Thursday, July 5, 2012

Krueger Downs French Open Champ to Reach Wimbledon Junior Semifinals; Canada Claims Three of the Eight Semifinal Spots in Singles

Mitchell Krueger defeats French boys champion Coppejans

©Colette Lewis 2012--

A Kimmer Coppejans loss is as rare as a rain-free day at Wimbledon, but that rare combination occurred Thursday at the All England Club.

For the first time in four days of junior play, rain didn't disrupt the action, and for the first time in 15 matches, the 2012 Roland Garros boys champion didn't shake hands as the winner, losing to Mitchell Krueger of the United States 6-2, 7-6(5) in the quarterfinals.

The eighth-seeded Krueger broke the Belgian in the first game of the match and didn't lose a point on his serve in the 20-minute opening set. Kreuger had two break points in the first game of the second set, but when he was unable to convert either of those, Coppejans began to find the range on his backhand, and the match truly began.

With his bigger serve, Krueger was holding more easily, and was up 0-30 or 15-30 on nearly every Coppejans service game in the second set, but the No. 2 seed came up with winners or forced errors to stay with Krueger.

With Krueger serving at 2-3 in the second set, he double faulted for the only time in the match to give Coppejans his first and only break point. After a relatively long rally by grass court standards, Krueger was able to save it with a shot that had the few dozen spectators on court 6 gasping--a backhand stop volley winner.

"It was so good, I don't know if I could do that again if I wanted to," said Krueger. "I just purely reacted to it, and it dropped right over the net. I've been coming to the net a lot this tournament and it's been working pretty well."

Also working well has been Krueger's serve, and in the tiebreaker, he started out with two of his 11 aces overall to take a 2-1 lead, then hit another to take a 4-3 lead. Krueger took a 5-3 lead with a backhand that landed on the back of the baseline, but he lost his advantage with a good backhand from Coppejans and a clean forehand winner from the Belgian on the next point. At 5-5, Krueger missed his first serve, but Coppejans sliced a defensive backhand into the net, and Krueger had his match point.

He converted it by jumping on a second serve, with his return forcing Coppejans' backhand reply long.  Now 4-0 in tiebreakers this week, Krueger gives his serve most of the credit.

"It's always good to have confidence going into a tiebreaker, especially with the grass," said Krueger, who lost to Coppejans 6-3, 7-5 in the semifinals in the French Junior Championships last month. "You're going to play more tiebreakers than you would normally on other surfaces. I was able to play a couple of big points when I really needed to, and had my serve keep me in it. It helps a lot to get free points with big serves. Today it was even better than in the past couple of matches, and I think my serve had been really good even then."

Filip Peliwo reaches a slam semifinal for third time in 2012

Next up for Krueger is No. 4 seed Filip Peliwo of Canada, a finalist in both the previous junior slams this year.  Peliwo defeated unseeded wild card Enzo Couacaud of France 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 overcoming a bout of dizziness in the second set that he thought might have been a temporary affliction resulting from the rare appearance of the sun.

"When the sun came out I was serving, and I tossed the ball up and looked straight into it," said Peliwo. "It just kind of dazed me for a bit and I couldn't see the ball properly. I'm not saying that's why I lost the set, and I don't want people to think I'm making an excuse. He played well in that set, I have to give him credit, but I can't say I played my best tennis there."

Krueger and Peliwo have split their last two meetings, with Krueger ousting defending champion Peliwo 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals at the Grade B1 in Tulsa last October, and Peliwo beating Krueger 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-2 in the first round of the Harlingen, Texas Futures in February.

"It's going to be a tough match," Peliwo said. "He's always there til the end. He's going to make me play, force me a lot and I've got to bring my best game."

Krueger, who has been playing Peliwo since they were both in the 14s, expects a competitive semifinal.

"We've had a lot of close matches, and he's definitely a fighter," Krueger said. "Making the finals of the last two slams, he knows what to do in these situations. You can never count him out, he's always going to hang in there."

The other semifinal features defending champion and top seed Luke Saville of Australia against No. 3 seed Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy.  Saville advanced 7-5, 5-4 ret. over Nikola Milojevic of Serbia, who also had retired from his quarterfinal match last week in Roehampton.

"I knew he had a niggle from the start," said Saville. "I had heard a few rumors about that and he wasn't serving as he usually does. But it was actually very awkward returning his serve, because he was dinking it into my body, and on the grass that's very effective."

"I've never had that happen to me, when I've been that close to winning," Saville said. "But I guess in his situation he probably knew he couldn't win the match if it was getting worse. I'm 5-4 up, so he has to win another three games, plus another whole set. But it would have been nice if he had come out and tried to play it out, and if I broke him, that was the match done. I was a little disappointed how it ended there."

Quinzi, at 16 two years younger than the other three semifinalists, reached his first junior slam semifinal with a 6-3, 6-1 win over unseeded Nick Kyrgios of Australia, avenging his 7-6(6), 6-4 defeat to Kyrgios in the third round last week at Roehampton. Quinzi and Saville have not played before in ITF junior competition.

The girls quarterfinals on Thursday were mostly straightforward affairs. Canada's Francoise Abanda, the No. 14 seed, beat No. 8 seed Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-4 and will meet No. 3 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in a Friday semifinal. Svitolina beat unseeded Sabina Sharipova of Uzbekistan 6-3, 6-2.

The other semifinal features No. 11 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia against No. 5 seed Eugenie Bouchard of Canada. Kontaveit beat No. 16 seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia 6-0, 6-4, while Bouchard was the only semifinalist who needed a comeback to advance. She beat wild card Antonia Lottner of Germany 4-6, 6-0, 6-2.

With no rain on Thursday, the junior tournament is now nearly back on schedule, with the doubles at the quarterfinal stage, and the semifinals in singles scheduled for Friday.  The weather forecast continues to call for rain for the next three days, so there isn't any certainty as of now, although it is likely the doubles format will return to regular advantage set scoring beginning Friday.

Only two US juniors remain in the doubles competition, both girls. Taylor Townsend, who is seeded No. 1 with Bouchard, and Sachia Vickery, who is seeded No. 4 with Abanda. Townsend and Bouchard, who won at Roehampton last week, eased past Viktoriya Lushkova of Ukraine and Petra Uberalova of Slovkia 6-1, 6-4 in today's quarterfinals. Abanda and Vickery had a much tougher time advancing, needing over two hours to post a 6-7(3), 7-6(3), 10-7 victory over unseeded Varvara Flink of Russia and Lottner. Abanda and Vickery trailed 7-4 in the match tiebreaker, but reeled off the finals six point of the match to advance.

For complete draws, see the Wimbledon website.