US Open Juniors | Four American girls lead juniors into quarters
With the buzz that the ‘Fab Four’ created as four American women played the quarter-finals of the US Open main draw, focus on US junior performances was bound to be on the cards.
In fact, the US Open Junior Championships also had four Americans in the quarter-finals after Thursday’s third round action, but the distribution didn’t allow for a similar star-spangled quartet.
Two wild cards playing their first junior Grand Slam will face off in one of the quarter-finals, with 15-year-old Katie Volynets meeting 13-year-old prodigy Coco Gauff.
Volynets defeated Anastasia Kharitonova of Russia, 6-3 7-6(4), while Gauff closed out the night on the Grandstand Court with a 6-4 6-3 win over yet another wild card, Dalayna Hewitt.
Kharitonova had previously upset the top seed, Whitney Osuigwe in the second round.
While fans were filing into Arthur Ashe Stadium for the Venus Williams – Sloane Stephens semi-final, Gauff and Hewitt were playing in a mostly empty Grandstand.
With the changeover music, the Hawkeye system and the serve speed display, there was plenty for a young junior to get used to, but despite some patchy play in the opening few games, Gauff said she adjusted quickly.
“I actually adjusted right away, right after the warmup,” Gauff said. “I really liked the court, the atmosphere was good, with the music playing on the changeovers and all that, I really liked it.”
Gauff is not old enough to play WTA Tour events yet, and recognises that Hewitt hits the ball as powerfully as most pros.
“I’m pretty sure she hit more winners than me, but she made a lot more unforced errors,” Gauff continued.
“I knew I could handle the power, that’s never really been a problem for me, handling power or hitting with power.
“When I was 10, I was working on my consistency, because I was error-prone, but now my consistency is better and I want to be a good ball striker.”
Meanwhile, unseeded Maria Lourdes Carle of Argentina is experiencing her best run in a Grand Slam junior girls’ competition at the U.S. Open this week.
The 17-year-old Carle is into her first Grand Slam quarter-final at a major on her fifth attempt after winning only one singles match at a major prior to this US Open, which happened at Wimbledon in 2016.
On Wednesday, Carle ousted 10th seed Simona Waltert of Switzerland 6-2 6-2, having upset the 7th seed, America’s Taylor Johnson, 6-3 7-5 in the first round.
Sandwiched in-between those two matches was another 6-2 6-2 win over Viktoria Morvayova of Slovakia.
“This is my best performance and I’m very happy,” Carle said. “I worked very hard for this moment. I’ve had a year with a lot of ups and downs, especially downs. But I’m really happy now and I am with confidence.”
Last year, Carle won the well-known Eddie Herr ITF tournament in Florida.
“This win at Eddie Herr was so good for me,” she said. “I play so well with girls who play so hard. This is tennis and one week you play good, the other week you play bad, but you keep going.
Carle has increased the number of pro tournaments she is playing, but she plans on playing some juniors next year as well as hoping to play in the Youth Olympic Games, which will be staged in Buenos Aires next year in October.
In the quarter-finals, Carle plays the 3rd-seeded Elena Rybakina of Russia, who secured a 6-4 6-0 third round win over Elisabetta Cocciaretto of Italy.
The 4th seed, American Amanda Anisimova, is also into the quarters in her second junior Grand Slam of the season courtesy of a 6-3 6-2 win over Spanish qualifier Paula Arias Manjon.
“I really haven’t been playing many juniors,” Anismova said. “I really want to win my first slam, especially this one, my home slam, because that would be very cool so I’m going for it.”
The 16-year old is ranked in the WTA Top 200 after a successful summer on the USTA Pro Circuit.
“I was going in with no pressure, no expectations, so I was just playing and I even surprised myself when I got to the finals,” said Anisimova, whose best previous junior result at a major came at 2016 Roland Garros where she was a finalist.
“It gave me a lot of confidence. I think my game really improved since then and I’m really proud of that accomplishment.”
Right now, Anisimova, who lives in Aventura, Florida, is concerned with the pending arrival of Hurricane Irma into South Florida.
“My grandparents are there, so my mom is going to fly there right now,” Anisimova said. “Yeah, they’re in an apartment on the ocean so it’s pretty bad.”
Anisimova will play eighth seed Olga Danilovic in the quarter-finals after the Serbian captured a 6-0 7-5 third-round win over Naho Sato of Japan.
American Elysia Bolton, who resides in nearby Cold Spring Harbor, New York, continued her run through the draw, beating her second straight seed in 15th seed Sofya Lansere of Russia 6-3 5-7 6-4.
Bolton plays Emiliana Arango of Colombia on Friday, who ended the run of wild card Kelly Chen’ 4-6 6-1 6-2.
The 17-year-old stepped to the baseline on Court 10 to serve out her third-round match in the US Open girls’ singles event for the second time in the third set.
She had already upset the second seed in the previous round, but failed to close out Lansere while serving up 5-2 in the third set.
“I’m not letting this one go,” said Bolton. “I’m going to do whatever I can to win this game. It’s not going to five-all.”
She was right, as the American advanced to the quarter-finals in a minute shy of two hours at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, where she trains throughout the year.
“I just want to keep thinking about the next match and not really revel in what I’ve done,” said Bolton. “I mean it’s great, but there’s still more tournament to go.”
Bolton still has plenty of tough competition to face, next playing 16-year-old Arango from Colombia, who has peaked as high as No 14 in the junior rankings in February.
Top Boys stay on track.
In the Boys singles, four American boys reached the third round, with two advancing to the quarter-finals, the 11th seed Oliver Crawford and DJ Thomas.
Thomas came back from a break down in the second set to oust qualifier George Loffhagen of Great Britain 6-1 7-6(5) and will take on unseeded Timofey Skatov of Russia in the quarters.
Skatova took out Ireland’s Simon Carr in the round of 16 in three sets, 7-5 2-6 6-1, in a match that lasted over two hours.
After losing the opening set, Carr broke his opponent three times to lead 5-2 and he levelled the tie on his third set point in the next game.
The momentum seemed to be with Carr when he broke Skatov early in the deciding set, but the latter broke back immediately and then went on to win the next five games to clinch his quarter-final berth.
The 17-year-old, who is the son of former Dublin footballer and manager Tommy Carr, has had an encouraging Grand Slam experience and is enjoying an eye-catching 2017 so far.
There were some solid performances in minor tournaments across Europe and his good form has seen him move into a highest-ever ranking of 905.
After his journey in New York, he can expect to advance even higher.
Crawford needed only 52 minutes to cruise past Uisung Park of Korea, 6-2 6-2, a welcome performance after two difficult three-setters earlier in the week.
“I had a tough first two rounds, didn’t play my best but managed to get through,” said the 18-year-old from South Carolina.
“I knew the more opportunities I could give myself, the better I could play and I did all right today.”
Crawford, who is a freshman at Florida and spent Wednesday night writing a paper that was due on Thursday, gives credit to the sideline coaching he is receiving from head coach Bryan Shelton.
“It’s obviously the first time I’ve ever had that and it’s obviously the first time they’ve ever done this at an ITF event,” Crawford said.
“He’s been a tremendous help, to get through these matches. He’s done a great job of keeping me cool, telling me some good key points that I wouldn’t have come up with on my own and figured out.
“Obviously it’s easier to figure out from the sidelines and with a coach like him, it’s even easier.
“It’s been a great help. In the first round, I went down a 3-0 early, a double break in the first set and he managed to help me figure out a few things.
“He said, let’s do this, this and try this, and it started paying off. I got it back to 4-3, got a break and won 6-4 in the first.”
Crawford’s opponent on Friday is No 2 seed Yibing Wu of China, whom he has never played before.
“I practiced with him once this week actually, but other than that, I don’t know much about him,” Crawford said. “I’ll ask a few people and see how it goes.”
The top seed, Argentinian Axel Geller, earned a straight-sets win over No 15 Duarte Vale, Crawford’s Florida teammate, to advance to the quarter-finals, 7-6(2) 6-2.
Geller, who was a finalist at Wimbledon and will be starting school at the University of Stanford after this weekend, converted on three of five break points.
In the quarter-finals, he will face unseeded Naoki Tajima of Japan, winner over Menelaou Efstathiou from Cyrpus, 6-0 6-7(1) 6-3.
Wu Yibing, the 2nd seed from China, who advanced to the quarter-finals at Wimbledon and the semi-finals at the Australian Open, beat Switzerland’s Jakub Paul, 6-3 7-5.
The 10th seed, Sebastian Baez of Argentina, defeated American wild card Trey Hilderbrand, 4-6 6-2 7-5, and will play Emil Ruusuvuori of Finland, who eliminated Sam Riffice, 4-6 6-4 6-2.