Wimbledon Day 11 | All American girls’ final after Lui and Li win semis
America’s drought at junior Wimbledon is set to come to an end on Saturday when two girls from the United States will meet in the final in what could prove be an umpire’s calling nightmare.
Despite the departure of the top two seeds, also American, such is the depth of girls’ tennis in that country that two more can come through a draw of the world’s best, who gathered on the lawns of the All England Lawn Tennis Club at the start of the second week of The Championships.
I'm going to make sure I move a lot, because that kind of helps me when I'm nervous Ann Li
When 17-year-olds Claire Liu and Ann Li meet for the title, the winner will become the first American girl since Chanda Rubin in 1992 to claim the winner’s trophy.
French Open finalist Liu, the No 3 seed, was one of the favourites coming into the tournament, and her efficient 6-1 6-3 win over unseeded Sofya Lansere was anticipated.
Unseeded Li, however, is the surprise finalist, having won her first junior Grand Slam match in the opening round on Saturday, but she continued her impressive run on Friday, beating Simona Waltert of Switzerland 7-6(4) 6-1 to earn her first meeting with Liu.
The two have never met before, since Li, considered the pretender, was born in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, while Liu hails Thousand Oaks, California, some world’s apart.
It will be Liu’s second consecutive appearance in a Grand Slam final, having lost at Roland Garros, some felt a little unfortunately, to her compatriot Whitney Osuigwe.
She has been winning significant titles on the international junior circuit since she was 11 years old, while Li only began competing internationally last year.
“We don’t really play that many of the same tournaments,” said Liu, who is playing in her third Wimbledon Junior Championships and has been competing on the ITF Pro Circuit since 2014.
“But we’re both in the final, which is amazing.”
Liu, who won the Roehampton Grade 1 last week, felt that she needed to put Sofya Lansere in a defensive position from the outset in their match on Court 18.
She proved to be the more comfortable winner in her semi-final, beating the Russian girl who had vanquished Osuigwe, 6-1 6-3.
“I wanted, in the beginning of the match, to put a lot of pressure on her,” said Liu, who won 19 of 26 points at the net.
“I wanted to take any chances I had to come to the net, not hesitate.
“I think I did that really well and that kind of got her off balance, and I think she started to rush a little bit and started to go for more than she wanted to, and I think that’s what gave me a lot of the errors. Mixed with the nerves, that’s why she missed a lot.”
While the first set was all Liu, Lansere began to play better in the second set, but she couldn’t match the Californian’s consistency.
“She started to calm down a little bit and hit some unbelievable shots, but I kept trying to keep the pressure on and that helped me,” Liu added.
Liu acknowledges that she has an edge in experience, having played in the French Open girls final just last month, although she hasn’t any more familiarity with Wimbledon’s No 1 Court, where the final is yto be played, than Li has.
Martina Hingis was courtside supporting the young Swiss, Simona Wallert, against Li, but both girls looked nervous and made more unforced errors than they hit winners.
Ultimately, Wallert’s mistakes told against her, her nine winners well and truly wiped out by 34 unforced errors as she lost 7-6(4) 6-1.
Li is hoping that her game is more suited to grass than Lui’s, crediting her energy as a major factor in her quarter-final upset of top seed Kayla Day, but against Waltert, she cited a different quality.
“I could feel the nerves from her and I was nervous too, but I think I just stayed more composed,” Li said.
Li lost her 4-2 lead in the opening set, but was able to rebound in the tie break, refusing to give in to frustration.
“I think it was, again, staying composed,” Li said.
“Because we both had a couple of bad misses, but I just tried to keep the points tight, make my shots deep so she can’t attack.”
Waltert double faulted twice in the tie break, including on set point, and her unforced error count, which totalled 34, helped Li take a 5-1 lead in the second set.
Another Waltert double fault gave Li a match point, but she missed a forehand.
A backhand winner gave Li a second match point and Waltert’s wide forehand gave Li the victory and the first all-American Wimbledon girls final since Mary Lou Piatek defeated Alysia Moulton in 1979.
Li, who said she is ‘loving it’ this week at Wimbledon, is planning to keep her focus on the match, not the atmosphere, during Saturday’s final.
“I’m going to make sure I move a lot, because that kind of helps me when I’m nervous,” said Li, who can be seen jogging in place as she waits to return serve in most situations.
“But I know she has experience, and she might have a little bit of an advantage, but I’ll try to hang in there.”
Liu will not repeat as girls doubles champion after Friday’s quarter-finals.
She and Taylor Johnson, the No 2 seeds, were beaten by Sofia Sewing and Mexico’s Maria Portillo Ramirez 6-4 6-4.
Sewing and Portillo will face another unseeded team, Kaja Juvan of Slovenia and Olga Danilovic of Serbia, in Saturday’s semi-finals.
The other girls doubles semi-final will feature No.1 seeds Carson Branstine of Canada and Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine against No 4 seeds Whitney Osuigwe and Caty McNally.
McNally and Osuigwe beat Violet Apisah of Papua New Guinea and Astrid Brune Olsen of Norway 6-3 7-6(2), while Branstine and Kostyuk came back for a 4-6 6-4 6-3 win over No 8 seeds Emiliana Arango of Colombia and Ellie Douglas.
Branstine won the Australian and French Open girls doubles title, so is trying to keep her hopes for a Grand Slam alive in Saturday’s semis.
Junior draws are available at www.wimbledon.com
Top boy sails into semi-finals
Still a round behind, the boys played out their quarter-finals on Friday with some big names courtside.
The unseeded American Patrick Kypson was watched by the 1972 Wimbledon champion Stan Smith, who has confirmed he will be in his corner again on Saturday when Kypson faces the blonde Spaniard of Russian extraction, Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in the semi-final.
After two marathon matches in the second and third rounds, Kypson was relieved to score a win, 6-2 6-1, in just 47 minutes, as the Czech, Michael Vrbensky’s unforced errors piled up.
“He’s a good player and I played well today,” Kypson said. “He might have helped me out a little at the end there, but I’m happy.”
Kypson, whose shoulder injury led him to retire from his second round match at Roehampton last week, said he has healed to the point where his serve, his biggest weapon. is now responsible for his results in his last two matches.
“The last two days my serve has helped me a lot,” Kypson said.
“I think for sure yesterday without my serve I would have been toast. From the ground it was rough yesterday, but I had my serve to keep me alive in that third set and I was able to finish it off.”
The 17-year-old from North Carolina is enjoying himself on the grass, a surface on which he has never played before Roehampton last week.
Kypson’s opponent in the semi-finals is No 8 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina from Spain, who took out the second-seeded Yibing Wu of China, 6-2 6-4.
Davidovich, who reached the semi-finals of the French Open last month and two Futures finals at $25,000 ITF Men’s events in Spain in between, has yet to lose a set this week.
“I think Davidovich has a lot of confidence right now,” Kypson said.
“I know he had some good results in $25Ks in Spain, finalled back to back, so he’s playing at a high level and he’s beating players that are playing at a high level, which gives you confidence; so it’s going to be a tough match.”
The Spaniard had an excellent win against the second seed, but the scoreline disguised a tough match in which Wu had 11 break points to Davidovich Fokin’s 10, but only converted one.
Feeling comfortable on the grass, Davidovich Fokina went for his shots, hitting twice as many winners but when Wu saved three match points at 5-4, it tested his patience.
“I said to myself, ‘You do it now or you go home’,” Davidovich said.
The other semi-final will be contested by the No 1 seed Corentin Moutet, of France, who has cruised through the draw without the loss of a set, and the dangerous unseeded Argentina Axel Geller, who has been playing almost exclusively junior matches this year.
Moutet won 6-2 6-4 against Austria’s Jurij Rodionov, while Geller beat another Frenchman, Matteo Martineau, 6-3 7-5.
Yet another American, Sebastian Korda, and his partner Nicolas Mejia of Colombia advanced to the semi-finals with a win over Toru Horie and Yuta Shimizu of Japan 1-6 6-3 6-2.
The Roehampton champions took out the top seeds in the opening round and will now face the third-seeded pair of Rodionov and Vrbensky on Saturday.
No 2 seeds Geller and Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan defeated Menelaos Efstathiou of Cyprus and Ryan Nijboer of the Netherlands 6-2 6-1 and will meet unseeded Blake Ellis of Australia and Martineau, who beat Yshai Oliel of Israel and Andrew Fenty 6-3 6-2.
Junior draws are available at www.wimbledon.com