Saturday, January 19, 2013

Loeb, Kiick and McDonald Win Openers in First Round of AO Juniors; Stephens, Anderson into Women's and Men's Final 16; Illinois Experiments with College Format

Four of the six US players in the Australian Open Junior Championships draw played their opening matches Saturday, with three of them advancing to the second round.

Unseeded Jamie Loeb, making her debut in Australia, needed only 55 minutes to get past Italy's Camilla Rosatello 6-1, 6-2 and will next play No. 7 seed Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan, who won the Grade 1 warmup in Traragon  a few days ago.

Kiick, the No. 15 seed, had a bit more difficulty getting past another Italian, Deborah Chiesa, failing to serving out the second set at 5-3, but she broke to earn a 6-3, 6-4 victory. Her opponent in the second round is Shilin Xu of China, a 15-year-old who competed in junior events in Florida as recently as last year.

Mackenzie McDonald, the No. 13 seed and a semifinalist in 2012, overcame a rough start against Dukyoung Kim of Korea to post a 3-6, 6-0, 6-1 win. He faces Lucas Miedler of Austria in the second round.

Martin Redlicki was the sole American to fall on Saturday, losing to No. 11 seed Borna Coric of Croatia 6-2, 6-4.

Christina Makarova(9) and Thai Kwiatkowski(12) play their first round matches Sunday (this evening in US).

There were few surprises on the first day of play, but one rather large one in the boys draw, with Eddie Herr finalist and Orange Bowl champion Laslo Djere of Serbia, the No. 4 seed, losing to Matej Maruscak of Slovakia 6-4, 6-7(7), 6-2. Djere also lost in the first round of the Grade 1 warmup, so it's fair to suggest that the Har-Tru surface in the Florida events suits his game better than the hard courts in Australia.  The top seed, Nikola Milojevic of Serbia, cruised to a 6-3, 6-1 win over Jurence Mendoza of the Philippines.  Qualifier Duckhee Lee, the 14-year-old Korean who is hearing-impaired, won his first junior slam match, defeating wild card Jacob Grills of Australia 6-4, 7-6(4).

To follow up on the Nicolas Jarry question, Tennis Australia did correct their draws, which initially had shown Jarry as playing for USA, to Chile, which the ITF had shown since the beginning of the year. Jarry lost his first round match Saturday.

The doubles draws have been released, and all six Americans are paired with players from other countries: Loeb with Rebecca Peterson of Sweden, Kiick with Elise Mertens of Belgium (seeded third), Makarova with Katy Dunne of Great Britain, McDonald with Mazen Osama of Egypt(seeded seventh), Redlicki with Wayne Montgomery of South Africa (seeded sixth) and Kwiatkowski with Elias Ymer of Sweden (seeded second).  Jarry and Christian Garin, also of Chile, who won the Yucatan Cup, Eddie Herr and Orange Bowl, are not seeded, and will be a tough second round test for top seeds Coric and Djere, if both teams win their openers.

I'm delighted to see the Australian Open website covering juniors from the first day, as in the past, they've rarely bothered with the juniors at all until the finals.  There is a daily recap here, and a full feature on Sara Tomic, Bernard Tomic's 14-year-old sister, who won her first round match as a wild card over the same player--Gabriela Pantuckova of the Czech Republic--she defeated in the opening round in Traralgon. I've never seen Tomic play, but it sounds as if her game differs substantially from that of her older brother, who lost an entertaining third round match to Roger Federer on Saturday night 6-4, 7-6(5), 6-1.

Sloane Stephens of the US once again won the highly anticipated battle of teenagers, beating Laura Robson of Great Britain 7-5, 6-3. I was impressed by Stephens' composure throughout the match, especially in the first set when she let a 4-0 lead get away and was still undoubtedly getting used to the overwhelming crowd support her opponent was receiving because Robson was born in Melbourne.  It wasn't the best tennis I've seen this week, but Stephens found her way through it and will face Bojana Jovanovski of Serbia in the fourth round. This BBC article focuses on Robson's shoulder problem as one of the reasons she made so many errors in the match.

Illinois' Ryan Rowe and Kevin Anderson won the 2006 NCAA doubles title 

Kevin Anderson, the former All-American at Illinois, reached the fourth round of a grand slam for the first time after beating No. 22 seed Fernando Verdasco of Spain on Friday, and will meet Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic Sunday.  Anderson, the 2006 NCAA doubles champion (with Ryan Rowe) is also still alive in doubles,  reaching the third round with Israel's Jonathan Erlich.

And speaking of Illinois tennis, the men's and women's teams are experimenting with alternate formats this week in non-conference play.  In one match, the women are playing one doubles match (worth two points) and four singles matches simultaneously with all matches no-ad and in another, they are playing traditional format but with no-ad.

I don't like no-ad, and I never have, so I hope this format doesn't catch on, but maybe I'll prove to be in the minority.

The men are trying an even more radical change, counting every game with the highest cumulative score winning, as well as allowing substitutes. I don't think tennis is basketball, and I don't think it should aspire to be, but an interesting idea nonetheless.


LoveTheGame said...

Love to see format changes to reduce dual match times. They may not catch on or be "better," but the status quo is not bringing more fans to matches.

ElonJohn said...

Fan support is nice, but that's not why they play. How about cheerleaders and door prizes? Seriously. Tinkering with the format is not going to attract more spectators. This kind of tinkering belongs in the Fall season.

fans? said...

Have you been to/seen Athens, Georgia? Pretty sure all those barking Bulldogs are fans...