As the Juniors in New York approach the sharp end of the US Open, the draws are all caught up to the quarter-final stage and becoming ever-more interesting as the next generation’s talents come to the fore.
In the girls singles, Indonesia’s Priska Madelyn Nugroho avenged her Wimbledon quarter-final loss to American Alexa Noel on Thursday, defeating the No 3 seed in their 2019 US Open 3rd-round match in just 59 minutes, 6-2 6-1.
It was a tough day at the office for Noel, who struggled to keep the ball in play, committing 32 unforced errors against 12 and winning 52 percent of points on her first serve.
Her exit means the top 3 seeds in both the boys’ and girls’ draws are all out of the tournament ahead of the quarters.
The favourite for the title in the girls is now the 4th seeded Colombian, Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, who came through 2 tough sets against American Abigail Forbes, 7-5 7-6(3).
Just like in her straight-sets 2nd round match against Katie Volynets, Osorio Serrano was down a break in each set to the No 13 seed before coming back to win.
The 17-year old, who is the daughter of 2 attorneys, has put in an impressive showing, collecting the girls’ singles bronze medal and mixed doubles silver medal at the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games, and reaching the singles semi-finals at the 2018 US Open and 2019 Roland Garros.
Now she is hoping to nail down one more special prize at this year’s US Open, where she is playing her final junior tournament.
“I’m so, so happy to be in the quarters as this is my last junior tournament,” Osorio said. “The thing is I’ve never been in a [Grand Slam] final, which is why I’m playing this one.
“I really want to win one Grand Slam.
“But I have no pressure. I just play every point and the result is going to come one day, maybe here in the juniors, if not in the pros,” she added.
While the juniors has been her primary playground, Osorio is no stranger to the pros, playing mostly ITF World Tennis Tour events in 2019, and is already is ranked 271 on the WTA Tour.
She even made headlines at a WTA International-level tournament, the Clara Open Colsanitas in Bogota, where she turned out to be the star attraction.
The Colombian won 2 rounds, journeying to the quarters in front of a home crowd before losing to eventual champion, fellow teen Amanda Anisimova of USA.
“The club when I played, I played at night, so everybody was there, watching and supporting me,” she said of the WTA Bogota event. “They were yelling, ‘Vamos Cami, you can do it.’
“I won 2 matches so everybody was so happy with me and I was so happy because it was a great experience.”
What she learned that week is that the pros are stronger and much more focused opponents than juniors, and are much more adept at keeping their minds from wandering away from the match.
The Bogota quarter-finals came with a big pay cheque, and coupled with her winning 2 smaller pro events, her bank account has grown.
So far, Osorio has managed to curb her enthusiasm for buying herself a big present with the money.
“You’re playing for money so it’s so much fun,” she said. “I’m just saving it.
“Last year I was thinking when I get money, and turn pro, I would buy like bags, like a Gucci bag. But I told myself, ‘You should save the money to buy yourself one day a car or a house.’”
Until a week ago, Osorio was working with former Colombian touring pro Alejandro Falla and although she credits him with improving her game, she felt the relationship had reached its conclusion.
“He was so good for me,” she said of Falla. “He taught me so much in a year-and-a-half. He knows everything. He even played Roger [Federer].”
Her whole family is sports-oriented with her mother having played basketball, her father football, and her grandfather represented Colombia on the 1962 World Cup team.
She is in New York with her older brother, Sebastian, a footballer, but his job isn’t to act as her coach but to just keep her company.
“He helps me to get into trouble but he doesn’t say anything [to our parents],” she said, laughing. “I like playing here without a coach because it’s no pressure.
“I don’t have to worry about coach saying, ‘You need to work on your serve.’”
Fun away from tennis for Osorio is playing the ukulele, which she took up 6 months ago.
“It’s really new for me,” she said. “I like to play Spanish music, Reggaeton. I sing along, but I am so bad at singing, it’s better nobody hears me!”
Osorio will next face the No 7 seed, Kamilla Bartone of Latvia, in the quarters, who scored a straight sets win over Korea’s Sohyun Park, seeded 12th, 6-1 6-3.
Three Americans also moved into the quarters: Katrina Scott, who advanced over compatriot Robin Montgomery, 7-5 6-3; Alexandra Yepifanova, who toughed out three tight sets against Thailand’s Mai Napatt Nirundorn in a little over 2 hours, 3-6 7-5 7-6; and Reese Brantmeier, who upset the No 15 seed, Polina Kudermetova of Russia, 6-1 6-3.
Yepifanova and Brantmeier will face each other in the quarter-finals, guaranteeing one American makes the semis.
Wild-carded into the draw, Scott makes her first appearance in a junior slam quarter-final on Friday after spoiling her friend, Montgomery’s 15th birthday with her straight sets victory.
“I’ve known Robin forever and she’s my best friend,” said Scott, who turned 15 in June. “Going into the match we had to put our friendship aside and battle it out on court.
“We’ve already played twice, and I’m able to switch my mind to, like ok, this is a tennis match, this is just like anything else. We’re competitors, we’re fighting to win.”
Scott fell behind 3-1 in the opening set, but Montgomery played an error-filled game to give the break back for 3-3.
After Scott held for 6-4, Montgomery had an opportunity to force a tiebreak, but she missed a volley, then double faulted to give Scott a break point, which she converted when her friend missed a forehand.
“I knew that she’s a big hitter and she’s going to hit a very big ball,” Scott added.
“I knew I had to take my chances when I had them, because they weren’t going to come very often.
“I think I used my serve very well, got a lot of free points and got myself out of some tough situations there. And I was returning pretty solid too. I had to block back her big serves and take my chances when I got a second serve.”
Scott spent many years as a competitive ice skater, but something about tennis’s one-on-one challenge led her to focus exclusively on that.
“Ever since I was young, I always wanted to win everything I did,” said Scott. “That just came into my tennis game, being so competitive, even off the courts. It’s crazy how competitive.”
Scott, who is set to represent the US team in ITF Junior Fed Cup competition later this month, is looking to put that quality to the test again, this time with Montgomery, who is also on the team, on her side.
“I’ve always had the best time with her on trips in the past,” said Scott, who represented the US in the ITF 14U World Junior Tennis event last year, along with Montgomery. “And I know we’re going to have so many more good trips to come. I’m really happy about it.”
The Junior Fed Cup by BNP Paribas will be hosted at the USTA National campus in Lake Nona, Florida.
“This is my first time playing Junior Fed Cup and I’ve heard it’s amazing,” Scott added. “Some of my friends played it in Budapest last year.
“We’re on home ground and we’re excited about it. I know Orlando as I’ve trained there many times.”
Her opponent in the quarter-finals is unseeded Selekhmeteva.
Scott is not the youngest girl in the quarters, with that honour belonging to Brantmeier, who doesn’t turn 15 until next month.
Brantmeier, the USTA girls 16s champion will face 16-year-old qualifier Yepifanova, who beat Nirundorn of Thailand in 3 sets.
Yepifanova trailed throughout the first 2 sets, and Nirundorn held a match point serving at 5-3, 40-30, but the American saved it and went on to win her 5th consecutive game to take the set.
Nirundorn was up a break on 3 separate occasions in the 3rd set, but Yepifanova broke back each time, and eventually the 16-year-old Floridian got the lead, serving for the match at 6-5.
She couldn’t hold, but she dominated the tiebreak and, like Brantmeier and Scott, Yepifanova has gone from losing in the first round of the US Open junior qualifying in 2018 to this year’s quarters.
The day delivered another upset, when Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia continued her charge by beating No 16 seed, Elsa Jacquemot of France, 6-4 6-4.
Another 3rd round seeded winner was No 5 Zheng Qinwen of China, who defeated Daria Frayman of Russia, 6-4 6-0.
On the boys’ side, the Czech Republic’s Jonas Forejtek defeated the No 16 seed, Hungary’s Peter Makk, in three sets, 6-1 3-6 6-2.
Forejtek is the reigning junior boys’ doubles champion at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, but this is his first quarter-final showing at a major in boys’ singles.
After upsetting No 6 seed and French Open junior boys’ runner-up Toby Alex Kodat, qualifier Milan Welte knocked out the No 9 seed as well, Belgium’s Gauthier Onclin, 6-3 6-4.
The German teen also overcame 2 seeds in the qualifying tournament and next takes on Forejtek for a spot in the semis.
No 8 seed and Australian Open junior boys’ runner-up Emilio Nava triumphed over Aidan Mayo in an all-American contest.
Two other players from the States join him in the quarter-finals: No 11 seed Brandon Nakashima of San Diego, who defeated Australia’s Tristan Schoolkate, 6-1 6-4, and Long Island native Cannon Kingsley, who shocked No 10 seed, Canadian Liam Draxl, 7-6 7-6.
Nakashima, an 18-year-old Southern Californian, will be playing in his 2nd consecutive quarter-final in New York and has already played a semester of college tennis at Virginia.
He will face his doubles partner, No 14 seed Valentin Royer of France, for a place in his first slam semi-final.
Kingsley reached the 3rd round of the US Open Junior Championships last year and the quarter-finals of this year’s Australian Open, but the Ohio State freshman needed all the support of his local fan club to pull out a his win over Draxl.
The American saved 4 set points in the 1st set and then, after failing to serve out the match at 5-3 in the second, saw a 6-2 lead in the tiebreak slip away, but a commitment to aggressive play and the crowd support got Kingsley through.
“That helped me so much,” said Kingsley, who lives in nearby Northport New York, although he is now two weeks into his freshman year in Columbus. “It just gives me that boost that I need.
“If I was able to have that every match, that would be insane. It’s just a little lucky that I’m playing here in New York and I’m from here, so I’ve got to use that advantage a little bit for sure.”
Kingsley knows he will get that kind of support once he begins playing matches for Ohio State, yet he realises the road matches will be a different story.
“At home matches, I’ll get used to that,” Kingsley said. “But at the away matches, I have to get used to the opposite. I played a Brit at Wimbledon and that was not a good result for me. I played an Australian in Australia and it was tough, but I got through that one.”
Kingsley played particularly aggressive in the last few games of the second set, and some of his motivation for that was provided by Draxl.
“He kind of made fun of my volleys a little bit,” Kingsley said. “I missed a volley and he said something like ‘good volleys’ really loud.
“And after that, I wanted to show him I could make volleys and I told myself ‘good volley’, ‘good volley’ every time after that.”
Kingsley also realised he needed to change his strategy against the Canadian, who had beaten him in straight set at the Grade 1 in Roehampton this year.
“He’s a good base-liner,” Kingsley said. “He works so hard off the baseline it’s impossible to put him away if you don’t come to the net and try to finish points inside the court.
“The first two guys I played, my strategy was just to stay back and make a lot of balls. But today, this guy does the same thing, so I’ve got to change my game style a little bit and I was lucky I was on my game.”
Kingsley will play unseeded Dominic Stricker of Switzerland, who beat Dalibor Svrcina of the Czech Republic 3-6 6-3 6-3. The two have not met previously.
No 8 Dmilio Nava defeated compatriot Aidan Mayo of USA, 7-6(3) 6-2 to reach the quarters.
Nava had won only one match at the US Open prior to this year, but at the last hard court junior Grand Slam the 17-year-old from Los Angeles reached the final.
This year in New York, Nava has already won a 3rd set tiebreak in his 1st match and saved a match point in his second, so his straight sets win over the 16-year-old qualifier, in which he saved 3 set points in the first set, seemed almost routine.
“I don’t think it’s a good thing,” Nava said of his propensity for comebacks this week. “I don’t want to get down just to find my way up. But in those moments, I think I just relax, just rip the ball. I don’t want to focus on what I have to do, so I just hit.”
Nava has recorded the fastest serve of the juniors this week at 135 mph but not all players get to compete on the two courts where serve speeds are displayed, and he feels it’s a key to his game style.
“I think it’s pretty important,” said Nava, who averaged 113 mph on his first serve and hit one 130 mph in the second set. “I’m hitting some pretty big serves out here.
“I pretty surprised actually. I’m pretty skinny, how does that happen? But I rely on it, 30-alls, deuces, 15-30s, when I’m down, I just like to relax and rip it and it comes out pretty good sometimes.”
Nava had beaten Mayo at the Pan American Closed in Tulsa, when they were 15 and 14 years old, and went on to reach the final, his breakout ITF tournament.
He appreciates how far Mayo’s game has come since then.
“When I played him in Tulsa he was pretty small,” Nava recalled. “He was good, but I think I was just a little ahead. But here now, I knew he improved, but I didn’t know he’d improved that much. I was surprised, but I’m super happy for him, because it’s American tennis and we love each other.”
Nava will face No 15 seed Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic, who beat Rinky Hijikata of Australia, 6-4 6-3.
The two met in the quarter-finals in Australia, with Nava earning a 7-6(5) 4-6 6-2 victory.
The doubles quarter-finals were completed Thursday, with 3 unseeded teams reach the boys semi-finals, including unseeded Americans Tyler Zink & Eliot Spizzirri.
Zink & Spizzirri defeated No 7 seeds Arthur Cazaux & Harold Mayot of France, 6-0 6-4, and will face Wimbledon finalists Draxl & Govind Nanda, the No 5 seeds, who defeated Nakashima & Royer, seeded No 4, 2-6 6-3 [10-7].
Girls Wimbledon finalists Bartone & Selekhmeteva also advanced to the semi-finals, beating top seeds Noel & Diane Parry of France, 7-5 6-4.
Wimbledon champions and No 6 seed Savannah Broadus & Forbes lost to unseeded Melodie Collard & Hong Yi Cody Wong of Hong Kong, 6-4 6-4.