Melbourne | McHugh misses out on final spot
Aidan McHugh’s fine run in the junior boys at the Australian Open came to end on Friday under trying circumstances, beaten by Chun Hsin Tseng, the sixth seed from Chinese Taipei.
Due to the adverse weather conditions, the encounter was sent indoors at the neighbouring National Tennis Centre after Tseng recovered from 0-3 down to lead Glaswegian McHugh, 6-3 2-4, before rain halted play at Melbourne Park.
McHugh, mentored by five-time Australian Open finalist Andy Murray, maintained his lead and cracked a forehand down the line to force a decider.
“It was a good week. Just now it's a shame because I obviously would have liked to have played in the final. It'll probably take a couple of days just for me to realise how good a week it was Aidan McHugh
In a finely-poised third set, Tseng struck the crucial break at 4-4, converting his third opportunity with a crisp passing shot.
Although McHugh saved two match points, it was Tseng who secured his way into the final.
McHugh was the first British boy to reach a Slam semi-final since Kyle Edmund at Wimbledon in 2013 and was aiming to become the first to win one since Oli Golding at the US Open in 2011.
“There wasn’t a lot in it at all,” he said. “I’m obviously a bit upset and gone just now but tennis-wise and the way the match went, there wasn’t any big reasons why it went either way, it was pretty tight games.
“It was a good week. Just now it’s a shame because I obviously would have liked to have played in the final. It’ll probably take a couple of days just for me to realise how good a week it was.”
He had no complaints about the change of court, saying: “I’m quite used to it, at home we do it quite a lot. It was fine. It was obviously outdoors to indoors, so that was a little bit different, but same for him as well.”
The teenager has set his sights on winning a junior slam title this season but will predominantly focus on his first steps at senior level and is due to play a Futures tournament, the lowest tier of the professional game, in Glasgow next week.
Meanwhile, Tseng goes on to play Sebastien Kroda, who battled his way into the final with an absorbing 7-5 5-7 6-4 victory over second-seeded Marko Miladinovic, twenty years on from when his father, Petr Korda, celebrated his Australian Open success with a scissor-kick.
“It’s a special feeling, it was also his big ‘5-0’ birthday a couple of days ago so I told him I’d get him something,” Korda said of his father. “Hopefully this will be a good present.
“I’m aiming for the title and I think that would be good enough,” joked the 17-year-old, who paid tribute to his dad by replicating the iconic jumping scissor kick after match point.
In the semi-final, the powerful duo were locked at 5-5 on serve in the opening set until Korda broke through with a crushing inside-out forehand winner.
The Serbian dismissed three set points with some remarkable retrieval, but the No 7 seed struck a missile smash before clinching the opener at the fourth attempt with a booming sixth ace.
Miladinovic was undeterred and chalked up break point leading at 4-3, managing to strike a forehand winner on the run whilst stumbling over.
The sublime shot-making deserved a break, but Korda stuck to his guns and wielded a ferocious forehand to keep the scoreboard on par.
However, the No 2 seed was striking with much more conviction, and rattled through six straight points to force a decider.
The rallies were becoming more extended, but at 3-3 Korda finally found the pivotal answer, penetrating the rock-solid Serbian defence with another forehand drive.
“It feels good,” said an exhausted Korda, who is also gifted at golf, swinging off an impressive handicap of two. “It was a battle the whole time. It was a high-quality contest in all three sets.
“I had a really good off-season and I’ve started playing a lot more pro tournaments, so I have been gaining a lot more experience and I’m a mentally a lot tougher.
“You’re on your own out there, that’s what drew me into tennis, you have to figure things out, fight and work out the mental game too.”
In the girls singles, unseeded Clara Burel is living a fairytale and through to her first junior Grand Slam final after a stunning, 2-6 6-1 6-0, upset of the Chinese top seed, Xinyu Wang, in Melbourne on Friday.
The 16-year old from France will challenge for the Australian Open junior girls trophy against the second-seeded Liang En Shuo, after the Chinese Taipei player survived a pair of match points to see off Italy’s Elisabetta Cocciaretto 4-6 6-3 7-6(5).
Few junior Grand Slam debuts end with a title run, in the way Martina Hingis’s and Laura Robson’s did, and in Burel’s case, her lone prior singles outing in a junior Grand Slam ended in a straight-sets dismissal at home in Paris last season.
“I can’t describe now my feelings,” Burel said. “I’m so happy, proud of me. I think the difference is in the head, mentally stronger.”
Wang had claimed the Asia-Pacific Australian Open wildcard play-off on home turf in Zhuhai, China, in December, and was a heavy favourite to reach the title decider.
She made her Grand Slam main draw debut last week, falling to French former World No 11 Alize Cornet in the opening round.
The 16-year-old had done it the hard way, fighting through three-set matches in her three prior matches coming into Friday’s semi-final, and called for a medical timeout to have a heavily-strapped upper right leg treated after losing the second set.
Burel, by contrast, has cruised through the draw, barring her third-round clash with Sydney-born American Elysia Bolton.
She was the first Frenchwoman to appear in the Australian Open girls’ singles semi-finals since current world No 8 Caroline Garcia in 2011 and now bids to become the first French champion of the event since Virginie Razzano in 1999.
“Yeah, for sure,” she said of emulating Razzano’s victory. “No, I don’t know her, only Caro [Garcia].”
After storming through the opening set, errors began to creep into Wang’s game as she quickly surrendered the second.
She threw a look of despair her support crew’s direction as she fell behind a double break for 0-4 in the deciding set.
Burel continued to absorb her opponent’s huge pace off the ground, and while the top seed survived a first match point, consecutive double faults handed the Frenchwoman her passage through to the final.
“I don’t know [if she had an injury at the end],” Burel said. “I just play my game and go for it and we will see on the court.”
On Show Court 3, Italy’s Elisabetta Cocciaretto pulled out a skipping rope to keep her heart-rate up after taking the opening set 6-4 when second seed En Liang from Chinese Taipei took a medical timeout.
In the battle of the 17-year-olds, Liang won six straight games for 3-0 in the deciding set before Cocciaretto found another gear to reel off five straight games for 5-3.
Serving for the match at 5-4, the Italian let her first match point slip and, although she broke again for 6-5 and held a second match point, again she could not close it out as the nerves crept in.
Maintaining her composure, Liang brought up her first match point with a heavy forehand into the corner drawing the error, and she closed out the two-hour, 12-minute battle when Cocciaretto fired wide, 4-6 6-3 7-6(5).
The final will be the first meeting between the giant-killing Burel and big-hitting Liang.
French duo Hugo Gaston and Clement Tabur, under the watchful eye of FFT President Bernard Giudicelli, took home the boys’ doubles title with a commanding 6-2 6-2 triumph over Germans Rudolf Molleker and Henri Squire.
“We want to thank our coaches for their hard work and the [FFT] President for coming to support us,” said Gaston, whose doubles partner recently celebrated turning 18.
“I want to thank Hugo for playing with me,” stated Tabur. “You gave me this present for my birthday, it means the best birthday ever.”