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Monday, September 1, 2014

Fritz, Opelka Win Tough Opening Round Matches, Donaldson Cruises; Qualifier Dolehide, Top Seed Bellis Advance in Girls Draw at US Open

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

Another hot and humid late summer day in New York made Labor Day seem like anything but a holiday for the second day of first round matches in the US Open Junior Championships.  When the nine hours of tennis had ended under the lights, six American girls and four American boys had joined the six US juniors who had advanced to the second round with victories Sunday.

Top seed CiCi Bellis had no difficulty in her first round match, played on the Grandstand court, defeating Renata Zarazua of Mexico 6-1, 6-3 in just over an hour.  No. 3 seed Jared Donaldson was even more impressive, eliminating Pedro Iamachkine of Peru 6-1, 6-0 in 48 minutes to open play on 11.  It was Donaldson's first win at a junior slam, after he had lost in the first round of the US Open juniors the past two years, the only junior slam he has played.

"I honestly was thinking about it a little bit," said Donaldson, who decided to play the junior championships to get more matches in. "Oh, I've never won a junior grand slam match. But for me, I don't really think about it that much. There's a lot of players who have won grand slams who have gone on to do great things and there's a lot of junior grand slam winners who haven't done quite as well as they would have liked to. So I just think this week is all about working on my game and trying to improve."

Donaldson will play Simone Roncalli of Italy, one of four qualifiers to advance today, in the second round Tuesday on the Grandstand. Donaldson will have the edge in experience on that court, having played his opening round men's match against Gael Monfils there last Tuesday.

Following Donaldson onto court 11 was No. 14 seed Taylor Fritz, who survived a stern test from Tim Van Rijthoven of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-5.  Fritz was broken only once in the match, early in the third set, but he got the break back to even the set at 4-all.

Last year in New York, Fritz qualified, then drew top seed Alexander Zverev of Germany as his first round opponent.  He also wasn't too happy with his draw this year.

"I was hoping, being a seed this year, I might sneak by with a decent draw, but at least it ruled out playing the No. 1 in the world," said Fritz, who is playing doubles this week with Van Rijthoven. "The unseeded guys on my side are some of the toughest in the tournament, first and second round, but it didn't do me much good complaining about it. I just had to go out and try my best."

Fritz knows when he left his complaints about his draw behind.

"Once I got the break (back) and got the hold and was up 5-4, I felt from there, all the stress, all the 'this sucks, the guy's got the biggest serve in the tournament, it's unfair, I hate this draw', yada, yada, yada, all that went away and I felt confident again. And I just really didn't want to go to a tiebreaker."

Van Rijthoven held for 5-all, and Fritz had to save a break point in his next service game, with Van Rijthoven netting a routine forehand at 30-40.  Fritz held, and when Van Rijthoven went up 30-0, a third set tiebreaker loomed, but a good return and a costly double fault made it 30-all.  Van Rijthoven missed his first serve, but made his second and after a long, tough rally, hit a defensive slice that went long.  At match point, the crowd of a couple of hundred gave a big cheer after Fritz encouraged them with by gesturing up with his hands, but a good first serve up the T by Van Rijthoven saved the match point.  Van Rijthoven netted a forehand on the next point and got a warning from the chair umpire for an audible obscenity.  On match point number two, Van Rijthoven's forehand went long, and three violent smashes of his racquet immediately followed.

Fritz will play Filippo Baldi of Italy in the second round Tuesday, with Baldi looking for revenge for his three-set quarterfinal loss to Fritz at the Wimbledon Juniors earlier this summer.

Opelka began his match with No. 15 seed Francisco Bahamonde of Argentina after a long day of waiting, and although started in daylight, Opelka's 7-6(4), 2-6, 6-3 victory finished under the lights of court 7.

The 6-foot-9-inch Opelka didn't play well at the beginning of the second set, but at crunch time in the third set, he found a different level.

At 3-all, Opelka saved a break point with a forehand winner, then followed it with two straight aces.  Playing aggressively, Opelka broke Bahamonde in the next game, with a big forehand forcing an error on break point.

Serving for the match, Opelka started with an ace, hit two backhand winners  and closed it out with a service winner. Bahamonde played well, made no errors, but couldn't handle Opelka's pace and placement in the final two games.

"The last two games I played unbelievable," said Opelka, who turned 17 last week. "I took my time every point. He got a lot balls back in the last game and I had to play well to win it. I think I hit three winners that game and all of them were long rallies. I usually hit my winners within the first few balls."

Opelka usually can rely on holding his serve, but he was broken twice in the second set.

"I don't think I served well the whole match, to be honest," said Opelka, who recorded 12 aces and two double faults. "I played well off of my serve, serve and volleyed well, but I had a pretty low first serve percentage(49%) and it wasn't very effective."

The fourth American boy who advanced to the second round Monday was No. 4 seed Stefan Kozlov, who beat Jan Zielinski of Poland 6-2, 6-3.

No. 10 seed Michael Mmoh went out in the first round to Yunseong Chung of Korea 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5). Other American boys losing Tuesday were wild cards Sameer Kumar, Eduardo Nava and John McNally.

The US girls picked up five wins in addition to Bellis' victory, with Katerina Stewart, Raveena Kingsley, Francesco Di Lorenzo, Tornado Alicia Black and Caroline Dolehide advancing to the second round.

Wild card Stewart beat Great Britain's Katie Boulter 7-6(5), 7-6(2) and wild card Di Lorenzo defeated Great Britain's Maia Lumsden, a qualifier, 6-4, 6-0.  Raveena Kingsley downed Jaqueline Cristian of Romania 6-3, 6-3, and Black, the 2013 girls finalist and No. 4 seed this year, won the final 10 games of the match to defeat Kimberly Birrell of Australia 7-5, 6-0.

Dolehide's match with No. 10 seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic was the last one to finish, with the 15-year-old qualifier taking a 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-4 victory after 8 p.m.

Dolehide led 5-1 in the first set before losing the tiebreaker, but she was determined to stay positive mentally.

"I spoke to myself and said 'focus, fight for this, because I really want it,'" Dolehide said. "I said, 'let's go, you can do this.' I'm here for the experience, to do really well in this tournament and just talking to yourself and staying positive is probably the biggest thing you can do to pump yourself up."

Vondrousova, a 15-year-old left-hander, had a terrible struggle with her serve, double faulting 19 times in the match.  Dolehide has revamped her serve and was able to make that an advantage Monday night.

"I win most of the points when I really get first serves in, first serves in," Dolehide said. "That really helped me out in the second and third sets.  It was a really long one, a really tough match and I think I played very well. It's really exciting."

Dolehide will play another qualifier, Nadia Podoroska of Argentina, on Wednesday.

US girls falling in first round play Tuesday were Ingrid Neel, Sofia Kenin, Claire Liu, Brooke Austin, Madison Bourguignon, Dasha Ivanova, and Ena Shibahara.

For complete draws, see usopen.org.