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Wimbledon Juniors | Gentleman Draper makes semis

Wimbledon Juniors | Gentleman Draper makes semis

Of the three British juniors reaching the quarter-finals, only one advanced at Junior Wimbledon on Day 10 of The Championships.

wimbledon.com proposed Jack Draper for the Gentleman of the Day award on Thursday when the Brit, who reached the semi-final of the boys’ event by defeating Italy’s Lorenzo Musetti 6-7(3) 6-3 6-1, checked on a ball girl at a crucial point in his match on Court 12.

As he prepared to receive a second serve on break point to win the second set and tie the match, Draper heard the ball girl slip and hit the ground hard behind him and, despite the importance of the moment, took time to check that she was OK.

He then won the point for the set, his quarter-final performance exasperating the Italian youngster, who received a warning for hitting a ball so hard and high out of court it had a chance of making Wimbledon village.

Draper is the first British boy to reach the Wimbledon boys semi-finals since Kyle Edmund in 2013, and he takes on Nicolas Meija, the 5th seed from Colombia, for a place in the finals against whom he lost last year on grass at Roehampton but won in November on clay at the Grade 1 in Yucatan.

The last British player to reach the final four was Kyle Edmund in 2013, but he lost to Italy’s Gianluigi Quinzi.

There has not been a British winner of the boys’ singles at Wimbledon since Stanley Matthews, son of the former England footballer of the same name, triumphed in 1962.

Former winners include Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Pat Cash, Stefan Edberg, Roger Federer, Gael Monfils, Grigor Dimitrov and Denis Shapovalov.

The 18-year-old Mejia defeated unseeded Gilbert Soares Klier Junior of Brazil 7-6(6) 7-5 to reach his first junior slam semi-final and is now 4-0 in tiebreaks this week.

The Boys’ top seed Chun Hsin Tseng from Chinese Taipei continues his charge through the singles draw, and next in his path is a Chinese opponent, Tao Mu, who has also reached the semis without dropping a set.

Tao, 18, has already gone further than any other Chinese boy has managed, by eliminating British wildcard Anton Matusevich, 7-5 6-1, and avenging a loss in the semi-finals of the Grade 1 last month in Belgium..

“It feels amazing,’’ he said. “I feel like I not only fight for myself, but also fight for China.

“I start really well and I play with him before two weeks and he beat me easy, like one and two. I just played him the right way today and I stay focused the whole time and keep aggressive.’’

Tao’s ranking was too low to gain Wimbledon entry last year, and in his first four majors he won a total of two matches, but the Chinese believes he has improved rapidly in the six month since shifting his training base to Palm Beach, Florida.

“It has helped my game. Physically and mentally. Fighting and focus,’’ said Tao before preparing to meet Tseng.

“I played him last year, October, at Hong Kong grade two, and I beat him, but it’s a hardcourt, this is grass. If I keep like focus like today, the entire time, still have chance.’’

Tseng beat the last American boy in the draw, Trey Hilderbrand, 6-2 6-4.

Hilderbrand struggled in the first set, but began to play better against the French Open boys champion in the second, going up a break at 4-3 after Tseng had taken a 40-0 lead in the game.

The American couldn’t find a first serve in the next game, and Tseng broke back with a return winner.

After he held for 5-4, Tseng denied Hilderbrand three game point and after three deuces, broke for the match with a forehand pass.

“He’s just really, really good from the baseline,” Hilderbrand said. “He’s got a pretty good serve, really good returns and he’s really quick and hits good passing shots. He’s really good at everything, to be honest.”

Hilderbrand said he was generally happy with the way he played, although his serving was compromised by a slight ab injury.

“I didn’t serve that well, and my ab is kind of starting to hurt again,” the 18-year-old said. “That really set me back in the match. My first serve wasn’t really clicking for me there. My ab kind of hurt me on every serve and it just wasn’t there for me.”

As Roland Garros finalists Cori Gauff and Caty McNally headed the list of quarter-final upsets in the Girls’ Singles draw at Wimbledon on Thursday, a first-time Grand Slam champion was guaranteed.

American juniors have had plenty of success at the Wimbledon Junior Championships in the past five years, and with Gauff and McNally in the draw, that figured to continue in 2018 but, instead of a rematch of the French final in Friday’s semi-finals, that contest will be between two first-time junior slam semi-finalists, the No 10 seed Xiyu Wang of China and qualifier Leonie Kung of Switzerland.

In fact, left in contention are two players, both with the surname Wang, from China, an unseeded Pole and a Swiss qualifier ranked No 509. No Americans at all.

Leonie Kung is the least likely semi-finalist in the quartet, a bubbly character who lives quietly on a horse farm in Switzerland, near the German border.

If a career as an equestrian would have been the more obvious path, she started playing tennis at the age of six, and was soon hooked.

The 17-year-old competes more at the ITF Futures level than in juniors, since finances are tight, and Kung rationalises that senior tennis is where she will end up eventually so it makes sense to take the more direct route.

“We also thought that playing already at a young age on the professional tour is good for you,’’ said Kung, who eliminated McNally 7-6(3) 7-5 for her third win over a top 13 player in four rounds.

“You learn a lot, you play against older women, you compete where you want to compete later.’’

This is just the second junior Grand Slam for the admirer of former junior Wimbledon champions Roger Federer and Martina Hingis.

Having failed to qualify at the French Open, she has already developed a fondness for grass.

“It’s nice and fast, I can play aggressive, if you have a good serve you can make a lot of aces, so you can get a lot of points there,’’ Kung said.

“I would say I like to play aggressive, but I can definitely play slices, play drop shots, play some high balls. I do everything, but mostly aggressive.

“I played a really good match. Caty played really really well, too, especially in the first set. She started leading 3-0 so I was kind of shocked there but I managed to get back and fight my way into the match.’’

McNally was unable to find much to fault in her own play: “I thought I played pretty well, honestly,” the 16-year-old said.

“She came up with some unbelievable shots, forehand squash shots on the run, winners down the line. I was pretty happy with how I played, I hit the ball really well.”

McNally served for the first set twice, at 5-4 and 6-5, and had two set points, but she couldn’t convert, and then fell behind 4-2 in the second set.

She got the break back and held for a 5-4 lead, but Kung held and broke and served out the match.

“It was a really good match honestly, and she just played a little better,” McNally said.

Kung had beaten McNally the previous two times they played this year, both in ITF Pro Circuit events, but she knew better than to take this match lightly.

It is special, given her lowly junior ranking, to be beating players rated so highly, and Kung has reached an unexpected semi-final against Chinese 10th seed Xiyu, who stunned third-seeded American prodigy Gauff in three close sets.

Wang, a 17-year-old left-hander, was down a set and a break, but she never stopped crushing the ball, and Gauff, who is not accustomed to being on defence, lost her 3-0 advantage.

With Wang serving at 4-5, Gauff earned a match point, but the Chinese hung in throughout a long rally and hit an overhead winner to save it.

Both girls held easily to get into the tiebreak, and Wang played a near perfect one, hitting the ball close to the lines and with great pace.

Gauff seemed rattled to start the third set, but she worked her way back into the match, getting to 4-all and then earning a break point with Wang serving in the ninth game, but Wang blasted a backhand that forced an error, got a net-cord winner and, on her second game point, hit another backhand winner to go up 5-4.

“I always believe that no matter what the score is, that I can come back,” Gauff said. “So I’m going to keep fighting whether I’m up 4-0 or down 4-0.”

Gauff did not get another opportunity as three errors saw her go down 0-40 serving at 4-5 and although sShe saved two of the match points, forcing an error and hitting a forehand winner, she went for a big second serve and hit it just wide to give Wang the win.

“There’s always matches like this, where someone is going to play out of their mind; that only happens a couple times a year, but unfortunately, it happened to me,” 14-year-old Gauff said with a laugh.

“But again, she played really well, the whole match, she just played solid tennis and I came up a little short. In our match, just one or two points made the difference, between me losing and me winning.”

Xiyu’s compatriot, the 4th-seeded Xinyu Wang, next plays Pole Iga Swiatek in the top half of the draw.

Swiatek of Poland continued rolling through the draw, beating Emma Raducanu of Great Britain 6-0 6-1 to reach her second consecutive junior slam semi-final.

This Wang had a long battle with unseeded Viktoriia Dema of Ukraine, with the two splitting tiebreaks, but the Chinese 4th seed took control with a break to go up 3-1 in the third, and closed out the 6-7(4) 7-6(4) 6-3 victory.

Swiatek and Wang played in January of 2017 at the Grade 1 in Traralgon Australian, with Wang winning 7-5 in the third.

About The Author

Barbara Wancke

Barbara Wancke is a Tennis Threads Tennis Correspondent who has been involved in the sport for over 40 years, not only as a former player, umpire and coach but primarily as an administrator and tennis writer contributing over the years to Lawn Tennis, Tennis World, and Tennis Today. She has worked with the Dunlop Sports Co, IMG and at the ITF as Director of Women’s Tennis, responsible, amongst other things, for the running of the Federation Cup (now Fed Cup), and acting as Technical Director for tennis at the Seoul Olympics (1988). She subsequently set up her own tennis consultancy Tennis Interlink and was elected to the Board of the TIA UK where she became the Executive Administrator and Executive Vice President until she stood down in July 2014 and is currently an Honorary Vice President.

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