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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Logan Smith, Alex Rybakov and Dasha Ivanova Win First Round Matches in Soggy Opening Day at Wimbledon Junior Championships

Dasha Ivanova wins her first junior slam match Saturday

©Colette Lewis 2014--

A long day of waiting out the rain proved worthwhile for three US juniors, with Logan Smith and Dasha Ivanova picking up their first junior slam wins, and Alex Rybakov getting his second as the Wimbledon Junior Championships began Saturday.

Rain arrived shortly before the scheduled 11:00 a.m. start time, but Rybakov and Ivanova were the first matches scheduled on their courts, so they had to be ready the moment the rain stopped and the covers were removed from the courts.  At around 12:30, Rybakov began his match with wild card Rhett Purcell of Great Britain and Ivanova took the court against Qiu Yu Ye of China, but not much was decided before heavy rain disrupted play for three more hours.  Purcell was serving at 1-2 and Ivanova was serving at 2-3 and as they waited matches of the other juniors scheduled for later in the day were steadily being cancelled. 

It was after 6 p.m. when the skies finally cleared and the players returned to the courts, having spent their time hanging out in the separate junior lounge, trying to stay loose.

"I don't have a coach with me but I have three of my friends here (Alejandro Tabilo, Tornado Alicia Black and Katrine Steffensen) and they relax me, get me laughing and that's the best," said Ivanova, who trains at L'Academie de Tennis in Boynton Beach, Florida. "I was just listening to music, watching FIFA as well."

Ivanova was determined to play aggressively against Ye, ultimately posting a 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-2 victory, and using her experience from last year, when she qualified for the main draw, but fell in the first round.

"I learned from last year, everything is just chaos, my mind's all over the place," said the 17-year-old from Portland, Oregon. "I look up and see Centre Court. I knew I had to just focus--that's why I wear the visor, to focus on the court--and not pay attention to what's going on around me.  Last year I felt like a little girl out there, in such a big world, with everyone staring down at me."

Ivanova admitted that her concentration waned slightly in the second set but she continued to hit out, with her service return particularly effective in the latter stages of the third set.

"When I played aggressive she couldn't really keep up," said Ivanova. "That worked the best for me.  I pushed a few balls and she would just hit winners, so I knew I had to stay aggressive."

Alex Rybakov posts his second win in a junior slam

While Ivanova was closing out Ye on Court 5, Rybakov was in deep trouble on Court 19.  After winning the first set 7-6(5), after saving two set points serving at 3-5, Rybakov dropped the second set 6-3 and trailed 3-1 in the third.  But even with a large crowd urging on the British wild card, Rybakov got the break back and earned two match points with Purcell serving at 4-5 15-40.  The 18-year-old right-hander saved them both with some good serving, closing out the game with an ace, and soon they reached the advantage portion of a match--new territory for Rybakov.

"It's a new feeling," said Rybakov, a 17-year-old from Coral Springs, Florida. "But for me it was pretty regular. I just told myself to hold my serve, try to get into the return games and make him play. I was prepared to go whatever distance it was going to go."

Rybakov saved a break point at 7-7 in the third set with a perfectly struck forehand winner that painted the sideline and went on to hold.  In the next game, Purcell saved his third match point with a similarly bold forehand winner, but he was unable to keep Rybakov from earning a fourth in a rapid-fire exchange with Purcell at the net. Purcell wasn't able to get his first serve in on that fourth match point, and finally succumbed to the pressure, double faulting to give Rybakov the 7-6(5), 3-6, 9-7 victory.

A year ago, Rybakov was winning the ITF Grass Courts in Philadelphia, but acknowledged the differences between that grass and the surface at Wimbledon.

"I wasn't really taking that result into mind, because I knew when I came here it was going to be a lot different," Rybakov said. "It's really a unique surface, and these past two weeks, I've really, really enjoyed playing on it, and hopefully, I'll get to play some more."

Rybakov's second round opponent is  Petros Chrysochos of Cyprus, who upset No. 5 seed Quentin Halys of France 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Logan Smith wins his grand slam debut

While Rybakov finished before the fading light became a factor, Smith was getting worried as his match with Marc Polmans of Australia was drawing to a close.  After trailing 5-3 in the opening set, Smith shook off his nerves and dominated the second half of the match, finishing off Polmans 7-5, 6-2 with very little light left.

"It's the first grand slam main draw I've ever played," said Smith, 17. "I was a little nervous, but I started to loosen up a little more. I got a lot of confidence after I broke at 5-all, and I knew I had it in my hands there. At 5-2 (in the second), I was like, I've got to finish this, I've got to finish this before they suspend it."

Smith, who played the Italian Open but returned to Southern California to finish his school year rather than stay in Europe for the French, said he likes the grass, and the buzz, at Wimbledon

"It suits my game," said Smith, who signed dozens of autographs after his match. "I served really well and that was a main factor today. The atmosphere is amazing, something like I've never played before. I love the courts here--Roehampton has some not-so-good bounces--and it's definitely amazing to play here.  To play my first grand slam and to win here is really special."

Raveena Kingsley was the fourth US junior to take the court on Saturday, but she was not able to complete her match with Simona Heinova of the Czech Republic. Kinglsey lost the first set in a tiebreaker, with the second  set at 3-3 when play was suspended until Monday due to darkness.

Although only seven junior matches were completed, two seeds lost, both of them boys.  In addition to Halys's loss, No. 3 seed Orlando Luz of Brazil was eliminated, with British wild card Joshua Sapwell delighting the legion of British fans with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 upset.

For complete results, and Monday's order of play, see the Wimbledon website.

There is no play on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, so the other 14 US juniors are scheduled to play on Monday.