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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Chirico, Townsend Reach Wimbledon Semifinals

Last year at the US Open, Louisa Chirico played in her first junior slam, qualifying, but losing in the first round.  In the next junior slam she played--last month's French Open--Chirico made the semifinals, and at this week's Wimbledon, her third junior slam, she has again advanced to the final four.

Aside from one match on Tuesday, the juniors haven't been on the ESPN streaming, but today, all the quarterfinals were available. Of course several were be played at once, but I am able to provide a bit more insight when I can actually see some of the key points, instead of basing my coverage on the live scores, so thanks to Wimbledon and ESPN for that option.

In Chirico's 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 win over No. 6 seed Elsie Mertens, whom Chirico had beaten recently in the Grade 1 Astrid Bowl semifinals, the No. 15 seed displayed her usual composure, despite falling behind 5-0 in the second set.  Aside from a poor first serve percentage (30%) in the second set, Chirico didn't play that much differently from the first set, and neither did Mertens. Chirico kept fighting, unwilling to concede the second set, and had a point to get back on serve at 3-5, but Mertens held.  In the third set, which was familiar territory for Chirico, who has played three sets in all four of her wins, Chirico got an early break when Mertens double faulted on game point. That was all the 17-year-old New Yorker needed, never facing a break point in the third set, and breaking Mertens to end the match.

Chirico will play No. 1 seed and Roland Garros champion Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in the semifinals, which is the same round where they met last month in Paris, with Bencic winning 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. Bencic prevented an all-American semifinal by defeating unseeded Jamie Loeb 6-2, 6-3.  Bencic was willing to move in to finish points when one of her big ground strokes hurt Loeb, and she also made Loeb pay dearly for her second serves, stepping a good five feet inside the baseline to tee off on her returns.  Bencic faced only one break point in each set, saving the first one at 3-2 in the opening set, then getting broken serving for the match at 5-2. But Bencic ended it in the next game, blasting a return winner off a Loeb second serve to pick up her 34th straight junior win.

Taylor Townsend had played only one junior slam main draw prior to winning the Australian Open in 2012, but after playing all four in 2012 and claiming three doubles slams in addition to the singles title, she is a veteran of the big stage.  In her 6-2, 7-6(4) quarterfinal victory over No. 4 seed Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic, Townsend started fast, taking a 4-1 lead in under 20 minutes.  Once Krejcikova got into the match however, she tested the fifth seeded Townsend, holding for 5-2 and saving four set points before Townsend finally took the first set.

After an exchange of breaks midway through the second set, both girls held for a tiebreaker, which might have been decided by the thinnest of margins. With Townsend leading 4-3 on serve, Krejcikova's attempt at a clean winner was called out on the sideline, a call she did not agree with. Krejcikova came up with a backhand winner to make it 5-4, but an unforced error on the backhand side gave Townsend a match point and she finished it with a service winner.

Townsend will play No. 2 seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia, who succeeded Townsend as Australian Open girls champion this year, and who defeated Townsend in the semifinals of December's Orange Bowl 4-6, 6-1, 6-3. Konjuh downed No. 12 seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine 6-3, 6-2 and has yet to drop a set in this week.

Townsend's relationship with the USTA has been the basis for many articles since last year's US Open controversy, and ESPN W has updated information in this article, which includes quotes from Taylor and her mother Shelia, as well as US Player Development General Manager Patrick McEnroe.

The top two girls seeds have made their way into the semifinals, but not so the boys, whose draw has gotten less predictable after holding form for the first few days.

An unseeded boy will be in the final, with Hyeon Chung of Korea and Maximilian Marterer of Germany getting past seeded opponents in Thursday's quarterfinals.  Chung, 17, avenged his Australian Open third round loss to No. 8 seed Borna Coric 7-6(5), 6-3, while the 18-year-old Marterer, who had never gone past the third round in a junior slam, beat No. 4 seed Laslo Djere of Serbia 6-3, 6-4.

The other Serb remaining, No. 2 seed Nikola Milojevic, was beaten by No. 6 seed Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy 6-4, 6-3.  Quinzi will face home favorite Kyle Edmund, who came from a set and a break down against Stefan Kozlov to record a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 victory. 

After winning the first set with his baffling array of spin, placement and touch, the 15-year-old Kozlov broke to open the second set, but then proceeded to lose the next eight games to go down 2-0 in the third set.  Edmund, no doubt feeling the pressure of playing someone three years younger, put that out of his mind, making fewer errors and getting some free points from his serve.  But Kozlov wasn't quite done.  He broke back to take a 3-2 lead in the third set, and got to deuce in Edmund's next service game, but that was his last gasp. Suffering from cramps, Kozlov lost 12 points in a row, and although he saved one match point, Edmund took the second, and the win.

For more on Edmund's victory over Kozlov, see this article from the BBC.  The Tennishorts blog has more on all four US quarterfinalists, including Susan Mullane's photos.  The ITF junior website has coverage of today's quarterfinal matches as well.

The second round of doubles was completed today, and only one American remains in the draw. Noah Rubin, who is playing with Belgian Clement Geens, defeated Luca Corinteli and Lucas Gomez of Mexico 6-4, 6-4.  Rubin and Geens are the No. 6 seeds. They will play top seeds Edmund and Frederico Silva of Portugal, who are going for their third junior slam doubles title, having won at the US Open and the French. Girls top seeds Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova are also on pace to add another junior slam title to the one they won last month in Paris.

For draws, see the tournament website.