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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Four More Wins for US Boys Wednesday Puts Seven into Wimbledon Junior Championships Round of 16; Black, Gordon Remain in Girls Draw

©Colette Lewis 2014--

A second consecutive day of warm sunshine Wednesday produced another crop of wins for US boys, as all four in second round singles action advanced to the round of 16 at the Wimbledon Junior Championships.

The three seeded American boys--Stefan Kozlov(6), Francis Tiafoe(7) and Michael Mmoh(11)--were joined by Taylor Fritz in posting straight set victories Wednesday, joining Noah Rubin, Logan Smith and Alex Rybakov, who reached the third round with victories last night.

Fritz defeated No. 14 seed Marcelo Zormann of Brazil 6-4, 7-6(3) avenging a 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 loss in the first round of a May Futures tournament in Spain.

"That's a match that I think was one of the biggest chokes I've ever had," said the 16-year-old from Southern California. "I was up a set, 3-1 and three break points that game to go to 4-1. I was playing so well. But I learned from that match that I couldn't let the guy back in, and that's actually what I was thinking at 5-1 in the tiebreaker."

Fritz had earned two match points with Zormann serving at 5-6, but he missed a cross court backhand after a long point on the first, and Zormann hit a forehand winner on the second, then went on to hold.

"I told myself after I lost the two match points that it is okay to lose this game, because I feel very comfortable in the tiebreaker," said Fritz, "especially since I was winning a lot more points on his serve than he was winning on mine when I was serving well."

Fritz missed only one first serve in the tiebreaker, allowing him to go for his returns, and when Zormann missed his first serve at 3-6, Fritz ripped a backhand return winner down the line for the victory.

Although he is still amazed by how far his game has come in the past year, Fritz believes the success of the other Americans on the ITF Circuit has helped him.

"I know that when one American does well, I want to do just as good," Fritz said. "I hate doing worse than the other Americans.  I just like to be at the level of everyone else, and it's not like, oh, this person is so much better than this American. I just like to go and try to prove myself."

Fritz will play unseeded Francisco Bahamonde of Argentina in the third round, after Bahamonde eliminated No. 4 seed Jaume Munar of Spain 7-5, 4-6, 6-4. 

2013 quarterfinalist Stefan Kozlov into third round
Kozlov, who reached the quarterfinals here at the Wimbledon Juniors last year, had no trouble for the second straight day, defeating Pedro Martinez Portero of Spain 6-0, 6-2.  The 16-year-old Floridian said he played one of the best matches he'd played in a while, using every manner of shot to confuse the net-charging Spaniard.

"I just didn't let him play today, to be honest," said Kozlov, who reached the Australian Open boys final back in January. "I think this is the most comfortable I've felt at a slam, I feel like I'm at home right now. Every time I get on the grass, I get so happy, there's just something about it. It's the most fun for me."

Kozlov will play No. 9 seed Naoki Nakagawa of Japan in the third round. Kozlov downed Nakagawa in the quarterfinals of the Orange Bowl last December 6-1, 5-7, 6-3.

Michael Mmoh joins six other US boys in third round

Mmoh's opponent in the third round is No. 6 seed Johan Sebastien Tatlot of France, who is 3-0 against Mmoh, all on clay.

"He dictates play a lot, said Mmoh, who beat Jan Zielinski of Poland 6-3, 6-2 Wednesday. "He just likes to stand on top of the baseline and just rip all out. But when I played him last match, at Orange Bowl (in the quarterfinals), I had a lot of chances. Before that I didn't really feel comfortable playing against him at all, but after that, I have more confidence."

Mmoh admits there's motivation from the success his peers are having.

"We all look out for each other," said Mmoh, who trains at the IMG Bolettieri Academy in Florida. "And we all want each other to do well. Obviously, when you're all doing well, you don't want to be left behind, you feel that extra push to get the job done. It also adds a little pressure. But we all want each other to win."

The only third round match featuring two Americans is Tiafoe against Noah Rubin, who won his second round match on Tuesday.  Tiafoe survived the battle of the reigning Orange Bowl champions, defeating 16s titleholder Yunseong Chung of Korea 7-6(4), 6-3 to set up his second meeting with Rubin.  Back in 2012, Tiafoe fell to Rubin 7-6(5), 6-1 in the third round of the ITF Grade 1 Pan American Closed, which Rubin went on to win. The 16-year-old Tiafoe, who won the Pan American Closed the following year, knows what he's facing with Rubin.

"I was young then, and he was playing well," Tiafoe said. "I was a little disappointed after the first set, begin up 5-2, two breaks, playing great and I let that slip. He's a great competitor, he moves well, and I'm going to have to give it all I've got to win."

Tiafoe has received more publicity than the other members of his peer group, with features on him appearing at CBS This Morning, Sports Illustrated, the Washington Post and the New York Times. But he doesn't see that as setting him apart in any way.

"The publicity part doesn't really matter," Tiafoe said. "Just because I've been getting more than them doesn't mean necessarily that I'm a better player. We're all at the same level and having a group like that pushes me. If I see them winning, obviously I want to get a win. We're all competitive in our own little way and I think that helps a lot. We all support each other and help each other, and I think over the years we've all gotten a lot better, and it's showing now. I'm happy we're all playing our best tennis when it matters."

In the other third round matches featuring American boys, Alex Rybakov will play unseeded Filippo Baldi of Italy, and Logan Smith will face No. 2 seed and 2013 finalist Hyeon Chung of Korea.

The girls draw also began with nine US entrants, but only two remain after two rounds--No. 3 seed Tornado Alicia Black and qualifier Michaela Gordon.

Black defeated wild card Rebecca Sramkova of Slovakia 6-2, 6-4, winning the final five games of the match to earn a third round contest against Great Britain's Katie Boulter.  Gordon served for the match at 5-4 in the second set and again at 5-4 in the third set, but finally finished off 17-year-old Isabelle Wallace 6-2, 5-7, 8-6, aided by Wallace's 15 double faults.

Gordon will play another junior with Scottish roots on Thursday, with wild card Maia Lumsden backing up her win over No. 2 seed CiCi Bellis with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over qualifier Dalma Galfi of Hungary.   With Lumsden, Boulter and Gabriella Taylor, Great Britain has the most girls in the round of 16 of any nation. 

The US lost its chance to have three in the third round when Sofia Kenin lost to unseeded Greetje Minnen of Belgium 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.

The first round of doubles was completed this afternoon and evening, with Kozlov (top seeded with Andrey Rublev of Russia), Mmoh and Tiafoe, the No. 4 seeds, and Henrik Wiersholm (with Duke recruit Nicolas Alvarez of Peru) advancing to the second round in the boys draw.  

Black, playing with Naiktha Bains of Australia and seeded No. 3, advanced to the second round of doubles, as did Usue Arconada, playing with Fanny Stollar of Hungary.  Dasha Ivanova and Katrine Steffensen also won their opening round match in doubles.

For complete draws and the schedule for Thursday, see the Wimbledon website.


Joe said...

I'm starting to feel sorry for Tiafoe. Our glorious USTA and US media have been over-hyping his abilities about being the next best thing in US junior tennis and, true fo form, he has cratered at the big stage events leaving the USTA with egg on their face once again. Sure, he makes a great story line based on the latest USTA's goal of focusing only on diversity and inclusion. One more reason to leave these kids alone and let them play tennis.

ptwahoo said...

Honestly, the media shouldnt be hyping any of these kids up like they do. It serves no purpose but to bring them down after the slightest disappointing result. In a perfect world, they should only post results and facts without all the hyperbolic headlines like NEXT GREAT SUPERSTAR after one or two good wins. This is why Zootennis is one of my absolute favorite tennis sites to visit.

And back in reality, losing a tight 3 setter to Noah Rubin does nothing to discredit Tiafoe as one of our best prospects anyway.