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Friday, September 7, 2007

Both No. 1 seeds and Americans Missing From Final Weekend

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

It's my fourth US Open Junior Championship, but it is the first one that I had no American boys to watch on Friday. In 2004, Sam Querrey and Scoville Jenkins were in the quarterfinals in singles, in 2005 Tim Smyczek and Donald Young, and last year Young reached the semifinals. But on this Friday, only Lauren Albanese in singles and Kristy Frilling and Asia Muhammmed in doubles remained of the Americans, and both lost, in distinctly different fashions.

Floridian Lauren Albanese, the No. 8 seed, faced a difficult opponent in No. 2 seed Urszula Radwanska, the Wimbledon Junior Champion, and her task was made more challenging by an illness. After double faulting twice in succession to open the match, it was clear that she was not in good health, and although she got that break back immediately, it was the only game she would win. At the 4-1 changeover, a trainer was called to the court, but there was no improvement. After Albanese lost the next two games and the set, the trainer reappeared, but after Radwanska held to take a 1-0 lead in the second Albanese retired. Jean Nachand, the USTA's Director of Women's Tennis, spoke to Albanese after the match and relayed that she was suffering from a viral illness, was having difficulty breathing and was experiencing pains in the back of her head.

Frilling and Muhammed were experiencing psychic pain after their 7-6(8), 7-6(4) loss to the No. 2 seeded team of Ksenia Milevskaya and Radwanska as the sun set on Friday. As the disappointed fans filed out of Arthur Ashe Stadium after Venus Williams' semifinal loss to Justine Henin, several hundred found their way to Court 7, hungry for more good tennis and hoping for a win for the U.S. team. They got the first, but not the second, as Milevskaya and Radwanska, the French Junior Champions this year, used their extensive Grand Slam experience to lock up both tiebreakers.

"I think we got nervous and tentative at the really important time," said a visibly disappointed Frilling. "We didn't take our opportunities," said Muhammed, who also wiped away a few tears as she came off the court. "I think that was the difference in both of the tiebreakers."

It looked as if a third set would extend the match past dark when Milevskaya was broken at 5-5 in the second set, but Muhammed missed a volley at 30-30 and Radwanska pummeled a forehand winner to force a tiebreak instead. Milevskaya and Radwanska raced out to a 6-1 lead, but Frilling and Muhammed fought off three match points before Milevskaya finally stroked a perfect lob to end it.

Playing together for the first time, Frilling and Muhammed meshed immediately, defeating the No. 4 and No. 5 seeded teams on their way to the semifinals. Muhammed's net skills and Frilling's solid returning proved to be a formidable pairing, and they plan on teaming up again as their schedules allow.

Although the Americans were shut out of weekend play, not so the Italians and the Poles. Along with Radwanska, a singles semifinalist and doubles finalists, Poland can claim a boys singles semifinalist in 16-year-old Jerzy Janowicz, who upset No. 5 seed Greg Jones 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-3. The tall, thin Janowicz packs a heavy serve and forehand and he used the latter effectively to pass the Australian on his forays to the net. Unseeded, Janowicz is one of the few winners who seemed overjoyed to reach the semifinals and he demonstrated it by falling on his back and kicking his legs in delight after passing Jones at net on his first match point. He then tossed his cap high in the air and bounded to the net for the handshake.

As for the Italians, two boys made the semifinals, one expected--No. 3 seed Matteo Trevisan--and one unexpected--No. 11 seed Thomas Fabbiano. Trevisan dispatched unseeded Daniel Evans of Great Britain 6-4, 7-5, despite difficulties with a ribcage area muscle pull that had him wincing in pain as he blasted shots from the baseline.

Fabbiano took out No. 1 seed Vlad Ignatic, the 2007 Roland Garros Junior Champion 6-4, 6-2, using a very effective forehand and impressive quickness while Ignatic chipped in with a rash of errors.

"His shots are very heavy," said Fabbiano, who had dropped a 10-8 championship tiebreak to Ignatic at Wimbledon this year. "So I didn't try just to keep shots in; I tried to give him pressure, and it was not so difficult today, because he made many mistakes."

Fabbiano must beat Janowicz and Trevisan needs a victory over No. 15 seed Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania, a 6-4, 6-3 winner over No. 8 seed Roman Jevaby of the Czech Republic, to set up an all-Italian boys final.

"I would like to go in the final and play against him," said Fabbiano. "Not because he is him, but because I like how he plays. My dream now is to be in the final against him, and for Italy to be the best."

Ignatic had company in defeat on Friday, when No.1 girls seed and defending champion Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova was upset by Kristina Kucova of Slovakia 7-5, 6-1. Kucova, who hits two-handed on both sides, had her own version of the J-Block--call them the K-Block--cheering her on.

"I didn't know them before," said Kucova of the 20 or so Slovakians living in New York who were vocally demonstrating their support throughout the match. "They come every day from the first match, doubles and singles. I just know them from here."

Kucova acknowledged a lift from their encouragement, but she was confident coming into the match, as she had dismissed Pavlyuchenkova from the Wimbledon juniors last year in the first round.

"She's a good player, but I believed I could win because I won last year. So I just was thinking on every point and just concentrating."

Kucova will face another unseeded semifinalist in Oksana Kalashnikova of Georgia who took out Sacha Jones of New Zealand 1-6, 6-2, 6-3. Jones had a 2-0 lead in the second set when Kalashnikova caught fire, winning eight games in a row. Jones finally stemmed the tide when she broke and held for 2-2, but Kalashnikova, who just turned 17 and stands over six feet tall reapplied herself to book her spot in the semifinals.

The other girls semifinal will pit doubles partners Milevskaya, of Belarus, and Radwanska. No. 7 seed Milevskaya used her vast array of shots to blunt the power of unseeded Jessica Moore of Australia 7-6 (5), 6-2. Moore never looked comfortable and was unable to find her rhythm against the wily Milevskaya, who has now reached the semifinals of three junior Grand Slams this year.

After their singles contest, Milevskaya and Radwanska will take the same side of the court against Kalashnikova and her partner, Ksenia Lykina of Russia, the No. 3 seeds, to decide the doubles champions for 2007. Kalashnikova and Lykina eliminated the unseeded Japanese team of Misaki Doi and Kurumi Nara 6-2, 6-4.

The boys doubles championship will also be without its top seeded team. No. 1 seeds Ignatic and Jebavy were felled by the French pairing of Jonathan Eysseric and Jerome Inzerillo, seeded sixth, 7-6 (2), 6-4. Eysseric and Inzerillo will meet the unseeded tandem of Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Vasek Pospisil of Canada. Dimitrov and Pospisil advanced when Jones and partner Stephen Donald, the No. 2 seeds, retired trailing 4-0 due to a Jones muscle strain.
For complete draws, see usopen.org.


Anonymous said...

collete vlad ignatic was the 2007 french open junior champ

Colette Lewis said...

Thanks for noticing the typo; I've corrected it.

AndrewD said...


Which of the juniors, boys and girls, do you think is ready to make an impression on, or just ready for, the pro tour?

Colette Lewis said...

I wish I was better at predicting pro success (although I will pat myself on the back for answering 'yes' when I was asked this spring whether I thought John Isner would have an impact at the pro level). Take last year's girls Jr. USO final, for example. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated Tamira Paszek in three sets. A year later Pavlyuchenkova wins one qualifying match and three junior matches, while Paszek takes out Schiavone and Schnyder en route to the fourth round and now is ranked in the WTA's top 40. I wish I could say I saw that coming, but I didn't observe any differences in their games that would account for those diverging results.

I'm impressed by Ksenia Milevskaya's game, I think Jonathan Eysseric is loaded with talent and Berankis has solid pro prospects. Fortunately, my livelihood doesn't depend on those predictions. But thanks for asking.