Melbourne | Gemma Heath falls at first junior hurdle
Day 6 of the Australian Open marked the beginning of the junior events where the best young prospects in the game began to ply their trade in a bid to win the first junior Grand Slam of the year.
It was a mixed day for the top seeds in the girls’ draw, with many of the top players upset in their opening matches.
The sole British representative in the field was Gemma Heath, who got off to a fine start against the Japanese fifth seed Naho Sato, winning the first set before eventually going down, 3-6 6-2 6-2.
American seventh seed Alexa Noel, and Chinese ninth seed Xiyu Wang progressed through to the next round.
It was a successful Grand Slam debut for Noel as the 15-year-old won her first-round match over Stefania Rogozinska Dzik of Poland. 7-6(1) 6-1.
Noel dominated the first-set tiebreak, only allowing Rogozinska Dzik to hold serve on the second point and taking advantage of her first match point at 5-1 with a return winner.
Born in Scottsdale, Arizona, the family moved when she was about four-years-old to Canada, when her dad, Brett, who works for American Express, was transferred to Toronto where she first experienced, and fell in love, with tennis.
Noel has recently moved to Boca Raton in Florida where she trains with Rick Macci, who had a hand in developing Venus and Serena Williams, and Andy Roddick, to name a few.
On the court, Noel had an exceptional end to last year when in November she won the Grade A Abierto Juvenil Mexicano and Grade 1 Yucatan Cup titles.
Wang was made to work against Papuan Violet Apisah, who forced the Chinese 16-year-old to play her highest level of tennis in her 6-3 3-6 6-3 victory.
The No 1 seed in the girls draw, Xinyu Wang of China, won a wild card tournament and played in the women’s main draw in Melbourne. She plays on Sunday.
The upset of the day on the women’s side went to Australian Gabriella Da Silva Fick, who sensationally dispatched of eighth seed Nika Radisic, 6-2 6-3.
It is the second consecutive week that Da Silva Fick has defeated the Slovenian, and the 17-year-old was delighted with her performance.
“I knew she was going to come out firing after last week so I am really happy I managed to get the job done,” she said.
“I took quite a lot of confidence from last week but you have to be careful with that confidence because you can’t be complacent because she’ll be ready and she knows what your game is now.
“I’m really really happy.”
Da Silva Fick also reached the second round of the Australian Open last year and being from Melbourne, winning matches in front of her family at Melbourne Park means the absolute world to her.
“It’s my home ground and it’s such a pleasure to play in front of the Australian crowds,” she said.
“It’s so uplifting and so inspiring, and to grab another win is just fantastic.
“I had the whole gang, they’re [family] all from Sydney so it was so nice to have them all there. All of my coaches and people I hit with who support me, to make them proud is special.”
The Australian was not the only one to beat a top seed, with Japan’s Himeno Sakatsume defeating Swiss third seed Simona Waltert, 6-4 6-2, in another stunning upset.
The home contingent experienced mixed results, with Annerly Poulos joining Da Silva Fick in the second round with a 6-2 7-6(9) win over Pole Ania Hertel, while Megan Smith and Zara Brankovic fell to Mariam Dalakishvili and Daria Frayman respectively.
On the boys’ side, second seed Marko Miladinovic was made to work for his opening win against Brazilian Joao Lucas Reis da Silva.
The Serbian held a match point in the second set tiebreak but was ultimately pushed to a third before claiming his 6-3 6-7(9) 6-3 victory.
Miladinovic was disappointed to lose the second set, but his focus was to just stay calm and see out the tricky encounter.
“It was a great match, a tough match first round. I had a match point in the second set but lost it so I just tried to stay calm and I’m very happy to get through,” he said.
“I just kept focused and stayed positive, thinking I could win because I was preparing a lot, for two months.
“I stayed positive, and I got through.”
Miladinovic was joined in the second round by third seed Sebastian Baez and sixth seed Chun Hsin Tseng, who defeated Admir Kalender and Duje Ajdukovic respectively.
It was a torrid day for the rest of the seeds, with No 8 Nicolas Mejia, No 10 Juan Manuel Cerundolo, No 11 Thiago Agustin Tirante, No 15 Naoki Tajima and No 16 Tomas Machac all falling on the opening day of competition.
Timofey Skatov of Russia is the No 1 boys seed this week.
British representatives who have yet to play are Jack Draper, Aiden McHugh and George Loffhagen, all of whom are unseeded.