©Colette Lewis 2006--
First a housekeeping note:
There’s been a change in personnel at Smash/Tennis online, and it appears the column that I wrote on Monday is a casualty of that upheaval. I hope it will get posted before the end of the week, because it’s not going to be very timely beyond Friday, but it’s out of my control.
Now that the field is set (at least until the next withdrawal and the possible special exempts from the Canadian Open), it’s a good time to preview the US Open juniors. Unfortunately, unlike Kalamazoo or the US Open, the draw isn't available, and won't be until Saturday, if I remember correctly.
The most obvious observation is that the girls field is much stronger than the boys this year, with all three of the 2006 Grand Slam junior champions entered for the girls, but only one for the boys. France’s Alexandre Sidorenko, the Australian winner, and the Netherland’s Thiemo De Bakker, the Wimbledon champion, have decided to skip New York for lower-level men’s events, leaving only Martin Klizan of the Slovak Republic, who was something of an unknown before he took the French boys’ title.
The girls have the Australian Open champion and ITF No. 1-ranked Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia, Agnieszka Radwanska, the Polish star, who won the French girls title in 2006 to go with her 2005 Wimbledon junior title, and Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki, the winner of the 2006 Wimbledon and 2005 Orange Bowl titles.
The 17-year-old Radwanska easily qualified for the US Open main draw, and if she has a win or two, ala Andy Murray at Wimbledon last year, she may not stay in the junior draw. With a WTA ranking of 129 and a win over Pavlyuchenkova in the French finals, she's certainly the favorite. As for the U.S. girls, Lauren Albanese, who lost in the second round in the Australia juniors, the first round at Roland Garros and didn't play Wimbledon, has had a terrific summer--her win in the first round of the main draw Monday is a testament to that. She won't be seeded however, nor will Ashley Weinhold, who also has had an excellent two months on the Futures circuit and won two rounds of qualifying at the Open last week, which means that they are at the mercy of the draw gods.
Alexa Glatch, a finalist last year in New York, may get a seed based on her ATP ranking of 323, but she doesn't appear to be match-tough and last won a match on any level back in early July. Julia Cohen, at no. 7 the only U.S. girl in the ITF Top 30, lost early in San Jose at the Girls 18s National and in the second round in the French and Wimbledon juniors this year.
For the boys, who have seen six of the last seven junior Grand Slam singles champions come the the ranks of the unseeded, there are no clear favorites. Klizan favors clay, as does Jonathan Eysseric of France, the Italian Open winner this year. Eysseric is only 16 and may be a year away from challenging for the title, but Kei Nishikori of Japan, who will be 17 in December, is a threat now, as is, of course, Donald Young.
As for the unseeded player most likely to imitate Ryan Sweeting's performance this year, I nominate Philip Bester of Canada, who was an improbable finalist at Roland Garros in June. Bester, whose game is much more suited to fast courts, had a disappointing grass season, but as long as he doesn't draw Young, who beat him last year in the first round of the juniors in New York, I think he'll be a factor. And look out for another Canadian, Peter Polansky, who yesterday destroyed ITF no. 9 Sanam Singh of India 2 and 0 in the Canadian Open. Polansky was seriously injured in a sleepwalking incident this spring, but his results suggest he is fully recovered, and if he wins Thursday, he might grab one of those precious special exemptions that will keep him from having to qualify. Sidorenko did that in the Grade 1 leading up to the Australian Juniors this year, so there's precedent. The Czech Republic's Dusan Lojda, with a 621 ATP ranking, will be a tough out, as will Mike McClune, who is looking for his first win in New York, having lost to Marin Cilic in his initial appearance there last year.
If hotels weren't so expensive in New York, I'd be there for qualifying. If there are any readers who want to report on the qualifying, consider this your invitation. I know Marcia Frost of collegeandjuniortennis.com will be there.