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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

International Hard Courts Recap, Slideshow, Videos; Qualifier Donaldson Ousts No. 12 Seed Goffin in US Open First Round; A Comeback to Remember by Steve Johnson

I'm wrapping up last week's ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships with this recap for the Tennis Recruiting Network. With no boys final played, the spotlight is on Claire Liu's win over Xiyu Wang in the girls final, but I did talk to both champion Miomir Kecmanovic and the injured Oliver Crawford about their week in College Park.

Below is the slideshow featuring the quarterfinalists in singles and semifinalists in doubles. A link to the Google photo album is available here. Also below are videos from the girls final.

When the US Open main draw wild cards were announced, Jared Donaldson was one of the notable names missing, but the 19-year-old got through qualifying, only to draw No. 12 seed David Goffin of Belgium in the first round. Donaldson has had a fine summer on the US hard courts going 14-5 (including qualifying)in ATP-level events, while the 25-year-old Goffin is now 4-4 since Wimbledon. Donaldson dropped the first set, but he began to raise his level midway through the second set, and by the time he won the third, Goffin appeared to be out of gas, with Donaldson closing out an impressive 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-0 victory. He will play Viktor Troicki of Serbia in Thursday's second round. For more on the match, see this usopen.org article.

Kalamazoo champion Michael Mmoh lost his opening round match to Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 6-4, 6-1. Although Mmoh didn't play badly, he didn't do much to pressure Chardy, who controlled most of the points and a came up with a lot of winners. Seventeen-year-old USTA US Open Wild Card Challenge winner Sonya Kenin lost her first round match to No. 10 seed Kristina Pliskova 6-4, 6-3.

The 2012 NCAA champions both picked up first round wins today, but their paths couldn't have been more different. Nicole Gibbs needed less than an hour to eliminate qualifier Aleksandra Krunic of Serbia 6-1, 6-0, while No. 19 seed Steve Johnson, who trailed Evgeny Donskoy 6-4, 6-1, 5-2, 0-40, saved six match points in his 4-6, 1-6, 7-6(2), 6-3, 6-3 victory in the New Grandstand.

With John Isner coming from two sets down to beat Frances Tiafoe in over three hours and Johnson doing the same tonight against Donskoy, the new facility is getting some great matches. Unfortunately, the reserved seating policy is inhibiting the kind of atmosphere the old Grandstand was known for, but hopefully that will change going forward. Johnson's reward for his comeback win is a second round match Thursday with 2009 US Open champion Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.

The men's draw is here; women's draw is here.

Tuesday's first round results for Americans:  

Venus Williams[6] def. Kateryna Kozlova(UKR)  6-2, 5-7, 6-4

Serena Williams[1]
def. Ekaterina Makarova(RUS) 6-3, 6-3

Janko Tipsarevic(SRB) def. Sam Querrey(USA)[29] 7-6(4), 6-7(0), 6-3, 6-3

Agnieszka Radwanska(POL)[4] def. Jessica Pegula[Q] 6-1, 6-1

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova(RUS)[17] def. Louisa Chirico 6-1, 6-4

Steve Johnson[19] def. Evgeny Donskoy(RUS) 4-6, 1-6, 7-6(2), 6-3, 6-3

Jared Donaldson[Q] def. David Goffin(BEL)[12] 4-6, 7-5, 6-4, 6-0

Donald Young def. Jan-Lennard Struff(GER) 6-3, 7-5, 4-6, 7-5

Karolina Pliskova(CZE)[10] def. Sonya Kenin[WC] 6-4, 6-3

Daniel Evans(GBR) def. Rajeev Ram[WC] 6-2, 4-6, 7-5, 6-1

Jeremy Chardy(FRA) def. Michael Mmoh[WC] 6-4, 6-4, 6-1

Nicole Gibbs def. Aleksandra Krunic(SRB)[Q] 6-1, 6-0

Paul-Henri Mathieu(FRA) def. Christian Harrison[Q] 6-0, 6-2, 6-1

Vania King[WC] d. Antonia Lottner(GER)[Q] 7-6(2), 6-3

Alessandro Giannessi(ITA)[Q] def. Denis Kudla 0-6, 6-4, 6-1, 1-6, 6-0

Varvara Lepchenko def. Shuai Peng(CHN) 4-6, 7-6(9), 6-3    

Wednesday's second round single matches involving Americans:
Roberta Vinci(ITA)[7] v Christina McHale
John Isner[20] v Steve Darcis(BEL)[Q]

Jack Sock[26] v Mischa Zverev(GER)[Q]

Ryan Harrison[Q] v Milos Raonic(CAN)[5]

Shelby Rogers v CiCi Bellis[Q]
Madison Keys[8] v Kayla Day[WC]
Lauren Davis[WC] v Elina Svitolina(UKR)[22]

Ernesto Escobedo[WC] v Kyle Edmund[GBR]

Monday, August 29, 2016

Day, Bellis, Escobedo Post Wins at US Open; Tiafoe Falls to Isner in Fifth Set Tiebreaker, Sock Tops Fritz in Five

The first day of the US Open brought the US drama, with John Isner defeating 18-year-old Frances Tiafoe in a fifth set tiebreaker and Jack Sock squeezing by 18-year-old Taylor Fritz in five sets after having a two sets to none lead.

The day started for me [on ESPN 3] with the first match on the new Grandstand between 2012 World Junior Champion Taylor Townsend and former WTA No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki.  Townsend, a qualifier, took advantage of some sloppy play by Wozniacki to take the first set, but the Dane cleaned up her errors and got her backhand going in the final two sets for a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory.

Next on the new Grandstand came No. 20 seed Isner and Tiafoe and it was three hours and 27 minutes later when Isner finally earned a 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2, 7-6(3) victory. Tiafoe was two points from the win in the tiebreaker in the third set, and served for the match at 5-3 in the fifth, but Isner benefited from a missed forehand at 30-40 to get the break back and played an excellent tiebreaker to get the win. For more on the match, see Steve Tignor's account at Tennis.com.

In the meantime, 17-year-old CiCi Bellis claimed a much less dramatic victory, beating Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland 6-2, 6-3.  Bellis, playing on the same Court 6 where she pulled off her upset of Slovakia's Dominika Cibulkova in 2014, looked extremely confident after winning three matches in qualifying last week.  In her press conference after the match, Bellis spoke of the advantages of qualifying and also of the likelihood of attending Stanford in 2017. She will play Shelby Rogers on in the second round Wednesday.

Ernesto Escobedo won his first slam match in his first attempt, advancing to the second round when Lukas Lacko of Slovakia retired at 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3.  The 20-year-old Southern Californian, who won the USTA US Open Wild Card Challenge to earn his main draw wild card, spoke to Tennis Panorama about his exciting month of firsts.

USTA National 18s champion Kayla Day's match with Madison Brengle was pushed into the evening, and, like Escobedo, she benefited from a retirement, with Brengle receiving medical attention for her hand after the first set and retiring down 6-2, 4-2.  Day, who picked up two WTA Top 100 wins in Connecticut Open qualifying last week, was playing confident, aggressive and mostly error-free tennis against Brengle before the retirement.  Day plays the winner of the late night match between Madison Keys and Alison Riske.

Sock and Fritz played in the first round of the Australian Open, with Sock winning 6-4, 3-6, 0-6, 6-3, 6-4 and the rematch this evening on Armstrong had a similar feel, with No. 26 seed Sock taking out Fritz 7-6(3), 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 6-4.  Down 4-0 in the final set, Fritz got back on serve, saving a match point at 5-3, 40-30 with some great scrambling and a badly missed forehand by Sock.  Sock went on to double fault away the game, but Fritz couldn't take advantage of the gift, with Sock breaking to win the match.

It was a disappointing day for the NCAA champions, with their losses coming in contrasting manners. Danielle Collins could never find her game in a 6-1, 6-2 loss to Evgeniya Rodina of Russia, while Mackenzie McDonald took a two-set lead on qualifier Jan Satral of the Czech Republic, only to fall 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2.

Below are all the results involving Americans, except for the late Keys-Riske match[update: Keys won, at 1:48, in the latest finish ever for US Open women's match.] The men's draw is here; women's draw is here.

Jack Sock[26] def. Taylor Fritz 7-6(3), 7-5, 3-6, 1-6, 6-4

Caroline Wozniacki(DEN) def. Taylor Townsend[Q] 4-6, 6-3, 6-4

John Isner[20] def. Frances Tiafoe[WC] 3-6, 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2, 7-6(3)

Johanna Konta(GBR)[13] def. Bethanie Mattek-Sands[WC] 6-3, 6-3

Belinda Bencic(SUI)[24] def. Samantha Crawford 6-7(6) 6-3, 6-4

Federico Delbonis(ARG) def. Brian Baker 3-6, 6-7(6), 6-4, 6-2, 6-2

Naomi Osaka(JPN) def. Coco Vandeweghe[28] 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-4

Kayla Day[WC] def. Madison Brengle 6-2, 4-2 ret.

CiCi Bellis[Q] def. Viktorija Golubic(SUI) 6-2, 6-3

Ernesto Escobedo[WC] def. Lukas Lacko(SVK) 6-4, 4-6, 4-6, 6-3

Evgeniya Rodina(RUS) def. Danielle Collins[WC] 6-1, 6-2

Guido Pella(ARG) def. Bjorn Fratangelo[WC] 6-3, 6-4, 6-4

Christina McHale def. Mona Barthel(GER) 6-2, 6-2

Shelby Rogers def. Sara Errani(ITA)[27] 6-4, 7-6(3)

Cagla Buyukakcay(TUR) def. Irina Falconi 6-2, 6-1

Jan Satral(CZE)[Q] def. Mackenzie McDonald[WC] 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2

Lauren Davis[WC] def. Aliaksandra Sasnovich(BLR) 6-2, 4-6, 7-5

Ryan Harrison[Q] def. Adrian Mannarino(FRA) 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-3

Madison Keys[8] def. Alison Riske 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2


Tuesday's first round matches featuring Americans:

Kateryna Kozlova(UKR) v Venus Williams[6]

Serena Williams[1] v Ekaterina Makarova(RUS)

Janko Tipsarevic(SRB) v Sam Querrey(USA)[29]

Agnieszka Radwanska(POL)[4] v Jessica Pegula[Q]

Louisa Chirico v Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova(RUS)[17]

Steve Johnson[19] v Evgeny Donskoy(RUS)

Jared Donaldson[Q] v David Goffin(BEL)[12]

Donald Young v Jan-Lennard Struff(GER)

Karoline Pliskova(CZE)[10] v Sonya Kenin[WC]

Daniel Evans(GBR) v Rajeev Ram[WC]

Michael Mmoh[WC] v Jeremy Chardy(FRA)

Nicole Gibbs v Aleksandra Krunic(SRB)[Q]

Christian Harrison[Q] v Paul-Henri Mathieu(FRA)

Antonia Lottner(GER)[Q] v Vania King[WC]

Denis Kudla v Alessandro Giannessi(ITA)[Q]

Shuai Peng(CHN) v Varvara Lepchenko

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Twenty-three Americans Play Monday in US Open First Round; Doubles Draws Posted; Poling, Ramirez Win ITF Grade 4 Titles; Grade 1 Canadian Open Underway

Thirty-nine Americans--17 men and 22 women--are in the main singles draws at the US Open and 23 of them (shown below, in italics) play their first matches on Monday.

Madison Keys[8] v Alison Riske

Jack Sock[26] v Taylor Fritz

Taylor Townsend[Q] v Caroline Wozniacki(DEN)

John Isner[20] v Frances Tiafoe[WC]

Johanna Konta(GBR)[13] v Bethanie Mattek-Sands[WC]

Samantha Crawford v Belinda Bencic(SUI)[24]

Brian Baker v Federico Delbonis(ARG)

Naomi Osaka(JPN) v CoCo Vandeweghe[28]

Madison Brengle v Kayla Day[WC]

CiCi Bellis[Q] v Viktorija Golubic(SUI)

Lukas Lacko(SVK) v Ernesto Escobedo[WC]

Danielle Collins[WC] v Evgeniya Rodina(RUS)

Bjorn Fratangelo[WC] v Guido Pella(ARG)

Christina McHale v Mona Barthel(GER)

Jan Satral(CZE)[Q] v Mackenzie McDonald[WC]

Aliaksandra Sasnovich(BLR) v Lauren Davis[WC]

Sara Errani(ITA)[27] v Shelby Rogers

Adrian Mannarino(FRA) v Ryan Harrison[Q]

Irina Falconi v Cagla Buyukakcay(TUR)

The matches between Isner and Tiafoe and Sock and Fritz are among the highest profile men's matches, of course.  Steve Tignor at Tennis.com has a preview of both matches here.

The young Americans have been the subject of many articles this past week.  Tiafoe is profiled by Great Britain's The Telegraph here.  The differing developmental paths of Fritz and Tiafoe are the subject of this lengthy article in New York magazine. And Doug Robson takes a look at the group of the 18- and 19-year-olds in this article for the Washington Post.

Bobby Knight of College Tennis Today has been researching the performance of the NCAA singles champions who have received wild cards into the US Open with the results in this post.  The US Open singles competitors with college ties are listed in this post.

The doubles draws have been released, with the men's here and the women's here.  The wild cards include the NCAA champions: Mackenzie McDonald and Martin Redlicki of UCLA and Kourtney Keegan and Brooke Austin of Florida.  McDonald and Redlicki have drawn top seeds Mahut and Herbert of France, while Keegan and Austin play fellow wild cards Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad.  Junior girls champions Ena Shibahara and Jada Hart face No. 7 seed Sania Mirza of India and Barbora Strycova of the Czech Republic. Junior boys champions John McNally and JJ Wolf play unseeded Chris Guccione of Australia and Andre Sa of Brazil.

Eric Quigley(Kentucky) and Nick Meister(UCLA) won the men's US Open National Playoffs wild card and Jacqueline Cako(Arizona State) and Danielle Lao(USC) won the women's USONP wild card.

The mixed doubles draw is not yet posted, but yesterday former Michigan Wolverines Emina Bektas and Evan King won the US Open National Playoffs to earn a wild card into the main draw.

In ITF Junior results outside the US this week, Miranda Ramirez won the ITF Grade 4 in France and Karl Poling won the Grade 4 singles title in Slovenia.  The 17-year-old Ramirez, seeded No. 1, beat Emeline Dartron of France 7-6(6), 6-0 in the final for her fourth ITF singles title and the second Grade 4 title this summer.  The 17-year-old Poling, seeded No. 8, defeated unseeded Alessandro Ingarao of Italy 6-2, 6-2 in the final.  It is Poling's second ITF singles title and first this year; he won a Grade 5 in Canada in 2015.  Katie Lafrance won the doubles title at the Grade 4 in Mauritius.

The Grade 1 Canadian Open in underway outside of Montreal, with Ulises Blanch and Felix Auger-Aliassime the top two boys seeds.  The top two girls seeds are Bianca Andreescu of Canada and Olga Danilovic of Serbia.  The seeds begin play on Monday, with Auger-Aliassime taking on Sam Riffice and Danilovic facing Katie Swan of Great Britain.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Liu Sweeps Titles at ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships; Kecmanovic Takes Boys Singles with Crawford Unable to Play Due to Injury

©Colette Lewis 2016--
College Park, MD--

The final day of the ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships got off to a subdued start, with Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia and Oliver Crawford coming to the Junior Tennis Champions Center for photos and paperwork, but no match, with Crawford unable to play the final due to an ankle sprain suffered in his doubles semifinal on Friday.

So the girls final, usually played at the same time as the boys final, had the spectators' undivided attention, with No. 2 seed Claire Liu and No. 7 seed Xiyu Wang of China battling for nearly three hours before Liu emerged with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory.

Liu took an early 3-1 lead in the first set and closed out the set in just under an hour with her second break of Wang's serve.  Although Liu went up 3-1 in the second set, Wang steadied herself, immediately broke back and then earned a chance to serve out the set with a second break of serve at 4-4.  Although, as in most of the games, nothing came easy, Wang did close out the set on her third set point, and both girls headed for the air conditioning of the clubhouse for the 10-minute heat rule break.

Although both Liu and Wang possess fine serves, the third set started out with six consecutive breaks, and rarely did either player have a game point on her own serve.  Wang was winning most of the longer points with her powerful left-handed strokes keeping Liu defending and unable to use her ability to close at the net.

Down a break at 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2, the outlook for a Liu victory was not good, but each time she broke back, using her backhand to take control early in the rallies.

"I didn't want to lose," said Liu. "I competed well and that's what helped me get back the breaks and eventually hold. I was always being aware of my opponent and what was working and what wasn't, so when it came down to it, that really helped."

Liu finally held with a good first serve to go up 4-3, and Wang, looking a bit tired, started to lose control of her forehand, and again was broken, giving Liu a chance to serve for the match.  Even though she had been unable to hold her serve the first three times, Liu had confidence in that shot.

"The whole match I was trying to serve well, because I didn't serve well yesterday," Liu said of her three-set semifinal win over Hailey Baptiste. "I knew, against her, I needed to serve well or else she would be aggressive from the very beginning. So doing that really helped me stay in the match."

Even though Liu made four of five first serves in her attempt to close out the match, she had to save a break point at 30-40 in that final game, which she did with another good first serve.  In the next point, Liu came up with a big forehand to force an error and get to match point, which she converted with a backhand winner.

Liu, although just 16, said the extra year of experience she has over the 15-year-old may have given her the edge.

"I think mainly in the beginning and then in the third, the experience thing helped," said the Californian. "Starting off strong, even if you're not playing well, having a good attitude and good posture really helps. And when it gets tight having all those matches, yeah, that can definitely play into it."

Wang was not happy with her performance at the beginning of the match.

"First set was so-so," said Wang, who is not comfortable communicating in English. "But in the second set and final set, I played better. I played well. She played well."

Wang is heading to Canada for the Grade 1 there next week, then on to the US Open Junior Championships, where she is in the qualifying draw.  After her stellar play this week, including Friday's semifinal win over ITF No. 1 and Wimbledon champion Anastasia Potapova of Russia, Wang is ready for the big stage.

"I am now more confident," Wang said.

Liu is not playing in Canada, but instead is staying in Maryland to train for the US Open Junior Championships with a group of other US girls.

Thirty minutes after the completion of her singles match, Liu was back on the court for the doubles final, and the Wimbledon girls doubles champion earned that title too, partnering Sofia Sewing to a 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 8 seeds Morgan Coppoc and Victoria Emma.

Sewing and Liu, who were unseeded, had never played together before this week, but when Sewing's partner Ellie Douglas withdrew due to injury and Liu's partner Usue Arconada received a US Open qualifying wild card, they decided to team up at the last minute.

"We've played some good matches this week, but this is probably the most consistent one," Liu said. "Before we would lose the first set or something, but we played well the whole time."

"We have good chemistry," said Sewing, a 17-year-old from Florida. "We let each other play aggressively, so that was good."

The boys doubles champions were also an unseeded pair playing together for the first time.  Danny Thomas and William Woodall won their first Grade 1 titles by defeating unseeded Nicolas Mejia of Colombia and Sebastian Korda 6-3, 3-6, 10-6.

Thomas and Woodall took out top seeds Kecmanovic and Youssef Hossam of Egypt 6-1, 6-3 in the quarterfinals, a win that convinced them they could claim the title.

"Taking out the first seeds was pretty big for us," said Thomas, a 16-year-old left-hander from Ohio.

But they had to overcome two match points in their 6-7(4), 6-3, 14-12 victory over Crawford and Patrick Kypson on Friday, the match that saw Crawford sustain his ankle injury.

"Oliver and Patrick are a really good team, have played together for a while and I felt today would be a little easier than yesterday," said Woodall, a 16-year-old who trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center. "I thought if we came out with really good intensity in the tiebreaker we could win, and that's what we did."

Woodall and Thomas got a mini-break for a 2-1 lead and that was all they needed, as neither lost his serve, with Woodall blasting a big service winner to close out the title.

With so much success in their first tournament together, Thomas and Woodall are hoping to team up again.

"Hopefully in the future we'll play the same tournament and we'll definitely play together," Thomas said.

Kecmanovic and Crawford are both returning home before the US Open Junior Championships. Crawford had planned to play in Canada, but his injury has made recovery in time for the US Open the top priority.

"We haven't done any x-rays or anything, but I couldn't put much pressure on it today, said Crawford, a 17-year-old from South Carolina. "There was no chance I was going to have any chance of winning, so there was no point in getting it worse. Hopefully I can get back and be ready for the Open.  I'm going to fly home today, I have a trainer I work with back home, get an x-ray and take some rest, do all the recovery stuff I can do."

"It's very disappointing," Crawford said. "It's my first Grade 1 final. This is one of the best weeks of tennis I've ever had, playing my best tennis right now and it's a shame that I couldn't play. I'm not saying I would beat Mischa, he's a very good player and I would have had to play very, very well to beat him. But he's had a great tournament and congrats to him."

Kecmanovic said he had only gotten a walkover in a final once before, in doubles, in the 14s.

"It's not really how I thought it was going to happen," Kecmanovic, who turns 17 next week."I hope he gets better fast and he can play at the Open."

Kecmanovic, who will return to the IMG Academy in Bradenton before heading to New York for the Open, is happy with his play this week.

"I've been playing pretty good this week," Kecmanovic said. "I haven't lost a set, had only one tough set and it was against some pretty good guys, some top guys and I'm happy to play that way. It's a good warmup to the US Open."

The Orange Bowl champion has yet to reach the quarterfinals of a slam, but his current level has him expressing optimism about his prospects for the last slam of the year, on a surface that suits him.

"If I play like I played this week, I think I can go deep this time," Kecmanovic said.

Complete draws and a photo gallery can be found at the tournament web page.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Wang Shocks Top Seed Potapova, Crawford Wins Three-Hour Battle but Unable to Compete in Final of ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts; Six Americans Qualify for US Open

©Colette Lewis 2016--
College Park, MD--

Temperatures in the 90s and a heat index over 100 greeted the semifinalists Friday at the ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships, with Claire Liu and Oliver Crawford winning tough three-setters over fellow Americans to advance to Saturday morning finals.  Due to an ankle injury to Crawford in the doubles semifinal that followed his singles match, Crawford is unable to compete in the final, however, with Serbia's Miomir Kecmanovic, the No. 2 seed, taking the title in a walkover.

Prior to the unfortunate injury to Crawford, No. 7 seed Xiyu Wang of China created the biggest buzz of the day's action, surprising top seed Anastasia Potapova 6-1, 6-2, to end the Russian's ITF junior winning streak, which stretched back to June, at 16.

The two 15-year-olds had met twice before, back in late 2013 and early 2014 at the Junior Orange Bowl 12s semifinals and Les Petits As third round, with Potapova winning both in straight sets.  Wang, who speaks little English, said she was ready for this meeting, and was not overjoyed by the win over the ITF No. 1 and reigning Wimbledon girls champion, calling it "normal."

Wang, a tall left-hander, hit with great power and depth, but usually that style doesn't pose any problem for Potapova.  On this day, however, Potapova was making bunches of unforced errors, while Wang continued to tee off on Potapova's second serves, hitting one winner after another.

After a first set to forget, Potapova was broken serving at 2-3 in the second.  The expected comeback may have hinged on Wang's next service game, when she saved two break points to consolidate the break.  In the last game, Potapova's return game totally deserted her, failing to get the ball in play three times, the last when she netted a return at 40-15.

"My body is stronger, my fitness is better," Wang said through a translator, describing the reasons she was able to reverse the previous outcomes. "My serve is very good, I think, and was good today."

Like Potapova, No. 2 seed Liu had her own difficulties today, playing unseeded 14-year-old Hailey Baptiste, but Liu somehow managed to fight through stretches of lackluster play for a 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 victory.

"My first serve percentage was really low," said Liu, 16. "I don't know, it was just not a good day.  Every game I served in that first set, she had a break point."

Liu went up a break twice in the first set, at 3-2 and 4-3, but was broken back both times.  Liu got a third straight break to go up 5-4, and although she was forced to save a break point, she did hold to take the lead.

"She's really good," said Liu. "She has a huge forehand. She was pounding it, and she has a really good serve, hitting her spots really well. I think she's really good, and I got a little lucky, tried to fight."

In the second set, Baptiste went up 3-0, but lost that advantage. She went up 5-3, but couldn't serve out the set, although she took it with a chip return and great lob with Liu serving at 4-5, 30-40.

After the 10-minute heat rule break, Liu was able to take control of the match, breaking Baptiste's serve three times en route to a 5-1 lead.

"In the first few points of the games it was really crucial to get ahead," said Liu. "Especially in the third, I think I did better winning the first point, to start me off better."

Liu was looking forward to playing Potapova, who beat her in three sets at Roehampton back in June, admitting to surprise at the result of that semifinal.

"I know she's a lefty, and she hits pretty hard, is aggressive," said Liu of Wang. "I think maybe I practiced with her three years ago, but I don't really know her game."

Liu, the fifth American Wang will have played this week, is just hoping to play better in the final than she did in the semifinal. "I've played better matches this week, and she[Baptiste] played well. I just tried to hang in there."

Kecmanovic started his match against No. 3 seed Youssef Hossam of Egypt an hour after Crawford took the court against Gianni Ross and finished an hour before Crawford and Ross's marathon ended. Kecmanovic, the 2015 Orange Bowl champion, needed just an hour and ten minutes to defeat Hossam 6-1, 6-2.

Crawford, seeded 16th, and Ross, seeded 12th, played for 3 hours and five minutes, with Crawford grinding out a 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 win to advance to his first Grade 1 final.

Crawford was up two breaks in the first set, but managed to hold on to one to take the lead. He was up a break twice in the second set, but was unable to consolidate either time, with Ross breaking Crawford at love at 5-6 to claim the second set.

Another early Crawford break, this in the first game, gave him some breathing room, but although that one break held up, it wasn't easy for Crawford to protect it.

"I obviously like to play from ahead, serve first in all the sets," said the 17-year-old from South Carolina. "I like to play with a bit of a lead, makes me feel a bit more comfortable. Playing from behind is a bit more pressure, in my opinion."

Crawford had a chance to go up two breaks with Ross serving at 1-3, but Ross held, and Crawford had to save two break points serving at 4-3, 15-40. But Ross missed a backhand volley, and a forehand and Crawford held.  Ross didn't force Crawford to serve again, dropping his serve at love to give Crawford the victory.

"It's never easy to close it out, especially someone like Gianni," said Crawford. "Gianni competed all the way until the end. Someone with his game style, who makes a lot of balls and hits very heavy and plays aggressively when he's ahead in the rallies is definitely not easy to close out. I knew I had to play my best tennis all the way through the match to beat him."

The boys final Saturday will not take place however, after Crawford rolled his ankle in his doubles semifinal in the afternoon.  He continued to play, but was limping noticeably throughout the remainder of the match, which he and Patrick Kypson, the No. 7 seeds, lost to unseeded Danny Thomas and William Woodall 6-7(4), 6-3, 14-12.

Thomas and Woodall will play unseeded Sebastian Korda and Nicolas Meija, who beat unseeded Yshai Oliel of Israel and Andrew Fenty 2-6, 6-3, 10-5, in Saturday morning's boys doubles final.

The girls doubles final will be played after the girls singles final, with Liu and Sofia Sewing taking on No. 8 seeds Morgan Coppoc and Victoria Emma.  Liu and Sewing defeated No. 4 seeds Caty McNally and Natasha Subhash 1-6, 6-1, 10-8, while Coppoc and Emma took out unseeded Victoria Flores and Kate Paulus 6-3, 6-2.

Complete draws are available at the tournament page.

Twelve Americans, six men and six women, reached the final round of qualifying for the US Open, with three of each advancing to the main draw.

CiCi Bellis defeated Alison Van Uytvanck 6-2, 6-7(5), 6-2, avenging two three-set losses to the Belgian back in July.  Bellis, who made her US Open debut at age 15 as the National 18s champion back in 2014, will play Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland in the first round.

Jessica Pegula, the No. 28 seed in qualifying, advanced to the main draw with a 4-6, 6-0, 6-3 win over Riza Ozaki of Japan. Pegula has drawn No. 4 seed Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland.  Taylor Townsend beat fellow American Jennifer Brady 7-5, 6-4 and will face Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark.

Both Christian and Ryan Harrison advanced to the main draw of the US Open.  Ryan, the No. 11 seed, defeated Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-3, 6-2 and will play Adrian Mannarino of France in the first round. Christian, who has suffered through years of injuries, illness and surgery, will make his slam debut against Paul-Henri Mathieu of France after defeating Steven Diez of Canada 1-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the final round of qualifying.

Jared Donaldson, the No. 14 seed in qualifying, beat Santiago Giraldo of Colombia 6-2, 6-2 and has drawn No. 14 seed David Goffin of Belgium in the first round.

The draws were released today, with 17 US men in the main draw. Unfortunately, four of them play each other, with No. 20 seed John Isner facing wild card Frances Tiafoe and No. 26 seed Jack Sock meeting Taylor Fritz.  NCAA champion Mackenzie McDonald will play qualifier Jan Satral of the Czech Republic and Kalamazoo champion Michael Mmoh has drawn Jeremy Chardy of France in the first round.

Even with Sloane Stephens' withdrawal early today, the US has 22 women in the main draw.  As with the men, there are two all-US first round matches, with No. 8 seed Madison Keys facing Alison Riske and Madison Brengle meeting San Diego champion Kayla Day.  NCAA champion Danielle Collins got a much better draw this time around, after getting No. 2 seed Simona Halep in 2014, when she also won the NCAA title.  Collins will play Evgeniya Rodina of Russia, who is currently ranked 102.  Last year's San Diego champion Sonya Kenin, who earned a wild card this year in the USTA's Wild Card Challenge, drew No. 10 seed and Cincinnati champion Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.

The men's draw is here, the women's draw is here. Play begins Monday, with the order of play for Monday likely to be posted Saturday.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Ross Defeats Top Seed Olivieri, Baptiste's Run Continues into Semifinals at ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts

©Colette Lewis 2016--
College Park, MD--

An American finalist is assured in both the girls and boys singles draw after quarterfinal play in the ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships Thursday, with No. 12 seed Gianni Ross and No. 16 seed Oliver Crawford playing for a place in the boys final and No. 2 seed Claire Liu and unseeded Hailey Baptiste facing off in Friday's semifinals.

Crawford defeated No. 10 seed Yshai Oliel of Israel 7-6(5), 6-4 to reach his third Grade 1 semifinal of the year, while Easter Bowl champion Ross picked up one of his best junior victories, beating No. 1 seed and ITF No. 10 Genaro Olivieri of Argentina 7-6(2), 6-4.

Ross had to make an adjustment in the first set, after Olivieri's game style and favored side didn't fit with his expectations.

"I was a little surprised on the way he played at the start of the match," Ross said. "I thought he was more of a clay court-esque type of player. But he was hitting through the court, and I was like, what?  I had to adjust real quick, because my game plan was opposite of what I ended up playing. I played more to his forehand than backhand, because his backhand was cash money early, so it was a weird start."

Olivieri broke Ross for the third time in the opening set to go up 5-4, but he never got to set point, with a forehand from Ross forcing an error at 30-40.

"I actually served bad," Ross said. "I missed a lot of first serves and at times gave up mentally on first serves. I should have focused really hard and just make sure I was getting first serves, hit big to his forehand, but it was like zero percent first serves. If I had the stats, I could tell you, but it was probably below fifty for sure."

Ross's serving improved in the tiebreaker, which he ended from 5-2 up with a second serve ace and an ace.

"It was a really, really tough first set," Ross said of the 75 minutes he needed to secure it. "It wasn't slow tennis, it was like, boom, boom, boom, boom.  But neither of us is the type who is going to bail out on a point because we can just step up and hit an ace on the next point. We've got to make sure every point counts."

The second set differed from the first only in the number of breaks, with Ross getting the only one at 3-3, with Olivieri donating several points with unforced errors. Serving at 4-3, Ross needed two deuces and four game points to finally hold, but he served out the win when Olivieri netted a backhand on the second match point.

Ross could not remember the last time he and Crawford played, although he did win the third place match they played in the Kalamazoo 16s back in 2014.

"We have similar games, and it's going to be fun," said Ross, a 17-year-old from Illinois, who now lives and trains in Boca Raton, Florida. "We're pretty good friends too. I just want to go out and play my best, and hopefully he does the same."

The other semifinal will feature a clash of doubles partners, with No. 3 seed Youssef Hossam of Egypt playing No. 2 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia.  Hossam outlasted No. 7 seed Sam Riffice 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-3 and Kecmanovic defeated No. 9 seed Khumoyun Sultonov of Uzbekistan 6-2, 6-1. The match will be their first meeting on the ITF junior circuit.

The No. 1 seed in the girls draw has been rounding into form after two tight first round matches, and in Thursday's quarterfinal, Anastasia Potapova of Russia defeated No. 10 seed Caty McNally 6-4, 6-1 to extend her ITF junior winning streak to 16.  The Wimbledon girls champion will face fellow 15-year-old Xiyu Wang of China, after the No. 7 seed defeated No. 4 seed Maria Mateas 6-4, 6-1.

Fourteen-year-old Hailey Baptiste won her first ITF Grade 1 match on Monday and her total is now four after beating reigning USTA 16s champion Nicole Mossmer 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.   She will play No. 2 seed Claire Liu, who has lost just ten games in four matches this week, and reached the semifinals with a 6-1, 6-0 win over unseeded Alana Smith.

"I was trying to be aggressive and to pressure her," said the 16-year-old from California, whose familiarity with Smith's game was formed just this week. "One thing, later in the match, that I was focusing on, was trying to move the ball. I didn't want her in one corner, I wanted to keep her moving and I think that gave me a lot of short balls and let me come into the net."

Last year at this time, Liu was preparing for her final round qualifying match at the US Open, but although she said she'd rather be at the US Open, "results-wise, I don't think I'm doing that well and I totally agree with the wild cards they gave out. I'm not mad about that or anything."

Liu, who lost in the second round (as a seed, it was her first match) at the USTA Nationals in San Diego, sees this tournament as better preparation for the US Open Junior Championships in ten days.

"It's good for me to play this and start winning some matches to get my confidence up for the US Open," said Liu.

Liu is looking forward to playing Baptiste, who, like Liu, is more comfortable at the net than most juniors.

"She hits the ball big, has a big forehand, and she has really good hands," said Liu, who had the opportunity to play Baptiste in doubles Thursday afternoon. "She's really good."

Baptiste, who trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center, will have her share of fans on the porch veranda that overlooks the show court, but Liu is not worried about that.

"I like playing with the crowd against me," said Liu, who has been playing internationally for more than three years. "It gets me pumped up. It'll be fun, for sure."

The doubles semifinals are set, with one seeded team remaining in the boys draw and two seeded girls teams left.

Liu and partner Sofia Sewing, who are unseeded, will face No. 4 seeds McNally and Natasha Subhash.  Unseeded Victoria Flores and Kate Paulus play No. 8 seed Morgan Coppoc and Victoria Emma in the other semifinal.

Crawford and Patrick Kypson are the only boys seeds left, with the No. 7 seeds taking on Danny Thomas and William Woodall, who beat No. 1 seeds Hossam and Kecmanovic 6-1, 6-3 in this afternoon's quarterfinals.  Sebastian Korda and Nicolas Mejia of Colombia will face Yshai Oliel of Israel and JTCC student Andrew Fenty in the other semifinal.

For complete results and Friday's order of play, see the tournament webpage.

Rain has disrupted the second round of qualifying at the US Open today, but Alexander Sarkissian and Ryan Harrison have moved into the final round of qualifying with wins earlier today. Sarkissian beat Quentin Halys of France 7-6(5), 6-2 and Harrison defeated Joris De Loore of Belgium 7-6(5), 6-4.  Christian Harrison, Noah Rubin, Jared Donaldson, Reilly Opelka and Sekou Bangoura are either still on court or yet to begin.

CiCi Bellis, Kristie Ahn, Asia Muhammad, Jessica Pegula and Taylor Townsend are now just one win away from the main draw, with Usue Arconada and Melanie Oudin interrupted in their second round matches and Jennifer Brady just getting underway as of 7 p.m.

Bellis defeated Grace Min 6-4, 6-0, Ahn took out No. 5 seed Kai-Lin Zhang of China 1-6, 6-4, 6-3, Muhammad beat Cindy Burger of the Netherlands 6-2, 6-2, Pegula downed An-Sophie Mestach of Belgium 6-4 6-3 and Townsend cruised past Olga Savchuk of Ukraine 6-0, 6-2.

For results and Friday's order of play, see the US Open website.