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Friday, July 21, 2017

My Wimbledon Junior Recap; Fenty Reaches Semifinals at ITF Grade 1 in Austria; Loeb, Kenin and Kratzer Advance in Stockton $60K; Next Team USA Web Forum; Fratangelo Reaches Semis at Newport

I hope you were able to follow my daily coverage from Wimbledon last week, but if you weren't, my recap of the tournament for the Tennis Recruiting Network is a quick way of catching up on the rare American girl's and Spanish boy's singles championship.  I've now covered in person four all-US junior slam finals, with this the first one involving girls.

After his appearance in the doubles quarterfinals at Wimbledon, Andrew Fenty decided to stay in Europe for the ITF Grade 1 in Austria this week, where he is the No. 7 seed in singles. The 17-year-old from Washington DC advanced to his first Grade 1 semifinal there today, beating unseeded Emile Hudd of Great Britain 7-5, 6-3. Fenty will now face top seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina, a semifinalist at the Orange Bowl last year and the 16s Orange Bowl champion in 2015.  Fenty also has reached the doubles semifinals, playing with fellow Junior Tennis Champions Center student Brandon Perez of Venezuela.  The No. 6 seeds defeated top seeds Hugo Gaston and Clement Tabur of France 3-6, 7-6(4), 10-8 in the quarterfinals.  They will face the all-US team of Tomas Kopczynski and Mark Mandlik, who advanced to the semifinals via a walkover.

Three of the four semifinalists at the $60,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Stockton California are from the United States, and two of them are 18 years old.  Sonya Kenin, the No. 4 seed, defeated Ohio State rising junior Francesca Di Lorenzo 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-1, and wild card Ashley Kratzer beat Shilin Xu of China 6-4, 6-2.  The third, No. 2 seed Jamie Loeb, moved into the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-2 win over 15-year-old Amanda Anisimova.  2015 NCAA champion Loeb will take on Kratzer in the semifinals, with Kenin facing Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia, who beat Irina Falconi 2-6, 6-0, 6-2.

The final is set at the $25,000 Men's Futures in Champaign Illinois, with No. 3 seed Dominik Koepfer of Germany playing No. 2 seed Jose Statham of New Zealand. Koepfer beat unseeded Ricardo Rodriguez-Pace of Venezuela 6-0, 6-3, while Statham ended the run of wild card Brandon Holt, grinding out a 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-3 victory.  Holt will play for a title on Saturday however, after he and USC teammate Riley Smith advanced to the doubles final with a 3-6, 7-6(4), 11-9 win over Harrison Adams and Yates Johnson.  Smith and Holt, who have already won two Futures titles as a team, will play Shane Vinsant and Tomas Stillman for the title.

The USTA has announced its next Team USA Web Forum, which is Thursday, August 3 at 8 p.m.  The topic is Empathetic Coaching and will feature Fed Cup Captain Kathy Rinaldi, Mental Skills Specialist Larry Lauer, and guest presenters Dustin Taylor and Brian Baker.  You can register for this free webinar here.

At the ATP Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open in Newport Rhode Island, Bjorn Fratangelo has advanced to the semifinals, beating No. 4 seed Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.  Fratangelo, who made his first ATP quarterfinal this tournament, will face top seed John Isner in the semifinals, after Isner beat Dennis Novikov 6-4, 6-4.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Holt Reaches Champaign Futures Semifinal; Anisimova Advances to Quarterfinals in Stockton $60K; ESPN to Stream Boys 12s Clay Courts Finals; ITA Announces D-III Indoor Fields

USC rising sophomore Brandon Holt has advanced to his first Futures semifinal, with the 19-year-old wild card beating former Trojan Eric Johnson 6-2, 6-1 at the $25,000 Champaign Futures.  Holt, who reached the quarterfinals of one of the Wake Forest Futures last month, will face No. 2 seed Jose Statham of New Zealand in the semifinals. Statham got past wild card Zeke Clark, an Illinois rising sophomore, 6-3, 7-6(2).  Former Tulane star Dominik Koepfer of Germany, the No. 3 seed, will face unseeded Ricardo Rodriguez-Pace of Venezuela in the other semifinal.  Holt and teammate Riley Smith are also through to the doubles semifinals, as are John McNally and Govind Nanda, both of whom are entered in the Kalamazoo 18s next month.

At the $60,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Stockton California, 15-year-old Amanda Anisimova defeated No. 6 seed Grace Min 6-1, 6-2 to advance to the quarterfinals against 2015 NCAA champion Jamie Loeb, the No. 2 seed.  Loeb defeated Caroline Dolehide 6-3, 6-2.  Also advancing to the quarterfinals are 18-year-olds Sonya Kenin[4] and Ashley Kratzer and 19-year-old Ohio State rising junior Francesca Di Lorenzo.  Top seed Kristie Ahn was beaten by Irina Falconi, and No. 3 seed Danielle Collins lost to Shilin Xu of China, a former ITF world junior No. 1.

The USTA announced today that the singles and doubles finals of the USTA Boys 12s Clay Courts will be streamed on Watch ESPN at 10:00 am this Saturday with Jimmy Arias and Steven Goldstein providing commentary.  I believe this ESPN involvement is a first for a USTA National Junior Championship.

Only one of the No. 1 seeds in the eight divisions is still alive in the USTA Clay Court Championships: Fiona Crawley, the top seed in the Girls 16s.  The top seeds in the seven other divisions all have been eliminated prior to the semifinals and often considerably earlier.  Links to the draws can be found in my post from Tuesday.

The Intercollegiate Tennis Association announced the teams that will be participating in the 2018 Division III Team Indoor Championships.  The women's event is March 2-4, 2018; the men's event is February 23-25, 2018.

The women's teams:
Washington University in St. Louis
Carnegie Mellon
Johns Hopkins
Washington & Lee
Sewanee (Host)

The men's teams:
Washington University in St. Louis
Carnegie Mellon
University of Redlands
Trinity (TX)
Gustavus Adolphus (Host)

The participation of CMS is something of a novelty, but certainly strengthens the field.

The ITA release is here.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Novikov, Fratangelo Reach ATP Newport Quarterfinals; Adams Beats Top Seed Saville in Champaign Futures; Stockton $60K Kicks Off Women's US Open Wild Card Challenge; Ewing Ousts Top Seed in Austria Grade 1

Two Americans reached their first ATP quarterfinal today at the Dell Technologies Hall of Fame Open in Newport Rhode Island.  2011 French Open boys champion Bjorn Fratangelo is generally considered a bigger threat on clay than on other surfaces, but he has won two matches on the grass this week, beating No. 8 seed Illya Marchenko of Ukraine 7-6(2), 1-6, 6-4 in the opening round and today advancing to his first AT quarterfinal with a 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-1 over Akira Santillan of Australia, last week's Winnetka Challenger champion.  Santillan had played for Australian as a junior, then changed to Japan, and, as of this week, is back with Australia.   Fratangelo will face No. 4 seed Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France in the quarterfinals.

2012 Kalamazoo champion Dennis Novikov has recorded two straight-sets wins this week to reach his first ATP final, beating Marco Chiudinelli of Switzerland 6-1, 6-3 in the first round and qualifier Frank Dancevic of Canada 6-3, 6-2 in today's second round.  Former UCLA star Novikov will face top seed John Isner in the quarterfinals.

At the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit Futures in Champaign Illinois, former Texas A&M standout Harrison Adams, a qualifier, took out top seed Luke Saville of Australia 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 to advance to a Futures quarterfinal for the third time.  Rising sophomores Brandon Holt(USC) and Zeke Clark(Illinois), both of whom received wild cards, also have advanced to the quarterfinals. Recent Valparaiso graduate Jeffrey Schorsch, a qualifier, picked up his first ATP point yesterday and advanced to the quarterfinals with a 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 win over No. 7 seed Dennis Nevolo today.

The women's event this week on the USTA Pro Circuit is a $60,000 tournament in Stockton California, which is the first tournament in the US Open wild card challenge for the women.  The men's wild card race began last week in Winnetka, with Tommy Paul currently in the lead, and extends an extra week past the women's event, with tournaments the week of August 7 counting for the men.  

In Stockton, Kristie Ahn is the top seed, with Jamie Loeb seeded No. 2. Caroline Dolehide and Amanda Anisimova have advanced to the second round, with Dolehide meeting Loeb Thursday and Anisimova facing No. 6 seed Grace Min.  Wild card Ashley Kratzer, No. 4 seed Sonya Kenin, No. 7 seed Usue Arconada, Francesca Di Lorenzo and China's Shilin Xu are other teenagers who have moved into the second round.

The ATP Challenger in Gatineau, a $75,000 tournament, has attracted several Americans, with Alex Sarkissian, Marcos Giron, Sekou Bangoura and recent Virginia graduate JC Aragone still alive.  A $25,000 ITF Women's Pro Circuit tournament is also being played this week in Gatineau, with Danielle Lao, the No. 2 seed, the only American still remaining in the singles draw.

Three Americans are through to the third round of the ITF Grade 1 this week in Austria.  No. 7 seed Andrew Fenty and unseeded Tomas Kopczynski are in the final 16 of the boys draw, while unseeded Salma Ewing defeated top seed Viktoria Morvayova of Slovakia 6-4, 6-3 today to advance.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

USTA Clay Court Championships Underway with Expanded Draws; US Open Prize Money at Record $50.4 Million

I'm usually in Memphis this week of the year, covering the Girls 18s Clay Courts, but with Wimbledon a week later this year, I couldn't manage it this year.  I'm barely able to keep my eyes open right now as it is.  But the Tennis Recruiting Network will have coverage of all the tournaments next week, and they have published their predictions for this year along with an excel file in Google document with UTR ratings, TRN ratings, college commitments and additional information.

Except for the 12s, which are using their usual compass draws, the other divisions are all 256 draws with byes for the top 32 seeds.  Some of the divisions are using 64 seeds, with 16 designated as 33 seeds, some are seeding numerically to 64. I believe Kalamazoo is going to use 32 seeds, not 64.

Below are the top eight seeds in each division.  I've lined through the seeds who have already been eliminated, with the boys 16s and 18s particularly notable, with Bill Duo, the top seed in the 18s already out, and Evin McDonald, the No. 2 seed in the 16s, also beaten early. Click on the headers will take you to the Tennis Link site.

Girls 12s, Boca Raton
1. Wang, Matilyn
2. Nelson, Priya
3. Driscoll, Tsehay
4. Ngounoue, Clervie
5. Yu, Eleana
6. Yakoff, Stephanie
7. Jesudason, Meera
8. Roeck, Emma

Girls 14s, Plantation
1. Hibah R. Shaikh
2. Katja Wiersholm
3. Tara Malik
4. Alexandra Torre
5. Valencia Xu
6. Misa Malkin
7. Madison Sieg
8. Allie Gretkowski

Girls 16s, Virginia Beach
1. Fiona Crawley
2. Ruth P. Marsh
3. Gianna Pielet
4. Reilly H. Tran
5. Karina Miller
6. Savannah Broadus
7. Kiana Graham
8. Julia Andreach

Girls 18s, Memphis
1. Chelsea Kung
2. Abigail Forbes
3. Sedona S. Gallagher
4. Anika Yarlagadda
5. Briana Crowley
6. Rachel Lim
7. Cali Jankowski
8. Anna Brylin

Boys 12s, Orlando
1. Cooper Williams
2. Learner Tien
3. Lucas Brown
4. Aidan Kim
5. Kurt Miller
6. Thomas Faurel
7. Nicholas Herdoiza
8. Joseph Phillips

Boys 14s, Ft. Lauderdale
1. Aryan Chaudhary
2. Griffin Daehnke
3. Filipe Costa
4. Jack Anthrop
5. Evan Wen
6. Eli Gordon
7. Samir Banerjee
8. Connor Krug

Boys 16s, Delray Beach
1. Andrew Dale
2. Evin McDonald
3. Leighton Allen
4. Eliot Spizzirri
5. Ryder Jackson
6. Andres Martin
7. Alex Lee
8. Jacob Bullard

Boys 18s, Delray Beach
1. Bill Duo
2. Harris Walker
3. Robert Maciag
4. Christian Alshon
5. Trey Hilderbrand
6. Carson Haskins
7. Jake Sands
8. Mac Kiger

The USTA announced the prize money for the 2017 US Open today, and it's a record $50.4 million dollars.  First round prize money is up to $50,000, and there's been a substantial increase in prize money, nearly a million dollars more, for the qualifying tournament, to $2.9 million. The breakdown for each round of qualifying was not provided in the release.

2017 US Open Prize Money

Winner: $3,700,000
Runner-Up: $1,825,000
Semifinalist: $920,000
Quarterfinalist: $470,000
Round of 16: $253,625
Round of 32: $144,000
Round of 64: $86,000
Round of 128: $50,000

Winner: $675,000
Runner-Up: $340,000
Semifinalist: $160,000
Quarterfinalist: $82,000
Round of 16: $44,000
Round of 32: $26,500
Round of 64: $16,500

Monday, July 17, 2017

Rollins and Madurawe Take Grade 4 Titles in Jamaica; Dolehide Wins Winnipeg $25K; Kuhn Captures First Challenger; Embree Named Assistant Coach at Pepperdine

I'm not quite home yet, but in between flights I've got a few minutes to catch up on some of the tennis that took place away from Wimbledon last week.

At the ITF Grade 4 in Jamaica, 16-year-old Pierce Rollins won his first singles title, with the No. 6 seed beating No. 2 seed Keenan Mayo 3-6, 7-6(3), 6-4 in the all-USA final.  The girls final was also between two Americans, with 17-year-old Niluka Madurawe, the fourth seed, beating 14-year-old Hina Inoue, seeded eighth, 7-5, 7-6(3) in the final.  It's Madurawe's fourth Grade 4 singles title this year.

The boys doubles title in Jamaica went to the unseeded team of Drew Baird and Keenan Mayo's younger brother Aidan, who beat No. 2 seeds Blaise and Jacob Bicknell of Jamaica 6-1, 6-1 in the final.  Ariana Arseneault of Canada was the only champion not from the US, as she and Lindsay Lampert, the No. 4 seeds, beat unseeded Maxi Duncan and Sasha Wood 0-6, 7-5, 10-6.

Also of note in ITF Junior circuit results, Argentina's Anna Geller, the 15-year-old sister of Wimbledon singles finalist and doubles champion Axel Geller, won her first ITF junior titles, sweeping singles and doubles at the Grade 5 in Paraguay.

At the $25,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Winnipeg, 18-year-old Caroline Dolehide won her second title at that level this year.  The No. 4 seed defeated No. 5 seed Mayo Hibi of Japan 6-3, 6-4 in the final. Hibi had taken out top seed Nicole Gibbs in the semifinals.  Dolehide also made the doubles final in Winnipeg, with Kimberly Birrell of Australia.  The unseeded pair lost to top seeds Hiroko Kuwata of Japan and Valeria Savinykh of Russia 6-4, 7-6(4). Dolehide is still age eligible to compete in next month's USTA 18s Nationals in San Diego, although she is not currently on the entry list, which does not include wild cards. Kayla Day is also not entered.

At the $75,000 ATP Challenger in Winnetka, Akira Santillan of Japan won his first title at that level.  The unseeded 20-year-old defeated Ramkumar Ramanathan of India, the No. 5 seed, 7-6(1), 6-2 in the final. Santillan is featured in this ATP Challenger article.

French Open boys finalist Nicola Kuhn of Spain, who turned 17 in March, won his first Challenger title at the 127,000 event in Braunschweig Germany, the country he played Junior Davis Cup for in 2015 before switching to Spain.  Kuhn, a qualifier, defeated unseeded Viktor Galovic of Croatia 2-6 7-5 4-2 ret. in the final.  For more on Kuhn's victory, see this article from the ATP website.

Former Florida Gator All-American Lauren Embree was announced today as the new women's assistant coach for the Pepperdine women's program, led by Per Nilsson.  Embree replaces Mario Toledo, who resigned for personal reasons.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Davidovich Fokina Captures Wimbledon Boys Title; Geller and Hsu, Juvan and Danilovic Win Junior Doubles Championships

©Colette Lewis 2017--

Alejandro Davidovich Fokina lost in the first round at the Wimbledon Junior Championships last year, going out in three sets to current ITF Junior No. 1 Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia. This year, the 18-year-old from Spain marched through the draw without dropping a set, earning Spain's first Wimbledon boys title in 50 years with a 7-6(2), 6-3 win over Axel Geller of Argentina.

After his semifinal win over Patrick Kypson on Saturday, Davidovich said he would not allow himself to think about the occasion until 30 minutes before Sunday's final.  So when he walked out onto Court 1 on an overcast but dry afternoon, he began to appreciate the opportunity he had to entertain the seven or eight thousand fans witnessing his first junior slam final.

"I was thinking, OK, I will not think about that," said Davidovich, the No. 8 seed. "I will think, I want to win this. I want to show to the people who I am, that I want to play tennis, professional tennis. I want to show them what I want to do with my life. I was thinking, OK, you be yourself, and just enjoy."

Davidovich got off to a quick start, breaking the big-serving Geller in the opening game.

"He returned very well," said Geller, who averaged 127 mph on his first serve and had one clock in at 135 at 3-all in the first set. "He got some of my big first serves back with very good returns, to be honest. That's why he broke in the first game, because I was surprised at his returns."

Geller managed to get the break back in the sixth game, and held in a tense, well-played seventh game, which not only included that 135 mph serve after a double fault, but some brave shotmaking when he was down two break points.

After two more close and entertaining games gave Geller a 5-4 lead, three easy holds led to a tiebreaker, which Davidovich dominated.

"In the tiebreak, I think I push more the game, I push him more to attack him," said Davidovich, who didn't miss a first serve in taking a 5-1 lead.

"In the tiebreak, he made a few big, big returns and I feel like he went for the tiebreak more than I did," Geller said. "I missed my first serve and he didn't, so that's an advantage for him, and I was really, really tired too."

Geller, who won the ITF Grade 1 in Roehampton last Friday, then played both singles and doubles six of the seven days this week, took a medical timeout before serving at 1-2 in the second set.  After work on his back, Geller resumed play and held serve in the next two games, but Davidovich got the break at 4-3, with a big backhand giving him a break point and immediately converting it, forcing an error from Geller.

Davidovich closed confidently, and his willingness to close the net when sensing an advantage continued, even under the stress of serving for the match.  At 30-all, he forced an error from Geller, and finished with a stylish backhand volley, becoming the first Spanish Wimbledon boys champion since Manuel Orantes in 1967, and only the second overall.

"Now I'm very happy to be the second junior champion at Wimbledon," said Davidovich, who has not decided whether he'll enter the US Open Junior Championships, but did express a desire to finish as the ITF World Junior Champion in 2017. "Like, I'm in shock. I'm not thinking about that I win. I don't have time to realize."

Geller, who does plan on playing the US Open Junior Championships prior to starting his freshman year at Stanford, felt that fatigue may have been a factor in his inability to force a third set.

"It was a good match, I'm just a bit sad that I couldn't finish winning," Geller said. "Today I was not 100 percent, but that's not an excuse, and I gave everything I had, but he was better."

Geller did end the day as a Wimbledon champion however, earning the boys doubles title with Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan.  Geller and Hsu, the No. 2 seeds, defeated No. 3 seeds Jurij Rodionov of Austria and Michael Vrbensky of the Czech Republic 6-4, 6-4 in the late afternoon final.

Hsu and Geller had not played together prior to Roehampton, and as the No. 2 seeds there, went out in the first round to eventual champions Sebastian Korda and Colombia's Nicolas Mejia. But Hsu said they managed to develop as a team with every win during their week at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

"The first time, we didn't communicate very well," Hsu said, with the assistance of an interpreter. "We were just trying to keep talking every day, to make ourselves more connected."

Geller agreed that it took time to find their form.

"Our first match was a disaster," Geller said. "We had no chemistry as a team...but we found a way to start playing better. He is a bit like, silent, and my former partner, we used to be so pumped, so I was used to that. But [Hsu] started shouting more on the big points and everything, and I think that was important. But he played so well after. At the net, he's unbelievable."

Geller and Hsu broke Vrbensky to take a 4-3 lead and held easily in their next two service games to take the set.

In the second set, Geller and Hsu broke Vrbensky in the first game and again the next time he served, after Vrbensky had been up 40-15 and 40-0 in those two games.  Geller then had an opportunity to serve out the match and he was automatic in those situations all week, offering that he had not dropped serve in doubles in any of their five victories.

As to whether winning the doubles eased the pain of losing in the singles final, Geller wasn't sure that it did.

"It does a bit, it's so different though," Geller said. "I'm happy in like a different dimension, I don't know how to explain it."

The girls doubles championship went to the unseeded team of Olga Danilovic of Serbia and Kaja Juvan of Slovenia, who beat No. 4 seeds Caty McNally and Whitney Osuigwe 6-4, 6-3.

Danilovic and Juvan got the only break of the first set to take a 5-3 lead and served it out, then broke Osuigwe in the opening game of the second set on their way to a 5-1 lead.  McNally and Osuigwe broke Juvan serving for the match at 5-2, but Juvan and Danilovic broke Osuigwe to earn the title.

Juvan and Danilovic had played together only once before, and that resulted in a first round loss at the 2016 Australian Open Junior Championships  But their common language and game styles proved a perfect combination at Wimbledon.

"We speak the same language and our coaches, they make some plans before every match, we talk about it," Juvan said. "We were really prepared for every match," Danilovic added.

Although Danilovic won the French Open girls doubles title in 2016 with Paula Arias Manjon of Spain, the 16-year-old left-hander was happy to reunite with Juvan despite their lack of success in Australia.

"She knows really good how to play doubles, and that's the most important thing," Danilovic said. "She's really good at understanding doubles and me as well, and I think we managed to do what we know to do, and I think that was more than enough."

"From the first match, we knew we played good," Juvan said. "We beat some good opponents so I think that's when we started to believe we could win this tournament."

Danilovic and Juvan said they played their best match in the final, an Osuigwe and McNally agreed.

"We've watched them play all week, and this was definitely the best they've played," Osuigwe said. "We played really well yesterday, I thought" said McNally, recalling their 6-2, 6-2 win over top seeds Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine and Carson Branstine of Canada. "They were a really tough team yesterday, but today, they just played really well, just were really solid."

McNally, who also lost in last year's Wimbledon girls doubles final playing with Mariam Bolkvadze of Georgia, is now looking ahead to the hard court season.

"I'm not going to think about this anymore," said McNally. "I'm going to put it in the past. It's a good result. Now we're going to focus on Hard Courts. That's our main goal right now, to win it."

Juvan is not planning on playing the US Open juniors this year, but Danilovic hopes they'll find time to take the courts again together soon.

"When we're at the same tournaments, for sure we will be playing, because we're the Wimbledon champs," Danilovic said. "In pros, there are a lot of tournaments, so you're not always going to the same ones."

All junior draws can be found at the Wimbledon website.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Liu Defeats Li to Claim Wimbledon Girls Title; Geller and Davidovich Fokina in Boys Final Sunday; McNally and Osuigwe Advance to Girls Doubles Final

©Colette Lewis 2017--

Claire Liu knew the feeling of coming up short in a junior slam final, losing in three sets to fellow American Whitney Osuigwe at the French Open last month.

On a gray and gloomy Saturday, playing in front of thousands of fans on the All England Lawn Tennis Club’s storied Court 1, Liu experienced the sweeter side of a championship match, overcoming a determined Ann Li 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 to become the first American to win the Wimbledon girls title since Chandra Rubin in 1992.

After light rain delayed the start of the match by 90 minutes, Liu, the No. 3 seed, played the first set with a determination indicating neither nerves nor that Roland Garros result was going to deter her. Li, like Liu 17, but unlike Li, new to the biggest stages of junior tennis, admitted that the first set, just 25 minutes long, flew by.

But Li did begin to challenge Liu on her final service game of the opening set, forcing Liu to save a break point before claiming the set. The hopes for a long, competitive match dimmed when Liu broke in the first game of the second set, but Li broke back, a sequence repeated in the third and fourth games.  Li got the first hold of the second set for a 3-2 lead, but gave up another break, and Liu held for 5-3.  After Li held for 5-4, Liu had a routine win in her sights, going up 40-0, but she was unable to convert on any of the three match points.

Li's backhand return forced an error on the first match point, and a double fault erased the second.  Liu forced the issue on the third match point, coming to the net, but Li hit a forehand pass for a winner. Then Li's backhand began to heat up, and a sizzling winner got her the break for 5-5.

Li credited the crowd for her surge during the final games of the second set.

"The crowd was getting into it for sure," said Li, who lives in the Philadelphia area and trains at the USTA's Training Center in New York. "I could hear like, go Ann. It kind of got me going I guess. But I just put a lot of energy in and gave it my all. I just kind of let go."

Li held quickly to go up 6-5, and in the next game Liu couldn't convert six game points.  Another penetrating backhand finally gave Li a set point, and she converted with Liu unable to get Li's overhead back in play.

"I was definitely disappointed," Liu said of her inability to convert her match points. "But I knew if I just tried to keep playing the next point, than I would have a better chance at winning, than thinking back on those three points."

As in the first two sets, Li was broken to open the third set, and Liu was able to come back from 0-40 down to take a 2-0 lead. Although Li made Liu work hard to hold serve, Liu did hang on to that early break, then got a second with Li serving down 2-4. A big c'mon from Liu after she put away a backhand for a 5-2 lead demonstrated how important Liu thought that second break was.

Serving for the match a second time, Liu took a 40-15 lead, but she couldn't convert on her fourth match point, with a Li backhand forcing an error.  On match point No. 5, Liu finally could celebrate, letting out a loud c'mon and collapsing to the court, lying flat on her back for a few seconds before jumping up to share an embrace with Li at the net.

"It feels amazing," said Liu, who lives in Thousand Oaks California, the same city where men's semifinalist Sam Querrey grew up, and trains, as Querrey does, at the USTA's Training Center in Carson. "I'm literally so speechless. I just keep smiling all the time. I still can't even believe it. I mean, it's like a dream come true."

Li, who was playing Liu for the first time, saw for herself why Liu has had so much success this spring and summer, on both the ITF Junior and Pro Circuits.

"I think that she's just really solid," said Li. "She knows herself well and she figures out her opponent too. I think she tries to put pressure on from the beginning. I know she was a little bit nervous too, at the beginning, and she just played better than I did."

Li is not sure if she'll play the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit event in Evansville Indiana week after next, so her next event may be the Nationals in San Diego.

Liu, who will take over the No. 1 ranking in the ITF Juniors with her title, is planning to play the $60,000 USTA Pro Circuit tournament in Sacramento and the qualifying of the Bank of the West Classic at Stanford before the USTA Nationals in San Diego. But her immediate plans centered around dinner Saturday evening.

"I'll probably just hang out with friends," Liu said when asked how she would celebrate. "I haven't had Indian food. I love the Indian food here. I'm definitely going to go Indian tonight."

The boys final on Sunday will feature unseeded Axel Geller of Argentina and No. 8 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain.  Geller, last week's Roehampton champion, came from a break down in the final set to defeat top seed Corentin Moutet of France 1-6, 6-3, 6-3, while Davidovich won last five games of the match to defeat Patrick Kypson 6-4, 6-4.

Geller, who is now 11-0 in his career on grass, was down 2-1 in the third with Moutet serving at 40-0 in the final set.

"It was 40-love and he played two really loose points, I didn't do much there to be honest," said Geller, who is the first boy from Argentina to play in the Wimbledon final.  "The following point was the turning point. I fell to the ground after hitting a big cross court backhand, I slipped, and he saw that, but he barely made the ball because my backhand was really big. I got up, made the following ball and he misses, and I managed to break.  That's when I started competing much better. I played much better then, much more focused. I just lost my fear, let's say, and I competed very hard and played really good after that."

Davidovich trailed Kypson 4-1 in the second set, but although he said he was not playing particularly well, he kept himself mentally in the set.

"He won one break, he played well," said the 18-year-old, who is the first Spaniard in the boys Wimbledon final since Javier Sanchez in 1986. "Until 4-1, when I changed my mind, and was thinking, OK, this is my opportunity and I have to do. My mind was very good today. 4-1 down, another player might think third set, but I was thinking no, no, I don't want a third set. I don't want to give one set to him. It was my mind, not the game. The game was not too good today."

Kypson, who had saved four match points in his second round win over No. 5 seed Yuta Shimizu and won 8-6 in the third in the third round, expressed regret over not closing out the second set.

"Obviously I'm a little frustrated I couldn't get that set and see what would happen in the third, but it is what it is," Kypson said. "He definitely put more returns in on my service games, and I think he raised the pace of the ball a little bit. But I made some dumb shot selections and gave him the break back, so it's partly my fault."

Davidovich said the game he'll face on Sunday will present a challenge.

"I saw that he won Roehampton," said Davidovich, who did not play the warmup Grade 1 last week. "He plays so strong, serves so strong and plays very flat. I think tomorrow will be a very tough match, very tough."

Geller said the game he will face on Sunday will also be different from what he encountered in his win over Moutet.

"His game is similar to mine, he also tries to go for the balls," Geller said. "Be offensive, try to dictate and make the match depend on him. I think it's going to be interesting. It's different from today's kid. He had so many more tools. He could hit drop shots, slices, which were so hard, but he's got much more power."

Geller, who admitted that all the match play over the past two weeks have kept the training staff busy treating him, is still marveling at his run over the past two weeks.

"To think before this I had never played on grass," said Geller, who is starting at Stanford this fall. "That's just insane. And to think a guy from Argentina and from Spain are playing on grass. But you see our game styles and it makes sense. I just hope I can enjoy it, mostly, and hope I can win. But no matter the result, I hope I can have a good time out there."

The doubles finals are set for Sunday, with Caty McNally returning to the girls doubles final for the second straight year.  McNally and her partner Whitney Osuigwe, the No. 4 seeds, dominated top seeds Carson Branstine of Canada and Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine in the semifinals, earning a 6-2, 6-2 victory and ending Branstine's quest for the junior grand slam in doubles.  McNally and Osuigwe will face unseeded Kaja Juvan of Slovenia and Olga Danilovic of Serbia, who defeated unseeded Sofia Sewing and Maria Portillo Ramirez of Mexico 6-4, 6-3 in semifinals.

Geller, playing with Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan, advanced to the boys doubles final against Jurij Rodionov of Austria and Michael Vrbensky of the Czech Republic.  Geller and Hsu, the No. 2 seeds, beat unseeded Matteo Martineau of France and Blake Ellis of Australia 7-6(5), 6-7(3), 10-8 in two hours and 13 minutes of play.  Rodionov and Vrbensky defeated unseeded Sebastian Korda and Nicolas Mejia of Colombia 6-3, 6-4 in a match contested on Court 1.

Complete junior draws can be found at the Wimbledon website.

Venus Williams lost in the women's final today, falling to Garbine Muguruza of Spain 7-5, 6-0.  For more on that match, see this article from the Wimbledon website.

Friday, July 14, 2017

United States Guaranteed a Wimbledon Girls Title with Liu and Li Reaching Final; Kypson Advances to Boys Semifinals

©Colette Lewis 2017--

The long drought between US girls champions at Wimbledon will end on Saturday, when 17-year-olds Claire Liu and Ann Li meet for the title, with the winner becoming the first American girl since Chanda Rubin in 1992 to claim the winner's trophy.

French Open finalist Liu, the No. 3 seed, was one of the favorites coming into the tournament, and her efficient 6-1, 6-3 win over unseeded Sofya Lansere was expected.

Li is the surprise of the pair, having won her first junior slam match in the opening round on Saturday, but she continued her impressive run Friday, beating unseeded Simona Waltert of Switzerland 7-6(4), 6-1 to earn her first meeting with Liu.

Liu, from Thousand Oaks California, has been winning significant titles on the international junior circuit since she was 11 years old, while Li, from Devon Pennsylvania, only began competing internationally last year, so while it may seem surprising they haven't played before, it's understandable.

"We don't really play that many of the same tournaments," said Liu, who is playing in her third Wimbledon Junior Championships and has been competing on the ITF Pro Circuit since 2014. "But we're both in the final, which is amazing."

Liu, who won the Roehampton Grade 1 last week, felt that she needed to put Lansere in a defensive position from the start of the match, played on Show Court 18.

"I wanted, in the beginning of the match, to put a lot of pressure on her," said Liu, who won 19 of 26 points at the net. "I wanted to take any chances I had to come to the net, not hesitate. I think I did that really well and that kind of got her off balance, and I think she started to rush a little bit and started to go for more than she wanted to, and I think that's what gave me a lot of the errors. Mixed with the nerves, that's why she missed a lot."

While the first set was all Liu, Lansere began to play better in the second set, but she couldn't match Liu's consistency.

"She started to calm down a little bit and hit some unbelievable shots, but I kept trying to keep the pressure on and that helped me," Liu said.

Liu acknowledged that she has an edge in experience, having played in the French Open girls final just last month, although she hasn't any more familiarity with Court 1 than Li has. At Roland Garros, the girls final did draw a crowd, but Liu thought she and champion Whitney Osuigwe overcame their jitters quickly and hopes to be able to do the same on Saturday.

"I think it was on Court 2 or 3, I'm not sure, but there was a big crowd there," Liu said. "We had a really good match, I think both of us started out nervous, but we both started just playing pretty quickly. So I'm expecting the same thing [Saturday], I'm expecting her to go out and play her best and I'm going to try to do the same thing."

Li had credited her energy as a major factor in her quarterfinal upset of top seed Kayla Day, but against Waltert, she cited a different quality.

"I could feel the nerves from her and I was nervous too, but I think I just stayed more composed," Li said.

Li lost her 4-2 lead in the opening set, but was able to rebound in the tiebreaker, again by refusing to give in to frustration.

"I think it was, again, staying composed," Li said. "Because we both had a couple of bad misses, but I just tried to keep the points tight, make my shots deep so she can't attack."

Waltert double faulted twice in the tiebreaker, including on set point, and her unforced error count, which totaled 34, helped Li take a 5-1 lead in the second set. Another Waltert double fault gave Li a match point, but she missed a forehand. A backhand winner gave Li a second match point and Waltert's wide forehand gave Li the victory and the first all-American Wimbledon girls final since Mary Lou Piatek defeated Alysia Moulton in 1979.

Li, who said she is "loving it" this week at Wimbledon, is planning to keep her focus on the match, not the atmosphere, during Saturday's final.

"I'm going to make sure I move a lot, because that kind of helps me when I'm nervous," said Li, who can be seen jogging in place as she waits to return serve in most situations. "But I know she has experience, and she might have a little bit of an advantage, but I'll try to hang in there."

The boys semifinals are set, with American Patrick Kypson advancing to his first final four in a major by virtue of a 6-2, 6-1 win over Michael Vrbensky of the Czech Republic.

After two marathon matches in the second and third rounds, Kypson was relieved to earn a win in just 47 minutes, as Vrbensky's unforced errors piled up.

"He's a good player and I played well today," Kypson said. "He might have helped me out a little at the end there, but I'm happy."

Kypson, whose shoulder injury led him to retire from his second round match at Roehampton last week, said he's healed to the point where his serve is now responsible for his results the past two matches.

"The last two days my serve has helped me a lot," Kypson said. "I think for sure yesterday without my serve I would have been toast. From the ground it was rough yesterday, but I had my serve to keep me alive in that third set and I was able to finish it off."

Kypson said his shoulder began to give him trouble at the Futures he played in Germany but he wanted to play Roehampton to give himself some familiarity with grass, as he had never played on the surface before.

"I won my first match serving like 50 miles per hour, just hustling," said the 17-year-old from North Carolina. "I had to pull out in the second round because I couldn't raise my shoulder. So coming into this tournament I basically had one match, two sets, on grass."

Kypson said massage, stretching, ice and other treatments have worked to the point where it's now 100 percent.

"I still feel it, but it's not enough to hinder me in any way," Kypson said.

Kypson's opponent in the semifinals is No. 8 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who beat No. 2 seed Yibing Wu of China 6-2, 6-4.  Davidovich, who reached the semifinals of the French Open last month and two Futures finals at $25,000 ITF Men's events in Spain in between, has yet to lose a set this week.

"I think Davidovich has a lot of confidence right now," Kypson said. "I know he had some good results in $25Ks in Spain, finaled back to back, so he's playing at a high level and he's beating players that are playing at a high level, which gives you confidence. So it's going to be a tough match."

Kypson will play on Court 12 for the third day in a row Saturday, at 11:30 a.m.  The girls final is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday on Court 1.

The other boys semifinal will feature Roehampton champion Axel Geller of Argentina against top seed Corentin Moutet of France.  Moutet took out No. 11 seed Jurij Rodionov of Austria 6-2, 6-4, while Geller beat unseeded Matteo Martineau of France 6-3, 7-5.

Liu will not repeat as girls doubles champion after Friday's quarterfinals.  She and Taylor Johnson, the No. 2 seeds, were beaten by Sofia Sewing and Mexico's Maria Portillo Ramirez 6-4, 6-4.  Sewing and Portillo will face another unseeded team, Kaja Juvan of Slovenia and Olga Danilovic of Serbia, in Saturday's semifinals.

The other girls doubles semifinal will feature No. 1 seeds Carson Branstine of Canada and Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine against No. 4 seeds Whitney Osuigwe and Caty McNally. McNally and Osuigwe beat Violet Apisah of Papua New Guinea and Astrid Brune Olsen of Norway 6-3, 7-6(2), while Branstine and Kostyuk came back for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 8 seeds Emiliana Arango of Colombia and Ellie Douglas. Branstine won the Australian and French Open girls doubles title, so is trying to keep her hopes for a grand slam alive in Saturday's semifinals.

One American boy remains in contention for the doubles title, with Sebastian Korda and his partner Nicolas Mejia of Colombia advancing to the semifinals.  The Roehampton champions defeated Toru Horie and Yuta Shimizu of Japan 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 and will face No. 3 seeds Rodionov and Vrbensky Saturday.

No. 2 seeds Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan and Geller defeated Menelaos Efstathiou of Cyprus and Ryan Nijboer of the Netherlands 6-2, 6-1 and will meet unseeded Blake Ellis of Australia and Martineau, who beat Yshai Oliel of Israel and Andrew Fenty 6-3, 6-2.

Junior draws are available at the Wimbledon website.

Sam Querrey's best slam performance ended today in the semifinals, when he lost to Croatia's Marin Cilic 6-7(6), 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-5.  Cilic and Roger Federer will play for the men's title on Sunday.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Li Ousts Top Seed Day to Join Liu in Wimbledon Girls Semifinals; Kypson Goes Overtime to Reach Boys Quarterfinals; Venus Williams in Women's Final

©Colette Lewis 2017--

Before this week, 17-year-old Ann Li hadn't won a match at a junior slam. But the grass courts of Wimbledon have proven to suit her game perfectly and she is now into the semifinals of the Junior Championships after a stunning 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 over top seed and WTA No. 124 Kayla Day on show court 18.

Li, who lost in the first round at the US Open Juniors last year, and didn't play the Australian or French Opens this year, was winless in her three matches with Day last year. In the two losses on hard courts, she had won the first set, so today she flipped the script, staying positive even as she dropped the first set.

"It taught me to put more energy in, more emotions," the usually placid Li said of her previous losses to Day. "If I'd win a big point or something, I would yell c'mon. Maybe I wouldn't do that before and it would change the momentum a bit."

Day got an early break in the first set and held on, although Li had three break points, including one with Day serving for the set. Day came up with an ace on that break point, one of four aces she had in the match and held for the set, although that was the last ace she would hit.

"I kind of adjusted and I realized where she was going more," Li said of Day's serving tendencies. "I returned better, and maybe she didn't serve as well, but I got an idea of where she was going."

Li got her first of three second-set breaks to make it 3-1, after Day had led 40-0 in the game. She gave it right back, but broke Day again, with a monster backhand return of a second serve at 30-40 making it 4-2. Day was broken again to end the set, with backhand errors the primary cause, and after Li saved a break point in the opening game of the third with a backhand winner, Day was broken for a fourth straight time, throwing in a double fault at 30-40.

Li, who hit seven winners and made just two unforced errors in the final set, didn't face a break point the rest of the way, as Day's errors piled up. The final game produced no drama, with Li closing out the upset on her first match point, when yet another penetrating backhand forced a forehand error from Day.

Li said her previous three wins this week have gone a long way toward convincing her she belongs in the semifinals.

"Just being around here, knowing that I can stay calm, with all these people and all these distractions, it's given me a lot of confidence," Li said. "I've had some good wins and being here is just amazing. I've seen Fed twice."

Although Li said she hasn't found any words for a conversation with Roger Federer, all of these encounters, and all of her success, is a bonus.

"I was just coming here to have fun and gain experience," Li said.
"And it's going well."

Li will face unseeded Simona Waltert of Switzerland, who defeated No. 14 seed Sofia Sewing 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Waltert beat Li in the quarterfinals of the Grade 1 in Italy this spring 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

The second girls semifinal will feature the only seed left in the girls draw, No. 3 Claire Liu, who beat No. 6 seed Carson Branstine of Canada 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.  Liu lost her first set during these two weeks of grass court tennis, with Branstine's serve the primary reason, but she reverted to the form she's demonstrated this spring and summer in the final two sets.

"Her serve is one of her biggest weapons, and I think it did take me some time to get used to it," Liu said. "I was rushing a little too much and she played really well. All of her service games were pretty quick and she played well in the first set."

In addition to Branstine's serving, Liu said her own mental state bore some of the responsibility for the loss of a set.

"I was pretty nervous and I let my emotions take control of the match too much," said Liu. "In the second set, I buckled down and I told myself if you're going to lose, lose doing the right thing, leave everything on the court, get one more ball back, make her hit one more shot and I think over time that really helped me."

Liu has been happy with her consistently high level over the past two weeks.

"I would have liked to win in straight sets," Liu said. "But being able to play really good tennis over the last few weeks is really positive for me, so I'm just going to try to keep doing the same thing."

Liu's opponent in the semifinals is Russia's Sofya Lansere, who prevented a rematch of the French Open girls final by taking out No. 2 seed Whitney Osuigwe 7-5, 6-3.  Osuigwe had beaten the 16-year-old Lansere 6-2, 6-3 in the second round of Roehampton last week.

The boys, who are a round behind due to rain on Tuesday, played their third round matches today, with Patrick Kypson the only American advancing to Friday's quarterfinals.  Kypson, who had saved four match points in his 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 win over No. 5 seed Yuta Shimizu of Japan on Wednesday, had another mentally draining match against British wild card George Loffhagen before pulling out a 4-6, 6-0, 8-6 victory.

Broken to open the match, Kypson was unable to get it back, although he began to feel better as he warmed up.

"I came out a little sluggish, legs were a little beat from yesterday after five sets, three in singles and two in doubles, and the singles sets were pretty stressful," Kypson said. "I had a couple of chances to break back but he was serving pretty well, moving forward, hitting the ball pretty big, so he deserved that first set."

Despite Loffhagen's play in the opening set, Kypson wasn't discouraged.

"I never felt in a bad situation, I never felt he was going to run away with it," Kypson said. "I felt I would have chances in the second and in the second game I broke him, started playing a lot more aggressive. Once you get that break, you feel you can play a little bit more freely."

The tension mounted in the third set, with no breaks of serve, but Kypson did his part to keep the pressure on Loffhagen, giving him no break points to look at in seven service games and getting 74 percent of his first serves in.

"I served really well in the third set," said Kypson. "I think we had one deuce game on my serve in the set, maybe two. I had chances to break him, had 0-30 two or three times, 15-30 once, didn't play the right way on those points until the last game."

Kypson went up 15-40 with Loffhagen serving to stay in the match at 6-7, but missed a backhand on his first match point.

"I played a good point at 30-40," said Kypson. "I hit a forehand inside-in and he didn't have time to get over there and hit it, so he chipped it and I came in on a forehand and he missed a backhand passing shot."

Playing a British junior at Wimbledon is a unique experience, but the crowd's support for the 16-year-old didn't bother Kypson.

"It was pretty wild in the third set," Kypson said. "Anytime I missed a ball they went nuts. But actually it doesn't bother me at all. I expect it, playing on court 12, third round of juniors, for sure they're going to be cheering for the local guy. I enjoyed it, it was fun."

Kypson faces unseeded Michael Vrbensky of the Czech Republic, who beat Constantin Bittoun-Kouzmine of France 6-4, 6-4. Kypson, who said he speaks a little Czech due to his father's roots in the country, has a 1-0 record against his fellow 17-year-old.

"I played him in Junior Davis Cup two years ago on clay," Kypson said. "I got him there, I think it was 4 and 3, but he's one of those players who's gotten a lot better as he's gotten older. He was quite small back then, he's still not the biggest kid, but he's definitely matured physically. He's a good grass court player, from what I hear, is pretty crafty and has a high tennis IQ, so it's going to be another tough one."

The other boys quarterfinal in the bottom half of the draw will feature No. 8 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain against No. 2 seed Yibing Wu of China.  Davidovich Fokina ended the hopes of No. 10 seed Oliver Crawford 6-1, 6-3 and Wu took out unseeded Mohamed Bellalouna of Tunisia 6-2, 6-2.

Top seed Corentin Moutet of France eliminated the last qualifier in the tournament, beating Francesco Forti of Italy 7-5, 6-1 and will play No. 11 seed Jurij Rodionov of Austria, a 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3 winner over unseeded Blake Ellis of Australia.  Roehampton champion Axel Geller of Argentina dropped his first set this week to Naoki Tajima of Japan, but came through with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory. Geller will take on unseeded Matteo Martineau of France, who beat British wild card Aidan McHugh 6-3, 6-7(12), 6-2.

The top seeds in boys doubles were eliminated in today's second round, with Roehampton champions Sebastian Korda and Colombia's Nicolas Mejia beating Wu and Zsombor Piros of Hungary 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-4.  No. 2 seeds Geller and Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan did advance to Friday's quarterfinals, as did No. 3 seed Rodionov and Vrbensky, who came from a set and a break down to beat DJ Thomas and Vasil Kirkov 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.  Aside from Korda, the only other American boy still in doubles is Andrew Fenty, who is playing with Israel's Yshai Oliel.

Six US girls are still in doubles, including No. 2 seeds Liu and Taylor Johnson, who beat Zeel Desai of India and Lulu Sun of Switzerland 7-5, 6-0 in this evening's second round.  They will face Mexico's Maria Portillo Ramirez and Sewing, who beat No. 7 seeds Elena Rybakina and Amina Anshba 6-4, 6-4.   No. 4 seeds Caty McNally and Osuigwe and No. 8 seeds Emilana Arango of Colombia and Ellie Douglas also advanced in straight sets.  Carson Branstine's quest for a junior doubles grand slam continued, as she and Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, the top seeds, beat Waltert and Ylena In-Albon of Switzerland 6-3, 6-3.

Complete draws can be found at the Wimbledon website.

Thirty-seven-year-old Venus Williams reached the women's final for the first time since 2009, with the No. 10 seed taking out No. 6 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain 6-4, 6-2.  Williams will face Spain's Garbina Muguruza, who defeated Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 6-1, 6-1, in Saturday's final.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My Roehampton Recap; Five US Girls Reach Wimbledon Quarterfinals; Crawford, Kypson Advance to Third Round in Boys Draw; Querrey Downs Murray

©Colette Lewis 2017--

The junior grass court season is a short one, consisting of the Grade 1 in Roehampton and Wimbledon. I went to the finals of Roehampton for the first time on Friday, and wrote this Tennis Recruiting Network article on the victories by Axel Geller of Argentina and Claire Liu, both of whom are still in the running for the Wimbledon junior titles.

Due to the rain on Tuesday, the boys are now a day behind the girls, who played their third round matches today.  Top seed Kayla Day was one of two girls who had to finish a second round match before playing a third round match, but she made it easier on herself by coming from 5-2 down in the second set to beat qualifier Jule Niemeier of Germany 6-2, 7-6(5) to move into the third round.

Day was scheduled to return to the same court after Claire Liu played her third round match with En Shuo Liang of Taiwan, but as has been the case throughout the past two weeks, Liu has gotten on and off the court quickly, with her 6-3, 6-3 victory taking just over an hour.  Day, taking on No. 15 seed Zeel Desai of India, was a bit put off by the quick turnaround.

"It was a little hard mentally, because I had like only 45 minutes," said Day. "Because Claire just like rolled through. So I wasn't even cooled down by the time I had to back on again. I was in the match, but at the beginning, I was like whoa, I'm back on court again. It was hard, because this morning it was such a close second set."

Day fell behind 2-0 in the second set against Desai, but she broke right back and then broke again for a 5-4 lead, on a perfectly executed crosscourt forehand pass.  Desai saved three match points, but on the fourth Day took aim and hit a forehand on the line to close out the 6-5, 6-4 win.

"I was like, I'm going for this one," said the 17-year-old from Santa Barbara California. "I'm not going to let her hit another winner. And I barely made it."

Day will be facing unseeded Ann Li in Thursday's quarterfinals, after Li defeated Maja Chwalinska of Poland 7-6(4), 6-2.  Li and Day have played three times at Grade 1 events, all in 2016, with Day 3-0, but she did drop the first set in both her third round win in Carson and her semifinal win in Tulsa, the two times they've met on hard courts.

"I've beaten her both times, but both times I've lost the first set, so it will definitely be will be a good match," said Day. "She's very aggressive and she likes to come to the net, so her style really suits grass. So it'll be tough. I've actually seen a couple of her matches, and she's been playing really well."

Day and Li are the only Americans facing on another, but Liu, Sofia Sewing and Whitney Osuigwe give the United States five of the eight quarterfinalists.  No. 14 seed Sewing defeated Ellie Douglas 6-3, 6-4 today and will play unseeded Simona Waltert of Switzerland, who took out No. 10 seed Xin Yu Wang of China 6-2, 6-4.  Osuigwe beat Katie Swan of Great Britain 6-4, 2-6 6-1 and will face unseeded Sofya Lansere of Russia, a 7-5, 6-1 winner over No. 9 seed Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia. Osuigwe beat Lansere 6-2, 6-3 in the second round last week in Roehampton.

Liu will take on No. 6 seed Carson Branstine of Canada, who until this spring trained with Day, Liu, Taylor Johnson and others at the USTA's Player Development Center in Carson California.

"I think that training with your friends and people the same age as you really helps a lot," said Liu, who at 17 is playing in her third Wimbledon as a junior, and reached the quarterfinals last year. "You always get really good match play, and you're training with your friends, so that's always nice."

Liu lost to Branstine 6-1, 2-6, 6-3 last December at the Orange Bowl round of 16 in the only time they have played, and she knows Branstine's serve is even more dangerous on grass.

"Having a big serve helps you on grass, and that's definitely a big advantage, but I also like to think that I can serve," Liu said. "But I'm just going to try to get as many balls back as I can, hopefully try to string a few points together, get a set."

While the US girls have a chance to end the drought of an American Wimbledon girls champion that extends back to Chanda Rubin in 1992, the third US boys champion in the past four years will need to come from lesser odds, with only Oliver Crawford and Patrick Kypson among the final 16 boys.

Kypson took out No. 5 seed Yuta Shimizu of Japan 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 to avenge a three-set loss earlier this year at the Grade A in Brazil. Kypson will face British wild card George Loffhagen, who surprised No. 9 seed Rudolf Molleker of Germany 6-4, 6-4.

Loffhagen is one of two British wild cards in the final 16, with Aidan McHugh also defeating a seed in No. 6 Marko Mladinovic of Serbia. But Crawford put an end to the hopes of a third, Barnaby Smith, who was unable to serve out the first set and fell to the No. 10 seed 7-6(3), 6-2.

Crawford broke to start the second set, and Smith struggled with his focus in the subsequent games.

"I broke him in the first game and I think that kind of hurt his confidence," said Crawford, who starts classes at the University of Florida next month. "Losing a set 7-6, after serving for it at 6-5, and getting broken right out of the gates, hurt his confidence. That put pressure on his serve and I felt confident moving forward and I held pretty handily. So I was very pleased with the second set, and with how I competed in the first set."

Crawford prefers clay and hard courts to grass, but he still enjoys an opportunity to share the experience of playing at Wimbledon with his parents, both of whom are British.

"I prefer red clay and having more time on my forehand, I guess," said the 18-year-old, who is from Spartanburg, South Carolina. "But it's been good, I really enjoy myself here. It's been a great experience, especially with my Dad. He's been my coach this week and getting to enjoy the practice courts. He's come out in his all whites and he's liking it. It's been a great time."

Crawford's opponent in the third round is No. 8 seed Alejandro Fokina Davidovich of Spain, one of just five seeds remaining in the boys draw. Top seed Corentin Moutet of France beat Menelaos Efstathiou of Cyprus 6-3, 6-2 today, while No. 2 seed Yibing Wu had advanced on Tuesday.

US boys who fell today in the second round were Roehampton finalist Sam Riffice, who lost to Constantin Bittoun-Kouzmine of France 7-6(8), 7-6(5) and Sebastian Korda, who was beaten by Michael Vrbensky of the Czech Republic 6-0, 7-6(5).

The first round of doubles in both the boys and girls draws was completed today, with all eight seeds advancing in the girls draw.  Liu, Johnson, Day, Osuigwe, Douglas and Caty McNally are all into the second round.  Four of the eight seeds in the boys draw were beaten in the first round, but top seeds Zsombor Piros of Hungary and Wu advanced, as did No. 2 seeds Axel Geller of Argentina and Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan.  No. 6 seeds Trent Bryde and Alafia Ayeni and Vasil Kirkov and DJ Thomas are through to the second round, as is Alexandre Rotsaert, Andrew Fenty and Korda.

Junior draws are available at the Wimbledon website.

For the first time since Andy Roddick reached the Wimbledon final in 2009, an American man is into a slam semifinal, with Sam Querrey defeating ATP No. 1 and defending champion Andy Murray 3-6, 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-1, 6-1 today on Centre Court. No. 24 seed Querrey will face No. 7 seed Marin Cilic of Croatia in Friday's semifinals.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Geller and Liu Roll On, Osuigwe Comes Back on Soggy Day Three at Wimbledon Junior Championships

©Colette Lewis 2017--

Before the first ball was struck Tuesday at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, the clouds thickened, and just a few games into the first matches of the second round of the Wimbledon Junior Championships a suspension of play was necessary, with another following. A third suspension proved to be the last of the day, with rain heavy continuing throughout the evening, but by then, last week's two Roehampton champions were safely through.

Axel Geller of Argentina had beaten DJ Thomas en route to the ITF Grade 1 Roehampton title last week, taking a 6-3, 6-4 victory in the third round, so a 33-minute 6-1, 6-0 win was not what he was expecting.

"Last week it was 6-3, 6-4, one break per set, he had many chances on my serve," said the voluble 18-year-old, who is joining Stanford this fall. "I played really good, and he also did. It was a very good match. I knew he has the potential to beat anyone; he has those big shots, he can hit winners from anywhere, he's very good at the net. So I started out really competitive. I think I competed really well, every point I was there and when I was winning easy I kept it going."

Geller had reason to wonder if his good start, up 2-0 and serving at 40-0, was going to be stalled by the first rain delay.

"At 15-0 the rain was getting a bit stronger and I hurried up, hit two big serves and was ready to serve again to make it 3-0, but I couldn't," Geller said. "I didn't want to stop, but we had to stop because of the rain...I had the confidence with my serve, that at 40-0 it was probably going to go my way, but I thought it would be a different match from then. Luckily, I just kept going and he couldn't keep it up."

Geller said he was recently featured in a prominent newspaper in Argentina, which, in addition to the attention he has received for winning Roehampton, has created a new situation for him.

"I've started receiving so many messages and everything and it's hard to try to keep focus, not feel like you've already done something big," Geller said. "So I'm trying to go one match at a time, not pay attention to much of anything. Probably the pros get this every day, but I'm not used to getting like 50 messages from every different social network, so I'm trying to take it easy, just text my best, best friends and my family."

Geller will play Naoki Tajima of Japan, one of only three other boys to finish Tuesday, but that third round match is not on Wednesday's schedule, with eight boys second round matches still in progress and four yet to begin.  No. 2 seed Yibing Wu, who retired to Vasil Kirkov last week at Roehampton, won this week's rematch easily, taking a 6-1, 6-1 victory.  Sam Riffice is down a set to Constantin Bittoun-Kouzmine of France and Patrick Kypson is on serve early with No. 5 seed Yuta Shimizu of Japan. Oliver Crawford[10] and Sebastian Korda did not begin their matches against Barnaby Smith of Great Britain and Michael Vrbensky of the Czech Republic.

Roehampton girls champion Claire Liu, seeded No. 3 this week, didn't let two rain delays slow her down, as she took out Mahak Jain of India 6-2, 6-1.  Liu, who didn't lose a set in her six matches at Roehampton, has lost only six games in her first two wins at Wimbledon. She will play No. 16 seed En Shuo Liang of Taiwan on Wednesday.

Liu is one of five US girls who advanced to Wednesday's third round, with top seed Kayla Day's match with qualifier Jule Niemeier of Germany suspended with Day up 6-2, 1-3.

Ann Li defeated British wild card Eliz Maloney 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, and will play qualifier Maja Chwalinska of Poland, who surprised Australian Open champion and No. 5 seed Marta Kostyuk 6-1, 6-4.  Chwalinska, a 15-year-old who looks no more than 12, didn't give Kostyuk any pace to work with, using slices and drop shots to keep the Ukrainian out of her rhythm. Kostyuk saved two match points serving at 2-5 and was able to break Chwalinska when serving for the match, but Chwalinska broke to earn the win.

While the Australian Open girls champion exited, French Open girls champion Whitney Osuigwe,  playing on the next court over, did manage to extricate herself from an upset bid by Ylena In-Albon of Switzerland 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.

Osuigwe, who took over the ITF's junior No. 1 position this week, had lost to In-Albon in their previous meeting back in May, at the Grade A in Milan, so she was not looking past the 18-year-old left-hander.

"She's definitely a clay court player," said the 15-year-old from Florida. "She has a good serve and when she's on the run, she knows how to get herself out of it...she's just a good player all around."

Osuigwe attributed her slow start to nerves, but she was able to calm herself down after a bathroom break between the first and second sets.

"After I went to the bathroom, I had a total mindset change," Osuigwe said. "I focused myself back in on what I needed to do: more kick serves, better placed serves, moving her with angles."

Osuigwe saw her 4-1, one-break lead in the second set dwindle, but she broke In-Albon for a 5-3 lead then served out the set with some great defense on her one set point at 40-30.

In the third set, Osuigwe was up two breaks at 4-1, but she lost nine points in a row, and In-Albon got one of the breaks back before Osuigwe held for a 5-3 lead.

At 5-4, a light rain began to fall, and In-Albon had words with the chair umpire, but it was about the score, not the conditions on the courts. In-Albon argued that the score was deuce, not 5-4, contending that Osuigwe had been down 0-40 on her serve, apparently certain that a shot she had hit on the second point of the game was in, although it was called out. In-Albon didn't object when the chair called the score in subsequent points of that game however, so her argument at the change of ends proved futile.

In-Albon was unable to regroup after the discussion, and she netted a forehand at 15-40 to give Osuigwe the win, just moments before rain heavy enough to suspend play for the remainder of the day arrived.

Osuigwe will face Katie Swan of Great Britain, who took out Caty McNally 6-0, 6-3, avenging her first round loss to the American at Roland Garros.

"I know she's good," Osuigwe said of Swan, who she has never seen play before. "She obviously has more pressure than me, being 18, being from here, this being her surface. So I'm just going to go out there and play, doing what I do best."

Osuigwe considers her variety as a key to her success on all surfaces.

"I'm pretty fast movement-wise and I have a lot of variety in my game," said Osuigwe. "The ability to change the way I play--I can play offensive, I can play aggressive, I can be an all-court player, I can be a counter-puncher or an aggressive baseliner."

A quarterfinalist from the US is assured in the girls draw, with Ellie Douglas and Sofia Sewing[14] facing off in the third round.  Douglas got past Thaisa Pedretti of Brazil 7-6(5), 6-4 and Sewing beat qualifier Oona Orpana of Finland 6-3, 6-2.

Sewing, who had played nearly three hours to earn a dramatic 6-3, 6-7(8), 9-7 first round victory over Great Britain's Ali Collins Monday, admitted that she was feeling the effects of that match Tuesday morning.

"I'm actually very sore," said Sewing, who didn't convert match points leading 6-3, 5-2 on Monday, but did close out her match today despite going down 0-40 in the final game and needing three match points to finish it.  "I'm super sore. But I'm going to do a massage later and do another ice bath and hopefully that will relax me a little bit and I'll be looser tomorrow."

Part of the physical adjustment necessary is due a lack of experience on grass.

"Now that I've gotten used to it, it's my first time playing on grass,  Roehampton was my first time ever," Sewing said when asked if she enjoyed playing on the surface. "It suits my game, and these courts are actually a lot nicer; they don't have those weird bounces. You've just got to stay low, if you get up, the ball will fly.  But I actually think it suits my game a lot. I enjoy it out there, the atmosphere's very nice, everybody's watching and I've gotten good courts, so I had a lot of fun."

Only two girls seeds lost in the second round, Kostyuk and No. 8 seed Emily Appleton, who went out to Sofya Lansere of Russia 6-4, 6-4. Day and No. 12 seed Mai Hontama of Japan have not finished their matches, and if they win, they will play their third round matches on Wednesday as well.

A few doubles matches were begun on Tuesday, but none were completed, with all first round doubles matches now scheduled for Wednesday.

The junior draws can be found at the Wimbledon website.

Venus Williams, seeded No. 10, advanced to Thursday's semifinals today, beating French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko[13] of Latvia 6-3, 7-5 in the quarterfinals. Williams will face No. 6 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain for a place in the final.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Wimbledon Rookies Get First Wins; Riffice Ousts Fourth Seed Hsu at Wimbledon Junior Championships

©Colette Lewis 2017--

Playing Wimbledon is a dream come true for most juniors, and Patrick Kypson, Sebastian Korda and Elysia Bolton have even better memories of their first experience at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, with all three earning victories in their first round matches Monday.

Bolton had an extra challenge to overcome, as the 17-year-old UCLA recruit was drawn to face wild card Jodie Burrage of Great Britain on Court 4, one of the most prominent courts assigned to juniors in the early rounds.  With the local fans always supporting their compatriots, Bolton had to keep her focus on the court and serve as her own cheerleader, a task she accomplished in her 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 victory.

"When I saw I was playing a Brit I knew I was going to get Court 4 or Court 5," Bolton said. "Saturday I kind of watched both those courts to see what the atmosphere was like, and got mentally prepared for that."

Bolton said she realized she was on her own out there after one particular point.

"I hit a really good shot and it was like dead silence," Bolton said good-naturedly. "And I was like, come on."

The match hinged on the ninth game of the third set, with Burrage serving at 4-4.  Burrage went down 15-40, but saved those two break points and three more before Bolton finally converted on the sixth, with Burrage netting a forehand off Bolton's return of a first serve.

"I think she did a really good job when she was down," Bolton said of all those break points saved. "She put in some big serves at some big points. As I was starting to lose some of those, I was like, ok, just get this game, one point, one point. I was trying not to think of the past."

Bolton went down 15-30 serving for the match, but Burrage assisted Bolton's cause with an unforced error on the backhand side to make it 30-30.  But Bolton came up with two excellent first serves, with Burrage missing a return long to make it 40-30, then Bolton going up the T to end it, with Burrage unable to get her return in play.

"I love to serve at the end," said Bolton. "Especially with her big serve, I'd much rather be able to serve it out myself. At 40-30, I was just, OK, get the first serve in. I'd been going to her backhand because she was attacking a lot on her forehand, so I saw her kind of move over a bit, so I knew I was going T before I tossed the ball, just to get her out of her rhythm and it worked."

Although the crowd reaction was muted, Bolton celebrated, directing her joy toward her family in the stands, her mother Karen in particular.

"Whenever I win, I always look at her, it's like a thing we have," Bolton said. "It was really cool to be able to look at her and be like, I did it. We'd both never been here, none of my family had been here, and it's so cool. Strawberries and cream and everything."

For Kypson, who defeated Alexey Zakharov of Russia 6-4, 7-6(6), the nervousness he experienced at the French Open last month was such that he sought assistance before this event.

"I've been talking with my mental coach, Larry Lauer at the USTA, and he's helped me out with dealing with that better," said the 17-year-old. "Obviously there's just more pressure, because it's a grand slam, you know. I've been trying to play this tournament for 17 years, it's not easy to get out there and play. But I was pretty well prepared today, maybe some nerves the first two games, but then I was fine."

Kypson broke Zakharov at 4-4 in the first and served out the set, but he wasn't able to hold on to the only break in the second set, with Zakharov getting back even at 5-5.

"I double faulted, just barely missed a second serve and then missed a backhand, again just by a little," Kypson said of the 5-4 game. "I looked at my dad to see if it was in or out, because it was really close. Then he played a couple of good points and that was the break back, but I didn't think I tightened up. It was more he played a better game and I was enjoying playing so much.  But I held it together at the end, so it was good."

Kypson was up 5-2 in the tiebreaker, but a great drop volley by Zakharov got the minibreak back.  At 5-5, Kypson picked off a good pass and volleyed away the winner for match point, but Zakharov hit a good first serve and Kypson's return drifted long. At 6-6, Kypson came up with a perfectly executed cross court backhand pass, letting out a loud 'vamos' when it skipped past Zakharov.

"The whole match he'd been coming in there and I was kind of slicing it short, trying to get to his backhand volley," Kypson said. "I said I'm not chipping any more, I'm going to hit it and I rolled it cross."

On his second match point, this time on his serve, Kypson missed his first serve, but made his second, and an aggressive backhand down the line was enough to force an error from Zakharov.

The ending of Sebastian Korda's first Wimbledon win was less dramatic, with qualifier James Trotter of Japan, who had played well throughout the match, double faulting on match point to give Korda a 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 victory.

Trotter had managed the only break of the first set, in a game Korda led 40-0.  Korda took a 3-0 lead in the second set, but Trotter won the next three games, leaving the set to be decided when Trotter served at 5-6.  At 30-40, Korda hit a return that appeared to many spectators on the baseline to be an inch or two long, but there was no call, and Korda had the set.

"I thought the ball was going out, so I kind of stopped playing," said Korda, 17. "But thankfully it wasn't. But we were both playing some good tennis. Every game was tough and you had to be focused the whole match. There were no easy points.'

Korda said the nerves Trotter showed at the end of the second set led him to believe he might have an advantage deep in the third set.

"He got nervous at the end of the second set as well, so I knew that if I could hold at 4-4, then I would have a really good chance to break and win the match. I saved a couple of break points and I knew he wasn't too happy about it, so I got really pumped up before the first point at 5-4 and it paid off."

The day's most dramatic junior match was No. 14 Sofia Sewing's 6-3, 6-7(8), 9-7 win over British wild card Ali Collins.  Sewing was up 6-3, 5-2 40-15, but she wasn't able to convert either match point, with a foot fault called on her second serve at 40-30.  Sewing kept calm, but her forehand went off in her next attempt to serve it out at 5-4, with an unforced error on that side costing her match point No. 3.

Match point No. 4 came in the tiebreaker, but again a forehand sailed long, and Collins capitalized on her third set point to send it to a deciding set.

Collins went up 4-0 in the third set, but Sewing fought back to 4-all, the 5-all, only to be broken, giving Collins a chance to serve for the match. At 6-5, 15-all, Collins took a bad fall behind the baseline, perhaps from a cramp, but after a visit from the chair umpire, she eventually got up and resumed play. Moving gingerly, Collins double faulted and made a forehand error to make it 6-6. After Sewing held for 7-6, Collins received a medical timeout and had her left leg taped, and she managed to save her fifth match point with a drop shot winner down 30-40. She held for 7-7, but Sewing began to hit out more, holding easily for 8-7. Collins couldn't summon any more magic, going down 0-40 in her next service game, and Sewing pounded a forehand winner on match point No. 6 to claim the win.

Top seed Kayla Day, playing in her first junior event of the year, didn't have a great serving day against qualifier Lulu Sun of Switzerland, but she managed a 7-5, 6-4 victory.  Day double faulted on her first two set points, at 5-4 and again at 6-5, but she finally converted her fourth set point to take the lead against the hard-hitting 16-year-old.

Day earned the only break of the second set, when Sun double faulted on break point to make it 5-4.  Serving for the match, Day, who caught her toss often, double faulted at 30-all, but two good first serves got her to match point. She didn't face another break point, but it took a third match point before she finally secured the victory.

"I was happy with the win," said Day, who mentioned that a shoulder injury kept her from preparing for the grass season as much as she would have liked. "It was a little bit of an up and down match. It's was OK, first rounds are always tough. The court I played on today was a lot quicker than the courts I have been practicing on, so that threw my timing off. But she was hitting a lot of good shots."

Day, whose WTA ranking of 124 qualified her for the top junior ranking this week, said she decided to play the Wimbledon Junior Championships for a simple reason.

"This is one of my favorite tournaments and it's my last year, so I wanted to play," said Day, who reached the semifinals last year.

Day doesn't feel that playing the Junior Championships puts her under any additional pressure.

"I don't really change my mindset," said Day, who is now working with Roger Anderson at the USTA. "I feel like a lot of people have this idea of pressure, but I don't see it as different from juniors and pros. Every opponent is very tough to play. I still get nervous in the pros, I still get nervous in the juniors, it's not really a difference to me."

Day, the reigning US Open girls champion, mentioned the group of American juniors she is traveling with this week as some of the strongest contenders this week, along with Australian Open champion Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine.

"Claire Liu has been doing really well," Day said. "Whitney, who won the French. I've never played in any of the same events as Kostyuk, but she won the Australian Open so she's definitely a good player."

No. 3 seed Liu, who won Roehampton last week, remained in top form, beating Tatiana Pieri 6-2, 6-1, the second time in two weeks Liu has rolled past the Italian.

The other US girl advancing to the second round is Caty McNally, who defeated No. 13 seed Xiyu Wang of China 6-2, 6-3. Wang was the only seeded girl to lose on Monday.

Roehampton finalist Sam Riffice took out No. 4 seed Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan 6-4, 7-5, and No. 13 seed Thiago Seyboth Wild was beaten by Italian qualifier Francesco Forti 6-4, 6-4.  No. 7 seed Trent Bryde lost to Blake Ellis of Australia 7-6(2), 6-7(5), 6-1.

Other US boys advancing to Tuesday's second round are No. 10 seed Oliver Crawford, who beat Toru Horie of Japan 6-4, 7-5 and Vasil Kirkov, who defeated Joao Reis da Silva of Brazil 2-6, 7-5, 7-5.

The complete draws are available at the Wimbledon website.

In women's action, CoCo Vandeweghe[24] and Venus Williams[10] have advanced to Tuesday's quarterfinals. Vandeweghe beat No. 5 seed Caroline Wozniacki 7-6(4), 6-4 and Williams beat No. 27 seed Ana Konjuh 6-3, 6-2.  Sam Querrey[24] has reached the men's quarterfinals for the second straight year after defeating Kevin Anderson 5-7, 7-6(5), 6-3, 6-7(11), 6-3.

Although the showers that were possible this afternoon did not materialize, the forecast is showing a much great likelihood of rain disrupting the second round of junior singles and the first round of junior doubles on Tuesday.