©Colette Lewis 2012--
Flushing Meadows, NY--
The low clouds that descended on the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Monday occasionally gave way to a few patches of blue, but there were few bright spots in the results of the American juniors, who won only five of 18 first round matches in the second day of play at the US Open Junior Championships.
Two of the wins came from unlikely sources, with 14-year-old qualifiers Tornado Black and Michael Mmoh picking up victories in their junior slam debuts. Black defeated Oleksandra Korashvili of Ukraine, No. 30 in the ITF junior rankings, 6-3, 6-4, and Mmoh downed Gabriel Friedrich of Brazil 6-4, 6-3.
Mmoh was part of the USA's 14-and-under team that won the ITF World Junior Tennis competition just a couple of weeks ago, but he said a more recent victory was actually what gave him the confidence to win today.
"I was lucky to get through the qualifying, I had to save a match point," said Mmoh, who defeated No. 3 seed Jorge Panta Herreros of Peru 4-6, 7-6(7), 3-0 ret. in a nearly four-hour match in the final round of qualifying Saturday. "Beating that last guy, who was like 60 ITF, that gave me a lot of confidence. I see a lot of players who are ranked high, and I think I can beat them, but I don't have the confidence yet. That win really helped my confidence."
Mmoh hadn't played Friedrich before, but he inquired about the 30th-ranked Brazilian's game style from another 14-year-old who had.
"I asked (Stefan) Kozlov about him, and he told me a bit about his game, so I guessed that helped me. He had a big forehand, very dangerous, and his serve was also pretty good. His movement wasn't as good as some of his other stuff."
Mmoh was happy to take advantage of that , and was determined to play with a more dynamic strategy now that he's playing in the 18s.
"In the 12s, I wasn't very aggressive, was more of a counterpuncher," said Mmoh, who is 6-foot-1. "I am working every day on getting way more aggressive. My dad, who was former Top 100, he's always telling me I can't be a counterpuncher, I've got to go for the ball. This match, I felt like I was really aggressive."
With No. 15 seed Mackenzie McDonald losing Sunday and No. 14 seed Noah Rubin dropping a 6-3, 6-3 decision to 2011 semifinalist Kyle Edmund of Great Britain earlier today, it was up to No. 5 seed Mitchell Krueger to assure a US boys seed in the second round. The Wimbledon and French Open semifinalist couldn't deliver however, falling to qualifier Or Ram-Harel of Israel 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in front of a large and vocal Court 13 crowd, whose loyalties were evenly divided.
"In the beginning it surprised me how many people were for him," said Krueger. "I'm in the US, playing a guy who is from Israel, lives in Israel and has no ties here and they were cheering for him. But it got better when I got off to a good start in the second set."
Krueger didn't maintain that good start, but he managed to break Ram-Harel serving at 5-6 to even the match.
In the fourth game of the third set, Krueger was unable to convert either of two break points, and was broken himself in the next game, with a double fault, and a backhand error, one of many he made in the final set, contributing to the break.
Ram-Harel hit with a lot of topspin and came up with very few winners in the final set, but Krueger, playing in his final junior match, could not find a way to build any momentum. Several more unforced errors put him down two match points serving at 3-5, and although he saved the first with a spectacular backhand down the line winner off an excellent offensive lob, he couldn't duplicate that in the next point, when his forehand reply to Ram-Harel's return went long.
Krueger was philosophical about the loss and said he wouldn't trade his win in the men's qualifying tournament for a victory in the juniors.
"You can always learn things from a match win or lose," said Krueger when asked what he might have done better. "Maybe being more aggressive, coming forward more. But I'm glad I could end [my junior career] in New York, just maybe not this early."
One of the most intriguing matches of the day was 15-year-old Francoise Abanda of Canada, who won the ITF Grade 1 on Saturday, against wild card Brooke Austin, who, like Krueger, picked up a win in the US Open qualifying tournament less than two weeks ago. Austin has had a fine summer after being unable to play last year's US Open junior championships due to injury, but she was no match for Abanda, who served well and hit her ground strokes hard and deep.
"You can tell she's really confident right now, just winning a Grade 1," said Austin. "In the first set, I made a lot of unforced errors that I shouldn't have made, but she also played well. The second set, I rallied a little bit more and started playing better at the end."
Abanda will play No. 6 seed Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic in the second round. Siniakova barely survived her first match, with Barbara Haas of Austria serving for the match at 5-4 in the third set, but the Italian Open champion fought back for a 7-5, 2-6, 7-6(2) victory.
The only seeded girl to lose Monday was No. 15 Krista Hardebeck, beaten by Kathinka von Deichmann of Lichtenstein 6-1, 6-2.
Allie Kiick and Kyle McPhillips join Black and the eight US girls who won on Sunday in advancing to the second round. Kiick defeated Veronika Kudermetova of Russia 7-5, 6-1, while McPhillips downed qualifier Marika Akkerman of Canada 6-2, 6-2.
Wild card Martin Redlicki defeated Pedro Cachin of Argentina 6-4, 6-4 and will join Mmoh and Stefan Kozlov and Harrison Adams, who won Sunday, in the second round.
The weather forecast is not good for Tuesday, but as of Monday evening the plan was to stay with an outdoor schedule.
For the draws, see usopen.org.