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Friday, June 7, 2013

May Aces; Bencic Faces Lottner, Garin Meets Zverev in Junior Finals at Roland Garros; NCAA Highlight Show On Tennis Channel Saturday

My look back at the top performances of May in my monthly column for Tennis Recruiting Network features Belinda Bencic of Switzerland and Alexander Zverev of Germany, who won the Grade A Italian Open last month in Milan.

Both can capture an even bigger title Saturday, when they play for the singles titles at the French Open Junior Championships.

Bencic, the No. 2 seed, defeated unseeded Louisa Chirico 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 Friday to extend her junior record in 2013 to a perfect 22-0.  Chirico, who reached the final of the Grade 1 Astrid Bowl last week in Belgium, was granted a special exemption into the main draw, with this just her second junior slam.

Chirico led 5-2 in the opening set and actually had a set point on Bencic's serve in that eighth game, but Bencic won the last five games of the set, with an especially disheartening game at 5-5 for Chirico, who led 40-0 in the game.

Bencic opened the second set by breaking Chirico, but the 17-year-old from New York got the break right back, and did the same when she was broken at 2-2. Chirico got another break at 4-3 and, serving for the set, was down 0-40 before saving those three break points and one additional one to even the match.

Bencic again got an early break in the third set, when she won 10 of the first 12 points, and this time Chirico couldn't come back. She was down 5-1, but broke Bencic at love, then held for 5-3, but the 16-year-old from Switzerland closed it out in her next service game, avenging her  April loss to Chirico in qualifying at the $50,000 Charlottesville tournament.  For more on Chirico's breakthrough slam, read this article from Matt Cronin for usta.com.

In the final, Bencic will play doubles partner and No. 5 seed Antonia Lottner of Germany, after Lottner rolled past top seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia 6-0, 6-1. Konjuh didn't hold serve once in the match, with her only game coming with Lottner serving at 6-0, 5-0, and it could be that all the matches of the past seven days just caught up with her. Lottner has an excellent junior slam pedigree, but that scoreline could never have been anticipated.  Bencic and Lottner played in the final of a Grade 1 in April of 2012, with Bencic winning 6-4, 6-3.

The fourth-seeded Zverev, who turned 16 last month, earned his first junior slam finals berth with a 7-5, 6-1 win over No. 2 seed Nikola Milojevic of Serbia. Zverev led 5-2 in the first set, but Milojevic saved six sets points, three serving at 2-5, two with Zverev serving at 5-3 and one serving at 5-6, before finally surrendering the set.

The second set was all Zverev, who didn't face a break point and was up 5-0 before Milojevic finally got on the board. Unlike the end of the first set, the end of the match came quickly, with Zverev converting his first match point.

Zverev's opponent in the final is unseeded Christian Garin of Chile, who defeated No. 8 seed Borna Coric of Croatia 7-5, 6-2. Garin trailed 5-2 in the first set, but just as Bencic had done, the 17-year-old won the next five games.  Garin opened the second set by breaking Coric and then holding, and he was able to save the only two break points he faced to close out the win.

Garin will have two chances to pick up a French junior champion's trophy Saturday, after he and partner Nicolas Jarry won their semifinal match over Maximilian Marterer of Germany and Lucas Miedler of Austria 6-1, 2-6, 10-5.  Garin and Jarry, the No. 5 seeds and Orange Bowl champions, will play No. 3 seeds and US Open champions Kyle Edmund of Great Britain and Frederico Silva of Portugal.  Edmund and Silva defeated Benjamin Bonzi and Quentin Halys of France 6-3, 6-7(5), 10-3.

The girls doubles final features unseeded Domenica Gonzalez of Ecuador and Beatriz Haddad Maia of Brazil against No. 2 seeds Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic. Krejcikova and Siniakova ended the quest for a second consecutive junior slam title for Konjuh and partner Carol Zhao of Canada, with the Czech team winning 6-2, 6-4.  Gonzalez and Haddad Maia prevailed over No. 8 seeds Alice Matteucii of Italy and Nina Stojanovic of Serbia 7-5, 6-7(6), 10-7.

For more on the singles finalists, see this article by Sandy Harwitt at the  ITF Junior website.

For complete results, see the Roland Garros website.

If you have access to the Tennis Channel, please note that there will be a highlight show from the recent NCAA Division I championships broadcast at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Saturday, which will be repeated at 8 p.m.