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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Top Seed Rublev Falls; Five Americans Make Quarterfinals of Wimbledon Junior Championships

©Colette Lewis 2014--

For the third day in a row, the weather was lovely and success continued for American juniors, with five--two girls and three boys-- reaching Friday's quarterfinals at the Wimbledon Junior championships.

Noah Rubin defeats Tiafoe in three sets to reach quarterfinals
Qualifier Noah Rubin, playing for the third time at the All England Lawn Tennis Club, won the only all-American battle of the day, defeating No. 7 seed Francis Tiafoe 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-3.  Rubin, whose ATP ranking of 539 is among the best in the draw, proved to be more focused in the third set, while the 16-year-old Tiafoe lost his serve with a loose game at 1-1, and became increasingly frustrated trying to get it back.

"I knew that every single point I had to be in there focused, and my serve couldn't let up," said the 18-year-old New Yorker, who had 8 aces in the match. "I believe my serve got to him a little bit in the third set and put a little too much pressure on him and he felt the need to be better on his serve, and that's where I got the opportunities. I felt on some of the more important times, not in the second set, because he played well, but in some of the more important times later, I was more focused."

Tiafoe kept within reach of Rubin in the final set, holding for 4-3, but Rubin won the final eight points of the match.  Serving at 3-5, 0-30, Tiafoe, who had already received a warning for racquet abuse, bounced a ball out of the court and received a point penalty for ball abuse, giving Rubin three match points. He converted the first with a backhand winner to reach his second junior slam quarterfinal.

Tim van Rijthoven defeats top seed Rublev in third round
Rubin, who has not yet made his college choice, with Wake Forest and Virginia the two contenders, could have expected to meet top seed Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals, but the Russian was stunned by unseeded Tim van Rijthoven of the Netherlands 7-6(6), 4-6, 7-5.

Rublev had beaten Rubin twice in 2013, once at the Grade A Italian Open and then in a Futures semifinal last fall, but Rubin had no trouble with van Rijthoven in the qualifying for the French Junior Championships this year, beating him 6-0, 6-2 in the first round.

"He's obviously much better on the grass," said Rubin. "He has a huge serve, a really big kid. I've become friends with him, and he's a very good player. It's obviously going to be a challenge, because he saved match points in taking out Rublev."

Thanks to Rubin and van Rijthoven's wins today, the top half of the boys draw is without any seeds.  Unseeded Taylor Fritz continued his strong play on grass, defeating Francisco Bahamonde of Argentina 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-3.

"My focus was just holding serve," said Fritz, who reached the semifinals of the Grade 1 warmup in Roehampton last week. "After I lost the first set. I told myself, you know what, I stuck to my game plan, I did what I wanted to do--I never got broken. So I said I just have to come out in the second set, and if he beats me in a tiebreaker again, it is what it is, and he deserves it."

Fritz said he did make one slight adjustment in the second set.

"I feel like I just had to be more aggressive, come to net a little more," said Fritz, who is playing in just his third junior slam at age 16. "In the third set, I just stuck to holding and once I got that break, I knew I would serve it out."

That break came with Bahamonde serving at 3-4, but Fritz had had plenty of chances, seeing seven break points go by before he converted the eighth with a deep backhand that forced an error.

The point of the match was the first one with Fritz serving for the match at 5-3. After a long rally, with both boys showing off both offensive and defensive skills, Fritz, at the net, managed to reflexively stab at a passing shot, with resulting the backhand volley somehow clearing the net for a winner.

"I opened my eyes after I hit the shot, that's all I can say," Fritz joked. "Every tennis player has the instincts when the shot is there, you don't even think about it, you just do it. When I don't even think about something and do it, and that's the end result, that's the best thing about tennis."

Fritz ended the match with an ace, his 12th of the match against no double faults, to set up a meeting with unseeded Filippo Baldi of Italy. Baldi defeated Alex Rybakov of the US 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.

No. 6 seed Stefan Kozlov returned to the quarterfinals for the second straight year, defeating No. 9 seed Naoki Nakagawa of Japan 6-3, 7-6(2). Kozlov started out slowly, dropping his first service game to fall behind 3-1, but recovered.

"I came out a little shaky early, but I found my way into the match a little bit better," said the 16-year-old from Pembroke Pines, Florida. "I played much better as the match went along. In the second set, I was up a break and kind of let it slip a little bit, but he started playing better.  The first point in the tiebreaker was pretty key--he double faulted, so that gave me a lot of momentum and from there I played a good tiebreak."

Kozlov said he doesn't take his success at Wimbledon for granted.

"I'm excited every time I win a match," Kozlov said. "I'm just a little tired right now after doubles. But I'm excited. I've just got to take my time tomorrow and play my best to beat this guy."

"This guy" is No. 2 seed Hyeon Chung of Korea, who cruised past unseeded Logan Smith of the US 6-2, 6-3.  Chung and Kozlov played in the final of the Eddie Herr 12s way back in 2008, when Kozlov was age 10 and Chung age 12. Chung won that match and beat Kozlov again in the second round of the 2011 Orange Bowl 16s, with Chung going on to win the tournament.

Chung sports an ATP ranking of 299 and has won three Futures titles this year, but Kozlov doesn't think that will be a factor in Friday's quarterfinals.

"I know he's doing well in the pros,' said Kozlov. "But that's not going to matter tomorrow. It's just whoever plays better tomorrow wins."

In the only boys match Friday without an American, British wild card Joshua Sapwell will face No. 8 seed Johan Sebastien Tatlot of France. Sapwell defeated lucky loser Pedro Iamachkine of Peru 6-1, 6-3, while Tatlot won a 59-minute first set from No. 11 seed Michael Mmoh of the US, and went on to claim a 7-5, 6-3 victory.

Tornado Alicia Black earns third round win over Boulter
The four girls seeds are evenly divided, with No. 3 seed Tornado Alicia Black and No. 12 Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic remaining in the top half.  Black rolled past unseeded Katie Boulter of Great Britain, 6-1, 6-2, with an ease Black was not expecting.

"I don't think Boulter was playing her best," said the 2013 US Open girls finalist. "I thought it was going to be a little bit better match, but I'm happy with the win."

Away from the other junior matches on Court 17, Black took the breezy afternoon conditions and Boulter's erratic play into account with her strategy.

"It was pretty tough with the wind," said Black, who has yet to drop a set in the tournament. "I was trying to play more middle and put more balls in play, because she was making a lot of errors."

Black will play unseeded Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the quarterfinals, after Ostapenko defeated No. 9 seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine 6-2, 6-2. Ostapenko, who won the title at Roehampton last week, also reached the final eight at the Australian Open, but lost in the first round of both the Italian and French Open Grade A tournaments.

Vondrousova, who turned 15 on Saturday, defeated No. 7 seed Francoise Abanda of Canada in a wild 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-2 match. Vondrousova lost the first six points of the first set tiebreaker, then won the next eight. She then saw a 5-1 lead disappear in the second set, but somehow recovered to eliminate her fellow 2014 French Open girls semifinalist. Vondrousova will play unseeded Paula Badosa Gibert of Spain after Badosa Gibert defeated wild card Gabriella Taylor of Great Britain 7-6(5), 6-4.

Qualifier Michaela Gordon of the US couldn't have been more excited about reaching the quarterfinals after defeating British wild card Maia Lumsden 6-2, 6-1, unless it was about playing on Court 18, which has a radar gun for serve speeds.

"It was cool because you could see how fast you were serving," said Gordon, 14. "I was serving in like the 100s. I think I served a 104 and I didn't get broken the entire match."

Although Gordon expressed confidence early in the week that she had the game to contend on grass, she did admit to some surprise at finding herself in the quarterfinals.

"I actually can't believe I'm in the quarterfinals," Gordon said. "I wasn't even going to come. I was going to stay home and practice for a month--my coaches didn't really want me to come, to go all the way to England to play qualies. But my parents wanted to go to Wimbledon, they wanted to see it, so they said just go play."

Gordon's opponent Friday is No. 8 seed Kristina Schmiedlova of Slovakia, who defeated Ioana Rosca of Romania 6-2, 6-4.  The other quarterfinal in the bottom half features unseeded Elena Ruse of Romania against No. 10 seed Shilin Xu of China. Ruse downed Greetje Minnen of Belgium 6-4, 6-2 and Xu came back to defeat No. 5 seed Jill Belen Teichmann of Switzerland 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-1.

The doubles quarterfinals are also set, with just three Americans remaining--Kozlov, Black and Usue Arconada.  Top seeds Kozlov and Rublev will play Baldi and Lucas Meidler of Austria on Friday, with Black and her partner Naiktha Bains of Australia seeded No. 3, playing Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic and Dalma Galfi of Hungary.  Arconada, playing with Hungary's Fanny Stollar, will play No. 4 seeds Boulter and Ivana Jorovic of Serbia after taking out No. 8 seeds Viktoria Kuzmova and Schmiedlova of Slovakia 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

Friday's order of play and draws are available at the Wimbledon website.