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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Wiersholm Advances to Final at Les Petits As; Mestach, Vesely Win Australian Junior Titles; Sock Reaches Weston Futures Final

For the second year in a row, a American boy has reached the final of Les Petits As, considered among the most prestigious 14-and-under events in the world. Last year, Noah Rubin lost to France's Quentin Halys; this year, Henrik Wiersholm, seeded second, will play No. 5 seed Bogdan Borza of Romania. Borza prevented an all-American final by defeating unseeded Francis Tiafoe 6-2, 6-4, while Wiersholm continued to cruise through the draw. The 13-year-old from Washington beat No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-1, 6-2 in today's semifinals, and has lost only 17 games in his five wins this week.

In the girls final, No. 7 seed Anastasiya Komardina of Russia will face No. 3 seed Jelana Ostapenko of Latvia, already having claimed the girls doubles title and a win over Ostapenko. The No. 2 seeds Komardina and Anastasiya Rychagova defeated top seeds Ostapenko and Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 6-3, 6-7(6), 10-4. Domagoj Iljesko and Karol Lozic of Croatia won the boys championship with a 7-6(4), 6-4 victory over Joseph Guillin and Alexandre Muller of France.

I watched both Australian Open Junior championship matches last night via the Australian Open website, which streamed the match between Australia's Luke Saville and the Czech Republic's Jiri Vesely, and ESPN3, which offered the girls final between Puerto Rico's Monica Puig and Belgium's An-Sophie Mestach.

I had never seen Saville play, and had only watched Vesely play a few games in doubles at last year's US Open, so I had no expectations coming into the match. Saville started out coming into the net on Vesely's serve in the first game, but after he lost both net approaches, the 16-year-old abandoned that strategy early. The second game of the match went to six deuces, and despite three double faults, Saville managed to save five break points before losing the sixth. Vesely held at love in the next game, and trailing 3-0, Saville committed several backhand errors, seemingly off-balance most of the time from that side, and was broken again. Vesely held again, losing one point on serve, the only point on serve the 6-foot-5 lefthander would drop in the set, and when Saville couldn't hold in his third opportunity, Vesely had the set 6-0. Saville called for a trainer and after five minutes or so, play resumed. Suddenly all the unforced errors that Vesely had avoided in the opening set surfaced and he lost his serve, committing five unforced errors by my count. Saville consolidated the break, hitting more confidently and much deeper and closer to the lines than he had in the first set, and when Vesely went down 0-30 in the next game, it looked as if Saville had a chance to make it a match. But Vesely held, and after a strong game from Saville to make it 3-1 in his favor, the Australian began to make many of the same errors that plagued him in the first set.

Unable to match Vesely in the serving department, Saville lost both 30-40 points that he faced in his next two service games, and Vesely confidently finished on his serve for a 6-0, 6-3 victory.

For more on the boys final, see the Australian Open website.

In contrast to the boys finalists, I was very familiar with the games of Puig and Mestach, having seen them both play during the US Open Juniors, Eddie Herr (Mestach only) and Orange Bowl. Both were coming into the final playing exceptionally well. As I've recounted earlier in the month and in my preview yesterday, Mestach won the Casablanca Cup and the Coffee Bowl, while Puig took the Grade 1 warm-up event in Traralgon. Puig had the most recent win over Mestach, at the Orange Bowl, but in Saturday's meeting she never seemed to find her comfort zone.

Puig was down a break from the first game in both sets, and although she got both breaks back, she never established her rhythm. Mestach smartly threw in some slice backhands, and nearly always won that shot exchange, but it was really Puig failing to take advantage of her opportunities that cost her the match. Mestach faced at least one and usually more break points in every service game of the second set, but lost only one of them. In fact, Puig could convert only 2 of 14 break points, while Mestach won 5 of 7. Although Puig kept her body language positive and her fighting spirit visible, all those missed chances had to take a toll. Mestach saved two break points in the final game, and collected her second junior slam title 6-4, 6-2. She and Demi Schuurs took their first junior slam titles in the girls doubles. Vesely, with partner Filip Horansky of Slovakia, also leaves Australia with two slam titles, having taken the boys doubles.

The Australian Open website's story on the girls final is here. For more on both matches, see the ITF junior website.

Ten days ago I covered the match at the USTA's Boca Raton training center that earned Jack Sock a wild card into the main draw of the $10,000 Weston Futures. On Sunday, Sock will play Phillip Simmonds in the final, after Sock beat No. 4 seed Benjamin Balleret of France in today's semifinals 6-1, 3-0, ret. On Friday, Sock beat friend and doubles partner Dimitar Kutrovsky for the first time in four meetings, and on Thursday, he beat Denis Kudla for the fourth time in a row. (For more on that match, be sure to read the account over at Challenger Tennis). Sock and Kutrovsky are also in the doubles final Sunday.

Qualifying for the last of the early season men's Florida Futures in Palm Coast has begun. The women, who were off this week on the Pro Circuit, will begin qualifying for the $25,000 Rancho Santa Fe California tournament on Sunday. For those draws, see the Pro Circuit page at usta.com.