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Friday, July 5, 2013

June Aces; Townsend Faces Bencic for Wimbledon Girls Title; Chung and Quinzi Meet For Boys Championship

My monthly column for the Tennis Recruiting Network contains salutes to three of the four Wimbledon junior finalists, proving that coming into a junior slam with momentum is always a good thing.

The only finalist who is not a June Ace is Taylor Townsend, who beat Ana Konjuh, who is one,  2-6, 7-6(4), 7-5 in Friday's semifinals to advance to her second junior slam final and first since she won the Australian Open in January of 2012.

Townsend, the No. 5 seed, started poorly, missing many of the shots she is most comfortable with--volleys, overheads, forehands.  Konjuh, the No. 2 seed and reigning Australian Open girls champion, looked sharp, especially on serve and she didn't face a break point.  Townsend played better in the second set, and when she finally got two break points against the 15-year-old Croatian, she took advantage of the second one, with an assist from the baseline judge, who called a foot fault on Konjuh's second serve at 30-40.

Townsend had a set point in Konjuh's next service game at 3-5, but she missed a cross court forehand wide and Konjuh held.  Townsend was unable to earn a set point on her own serve at 5-4 however, with deuce as close as she could get in that game before being broken. Serving down 5-6, Townsend was at 30-30, just two points from defeat, but she won the next two points to force a tiebreaker.

The tiebreaker was 3-3 at the change of ends, and Townsend hit a good first serve to take a 4-3 lead.  Konjuh will probably look back with regret on the simple overhead at the service line she missed that made it 5-3, and the forehand she netted two points later to give Townsend two set points.  Townsend converted immediately with an excellent deep second serve that Konjuh couldn't handle.

In the opening game of the third set, Townsend double faulted twice but still managed to win the game, saving the only break point she would face in the final set.  Up 2-1, Townsend earned her first break opportunity but she missed a volley into the net, and berated herself, saying, "You're such a choke. Hit the ball."

She took her own advice, with her forehand beginning to do real damage against Konjuh, with its pace and depth producing the majority of the 17 winners she was credited with in the set.  Townsend was also using her serve-and-volley game occasionally late in the match, and was drawing errors from Konjuh on the pass attempts.

At 5-5, Townsend missed a volley to make it 30-30, but a good slice forced an error and a fine backhand drop volley winner gave her the 6-5 lead.

Serving to extend the match, Konjuh hit a good first serve for 15-0, but that was the highlight of the game for her.  She netted a routine forehand for 15-15, netted a routine backhand for 15-30, then hit a backhand wide to give Townsend two match points.  Konjuh hit a dozen aces in the match, but couldn't come up with even a first serve at 15-40. Townsend missed a routine backhand return off the second serve, which didn't produce much reaction from her, but she did take her time, going to the back of the court to refocus for her second chance. Again Konjuh didn't get her first serve in, just missing down the T, and this time Townsend got the second serve in play. Two shots later, she hit another good forehand, this one a short angle near the far service line, and Konjuh barely got a weak shot back over the net. Townsend set up for the short overhead and smashed it, then fell to the ground to celebrate.

Townsend will play top seed Belinda Bencic of Switzerland in the final, after Bencic again eliminated Louisa Chirico in the semifinals, just as she had done at Roland Garros.  This time, the match wasn't as close, with Bencic taking a 6-0, 6-3 decision over the No. 15 seed.

Chirico couldn't find her range in the opening set, while Bencic barely made an unforced error, particularly in the first four games.  Chirico was competitive in Bencic's service games, more so than her own; she didn't get a game point on her own serve until the first game of the second set.  After going to four deuces in that game, Chirico finally held, but she was able to hold only once more, and at 2-2, she double faulted twice, the second time on game point to give Bencic a 3-2 lead.

Bencic returned the favor in the next game, double faulting on break point to make it 3-3, but Chirico again dropped serve, and Bencic didn't follow suit, taking a 5-3 lead and breaking Chirico for the sixth time to close it out and put her in her second consecutive junior slam final.

Bencic has beaten Townsend twice in the past month, 9-7 in the third in the Roland Garros quarterfinals and just last week in the Grade 1 in Roehampton semifinals in straight sets.  The match is scheduled for Saturday at 1 p.m. on Court 1, which is 8 a.m. Eastern in the US, and it can be seen via the ESPN3 streaming service.

The boys final will be played on Sunday, with unseeded Hyeon Chung of Korea taking on No. 6 seed Gianluigi Quinzi of Italy.  Quinzi dropped local favorite and No. 5 seed Kyle Edmund of Great Britain 6-4, 6-4, while Chung overcame big serving Maximilian Marterer of Germany 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-3.

Edmund played in front of a packed court 3, but the home country fans couldn't get him over the hump in a crucial nine-deuce game in the opening set. Quinzi, a semifinalist at Wimbledon last year, broke Edmund to take a 4-3 lead, then spent 13 minutes consolidating that break. The second set followed the same pattern as the first, without the dramatic eighth game, with Quinzi getting a break at 3-3, then holding on to it.  The 17-year-old left-hander saved all six break points he faced, and that was the difference in the match.

Chung, who is the first Korean junior finalist at Wimbledon, doesn't have the same threat with his serve that the left-handed Marterer does, but it was Chung who only faced two break points in the match and didn't lose either.  The 18-year-old Marterer, who hit one serve 133 mph, played well in the opening set, but Chung, who is 17, used his return and forehand to break down his bigger and less mobile opponent.

For more on the semifinals, see this article from the ITF junior website.  The BBC has its account of the Edmund and Quinzi match here. And Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times posted this article about Townsend's win over Konjuh.

The Wimbledon website had this article on the girls semifinals, and this article on the boys semifinals.

The last US junior was eliminated from the doubles championships today, with No. 6 seed Noah Rubin and Clement Geens of Belgium falling to top seeds Edmund and Frederico Silva of Portugal 7-6(3), 6-3 in the quarterfinals. Edmund and Silva, who are the reigning US Open and French Open boys champions, are the only seeded team remaining in the draw. All four of the semifinalists in the girls doubles are seeded, with top seeds and French champions Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic cruising, as are No. 2 seeds Bencic and Petra Uberalova of Slovakia.

The doubles semifinals in both the boys and girls draws are scheduled for Saturday, with the doubles finals on Sunday.

The draws can be found at the tournament website.