Apologies, folks. I was expecting something from a contributor that fell through (disclaimer: not talking about Stephiesport here; it was a different contributor), so I can only give you a last-minute, rushed preview of what to expect from today’s USTA AO Playoff quarterfinal matchups, which are as follows:

[1] Donald Young vs. [8] Jack Sock: This is the first meeting between the two. It’s an interesting match between the highly touted 18 year-old Sock, who is the current #32 junior in the world rankings and won the US Open Jr. Boys title this past summer (defeating fellow WC participant Denis Kudla 3-6 6-2 6-2 in the final), and Young, the now 21 year-old former world #1 junior (in 2005). Young has long been seen as one who hasn’t yet maximized his promise or potential, reaching a career high of #73 in the ATP rankings two years ago and currently sitting at #127. Of course, it’s too early to tell what the professional future holds for Jack, as he just turned 18 a few months ago and has only made a few forays into the men’s tennis game. Right now he sits at #872 in the rankings, but hasn’t played enough matches to where his ranking is nearly commensurate with his talent. Of course, just the opposite could be and has been said about Young. Lots of pressure on the hometown ATL top seed today. I’m keen to see how he meets this playoff challenge.

[2] Tim Smyczek vs. [7] Rhyne Williams – Also the first meeting for the two. It could be argued that the 19 year-old Williams has the most name recognition to the casual fan coming into this matchup, though Smyczek is almost 600 spots higher in the rankings. The University of Tennessee sophomore comes into the tourney on a bit of a hot streak, having won the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championship in Flushing, N.Y, while 22 year-old Smyczek kind of muddled through the end of his Challenger season, going 4-5 to end his season and 39/30 on the year. I’d expect that Smyczek’s experience will pull him through this one, but it might be close.

[3] Ryan Harrison vs. [6] Michael Shabaz – This is the glamour match. The 18 year-old #173-ranked Harrison, of course, is the most highly praised young gun in the American arsenal at the moment, having upset Ivan Ljubicic at the US Open and almost doing the same to Sergiy Stakhovsky. But UVA’s Shabaz won their only previous matchup 6-4 3-6 6-2 last month in the 2nd Round of the Charlottesville Challenger, and the 23 year-old went on to win the tournament, beating Kei Nishikori, Chris Guccione, Giovanni Lapentti and Robert Kendrick along the way (though not in that order). Ryan will be itching for revenge, but will Shabaz be able to get the better of him for the second time in two months? Let’s watch and see.

[4] Jordan Cox vs. [5] Denis Kudla – Once again, a first meeting for both.  It’s actually quite shocking the two 18 year-olds haven’t met on any level while consistently being among the best young American talents.  Kudla is the current #1 U.S. Junior (#21 overall), despite losing that close USO final to Jack Sock.  Jordan Cox, meanwhile, reached a combined junior ranking high of #36 in July of 2009.  Both have had pretty decent years, making their first ventures into the pros: Kudla went 27/18 on the season and won the USA F26 Futures in October, while Cox went 29/25 and made the semis of USA F26 and the finals of USA F27.  Not much between these two, as the seedings indicate. Should be a close one.

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