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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Querrey, Sock, Young Last Three US Men in Melbourne; Australian Open Juniors Qualifying Draws; Top Seeds Flink, Zverev in Traralgon Semis; Four US Boys into Teen Tennis Quarterfinals

The Australian Open men's and women's singles draws are down to 64 players, and the hope that this would be the slam that gives hope for a resurgence of the US men has mostly been dashed.  John Isner, at No. 13, the only American man in the Top 50, retired after losing the second set tiebreaker to lucky loser Martin Klizan of Slovakia Tuesday, citing an ankle injury, and with the additional Tuesday exits of Bradley Klahn, Ryan Harrison, Tim Smyczek and Wayne Odesnik, that meant only Sam Querrey, who won Monday, Donald Young and Jack Sock would play a second match.

Young advanced when Robin Haase of the Netherlands retired early in the fourth set, while Sock defeated Tobias Kamke of Germany in four sets.  ESPN had this article on Sock's recent commitment to improving his fitness.  As I mentioned earlier on twitter, all three are former Kalamazoo champions. Querrey won the 16s in 2004, Young won back-to-back 18s titles in 2005 and 2006, and Sock won back-to-back 18s titles in 2010 and 2011.

As has been the case in the past several years, the US women have shown better results, with eight through to the second round.  In addition to Serena Williams, Madison Keys, Lauren Davis, Irina Falconi and Alison Riske, all of whom won on Monday, three more American women posted victories in the extreme heat Tuesday: Varvara Lepchenko, Christina McHale and Sloane Stephens.  Those who played Monday are on the schedule for today.

ITF World Junior champion Belinda Bencic is also playing today, scheduled first on Rod Lave Arena against No. 4 seed Na Li of China.

2013 NCAA Champion Blaz Rola of Ohio State
The losses by Lleyton Hewitt and Bernard Tomic don't bode well for the Australian men this tournament, but the host country got some real reason for optimism when last year's Junior boys finalists Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis both won their opening round matches against Benjamin Becker and Igor Sijsling.  With Becker and Somdev Devvarman's losses, the NCAA champion contingent is now down to one--reigning champion Blaz Rola of Ohio State.  Slovenia's Rola, who qualified, beat Federico Delbonis of Argentina 6-4, 6-2, 7-5 and will meet Klizan in the second round Thursday.

For draws and Wednesday's schedule, see the tournament website.

The qualifying draws for the Australian Open Junior Championships have been released, and as usual they are not full.  They are also not 48-draws, as the ITF website says. They could be, with only 41 boys and 39 girls in the draws, but that wouldn't allow all 16 seeds to get byes, although I don't believe that's required by the ITF.  The other three junior slams have 32-player draws, and given the lack of participation in Australia, you'd anticipate they would have smaller qualifying draws, not larger ones.  The only American in either draw is 15-year-old Ulises Blanch, who qualified for the ITF Grade 1 in Traralgon, but lost in the first round.

Top seeds Varvara Flink of Russia and Alexander Zverev of Germany both have advanced to the semifinals in Traralgon, but they are the only seeds expected to get to the final four that did.  Zverev will play No. 12 seed Lucas Miedler of Austria in the semifinals, with two unseeded players in the bottom half semifinal: Australia's Omar Jasika and Spain's Jaume Munar Clar.  Flink will play 13-year-old wild card Destanee Aiava of Australia, whom I saw play at the Junior Orange Bowl and was impressed with, while the other semifinal will feature No. 7 seed Anastasiya Komardina of Russia and No. 10 seed Fiona Ferro of France.  Michael Mmoh had the best results of the US players, losing to Miedler in the quarterfinals.

At the Nike International Teen Tennis 14-and-under tournament in Bolton, England, all four American boys have reached the quarterfinals, Roscoe Bellamy(5), Andrew Fenty(8), Axel Nefve(12) and unseeded Keenan Mayo.  Fenty plays top seed Yshai Oliel of Israel and Bellamy plays No. 2 seed Nicola Kuhn of Germany Wednesday. Nefve avenged his first round Junior Orange Bowl loss to Canada's Nicaise Muamba, the No. 6 seed, today, while Mayo has lost only eight games in his three victories.

Claire Liu, who was surprisingly seeded No. 2 despite her Junior Orange Bowl title, is the only US girl to advance to the quarterfinals.

For complete results, see the Tennis Europe tournament site.