US Girls Continue to Impress at US Open Juniors; Krueger and Aragone Upset Seeds in Boys First Round Action
©Colette Lewis 2011--
Flushing Meadows, NY--
There are 32 girls remaining after the completion of the first round at the US Open junior championships and 14 of them have USA after their names in the draw.
Unseeded Grace Min made the biggest splash on a day when rain threatened but never materialized, taking down No. 2 seed and Wimbledon girls finalist Irina Khromacheva of Russia 7-6(5), 6-4. Min, who has played a combination of professional and junior events this year, entered the ITF Grade 1 in Canada last week, but lost in the first round, so her confidence was not exactly high coming into New York.
"The whole point of last week was to get matches and I didn't get any matches, so it didn't go as planned," said Min, 17. "But I just hit the practice courts and really tried to find my game, worked on a few things, and they showed up here, so I was happy with that."
Serving for the match at 5-4, Min got down 15-40, but she got a couple of errors from the 16-year-old Russian, the second on a forehand just wide to save them. Min hit a forehand winner to earn her first match point, and she completed the victory with the combination of a big forehand and a backhand volley winner.
"I'm pretty confident at net, so I knew I didn't have to finish the point on that forehand," said Min, who acknowledged the importance of winning that game. "I don't know if I expected it to come back, but I was ready for it. I knew I didn't have to put so much pressure on putting away the forehand, because I knew I could hold my ground at the net."
Sachia Vickery and qualifier Nicole Gibbs both had easy wins. Gibbs took less than an hour to beat Patricia Iveth Ku Flores of Peru 6-1, 6-1 and Vickery needed only 42 minutes to dismiss Iva Mekovec of Croatia 6-0, 6-1. Kimberly Yee, the second American qualifier to reach the second round, beat Basak Eraydin of Turkey 6-3, 6-4.
The other two American girls to advance on Monday had considerably more difficulty. Vicky Duval trailed 3-0 30-0 in the third set against qualifier Ana Sofia Sanchez of Mexico, but won the final six games of the match for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory. No. 12 seed Madison Keys won the first set against Emily Fanning of New Zealand easily, but couldn't shake her fellow 16-year-old, dropping the second set in a tiebreaker 7-6(1). Keys dropped the opening game of the third set, broke back, lost her serve again and broke back, but she pointed to one particular shot that restored her confidence.
"It was 1-2 15-40 and I had a forehand up the line," said Keys. "After I hit that winner, I pumped myself up. I got my negative emotions out, and I was back in the match."
Keys admitted she was relieved to get out of the match, noting the difference between playing in the women's draw and the juniors draw.
"In the women's, I didn't have any pressure on me," Keys said. "I could just go out and it was a good experience for me. But now, people kind of know who I am and I have more pressure when I go into matches. But it's still a tournament, I'm still playing the US Open, so the nerves are the same, just a little more pressure. I'm just excited to play this."
The US boys trail the girls in numbers, with only six remaining of the 15 who began the tournament, but they led in upsets today, with both Mitchell Krueger and JC Aragone taking out seeds.
Krueger defeated No. 7 seed Dominic Thiem 6-2, 6-2, which evened his record against the Austrian. Krueger had beaten Thiem on hard courts earlier this year, but then lost to him twice on clay this summer, so the surface definitely had a role in his victory today.
"Definitely the surface played a big part, and I knew it would," said Krueger. "He's unbelievable on clay. He's still good on hard, and I thought I played really well today. I served really well, hit quite a few aces, no double faults, a high first serve percentage. I was playing pretty aggressive I thought, but with a lot of margin. I never really gave him much of a chance to get into the match."
For Krueger, who had lost to No. 3 seed Tiago Fernandes of Brazil 6-0, 6-1 in the first round last year, this victory was particularly sweet.
"I was thinking a little bit about it, trying not to do it again, so I guess I redeemed myself, got some redemption."
JC Aragone, was, like Krueger in 2010, a wild card, going up against a seed. The 16-year-old Californian was making his junior slam debut against No. 8 seed Mate Pavic of Croatia and quickly lost the first set. But Aragone worked through his nerves and fought all the way back for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory against the lanky 18-year-old left-hander.
"I thought I was playing great in the first set, I was just double faulting a lot because I was nervous," said Aragone, who received congratulations from his coach Jeff Tarango in the media center after the match. "But as soon as I got a rhythm going, got my serves in, I started playing great and he let up a bit, and I took my chances. Next thing I know I'm in the third set."
Aragone, whose ITF ranking is 1094, compared to Pavic's ranking of 8, wasn't discouraged when he saw the draw.
"Everyone here's pretty good, so either way I would have had a tough match. I was expecting one. But I liked the way this one played out, as soon as I started hitting."
Marcos Giron got the third win for the US boys Monday, defeating qualifier Enzo Couacaud of France 7-6(1), 6-4. Couacaud, the European 16s champion this year, showed a solid game, breaking Giron early in the match, but his youth showed on the important points.
"He definitely came out playing well," said Giron, who had heard of Couacaud, but had never played him. "I heard he had a weaker forehand than backhand, so I tried to attack that. My returns weren't good today, but I felt from the baseline I played well, and in the tiebreaker I really stepped it up."
Next up for Giron is top seed Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic, who beat Vladyslav Manafov of Ukraine 6-3, 6-1.
"We played a couple of years ago in Junior Davis Cup, and I lost in three sets," said Giron. "I lost in three sets, but the altitude got to me and I really got super tired in the third. He's a big guy, a big lefty serve, but I feel I'm playing well."
The weather forecast for Tuesday is not good, but so far the rain forecast for the area has stayed away from the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Complete draws can be found at usopen.org.