U.S. National Champions Advance to Singles Semifinals; Hunt-Schnugg and Jenkins-Krajicek Earn Doubles Semifinal Spots
©Colette Lewis 2006
USTA girls 18s champion Lauren Albanese and two-time boys 18s winner Donald Young are putting the experience gained in the main draw of the US Open last week to good use in this week's junior championships. Albanese defeated unseeded Petra Martic of Croatia 6-4, 6-4 in their quarterfinal match Thursday afternoon, while Young, the fourth seed, defeated 11th seed Pavel Chekhov of Russia 7-6 (1), 6-3.
Partly cloudy skies and temperatures reaching the low 80s produced ideal playing conditions at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Friday, with only an occasional swirling breeze giving the players any concern.
Young drew a large crowd for his 11 a.m. match on Court 11, with many fans stopping by prior to the start of the women's semifinals to get a glimpse of the well-known teenage prodigy. Young didn't disappoint, showing his soft hands on his frequent trips to the net as well as his ability to blunt the power of Chekhov's serve and forehand.
"I had to come in to beat him," Young said. "If I didn't come in, he would have got me, would have won those points." The 17-year-old from Atlanta didn't lose his serve in the match, didn't face a break point until the first game of the second set, and made his one break of Chekhov's serve at the most opportune time--3-4 in the second. "I got a little nervous (at break point)," Young said. "My backhand hit the net and barely went over. It was actually a better shot than normal, because it made him come forward and chip it." Chekhov was thrown off when Young's shot clipped the tape and netted the reply, giving Young a chance to consider his loss in the US Open Junior last year as he stepped to the line to serve it out.
"Last year in the quarterfinals I was serving for the match at 6-5, 30-15, and I got really tight," Young said. "I lost that game and continued to lose the match (in a third set tiebreak), and I was determined not to let that happen this time."
Young's semifinal opponent will be unseeded Peter Polansky of Canada, a 7-6 (9), 6-1 winner over 12th seed Roman Jebavy of the Czech Republic. Polansky couldn't hold an early break but played a determined tiebreak. Down two set points at 6-4, Polansky hit two winners to tie it, then garnered a set point of his own, but Jebavy denied him there and two more times before a doublefault at 9-9 sealed his fate. It was then that Jebavy began to unravel. Although he angrily smashed his racquet to the court after the first set was over, twice, he did not receive a code violation, much to the visible dismay of Polansky's coach. But Polansky wasn't distracted by the display of temper.
"It kind of made me happy," said Polansky, 18. "I knew he was getting mad, and he's either going to start going for his shots more and missing them or go into the semi-tank mode. He kind of stayed with it, but he wasn't the same as in the first set."
When he was broken in the first game of the second set, Jebavy bounced a ball out of the stadium and was given a point penalty for ball abuse, and Polansky could relax and play his game, surrendering the sole game when serving for the match at 5-0.
The other boys' semifinal will see Dusan Lojda of the Czech Republic against Croatia's Luka Belic. Tenth seeded Lojda quickly eliminated qualifier Artem Smirnov of the Ukraine 6-2, 6-2, while Belic took down the No. 2 seed, Jonathan Eysseric of France 6-4, 6-4. Belic, the ninth seed, avenged his 2006 Italian Open semifinal loss to Eysseric, and even their friendship didn't keep him from celebrating the win by falling to the court and bellowing with joy.
"Tennis is tennis," said the 17-year-old right-hander. "On the court he is not a good friend." Belic admitted he was nervous after breaking Eysseric at 4-4 in the second set, when at ad out, the Croatian somehow retrieved a sure winner from six feet behind the baseline and put the dipping forehand at the feet of the startled Frenchman. In the final game, Belic surprised Eysseric, serving and volleying to get to match point, but it looked as if Eysseric would pull it to deuce when Belic's effort in retrieving produced a shot weakly hanging in the air. "I was shaking on match point," Belic admitted, but it was Eysseric that blinked, catching the tape with his easy overhead smash.
On the girls side, Albanese string of impressive wins continues, and against Martic, Albanese was firmly in control from the outset.
"I didn't know who she was," Albanese said of the 15-year-old from Split. "I played exactly the way I needed to. I didn't go for too much, but at the right times I did go for my shots."
Albanese, who turns 17 next month, broke Martic in the first game of the match, and served well enough to make it stand up. In the second set Albanese also took a 2-0 lead, but this time the slim Croatian broke back, the only service game the Floridian lost. Trailing 3-2 on serve, Albanese stepped up the pressure and got the break she needed in the seventh game and squealed with delight when she served it out to reach her first Grand Slam semifinal.
"I expected to do well here," said Albanese of the US Open junior championships, "and there is kind of a pressure to do well since I won a match last week (in the women's main draw). But I think it's really good that I've shown that I am still able to win on the juniors."
Her opponent on Saturday is 11th seed Tamira Paszek of Austria, who rolled over Sacha Jones of New Zealand 6-1, 6-2. The other semifinal will find top seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia facing unseeded Katerina Vankova of the Czech Republic. Both struggled Friday, but advanced. Pavlyuchenkova defeated 10th seed Raluca Olaru of Romanian in a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 contest that took over two and a half hours to complete. Vankova upset 13th seed Sharon Fichman of Canada 6-4, 1-6, 6-3.
Four U.S. doubles teams played quarterfinal matches late into the evening on Friday, with two boys teams advancing, while both girls teams were eliminated. Jamie Hunt and Nate Schnugg came from behind to take a 2-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 victory over second seeds Chekhov and Petru-Alexandru Luncanu of Romania, winning the final four games of the match.
Jarmere Jenkins and Austin Krajicek used their familiar third-set tiebreak strategy to eliminate Roberto Maytin of Venezuela and Rupesh Roy of India, also unseeded, 6-7 (6), 6-4, 7-6 (5). It was the third consecutive match they've won by that barest of margins. They are in the upper half of the draw, so an All-American doubles final is a possibility.
In girls doubles play, Chelsey Gullickson and Jamie Hampton lost to the top-seeded team of Fichman and Pavlyuchenkova 6-3, 1-6, 6-1, while Kristy Frilling and Ashley Weinhold were beaten by the second seeded Romanian team of Mihaela Buzarnescu and Olaru 6-4, 6-1. Lena Litvak of the U.S. and her partner Sacha Jones, also were eliminated in the quarterfinals on Friday.
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