©Colette Lewis 2009--
Flushing Meadows, NY--
The cool temperatures and gusty winds at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center were a constant reminder Thursday that summer is drawing to a close, but seven American juniors aren't quite ready to leave New York and head back to school.
Chase Buchanan, Denis Kudla, Raymond Sarmiento, Lauren Davis and Beatrice Capra have reached the singles quarterfinals, while Matt Kandath and Jack Sock will play Friday for a spot in the boys doubles final.
Buchanan was the only player to get through in two sets, with the 18-year-old wild card defeating Marton Fucsovics of Hungary 6-2, 6-3.
"It was very bad conditions, but it really didn't affect me at all," Buchanan said. "It's not easy to play in that kind of wind. I served really good--I don't think he had a break point all match."
Buchanan reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open juniors last year, losing to champion Grigor Dimitrov, so he is hoping to improve on that showing this year. His opponent Friday is top seed Yuki Bhambri of India, who has yet to lose a set in the tournament and on Thursday defeated wild card Jack Sock of the U.S. 6-4, 6-3. Bhambri beat Buchanan two years ago in the US Open junior qualifying, the only time they have played.
"He's a solid player, he doesn't make a lot of mistakes," Buchanan said of Bhambri. "He's the kind of player who sticks around, puts a ton of balls in the court. He's a smart player, he's good. It'll be a tough match."
Kudla reached his first junior slam quarterfinal with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over Arthur De Greef of Belgium. Kudla, who admitted to being thrilled with the result, used his experience in Kalamazoo against Ryan Lipman to avoid a loss.
"Even though I lost the first set, I had plenty of chances to break serve," Kudla said. "It took me back to Kalamazoo, when I played Ryan Lipman it was 6-4, really close, and then I ended up losing the second 6-0. And my coach said you should have stayed with things; you did everything right, it was just a couple of points...so that's what I had in my mind, and it worked."
Kudla admitted that handling his nerves in the final game was a challenge, but he drew from lessons taught him by Melanie Oudin this week.
"They all say the reason that she's winning so much is that she's not afraid to win, she's not afraid of the moment, and that's something that's hurt me in the last few months in big matches. So I thought this was my chance to prove myself."
Kudla drew on his improved serve for an assist, hitting an ace at 5-4 30-30, and then seized his first match point with a backhand winner down the line.
Across the net from Kudla in the quarterfinals will be No 8 seed Gianni Mina of France, the French Open finalist this year.
"It should be a good match," Kudla said. "It looks like he's interesting to play against."
The third American boy in the quarterfinals, Sarmiento, got there by downing unseeded Sebastian Lavie of New Zealand 7-5, 2-6, 6-1.
"It was like a whirlwind," Sarmiento said of the gusty conditions. "But then in the third set, I got a rhythm with the wind, and started using the wind more to my advantage." Sarmiento took control in the third set, and he credits his improved serving with much of his recent success. Lavie couldn't put much pressure on Sarmiento's serve in the final set, and the early breaks gave Sarmiento the luxury of playing relaxed tennis.
In addition to his parents and cousins, Sarmiento had a some fans that he didn't know in his cheering section, with local people of Phillipine heritage adding their support.
"They just came out," he said. "You know a friend of a friend, like that. But there were some relatives that live here."
In the girls action Thursday, No. 16 seed Beatrice Capra overcame the first-set nerves, compounding by playing on Louis Armstrong Stadium, to dismiss wild card Asia Muhammad 3-6, 6-1, 6-1. Capra's defensive skills were much in evidence as usual, but her return of serve also a key, as she did not let Muhammad play first strike tennis.
"It was definitely a streaky match," said Capra, who lost the last four games of the first set. "I told myself to make her play, because toward the second set, she was making a lot of errors, and it was really windy. I was more consistent, and I felt like I was the smarter player in the wind."
Capra kept the ball out of Muhammad's strike zone, and by the middle of the second set, it was obvious that the match was being played on Capra's terms.
"She kind of went away after five balls," Capra said. "So just keeping one more ball in play was how I won."
Match point typified that, as Capra returned one overhead smash by Muhammad, who put the second into the net.
"I read the ball really well, it's not because I'm fast. I wish I was fast," Capra said. "I just went to the open court, trying to make her play, and after she hit the ball in the net I was just, oh my god. I was so happy."
Capra plays unseeded Yana Buchina of Russia in the quarterfinals.
Lauren Davis is accustomed to winning and she has not lost a junior tennis match since falling to Lauren Embree in the third round of the Carson Grade 1 ITF in April, a streak that is now at 38. Few, if any, of the players she has beaten have been smaller than she is, and it certainly wasn't the case Thursday against 2008 French Open finalist Elena Bogdan of Romania, who is six feet tall.
The 5-foot-2 Davis defeated Bogdan 6-2, 2-6, 7-5, and it was a dramatic win. Davis took a 5-1 lead in the third set, saw it melt away when Bogdan stepped up her return game and eliminated her errors. But if the 2008 European Junior champion was expecting to see dismay and fear in Davis, she couldn't find it, with Davis, looking at her strings, concentrating and getting ready for the next point.
Davis broke Bogdan at love, and serving for the match the third time, she finished it, putting a backhand on the baseline for the victory.
"I actually wasn't too nervous," said Davis. "In the third set, all I tried to do was keep my composure, and at 5-all I just tried to stay aggressive and take the ball early."
That Davis's model is Melanie Oudin is no surprise.
"We're both kind of not too tall," Davis said. "We just have a lot of heart--that's what I'm best at. Before this tournament, I won a ton of Nationals, but no one really ever noticed me, and I guess this is a great tournament to show them what I've got."
Next up for Davis is Laura Robson, who will also have a decided advantage in height and weight if not speed and footwork.
No. 4 seed Sloane Stephens was defeated by No. 14 seed Jana Cepelova of Slovakia 4-6, 6-1, 6-0, leaving Wimbldeon champion and No. 2 seed Noppawan Lertcheewakarn of Thailand, the only one of the top four seeds remaining.
In the doubles quarterfinals, three of the four U.S. teams were defeated, but unseeded Matthew Kandath and Jack Sock have reached the semifinals. They defeated unseeded Sandro Ehrat of Switzerland and Alexandros Georgoudas of Germany 7-6(2), 7-5, winning the final four games of the match.
For complete results, see usopen.org.
Thursday, September 10, 2009