Teens Impress at Australian Open; Why AO Has Gained Popularity; Gordon, Bellis Reach Teen Tennis Quarterfinals
In my look at the teenagers in the Australian Open main draw last week, I didn't make any predictions about how they would fare in their opening matches, but I'll admit I'm surprised how many made the second round.
With two additional qualifiers--Daria Gavrilova of Russia and Luksika Khumkum of Thailand--there were 17 teenage girls in the main draw(the only teenage boy, Australian wild card Luke Saville lost his first round match to Go Soeda) and 11 of them won their first round matches.
The most impressive was certainly No. 29 seed Sloane Stephens of the US, who completely overpowered Simona Halep of Romania 6-1, 6-1. The match was so short--47 minutes--that ESPN barely had time to check in on it, even though it was on a televised court.
Sixteen-year-old Donna Vekic of Croatia, the youngest player in the draw, also rolled over a veteran, beating Andrea Hlavackova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-2 in 69 minutes. Vekic, who trains in England, talked to Simon Cambers of Reuters after the match about why she won't change her nationality. Vekic plays former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in the second round.
The other teens advancing to the second round: Laura Robson(18), Madison Keys(17), Khumkum(19), Gavrilova(18), Kristina Mladenovic(19), Garbine Muguruza(19), Yulia Putintseva(18), Jana Cepelova(19) and Annika Beck(18). Beck, the 2012 Roland Garros girls champion, defeated No. 28 seed Yaroslava Shvedova 6-2, 6-7(7), 6-3, winning the final six games of the match. Gavrilova beat fellow teen Lauren Davis, and Mladenovic survived fellow teen Timea Babos 11-9 in the third.
For complete draws, see the tournament website.
The Australian Open's reputation has grown in the past few years (at least among the pros; the junior draws continue to be a distant fourth in quality) and Doug Robson, writing for USA Today, gives much of the credit to former Illinois men's head coach Craig Tiley.
The guiding force behind the tournament's rising prestige is tournament director Craig Tiley, who has run the event since 2007.
"His relationships with the players are the reason the tournament is strong this year," said Todd Woodbridge, who serves under Tiley as Tennis Australia's head of player development and also commentates for Australia's Channel 7."
Navigating a tense political climate hasn't diminished Tiley's popularity. Many players praised his accessibility and communication skills.
"He's a down to earth and a fantastic human being all around — a guy you can sit down with and have a 30-minute conversation with no awkward pauses," said American Michael Russell, who bowed out Monday to No. 5 seed Tomas Berdych.
His staff extols his leadership, vision and work ethic, saying he sleeps four hours a night but doesn't take himself too seriously.
Chris Clarey, writing in the New York Times explains why Tiley and Tennis Australia chief executive Steve Wood got a standing ovation when they left this year's player meeting.
“Some of you in this room are making a good living, and a lot of you in this room and every one of you who is not in this room are not making a living.’ So I said, ‘We will make a promise to you that we will do our part in changing that.”'
Clarey goes on to discuss the prize money dispute going on between the ATP players and the USTA, with USTA CEO Gordon Smith explaining why the organization can't approach the same percentage of prize money to revenue that Tennis Australia has, and Justin Gimelstob, a member of the ATP board of directors, expressing disappointment in the USTA's current offer, and warning the issue is far from resolved.
In the ITF Grade 1 in Traralgon, all the American boys are out of both singles and doubles, and top seeds Katerina Siniakova and Gianluigi Quinzi also failed to advance past the third round.
At the Aegon Teen Tennis 14-and-under tournament in Bolton, CiCi Bellis and Michaela Gordon have reached the girls quarterfinals, while all four of the boys lost in the second or third rounds. All four US doubles teams have reached the quarterfinals. See the TennisEurope site for complete draws.