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Saturday, June 21, 2014

ITF Grass Season Begins for 16 US Juniors Sunday at Roehampton; Keys, Vandeweghe Win WTA Titles; Chirico, Donaldson Reach Finals on Pro Circuit, Stewart Faces Kuhlman at Bethany Beach

Although the US ITF Junior Circuit does have a Grass Court tournament, held earlier this month in Philadelphia, it's a Grade 4, meaning the only two major grass tournaments for the 18-and-under set are the next two weeks in London with the Roehampton Grade 1 (now sponsored by Nike) and the Wimbledon Junior Championships.  I will not be at the former, just the latter, but most of the same players will be at a both, including world No. 1 junior Andrey Rublev of Russia.

Rublev, who won the French Open boys title earlier this month, is, of course, the top seed in both events.  Serbia's Ivana Jorovic, who took over the No. 1 spot after reaching the French Open girls final,  will be the top seed at Wimbledon, but she is not playing Roehampton, which leaves second-ranked CiCi Bellis as the top seed.

Bellis is one of four US girls seeded, with Tornado Alicia Black No. 2, Sofia Kenin No. 14 and Usue Arconada No. 16.  The other five US girls in the 64-player draw are Katrine Steffensen, Raveena Kingsley, Dasha Ivanova, Kaitlyn McCarthy and Raquel Pedraza, who qualified.

Three of the seven US boys in the draw are seeded: No. 4 Stefan Kozlov, No. 5 Francis Tiafoe and No. 8 Michael Mmoh.  The other four are Alex Rybakov, who will play Rublev in the second round if they both win, Taylor Fritz, Henrik Wiersholm and Logan Smith.  Argentina's Jordi Arconada, who trains at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., qualified and will face Kozlov in the first round.

For the draws and Sunday's order of play, see the LTA home page.  For an interesting look back at the past 13 years of Wimbledon junior champions, see this AFP article. (My response to the headline is well, duh, but it's worth reading).

The US juniors are dreaming of having a week on grass the two slightly older Americans had last week, with qualifier CoCo Vandweghe and unseeded Madison Keys both picking up their first WTA titles with victories today.  The 19-year-old Keys became the youngest woman to win a Premier WTA title since Caroline Wozniacki in 2009 when she defeated No. 5 seed Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in the final at Eastbourne, England.  Vandeweghe, 22, defeated Zheng Jie of China 6-2 6-4 in the final of the WTA International-level event in 'S-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, and her serve was the star throughout the tournament. According to this WTA article about the final, Vandweghe won 27 of 28 first serve points and never faced a break point in the championship match. She hit a total of 81 aces in her seven matches.

At the Tulsa $15,000 Futures, 17-year-old Jared Donaldson will play top seed Jarmere Jenkins(Virginia) in Sunday's final.  Jenkins defeated unseeded 17-year-old Ernesto Escobedo 6-3, 6-1 in today's semifinal, while Donaldson, the No. 7 seed, beat unseeded Mackenzie McDonald(UCLA) 6-3, 7-6(1). Donaldson won a Futures title earlier this month in Turkey on clay, but this is his first hard court final. Donaldson, who has now won nine straight Futures matches, has reached at least the quarterfinals of his last eight Futures played in 2014.

Eighteen-year-old Louisa Chirico is also on a streak. Last week Chirico won the $25,000 ITF Women's Circuit event in Italy, her first at that prize-money level and she has continued that form, reaching the final of the $25,000 tournament in Switzerland, also on clay.  The unseeded New Yorker will take on reigning Australian Open girls champion, 18-year-old fifth seed Elizaveta Kulichkova of Russia, in the final.  Chirico has a title in hand already, however, as she and Sanaz Marand(North Carolina) won the doubles title. The No. 2 seeds defeated No. 3 seeds  Su Jeong Jang of Korea and Justyna Jegiolka of Poland 6-3, 6-4.

At the Bethany Beach $10,000 women's Pro Circuit event, Katerina Stewart aims for her second title at that level when she takes on Jose Kuhlman in the final.  No. 7 seed Stewart, who won the Orlando $10K in March, breezed past No. 6 seed Peggy Porter 6-0, 6-1, while Kuhlman, into her first final, defeated wild card Ingrid Neel 6-3, 6-1.  Top seeds Alexandra Mueller and Lena Litvak(Harvard) won the doubles title, beating Stewart and Rima Asatrian 6-4, 6-1 in the final.

At the Buffalo $10,000 Futures, former Duke star Henrique Cunha of Brazil, the No. 3 seed, will face No. 2 seed Ashley Hewitt of Great Britain in the final. Cunha beat wild card Nathan Pasha(Georgia) 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-0 in today's semifinals, with Hewitt downing No. 8 seed Daniel Nguyen(8) 7-6(12), 7-6(3).  Connor Smith(Ohio State) and Jean-Yves Aubone(Florida State) won the doubles title, with the No. 2 seeds beating top seeds Luke Bambridge and Liam Broady of Great Britain 6-3, 2-6, 10-6.