New York | Top two Junior boys prevail as girl seeds tumble
The second day of main-draw play at the 2019 US Open Junior Championships was set behind by rain, but there were certainly fireworks once the action got going on the court.
Overall on Labor Day Monday, the top two seeds in the boys’ singles each staved off upset bids, but a title contender in the girls’ singles wasn’t as lucky.
In the boys’ singles, Japan’s Shintaro Mochizuki and Norway’s Holger Rune, each looking for their second Grand Slam title of 2019, were forced to battle back to win their opening round matches against unseeded foes.
Mochizuki, the top seed and Wimbledon champion, came from a set down to beat Italy’s Flavio Cobolli on Court 15, 2-6 6-3 6-4, while Rune, seeded No 2 and the French Open winner, trailed American Cash Hanzlik by a break in the final set before rallying to win, 6-2 5-7 7-6(5).
No 8 seed Emilio Nava was scheduled to play on Court 5 but was moved after the first delay to Court 15.
Nava was given a wild card having not entered due to injury, and when he was drawn to face top seed and Wimbledon champion Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan, thought this may have been the reason he was not seeded, despite his ranking of No 9 in the ITF Junior Circuit rankings.
“I thought maybe they don’t seed wild cards,” said Nava, who went to bed Saturday night thinking he was playing Mochizuki. “I thought, ok, I’ll play Shintaro no doubt, definitely.
“This is my last slam, let’s go out there and have fun, maybe I’ll beat him.”
In the wee hours of Sunday morning, the error of not seeding Nava was rectified, and Nava learned that he would instead play Nicolas Alvarez Navarro of Spain, on Monday.
Nava came out playing well, but the match came down to just a few points at at the end, with the American earning a 6-2 3-6, 7-6(6) victory.
After losing his 4-3 lead in the final set, Nava held down 4-5 and 5-6 to force the tiebreak, where his 3-1 lead didn’t last, and Alvarez went up 5-4 with a good first serve.
The American raised his level at the crucial time, hitting 2 good first serves to take a 6-5 lead, but failed to get a second serve return in play on his 1st match point.
He earned another with a great backhand pass, and his off-speed delivery surprised Alvarez, who couldn’t get the return in play.
“It was just get the first serve in, put a little pressure on him,” said Nava, who reached the final of the Australian Open in January. “Make him think like a big serve is coming, slow it down a little bit, get in his head maybe and he ended up missing it.”
Nava admits to some expectations for this event despite his layoff.
“Maybe a little bit, because the last hard court Grand Slam I did pretty well,” the 17-year-old Southern Californian said. “But I have to take myself back to, you just had an injury, you don’t want to push everything too hard, don’t want to get too nervous.”
While Nava has been short on match play recently, the opposite is true for 16-year-old Aidan Mayo, who reached the 16s final at Kalamazoo, the 3rd round at the Grade 1 at College Park two weeks ago and qualified for his first junior slam after receiving a wild card.
Despite 3 delays due to rain, Mayo continued his streak of impressive results, beating No 12 seed Shunsuke Mitsui of Japan, 6-4 7-5.
After waiting 3 hours to take the court, Mayo led 3-1 when a brief rain delay disrupted play.
“I was up 3-0 in the beginning, then had a tough game and it went to 3-1 and it started raining,” Mayo said. “I was playing very well and maybe he came out a little tight.
“We stopped for around 13 minutes and he came out a lot stronger, and I kind of lost my energy a little bit. He won four games in a row, but then I got the break back and that’s when it rained.”
Another 3-hour delay was less problematic for Mayo, who has gained confidence from his recent results.
“Getting through qualies gave me a lot of confidence,” the American said. “It’s my first Slam, so I needed a little time to acclimate.
“I feeling good, feeling my fitness is pretty good, my body’s feeling pretty good. I think I’m good enough, playing well enough, to take out just about anybody here, so it’s just about my body and my mental. But I’m feeling good out there.”
No. 2 seed Diane Parry of France was beaten by Marta Custic of Spain 6-4, 7-6(4) and No. 2 seed Holger Rune of Denmark barely escaped the challenge presented by qualifier Cash Hanzlik, with Rune, the French Open champion, earning a 6-2, 5-7, 7-6(5) victory.
In all, 14 boys’ singles matches were completed on Monday, with seeded players going through 6-2.
Czech Dalibor Svrcina easily took out another Japanese seed, Keisuke Saitoh, the No 13 seed, 6-1 6-1.
With the weather set fair for Tuesday, the 16 remaining 1st round matches will be completed, plus 16 2nd round matches will be played, with all first round doubles matches are also on the schedule.
In the girls’ singles, No 2 seed Diane Parry of France became the highest-seeded player to fall in either draw so far, upset by Marta Custic of Spain in straight sets, 6-4 7-6.
After breaking serve to stay in the match at 6-4, 5-4, Parry was 2 points away from extending the opening round to a final set before the big-hitting Spaniard held off the comeback effort in a tiebreak.
Parry wasn’t the only seed to fall on the girls’ side on Monday, as 4 of the 5 who played were defeated.
American Hurricane Tyra Black, seeded No 8, won the first set, 6-1, but trailed Thailand’s Mai Napatt Nirundorn, 5-2, in the second set before retiring with injury, and while No 6 seed Natsumi Kawaguchi and No 14 seed Anastasia Tikhonova of Russia were downed in 3 sets by challengers Joanna Garland of Chinese Taipei and Adrienn Nagy of Hungary.
“This is going to be my last junior tournament,” said Nagy, after her upset of the Russian on Monday. “I’m going to play some pro tournaments and then start at the University of Texas in January.”
Choosing Texas, sight unseen, was a decision based on the school’s women’s tennis coach, Howard Joffe, who made a concerted effort to court the talented Hungarian to join his player roster.
The biggest challenge in the process was convincing her father, Tamas Nagy, a tennis coach by trade, that attending university was the right choice.
Her mother, Virag Csurgo, a top-100 ranked WTA doubles player in her day, was immediately on board.
“I really liked the coach,” she said. “He was so nice and he came to Budapest to hit with me a little bit, and to convince my dad for me to go there because my dad didn’t really want me to.
“He wanted me to go pro right away. I looked at a few other schools, but I really liked this coach. Once my dad met him, he liked him, and decided it was a good idea.
“I haven’t been to Austin yet, but I know a few of the girls on the team and I heard it’s a really good city.
“I know there’s a lot of music and there’s a lot of young people, and it’s really fun. And [Andy] Roddick lives there, that’s what Howard told me.”
Her mother insisted Nagy attend English lessons from the age of 5, knowing that having a command of the English language is a worldly benefit, not to mention one that comes in handy when attending college in the United States.
“On the junior tour you have to speak English all the time,” said Nagy, of how she perfected her skill level.
“Oh, and I also had an American boyfriend a year ago. He was a player but he wasn’t at this level. But that also helped me speak.”
Nagy arrived at this US Open not feeling as secure with her game as she would’ve liked and was admittedly nervous during the first-set of her match against Tikhonova.
Earlier in the year she was playing at a higher level when she captured the Australian Open doubles trophy with Natsumi Kawaguchi of Japan, and also reached the Roland Garros doubles semi-final.
She believes the New York vibe, upsetting Tikhonova, and wanting to do well in her final junior event is providing renewed energy.
“I love this city, it’s just amazing,” she said. “I like to see the buildings. And I love to shop. I like clothes, definitely. I came here with one suitcase, but I’m probably leaving with two.
“But the favourite city I visit is Melbourne because I won the Australian Open in doubles this year.”
Nagy says it is not surprising that she is following a path in tennis.
“It’s the family business.”
The lone seeded victor on Monday was Parry’s compatriot, No 16 seed Elsa Jacquemot of France, who dropped just 4 games against Thailand’s Thasaporn Naklo, 6-1 6-3.