©Colette Lewis 2013--
Flushing Meadows, NY--
CiCi Bellis, Michaela Gordon and Claire Liu are all playing their first junior slam in New York this week, but their lack of experience has been no barrier to impressive results.
Bellis and Gordon, both 14, and Liu, 13, have posted five US Open junior championships main draw wins between them after claiming the ITF World Junior Tennis 14-and-under competition in the Czech Republic last month.
Bellis and Gordon, who both received wild cards into the main draw, won their second round matches on a pleasant, packed-with-tennis day at the USTA Bille Jean King National Tennis Center.
Gordon beat No. 5 seed and European 16s champion Darya Kasatkina 6-4, 6-3, avenging her 6-2, 6-3 loss to the Russian just a few weeks ago in the semifinals of the ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts in College Park, Maryland.
"I lost to her, like 2 and 3 maybe, it wasn't that close," said Gordon, who trains at the Eagle-Fustar Academy in Santa Clara, Calif. "So going into this I just went for all my shots. The big difference was that I went for my serve a lot. Last time I played her, I didn't really hit the ball, so this time I was just more aggressive. And I also played a little more to her backhand, to open up the court."
Gordon believes the team's world championship on the red clay in the Czech Republic had several benefits.
"I think it helped us a little bit," said Gordon, who reached the semifinals of the Easter Bowl Grade B1 this spring. "Training on clay helps your game a lot on hard court too. Maybe it's a confidence boost."
Next up for Gordon is another ITF world champion--Louisa Chirico, who was on the US team that won the Junior Fed Cup for 16-and-under players last September. Chirico, the No. 10 seed, defeated Viktoriya Lushkova of Ukraine 6-3, 6-4.
Bellis, who defeated Ioana Ducu of Romania 6-2, 6-2, will play No. 2 seed Ana Konjuh of Croatia. Konjuh, the 2013 Australian Open girls champion got past a stubborn Kaitlyn McCarthy 6-3, 7-5 in their second round match.
Gordon, Bellis, Chirico and Konjuh are all in the same quarter of the draw.
Liu, who received a wild card into qualifying and won both her matches in straight sets, kept her record in New York perfect with a 6-1, 7-5 first round win over 17-year-old Kamonwan Buayam of Thailand, who is 55 in the ITF junior rankings.
Liu was dominating play, leading 6-1, 5-2, but she wasn't entirely surprised by her opponent's comeback.
"She started relaxing and hitting her shots better," said Liu, from Thousand Oaks, California. "I was getting really tight, thinking ahead of myself--oh, if I win, blah, blah, blah."
To get herself back on track after losing three straight games, Liu practiced a little self-deception.
"I tricked my brain," said Liu, who turned 13 in May and is playing her first ITF event. "When I was up 6-5, I was thinking I was down 5-6, trying to make it into the tiebreaker, so I would be more relaxed and hitting my shots."
Liu feels she plays with more freedom when she's behind.
"You really have nothing to lose, so you just relax, hit your shots better," Liu said. "It's not that you don't care, you still care, but not that much, if you miss an easy ball or something."
Saying she has been surprised by her results in New York, Liu also gave credit to her experience in the Czech Republic for helping produce them.
"It definitely gave me a lot of confidence," Liu said. "It definitely helped me with my nerves. That was the last tournament I played before this, so knowing I was playing well there helped my confidence."
Liu will play No. 3 seed Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic, who advanced to the second round with a 7-6(1), 6-3 victory over Alejandra Cisneros of Mexico.
Tornado Alicia Black cruised by lucky loser Beatrice Lombardo of Italy 6-0, 6-1 to reach the second round. US girls falling in the second round were wild cards McCarthy, Brooke Austin and Katerina Stewart. Wild card Chloe Ouellet-Pizer and qualifier Usue Arconada lost their rain-delayed first round matches.
As is the case in the girls draw, the US boys are also bunched into one quarter, with Martin Redlicki, Collin Altamirano and Mackenzie McDonald grouped with top seed Alexander Zverev of Germany.
Zverev had his difficulties with lucky loser Gerardo Lopez Villaseno of Mexico before taking his second round match 6-1, 5-7, 6-3, and he will meet an in-form Redlicki, who posted his second consecutive impressive win, defeating Ken Onishi of Japan 6-2, 6-3.
Kalamazoo champion Altamirano said after his first round win that it had taken him three or four days to adjust to all the sights and sounds of New York, but he's obviously settled into the pace of the place. On Tuesday he defeated No. 12 seed and European champion Karen Khachanov of Russia 6-4, 6-4, setting up a third round meeting with Mackenzie McDonald. McDonald looked on top of his game this afternoon, beating Maxime Janvier of France 6-2, 6-2.
Noah Rubin and Gage Brymer collected first round wins, with Rubin defeating Hannes Wagner of Germany 6-3, 6-0, and Brymer surviving against Cem Ikel of Turkey 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.
The three remaining boys qualifiers from the US lost in their first round matches, with Reilly Opelka, Francis Tiafoe and Alex Rybakov losing in straight sets. Wild card Ernesto Escobedo lost his first round match, and Dan Kerznerman fell in his second round match.
In a notable doubles result, top seeds Borna Coric of Croatia and Stefan Kozlov were ousted in the first round, losing to Redlicki and his Polish partner Kamil Majchrzak 7-6(3), 3-6, 10-6.
For complete results, see usopen.org.