Ryan Colby, Alexandria, Va., 6-4, 7-6

Jack Anthrop, Orlando, Fla., def. 17-Jiaxi Ma, Alhambra, Calif., 6-4, 3-6, 6-3

Phllip Deaton, Auburn, Wash., def. Alvaro Pedraza, University Park, Md., 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.

Victor Lilov, Raleigh, def. 14-Kian Vakili, Longwood, Fla., 6-1, 6-7, 6-2.

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com.