Melbourne | Mildanovic reaches round three of AO juniors

Back in action on Monday, half the junior second round matches were played in both the boys and girls singles at the Australian Open in Melbourne.

Serbian No 2 seed Marko Miladinovic, forced to his second consecutive three-set match, emerged with a 2-6 6-1 6-4 win over American Tristan Boyer.

His next opponent, Rudolf Molleker from Germany, had a way tougher time coming through against China’s Tao Mu, 6-7(3) 6-7(12) 6-3.

Australian Rinky Hijikata defeated Brazilian Matheus Pucinelli De Almeida in the pick of the juniors’ action, taking just over two hours to seal the 4-6 6-4 6-4 win and secure his place in a junior Grand Slam third round for the first time.

The first set began with some intense rallies and the Brazilian won the early break, continuing to hold his nerve and take the hard fought opener in just over 40 minutes.

The 17-year-old Australian, however, was not to be deterred, fighting back to claim the second set and send the match into a decider.

It was Pucinelli De Almeida who claimed the early lead in the third, breaking to take a 2-0 lead before Hijikata clawed his way back, once again, to level proceedings at 2-2.

Brutal rallies ensued as the match went deeper, and as the pair looked destined for a tiebreak, the Sydney native played a splendid return game to claim the match.

The Aussie hunched over after the final handshake, and received immediate treatment as he sat down, suffering from cramps, but he expects to be fully fit for his next match.

“My body is feeling a lot better now than it was a couple of hours ago,” said Hijikata.

“I just started cramping in my legs deep in the third but everything’s sweet now. I should pull up fine for the next match.”

Next up for the Australian will be American Drew Baird, a player who he knows little about but who also came through a long three-setter against Jesper De Jong from the Netherlands, 3-6 6-4 7-6(6).

“It’s good and bad I think. I guess sometimes it’s better to know a little bit about the guy,” he said.

“But at the same time if you don’t know much about them you can focus on yourself a lot more and I guess that’s pretty good as well.”

No 6 seed Chun Hsin Tseng also progressed, while Argentine third seed Sebastian Baez was upset by Chinese Taipei’s Ray Ho, 6-3 3-6 6-4.

In the girls’ draw, it was a good day for the seeds, with five of the six claiming wins: Japanese No 5 seed Naho Sato headlined the action with a straight-sets win over Australian Annerly Poulos, while 7th seed Alexa Noel, 9th seed Xiyu Wang, No 10 Lulu Sun and 13th seed Daniela Vismane also made it through to the final 16.

Latvia’s Vismane required only 56-minutes to defeat Loudmilla Bencheikh of France, 6-4 6-3, marking the 17-year-old’s first trip to Australia.

Her first impression of the country is the same one as many newcomers: “It’s nice, but it’s so hot.”

The match featured 11 service breaks as both players struggled with nerves.

There were five breaks of serve in the first set with Vismane successfully challenging Bencheikh’s serve in the third, fifth and seventh games, while the French teen broke serve in the sixth and eighth games.

Six of the eight games in the second set were also decided with service breaks before the Latvian secured her win.

“It was tough even though I won 6-4 6-3,” Vismane said. “It was mentally tough because I knew I can win. I just focused on my game and did what I could.”

Vismane is one of the privileged junior players to be named to the first Grand Slam Development Fund Touring Team to travel to the Australian Open.

The GSDF initiative is designed to help promising juniors with financial support so they can travel to prestigious tournaments such as the Australian Open, and also provides top-notch coaching for those on the team.

Last year, Vismane also played on GSDF teams, traveling to three Grand Slams.

She is a native of Babite, Latvia, which is near Riga, Latvia’s capital city, and first picked up a tennis racket at age seven after watching tennis on TV.

These days she spends some quality time twice-a-year training in Valencia, Spain, but otherwise practices at home when she is not at tournaments.

In 2017, Vismane won three junior Grade 2 tournaments and reached the semi-final at a fourth.

The highlight of last season for Vismane was playing on the Fed Cup team for Latvia when she partnered in doubles with reigning Roland Garros champion Jelena Ostapenko against Portugal to win her first Fed Cup career match.

The major upset of the day went to Hong Kong’s Hong Yi Cody Wong, who stormed home to defeat Japanese 11th seed Yuki Naito, 4-6 6-4 6-0.

Australia’s first-round hero Gabriella Da Silva Fick was second up on Court 7 against Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto and despite a strong start, she was bombarded with a returning masterclass during her 6-4 6-2 loss.

The remaining matches of the second round will be completed on Day 9, including Britain’s Aiden McHugh’s against Jaimee Floyd Angele from France.



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