©Colette Lewis 2014--
Flushing Meadows, NY--
The late afternoon thunderstorms arrived as predicted around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, but before rain suspended play, six Americans had posted victories as the first round of the US Open Junior Championships began.
One of them, Henrik Wiersholm, may have wished the rain had come early in the day, because although he managed to get through his match with Joao Menezes of Brazil, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-3, during it, he said "I literally felt like I was dying."
Wiersholm had started his day hitting with Giles Simon, who upset No. 4 seed David Ferrer on Louis Armstrong Stadium a few hours later, but his health deteriorated, with a sore throat and diarrhea the symptoms. The 49th-ranked Wiersholm easily took the first set from Menezes, ranked 23, but the oppressive heat and humidity began to take its toll on an already weakened Wiersholm. Up 3-1 in the second set, he was doubled over in pain, and had to have treatment on the changeover.
"It wasn't just exhaustion, I felt like I had to puke," Wiersholm told Simon Cambers, who reports on junior tennis for the ITF website. "It was terrible. I went to the lady and said I need a trainer, I couldn’t even stand up. I got a few minutes rest and was able to recuperate. They gave me an ice bag, I used it the rest of the match. After that it became a lot less about tennis. I hit a wall, I couldn’t move, I couldn’t serve properly, otherwise I was cramping. The heat was definitely a factor, it was the dehydration before it and then the heat afterwards. It was a situation where literally I felt like I was dying. I was just playing one-hit points. I thought I played pretty smart just going for shots. He got a bit nervous, I got a second wind at 3-3 in the third set and I thought I’m just going to find a way."
Despite all his difficulties in the second set, Wiersholm twice served for the match at 5-4 and 6-5, unable to win either game, and when he lost the tiebreaker, the outlook wasn't good. But he survived, saving six of the seven break points he faced, and is understandably happy to have done so.
"It was definitely very satisfying," Wiersholm told Cambers. "I should get a day off tomorrow and that will be huge. I’m confident that it will definitely change (for the better)."
Alex Rybakov also suffered from cramping in his 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win over Nino Serdarusic of Croatia, needing treatment after the match. A trainer massaged his left leg on the changeovers in the third set, but other than his tendency to keep the rallies short, Rybakov wasn't noticeably impeded. In the final set, Rybakov led 2-0, 4-1 and 5-2, but had to save a break point serving for the match at 5-3. He hit a forehand winner to save it and another forehand that caught the line to give himself a match point. He converted it with a well-struck backhand that forced an error from Serdarusic, who also seemed to physically struggling in the aftermath of the match.
No. 6 seed Francis Tiafoe needed just over an hour to defeat Chan-yeong Oh of Korea 6-2, 6-3 on the new show court 5. Six US boys lost on Sunday, with wild card Aron Hiltzik falling to No. 5 seed Quentin Halys of France 7-5, 6-3, despite being up a break in both sets, Tommy Paul lost to No. 8 seed Roman Safiullin of Russia 6-4, 6-3 and Logan Smith fell to No. 9 seed Marcelo Zormann of Brazil 6-3, 6-1. Wild card Walker Duncan, who replaced an injured Ernesto Escobedo, lost to Juan Jose Rosas of Peru 6-3, 6-3, wild card Deiton Baughman fell to Omar Jasika of Australia 7-6(4), 7-5, and Dennis Uspensky was beaten by top seed Andrey Rublev of Russia 6-3, 6-0.
Boys seeds eliminated on Sunday were No. 11 seed Jumpei Yamasaki of Japan, who lost to Lucas Miedler of Austria 7-6(1), 6-4, No. 13 seed Matias Zukas of Argentina, who was beaten by Petros Chrysochos of Cyprus and No. 16 seed Nicolas Alvarez, who was ousted by Martin Blasko of Slovakia.
Unlike the boys, the girls matches scheduled for the day were not completed, with Americans Brooke Austin, Dasha Ivanova and Sofia Kenin in various stages of their matches when the rain began. No. 4 seed Tornado Alicia Black had yet to begin her match.
Three US girls did post wins Sunday afternoon, all of them 15 years old, with Michaela Gordon taking out Miriam Kolodziejova of the Czech Republic 6-1, 6-2, Usue Arconada having a surprisingly easy 6-1, 6-1 victory over last week's Repentigny Grade 1 semifinalist Gabriella Taylor, and Kelly Chen collecting her first junior slam victory over Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia by the curious score of 6-0, 6-7(6), 6-0.
Chen had two match points leading 6-4 in the second set tiebreaker, but admitted she was felt the tension of her first US Open junior match in the second set.
"I was a bit nervous in the second set," Chen said. "I wasn't hitting my shots as well. I think I choked. Most of the time was up 40-15, and I would just lose four points in a row, so it was a bit frustrating in the second set. I really wanted to win this first match and it was nerve-wracking."
Even though she quickly took a big lead in the third set, Chen said she couldn't relax until she had taken the final point.
"I was never really comfortable," said Chen, from Cerritos, California. "I was just really nervous, and I'm shaking right now. I don't think I was comfortable throughout the whole match. It's my first time in New York, and I really want to do well this tournament."
Chen will face No. 11 seed Anna Kalinskaya in the second round, after the 15-year-old Russian defeated Bianca Turati of Italy 6-3, 6-4. Kalinskaya beat Chen 6-1, 6-4 in the first round of the ITF Grade 1International Hard Court Championships two weeks ago in College Park, Maryland.
Katrine Steffensen lost to Greetje Minnen of Belgium 6-4, 6-2, wild card and Nationals 16s champion Kylie McKenzie was beaten by No. 16 seed Olga Fridman of Ukraine 6-1, 6-2 and Jessica Ho lost to Dalmi Galfi of Hungary 6-4, 4-6, 7-5.
The upset of the day in girls first round action saw Anna Bondar of Hungary defeat No. 5 seed and Wimbledon finalist Kristina Schmiedlova of Slovakia 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
The doubles tournament begins on Monday, with two Americans part of the top-seeded teams. Stefan Kozlov, who is still alive in mixed doubles with Christina McHale, is playing with Rublev of Russia, and the Wimbledon finalists are the top boys seeds. CiCi Bellis and Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, the French Open finalists, are the top seeds in the girls doubles draw.
Draws, results and the order of play for Monday are at usopen.org.