Melbourne | Musetti and Tauson reach boys and girls finals
Scorching temperatures suspended play at the Australian Open in Melbourne on Friday, expected to be the hottest day in a decade, as a week-old heat wave brought power outages and left streets bare in the business district.
Firefighters went on alert as the mercury crept towards an expected maximum of 44 degrees Celsius (111 F), the highest since Black Saturday bushfires in 2009 that killed about 180 people in the southeastern state of Victoria.
“Glam Slam and Australian Tennis Championships matches have been suspended on all outside courts at Melbourne Park and Albert Reserve,” tournament organisers said on social media.
It was the second day that heat had affected play, after the roof at the Rod Laver arena was closed on Thursday for the women’s semi finals match.
The blistering heat, however, did not stop the World No 4, Japan’s Naomi Osaka, from taking to the practice courts early, ahead of Saturday’s women’s final, where she faces the World No 6, the Czech Petra Kvitova.
Crowds were only expected to gather later in the day for the men’s semi-finals between World No 1 Novak Djokovic, and Lucas Pouille of France, ranked 31.
After temperatures had soared to 44 degrees during the midday heat in Melbourne and the women’s doubles final was played indoors, a ‘cold snap’ set in and the heat quickly fell to 27 degrees prompting tournament bosses to open the roof on centre court just as the players were headed to the arena.
All this served as the backdrop to play in the junior competition where the top seeds came through as predicted to arrive in the finals.
In the boys singles, Lorenzo Musetti from Italy took a little over an hour to see off fellow countryman Giulio Zeppieri, 6-2 6-4, in the semi-final played on Court 7.
Under the scorching sun, the 16 year old native of Carrara produced some high-class tennis, particularly on the backhand side, to reach his second consecutive final at a major, having made the same stage at the 2018 US Open.
In the first set, both the players had chances to break but failed to convert, and it was Musetti who generally came out better in the exchanges, with fewer errors than his friend and rival.
Two consecutive breaks in the 5th and 7th game gave the top seed the upper hand and he pocketed the first set with the loss of just two games.
He met a sterner challenge in the second as Zeppieri’s game came together.
After a break of the third game in favour of Musetti, Zeppieri found a better length and managed to break back, using his serve to greater effect.
Musetti was not be denied, however, and the 17-year old top seed took a break advantage, showing off a greater repertoire of shots, to ride out the set 6-4.
His opponent in the final will be the No 13 seed, Emilio Nava from the USA, who had a bigger fight on his hands, coming through 3-6 6-2 7-5 against Filip Cristian Jianu from Romania in an hour and 41 minutes on Court 5.
The American booked his place in the Australian Open boys’ singles final before contesting the doubles final on a blustery Friday at Melbourne Park, a day of drama and mixed emotions for the 17-year-old.
Nava had to save a match point before downing No 4 seed Jianu, but came off second-best alongside compatriot Cannon Kingsley as Czech pair Jonas Forejtek and Dalibor Svrcina claimed the doubles crown 7-6(5) 6-4.
Most juniors can expect to find a barrage of texts when they pick up their phone after reaching one Grand Slam final, let alone two, but not all of them can expect a message from Ivan Lendl or their ATP-ranked cousin.
Eight-time Grand Slam champion Lendl and Ernesto Escobedo, the 22-year-old whose ATP ranking has reached as high as No 67, are likely to be among such texts on Nava’s phone.
“I always get a text from him, saying ‘Good job in the tournament,’ which means a lot,” Nava said of Lendl, who invited him to a USTA training camp in Orlando, Florida in 2018 after watching his performance at the 2017 Orange Bowl.
Nava and Escobedo are the third generation of a tennis dynasty sparked by their grandfather, whose passion for the game was passed down to his children and grandchildren.
“He just loved tennis,” Nava explains. “He had 10 kids – my mom, plus nine siblings. My mom played tennis, she was top 200 in the world.
“And her eldest brother, Ernesto Escobedo, he played too, though he never got an ATP point – but his son, Ernesto, is playing now. We talk in the family every day. We have a group chat between all the cousins.”
In his singles match, Nava had double-faulted to hand his Romanian opponent a match point at 4-5 in the third set, but came up with a bold move when it mattered, haring to the net where he picked up a half-volley that found the baseline and gave Jianu no chance.
“That was an intense play,” said Nava. “I knew I had to be aggressive, because he’s a great player. He won’t miss a ball. So, went with a forehand down the line, kind of shanked it a little bit and he hit a nice shot, but I made the tough one.”
From there, a break in the next game left Nava with the chance to serve out the match in 101 minutes in decidedly cooler conditions at Melbourne Park.
Nava didn’t have much time to celebrate the win, with his appearance in the boys’ doubles final just a few hours later.
With his left wrist strapped, the right-hander was left to rue a missed smash on set point in the opener before being broken in the final game of an entertaining doubles clash.
Nevertheless, Nava was upbeat ahead of his second shot at an Australian Open title, with a Grand Slam crown one of his goals coming into the 2019 season.
“In the pre-season I worked hard. I got my head straight, got myself looking forward. I’m talking fitness, and I cleaned up a little on my volley, which has helped a lot.”
In the girls, top seeded Clara Tauson from Denmark took just 60 minutes to dispatch Daria Snigur from the Ukraine, 6-4 6-1, and will meet Canada’s Leylah Annie Fernandez in the final, who beat Anastasia Tikhonova from Russia, 6-1 6-3, on Court 5 after an hour and 7 minutes.
The Canadian teenager, who is 16 years old, from Montreal and seeded fourth for the junior tittle, won five straight matches to reach the final.
Ranked No 11 in the junior ITF rankings, Fernandez has a career high WTA singles ranking of 433 achieved on 7 January 2019, as well as a career high WTA doubles ranking of 913 achieved on 30 July 2018.
Tauson hails from Copenhagen and has already represented her country, Denmark, in Fed Cup.
In 2016, at the age of 13, she became the youngest woman to win the Danish championship, beating the record set by a 14-year-old Caroline Wozniacki, and is the reigning European Youth Olympic Festival champion from 2017.
She has won four tournaments on the ITF Junior Circuit and, since her debut in 2017, won a tournament on the ITF Women’s Circuit.
Tauson’s greater experience makes her the favourite for the girls singles title on Saturday, the opening match on Rod Laver Arena.
The girls’ doubles champions were crowned on Friday, the Japanese-Hungarian duo Natsumi Kawaguchi and Adrienn Nagy beating US duo Chloe Beck and Emma Navarro 6-4 6-4.
It was a first win in three tournaments together for Kawaguchi and Nagy, who had reached finals in Mexico and at the Orange Bowl in 2018.