Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Abanda Defeats Top Seed Townsend for Second Time in a Week; Krueger Sole US Junior Remaining as Wimbledon Singles Quarterfinals Set

Francoise Abanda defeats top seed Taylor Townsend

©Colette Lewis 2012--

Independence Day was not particularly kind to the Americans playing Wednesday in the second and third rounds of the Wimbledon Junior Championships. Seven US juniors, including girls top seed Taylor Townsend, began the unexpectedly partly cloudy day still in contention for a singles title, but only one, No. 8 seed Mitchell Krueger, survived to reach the quarterfinals.

Townsend reached the third round with an early 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Laura Pigossi of Brazil, but even during that comeback she never looked entirely comfortable on the court, receiving treatment on her back and hip during changeovers.  Her serve was not as effective as usual against Pigossi, and it didn't improve in her third round match with No. 14 seed Francoise Abanda of Canada, who had beaten Townsend in the quarterfinals of the Roehampton Grade 1 in three sets last week.

In today's rematch, in front of a sparse crowd on Court 17, Abanda got an early break in the opening set, and although Townsend threatened to pull even with Abanda serving at 5-4 in the first set, saving four set points, Abanda's forehand winner on set point No. 5 ended it.

Townsend was broken to open the second set and Abanda never trailed breaking Townsend to post the 6-4, 6-3 victory.

The final two points typified Townsend's day. At 30-30 she let an Abanda shot drop even though she had a play on it, and it fell on the baseline to give the 15-year-old Canadian a match point. Townsend couldn't finish the next point, although she was in position to do so, and Abanda calmly put a forehand passing shot by Townsend to claim her second win over the world's top junior in the past seven days.

Abanda, who was out for the better part of six months with a shoulder injury, said she doesn't have any particular strategy when playing Townsend's unique game.

"Yes, she has a different game, but it doesn't change anything," said Abanda, who is playing on grass for the first time during the past two weeks. "I just focus on what I need to do. I have my goals, my match plan, but I don't really have a reason for why I beat her. Beating the No. 1 in the world is pretty big, and I'm happy with my game so far."

Next up for Abanda is No. 8 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia, who just turned 16 last week. Vekic eliminated No. 12 seed and 2011 semifinalist Indy de Vroome of the Netherlands 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 in their third round encounter.

No. 7 seed Sachia Vickery reached the third round with an easy 6-3, 6-0 win over qualifier Barbara Haas of Austria, and even the only rain delay of the day--which lasted less than 45 minutes between noon and 1 p.m.--didn't disrupt her concentration.

In the next round against Orange Bowl champion and No. 11 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia, Vickery was unable to make the most of her opportunities. She had Kontatveit down three set points at with Kontaveit serving at 4-5, 0-40, but couldn't convert any of them. After losing the first set tiebreaker, Vickery took a 4-2 lead, but lost the final four games of the match, with Kontaveit raising her game to finish the job.

The bottom half of the draw lost the No. 2 and No. 4 seeds in Wednesday's play, with wild card Antonia Lottner of Germany taking out No. 2 seed Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 in the second round, and Montserrat Gonzalez of Paraguay beating No. 4 seed Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan 6-7(8), 6-4, 6-4.

No. 3 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine is now the highest remaining seed in the girls draw, after the 2010 Roland Garros girls champion beat No. 13 seed Allie Kiick of the US 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-2.  Kiick fell behind 4-0 in the third set, when her unforced error rate crept up, but she broke and held to make it 4-2, as her forehand began to land just inches inside the baseline and sidelines. With Svitolina serving at 4-2, Kiick got to deuce, but she wasn't able to to get any closer to leveling the match. Her serve let her down in the final game, with Svitolina taking advantage of the lack of pace and placement.

The boys quarterfinals feature six of the top eight seeds, headed by defending champion Luke Saville of Australia, who won two straight-set  matches on Wednesday. No. 2 seed Kimmer Coppejans of Belgium had a little more difficulty in his third round match. The French Open boys champion, who also won the title at Roehampton last week, trailed No. 16 seed Frederico Silva of Portugal 3-0 in the final set, but came back to post a 6-1, 6-7(4), 6-4 win.

Mitchell Krueger posts two wins Wednesday

Up next for Coppejans will be a familiar foe, No. 8 seed Krueger, who Coppejans beat in the semifinals at Roland Garros en route to the title.

Krueger played two composed and error-free tiebreakers against two different opponents Wednesday on his way to the quarterfinals.

Trailing 2-1 in the second set tiebreaker of his second round match against Borna Coric Wednesday morning, Krueger's maturity contrasted with the emotional 15-year-old's. Down 5-2 in the tiebreaker, Krueger conveyed no discouragement, and with an ace, he tied it at 5-5. Krueger saved two set points, hit another ace to give himself a match point, but despite missing a simple forehand volley way long, he didn't react.  A good return forced Coric into an error, and Krueger avoided a third set on the next point, with Coric netting a backhand to give Krueger the 6-3, 7-6(8) win.

"The way he plays, he's really emotional," said Krueger, 18. "Even if he's winning, he can snap on random things. There were a couple of close calls that he felt didn't go his way and he let the chair umpire know it."

Even-tempered as he is, Krueger admitted to some irritation of his own in dealing with all the rain delays in the Tuesday portion of the match.

"We both wanted to stop, but the umpire wouldn't let us," Krueger said of the day's final rain delay.  "I wanted to stop at 1-1 (in the tiebreaker), and then double faulted to go down 2-1, so I got a little frustrated there, but I ended up handling it pretty well."

After the completion of the first match, Krueger battled No. 11 seed Stefan Napolitano of Italy, in the rare match this week not interrupted by rain. There was a total of one break of serve in the match, which Krueger won 7-6(7), 6-4, again coming up with his best tennis in the tiebreaker.

From 3-3 to 7-7, there wasn't a single error, with both boys trading winner after winner. Krueger had a set point at 6-5, which Napolitano saved with a backhand winner, then Krueger hit a forehand on the line to earn another set point. The 17-year-old Italian saved that with a forehand winner, but on the next point Krueger forced an error, and on set point No. 3 Napolitano missed an overhead into the net, the first poorly executed shot by either player in the previous 10 points.

Krueger got the only break of the match in the second set with Napolitano serving at 3-3. Several good returns gave him a break point and with a backhand winner down the line he converted it. With the way Krueger has been serving this week, that one break was plenty.

"I served pretty well, as I have been in all my matches," said Krueger, who hit eight aces and did not face a break point in the match.  "If you can stay focused when you're serving, you can get into more return games and have less pressure. And I've played some pretty good points in the tiebreakers when I've needed to."

Krueger is now 3-0 in tiebreakers, not to mention his 10-8 in the third set win over 2011 US Open semifinalist Kyle Edmund of Great Britain in the opening round, so he's been the American providing the fireworks this week at Wimbledon.

"The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays, besides Christmas, honestly," Krueger said. "I've always been home for it, and this is the first year I haven't, and I'm a little disappointed. There's no fireworks here. But I had a good day, two wins isn't bad."

Krueger will not be playing doubles, because his partner, Julien Cagnina of Belgium, had to withdraw with an injury he sustained in his retirement loss to No. 3 seed Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy.

Although the weather cooperated long enough today to get the singles back on schedule, the first round of doubles has yet to be completed. Due to the backlog, a match tiebreaker is being played in lieu of a third set in the first two round of doubles, although it is not no-ad scoring.

Complete draws can be found at the Wimbledon website.