US Open Juniors | Raducanu into the quarters as McHugh is delayed
Britain’s Emma Raducanu continued her fine run at the US Open Junior Girls’ Singles, while Aidan McHugh’s third round match was postponed to Friday due to the inclement weather.
Day 11 of the junior events in New York dawned with the postponement of play because the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature measurement taken at the US Open at 11:30 am exceeded 32.2 degrees Celsius, prompting the implementation of the Extreme Heat Policy for junior and wheelchair matches.
As the clock edged towards 1pm, only one match was on court at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and that was a men’s doubles semi-final on Louis Armstrong Stadium, while readings were being taken every half-hour to determine a drop in temperature so other matches could begin.
Used to rain delays, players were frustrated by the three-hour suspension due to extreme heat, an ITF policy that has been in effect all year, and when lightning later suspended play a only around three hours of play, 5 of the 16 matches had yet to be completed.
I won a $15,000 tournament in Israel and it was 45 degrees Celsius (113°F), It was hot but not humid. Emma Raducanu
Play did not resume until well after 3pm, when Emma Raducanu stormed into the Junior Girls’ quarter-finals with a 7-6(6) 6-1 victory over 14-seeded Qinwen Zheng of China and marking the second time the British right-hander has reached a Grand Slam quarters, matching her best result at Wimbledon earlier this summer.
The scorching weather did nothing to deter the 15-year old Londoner’s progress, who has played and won in hotter conditions.
“I won a $15,000 tournament in Israel and it was 45 degrees Celsius (113°F),” Raducanu said. “It was hot but not humid.”
Humidity along with high heat has been the hallmark of this year’s US Open, until early Thursday evening when storms and rain halted the junior competition being held on the outside courts at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Raducanu began her US Open Juniors campaign with a convincing win over Margaryta Bilokin of Ukraine, before knocking off the 2nd-seeded American, Alexa Noel.
She was unseeded here in New York because she had not won enough points at the higher level Grade A and Grade 1 Junior tournaments, but when she did play, she dominated.
“This is only my seventh junior tournament this year”, she said, “I’ve had a great season.”
She won her first four junior events, two in India, one in Moldova and one in Lithuania, and then decided to play professional events.
“I was a bit shocked because it wasn’t like the juniors,” Raducanu said of the $15,000 Women’s tournaments she played.
After losing in qualifying in her first event, she won five matches, counting qualifying, to reach the quarter-finals in Nanjing, China and won her next tournament, in the heat, in Tiberias, Israel.
Then came a wild card entry into the USD $100,000 grass court event in Manchester, a huge step up in talent.
“It was great to see the level of top players,” she said about her first-round loss.
After that, it was back to the juniors for Raducanu, reaching the second round at Roland Garros and the quarter-finals at the next two Grand Slams.
On Thursday Zheng led 5-3 40-15 as a lethargic Raducanu struggled to find her true form when play eventually started.
She also trailed 5-3 in the tiebreak before winning 5 of the next 6 points, then racing through the second set. to secure her place in the quarters.
A year ago, Cori Gauff made waves by becoming the youngest-ever girls’ singles finalist at the US Open and is looking to go one further.
The American top seed defeated Russia’s Oksana Selekhmeteva, 6-3 6-0, on Thursday to reach her appointed quarter-final spot.
Gauff was down 2-0 to start the match but, by the end, she was coming into the net often, winning 11 of 13 points at the net.
“Pretty much everyone at USTA and my dad, everyone basically who watches me play, agrees that I should be going in more,” said the 14-year-old Gauff.
“There’s time when I finish into the court but decide to move back. It’s not because my volleys aren’t good–in doubles my volleys are good–I just haven’t been used to playing that way.
“Sometimes when I have the lead I try to come in more and, today, she’s not a heavy hitter, I would say, likes to chip and slice, and it’s easy to put that away because there’s no pace behind it…the first three points I went to the net I won, so I just kept coming in, just because I was winning them.”
This year’s Roland Garros Girls’ Singles winner and Junior World No 2 buckled down to advance after just 58 minutes.
“First game I made a lot of unforced errors. I think I missed all the returns except the last point. When I lost my serve, it was just errors. So once I figured that out, I stopped making easy errors and started putting the ball in play and started to realise that she’s not really doing much to hurt me,” Gauff said.
“She’s just trying to change the pace of the rally, she was throwing in some slices and trying to slice and blast. I was just staying solid from the ground.”
It paid off for the 14-year-old, who has not yet dropped a set in the tournament.
She will next face 15-year-old Ukrainian Dasha Lopatetskaya, who beat Gauff at the 2017 Les Petits As in a third-set tiebreak, and defeated America’s Elizabeth Mandlik, 7-5 6-4, on Thursday.
While No 5 seed Maria Camila Osorio Serrano from Colombia battled past Japan’s Moyuka Uchijima, 3-6 6-2 6-4, another top seed was not so lucky, the 9th-seeded Naho Sato ousting the No 5 seed Caty McNally, 7-5 6-4, in an hour, 29 minutes.
The No 11 seed, Clara Burel of France, downed Violet Apisah of Papua New Guinea 6-4 2-6 6-1 to become Raducanu’s next opponent for a place in the semi-finals.
Lea Ma, the No 16 seed, was trailing No 3 seed Xiyu Wang of China 6-1 4-0 when play was suspended.
In Boys’ play, Chun Hsin Tseng of Chinese Taipei remains on track to win the title, beating Poland’s Wojciech Marek 6-2 6-3.
The top seed progressed with few problems, breezing into the quarter-finals in exactly an hour.
“I think I was playing really good today. I was playing aggressive and pushing him in a rhythm. I think I played a great match,” Tseng said.
“I think I’ll just focus on the court and keep doing my best tennis and enjoy it on the court.”
This year’s Roland Garros and Wimbledon Boys’ Singles champion lost just 2 first-serve points in the match, and just 7 points on his serve overall.
He will hope to keep it up against Giulio Zeppieri, the Italian qualifier who beat Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic 6-4 6-1.
“I think my serve is improving a lot,” Tseng said. “It’s helped my game a lot to make it easier to win a match and keeping my service games easier to compete with better players.”
Many eyes will be on another quarter-final on Friday, as Americans Brandon Nakashima and Jenson Brooksby will meet in a rematch of this year’s USTA Boys’ 18s National Championships final, won by Brooksby.
“Just trying to stay focused on one match at a time, especially tomorrow, it’ll be a really tough opponent,” Nakashima said. “I feel like I’m playing well and I feel like I have a good shot tomorrow.”
Nakashima will hope to stay in the form he displayed on Court 17, as the No 14 seed upset the 3rd-seeded Hugo Gaston of France, 6-1 6-2, having little trouble against the 2017 Orange Bowl champion and breaking 5 times on the way.
“I feel like I played really well today,” Nakashima said. “I played to my strengths really well and was moving the ball around and serving well, which obviously helped during my service games.”
His next opponent, Brooksby, ousted Henry Von Der Schulenburg from Switzerland, 7-5 6-2, in 79 minutes.
Brooksby will look to capitalise on the confidence he gained against Nakashima earlier this year, not dropping a set in the Kalamazoo final or against his countryman at the Easter Bowl.
“I felt like I was playing well and I wasn’t focusing too much on how he was playing,” said Nakashima, a 17-year-old from San Diego.
“I saw he took that medical timeout [after losing his serve to go down 1-0 in the second set], but I wasn’t really too sure what was going on.”
Nakashima was able to come up with some big serves when he was down break points, while Gaston, who got only 41 percent of his first serves in during the opening, was constantly under pressure when serving.
“It was definitely different from my opponent yesterday,” said Nakashima, who had 4 aces and no double faults.
“I knew I was going to be in a lot of the return games and I knew I just had to focus on my serve. I had to hit my targets well, just keep playing my game.”
Brooksby fell behind early against qualifier Henry Von Der Schulenburg of Switzerland, who served for the first set at 5-4, but the 17-year-old from Sacramento won a marathon game with the Swiss serving at 5-6, and held that momentum throughout the second set for a 7-5 6-2 win.
“He had three or four game points, I had three or four break points, that was a long game,” said Brooksby, who finished only about ten minutes before play was suspended for the day.
“He had some good serves, but I was able to find some good returns in that game to break.”
“I started playing better, following my strategy well in the second,” added Brooksby.
“I got an early break also, so I was able to play looser. I played pretty well overall in the second set.”
The third of the American boys in the round of 16, New Yorker Cannon Kingsley, lost the final 11 games of his match with Lorenzo Musetti in a 3-6 6-3 6-0 victory for the Italian.
The quarter-finals of doubles were scheduled for Thursday, but all eight matches were postponed until Friday, which sees the completion of matches suspended due to storms in the afternoon, with Boys’ fourth seed Nicolas Mejia of Colombia looking to match the success of his compatriot Osorio Serrano; and Girls’ third seed Xiyu Wang hoping to become the first Chinese girl to ever make the quarter-finals in Flushing Meadows.
Also in the mix is Aidan McHugh, who is 6-4 3-0 down to the 6th-seed from Brazil Thiago Seyboth Wild when play resumes on Friday.
For those who win their matches, they will need to be back on court later in the day as the full round of quarter-finals is also scheduled to be played.