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Friday, September 7, 2012

Wild Cards Crawford and Duval Reach US Open Junior Semifinals; Top Seeds Out, with Peliwo Alone in Hunt for Second Slam

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Flushing Meadows--

Summer hasn't left Flushing Meadows, but the top seeds in the boys and girls draw were ushered out in Friday's quarterfinals, suffering straight-set losses on Court 17 in stifling heat and humidity.

Australian Open champion Taylor Townsend was the first to go, losing to No. 12 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia 6-4, 6-4, whom Townsend had beaten twice in ITF junior events in Australia this year.

"I think I was more consistent and yeah, she played really well in Australia," Kontaveit said when asked the difference between those two losses and her win today. "She won the grand slam and was playing really well."

As most of the spectators sought the shade provided by the TV booth, Kontaveit broke Townsend at 4-4 in the opening set. She went out to a 40-15 lead serving for the set in the next game,  then promptly double faulted twice. But she didn't let that bother her, converting on her third set point to take the first set she had ever won from Townsend.

The second set was equally close, but Townsend was not moving forward as often as she does when she is playing her very best, and Kontaveit was able to put pressure on Townsend from the baseline. Townsend failed to convert a break point with Kontaveit serving at 2-3 and was broken in the next game. After both held serve, Kontaveit stepped to the line to serve it out, but the outcome was very much in doubt as the match's longest game played out.

Kontaveit missed 12 of 17 first serves in the five-deuce game, but her second serve was regularly deep and well placed, so she faced only one break point. She saved that with a rare forehand volley winner, then hit two consecutive first serves to finally close it out on her fifth match point.

"The whole match was really tough," said the 16-year-old Kontaveit, who reached the semifinals at both the Wimbledon and the French Open junior championships this year. "I was playing well and serving well and I felt confident."

Townsend, who found herself in the center of a controversy regarding her fitness level after the Wall Street Journal published an article about the USTA denying her wild cards based on it, said she felt fine physically, even after spending nearly three and a half hours on court during her two victories Thursday.

"I felt good going on the court," said Townsend, after answering questions about the Wall Street Journal article. "I was a little nervous. Anett played really well, I’m not taking anything away from her, she played really well, she played a solid match. Today wasn’t my best day, but she came up with some solid shots and stayed in the point when she needed to at the big times and she played better tennis than me today. I’m not upset."

Coppejans, the French Open boys champion, was down 5-0 in the first set before he won a game from No. 8 seed Kaichi Uchida of Japan, and although the match was closer from then on, Uchida was the one to capitalize on his opportunities. The 18-year-old from Osaka went a perfect three-for-three on his break point opportunities, while Coppejans couldn't convert any of his six break points. Uchida, who beat Coppejans at Wimbledon in 2011 en route to the semifinals, is in his second junior slam semifinal.

Uchida will play No. 13 seed Liam Broady of Great Britain, who defeated unseeded Wayne Montgomery of South Africa in two gruelling sets 7-6(6), 7-6(4).

Another major surprise by a Japanese junior came from unseeded Yoshihito Nishioka, who outlasted No. 3 seed Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-0. Nishioka will be a decided underdog again in Saturday's semifinal, when he faces No. 2 seed Filip Peliwo of Canada, who has been in the final of all three previous junior slams this year, winning his last one at Wimbledon.

For the second time in his four victories, Peliwo had to come back from a set down, this time in a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 7 seed Nick Kyrgios of Australia.

"Obviously, when you get down a set, the job becomes tougher and the stakes become higher," said Peliwo. "I know it's not going to be an easy road, but I tell myself, okay, it's a new set, a new match and just keep playing and improve whatever you're doing wrong. I try not to think about the past too much."

Peliwo was unable to shake Kyrgios in the third set, even though he broke for a 3-2 lead. He was broken back immediately, but Kyrgios was broken in the next game and Peliwo managed to save three break points in the game that followed, coming up with three good first serves each time, and eventually taking a 5-3 lead.

After Kyrgios held at love, Peliwo fell behind 15-40 serving for the match, but a sharp forehand volley and another good first serve brought it back to deuce. A penetrating forehand forced a backhand error from Kyrgios to get Peliwo to match point, and momentarily he thought he had won it when the line judge called Kyrgios' forehand on the baseline out. The chair overruled the line judge, the point was replayed, and Peliwo won the replayed point when Kyrgios' forehand went well long.

Peliwo, who will take over the No. 1 position in the ITF junior rankings with Coppejans' loss, wasn't sure he was going to play the US Open Junior tournament at all after injuring his Achilles in the semifinals in the Grade 1 last week in Canada.

"I couldn't walk the whole day after that," said Peliwo, who was playing the US Open Juniors to accomplish his goal of finishing the year at No. 1 in the ITF Junior rankings. "So I thought I might not play because of that, and I was really scared. But it's fine now, and as you can see, I'm playing all right now."

The two US wild cards still in the running for the girls title had much different paths to the semifinals, their first appearance there in a junior slam for both.

Samantha Crawford, who was taken from the court in a wheelchair after her third round victory Thursday over Sachia Vickery, was the recipient of a walkover when No. 2 seed Yulia Putintseva of Kazakhstan was unable to compete.  Although the tournament did not release a statement, it was said she was suffering from heart problems and was advised not to play by medical personnel. 

"At 11 all the other matches were called and I was standing there and they said, you can go sit down and relax for a little bit," Crawford said. "So I didn't know. Thirty minutes went by and still nothing, so I don't really know what happened."

Crawford played two three-setters on Thursday, and was cramping at the end of the second match, but she didn't require any medical attention. 

"I feel much better today," said Crawford. "It's nice. I was ready to play today, but it happens. Yesterday was a long day for a lot of us, I think. I drank a lot of Gatorade and water, and I feel a lot better."

Crawford will play No. 4 seed Antonia Lottner of Germany, who defeated unseeded Ilka Csoregi of Romania 6-3, 6-1 in Saturday's semifinal. Their semifinal meeting will be the first between the two 6-footers.

Kontaveit's opponent is Vicky Duval, who continued her outstanding play this summer with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win over No. 9 seed Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan despite feeling dizzy throughout the match.

"In the second set I actually had to call the trainer," said Duval. "I literally felt like I was going to pass out. My game didn't really go down too much, it was just in between points, I couldn't even see straight. Even though I wasn't feeling my best, I knew I always had a chance."

Duval capitalized on several key double faults by Danilina, one on a game point to make it 3-1 in the third set and one on match point. Duval served well and kept her ground strokes deep with occasional angles denying Danilina any rhythm.

After a long day Thursday, Duval did a lot of stretching and drank coconut water to help in her recovery, and she also availed herself of the popular ice bath therapy. 

"This morning I woke up and felt like an old lady," said Duval, who will be 17 in November. "So imagine how I would have felt if I didn't take the ice bath. I probably would not be able to even move."

Duval and Kontaveit last met in the Grade 1 in Roehampton in 2011, with Duval winning 6-4, 6-4.

The doubles finals are set, with Townsend and Gabby Andrews returning to the final for the second consecutive year.

For the third match in a row, No. 4 seeds Townsend and Andrews took the first set, then won the second in a tiebreaker, with their 6-2, 7-6(1) win today coming over top seeds Danilina and Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia. 

Andrews and Townsend saved a set point in the second set on a deciding point, with Kulichkova serving at 5-4. Although Andrews had been returning on the deciding points prior to that, this time Townsend took the return. She got a second serve, and hit a backhand return winner in the alley to make it 5-5. With Townsend serving at 5-5, there was another deciding point, and again Townsend and Andrews won it, with Townsend hitting a good first serve for a 6-5 lead.

The tiebreaker was all Townsend and Andrews, with Danilina hitting consecutive double faults to give them five match points. Andrews' first serve was too much to handle on match point number one, sending them to the final without having dropped a set.

"Taylor did a great job, give her props, I was losing my cool," said Andrews. "She helped—she was the leader out there on the court. I think that was the main reason why we won, we kept our cool, we focused on every point, did not let them try to get back in the match."

Andrews and Townsend will play No. 2 seeds Belinda Bencic of Switzerland and Petra Uberalova of Slovakia, who defeated Lottner and Kathinka von Deichmann of Lichtenstein 6-2, 1-6, 10-7.

"I played Bencic in the finals of Wimbledon and Uberalova in the semis, but not together," said Townsend, who won the Wimbledon doubles title with Eugenie Bouchard.  "They played with different people. But, I’m just looking forward to it. I think that they’re a good team and Bencic has some funky stuff going on. It’s good, they’re going to be tough."

The boys doubles final will feature the No. 6 seeded team of Kyrgios and Jordan Thompson of Australian against the No. 8 seeded team of Kyle Edmund of Great Britain and Frederico Silva of Portugal. Kyrgios, who won the Wimbledon title with Andrew Harris this year, and Thompson defeated No. 5 seed Maximilian Marterer and Daniel Masur of Germany 7-6(3), 6-3.  Edmund and Silva reached the final with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Nishioka and Jorge Panta Herreros of Peru.

Complete draws can be found at the tournament website.