Halys Saves Match Points to Reach Boys US Open Final Against Jasika; Bouzkova and Kalinina Meet for Girls Championship
Flushing Meadows, NY--
All three Americans in the semifinals of the US Open Junior Championships were defeated Saturday on a hot and steamy day at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis with the three losses coming in three different fashions: routine, from ahead, and most painfully, after having two match points.
No. 6 seed Francis Tiafoe held those two match points against No. 5 seed Quentin Halys of France, late in the third set of Halys's 6-2, 3-6, 7-6(6) victory. At 5-6, 30-40, Halys was on the brink of defeat, but hit a good first serve that Tiafoe couldn't handle to get back to deuce and the 17-year-old right-hander came up with another good first serve that resulted in an overhead winner and a forehand that forced an error that put the match into a deciding tiebreaker. Halys had a 3-1 lead, Tiafoe had a 5-3 lead, but from then on there was little to separate the two. At 5-all, Halys missed a routine volley long, giving Tiafoe his second match point, this time on his serve. But Halys came up with a scintillating forehand winner to save it, then got his first match point when the 16-year-old from Maryland hit a backhand wide. Halys again came up with a big first serve and when Tiafoe shanked the return, Halys had reached his first junior slam final after two semifinal appearances in Australia and France this year.
Halys took a medical timeout at 4-5 in the third set, leaving the court for evaluation of a pain in his groin area, which he said began bothering him at the beginning of the third set.
Although Halys had 15 double faults in the two-hour and six-minute match, he had none in his final two service games or the tiebreaker, an improvement he was at a loss to explain.
"I really don't know," Halys responded when asked about his improved serving in the pressure-packed final games. "In my first match here, I made a lot of double faults(10), so I will try to work on it and be better tomorrow."
Despite his disappointment at the result, Tiafoe was able to credit Halys for his play down the stretch.
"The guy played unbelievable on my match points," said Tiafoe, who had not been beyond the third round in a junior slam until this week. "I wouldn't say I lost it. It was more like he won it on those points. There's not too much you can really do there."
Tiafoe cramped badly after his 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 quarterfinal win over top seed Andrey Rublev of Russia Friday, but said he was fine physically despite the heat and humidity.
"I was feeling fine," Tiafoe said. "In the beginning, the legs were pretty heavy, wasn't moving well early in the match, but other than that I was fine."
Halys, who beat Tiafoe in the first round of the US Open Juniors 6-0, 6-2 last year, said he saw the improvement in Tiafoe's game this year.
"Last year he was so young and he didn't play good," said Halys, looking to become the first US Open boys champion from France since Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in 2003. "This year, he's really better, so it was a tough, tough match."
Halys will play unseeded Omar Jasika of Australia in the boys final. The 17-year-old left-hander, who has never been past the third round of a junior slam, advanced to the final with a 6-3, 4-1, ret. victory over unseeded Jan Choinski of Germany, who was the victim of a heat-related illness.
"When I won the first set he was starting to slow down a little bit," Jasika said. "And I kind of started to figure out he was struggling in the heat. I just tried to make as many balls as I could trying to wear him out."
Jasika was of two minds about advancing via a retirement.
"I felt happy and bad at the same time, you know what I mean?" Jasika said. "I guess I was more happy than sad."
Jasika is looking to avenge his 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 loss to Halys in the Grade A in Brazil back in March.
"It's going to be a good match," Jasika said. "I lost to him once in Brazil, on a clay court, but I think I'm playing good so it's going to be a good match."
In the girls semifinals, unseeded Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic defeated qualifier Caroline Dolehide 6-3, 6-1, and No. 9 seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine outlasted unseeded Katerina Stewart 4-6, 6-2, 6-1.
Dolehide said she had begun to feel the strain of seven matches in nine days and played poorly from start to finish.
"I couldn't make a ball in the court," said Dolehide, who made only 48 percent of her first serves. "I was making a lot of errors, couldn't get my first serve in, struggled, but it's okay, we all have those days."
Bouzkova said she trains primarily on hard courts, so she isn't surprised that her first time past the first round in a junior slam is at the US Open.
"My favorite surface is hard," said the 16-year-old, who trains in both the Czech Republic and in Florida. "Since I was little, I always practice on hard, never practice on clay and I think that's why I play better on hard. I was really preparing hard for this, so I was praying to play good finally at a grand slam, and it finally happened."
Kalinina, her opponent in the final, defeated Bouzkova 6-2, 6-4 last year in the first round of the US Open.
"I remember that match," said Kalinina, who just came from the Youth Olympic Games in China, where she won the gold medal in doubles with Iryna Shymanovich of Belarus. "It was in two sets, but it was a very tough match because she plays a very solid game. She moves unbelievable and plays fast as well. So it's going to be a very tough match for me, and for her as well, I think."
Kalinina was tested against Stewart, who capitalized on her unforced errors, especially on the backhand side, to win the first set.
"In the first set, I was playing not smart," said the 17-year-old Kalinina. "I was playing too much to her forehand, her best side. But in the second set, I changed my game more to her backhand and then to her forehand and that was a much better tactic."
Stewart believes Kalinina handled the occasion better.
"She just dealt with the moment better," said Stewart, also 17. "I was a little bit tight but I guess she was used to it. She just played better in the moment. But that's what I'm working on, trying to play my best during those big moments that far into the tournament, and it's better, but it's not perfect."
Kalinina said her mediocre results in the junior slams are due to the pressure she's imposed upon herself.
"This year was for me, worse than last year," said Kalinina. "In the grand slams, I did second, first and third rounds. I did like sh**. Before this I say to myself, this is going to be my last grand slam as a junior and if you want to play, play. My mom said just relax and play. When I was thinking all this time, I want to be in this final, I want to win this match, I always lose. All the time. So now, it's just okay, very good, nothing is special. Tomorrow I will just relax and play. Of course I will be nervous, it's normal, but I will just try to concentrate on my game. No score, no result, no final, just normal match."
Regardless of the outcome in the singles final Sunday, Jasika has already put himself in the junior slam record book, winning the boys doubles title with Naoki Nakagawa of Japan. Jasika and Nakagawa, the No. 6 seeds, defeated unseeded Rafael Matos and Joao Menezes of Brazil, coming from a break down in the second set to secure a 6-3, 7-6(6) victory.
Nakagawa said he was inspired after watching Kei Nishikori defeat Novak Djokovic in the men's semifinal just a few hours before he went on court.
"I can't say too much," said Nakagawa. "I'm very happy, just very happy."
Although going deep in both singles and doubles can result in long days at the courts, Jasika said it kept him sharp.
"Our first doubles match was pretty good, and we just kept going and going," Jasika said. "My singles was going all right as well. It helps a lot to be honest. I guess it's pretty tough, because you finish late doubles and you have a match the next day, but it's all good. We played pretty good this week."
The girls doubles championship also went to the No. 6 seeds, with Ipek Soylu of Turkey and Jil Teichmann of Switzerland downing unseeded Vera Lapko of Belarus and Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia 5-7, 6-2, 10-7. This is the first tournament Soylu and Teichmann have played as a team, owing their pairing to a last minute change.
"I had another partner but she didn't come here," said the 17-year-old Teichmann, who won the mixed doubles gold medal with Jan Zielinski of Poland at the Youth Olympic Games last month.
"We found each other by chance," said Soylu. That's what we call luck."
"She asked me the week before and I said no," Teichmann recalled. "But then I asked her again, and I was very happy when she said yes."
With their success this week Teichmann and Soylu are now making plans to get together in some ITF Women's Circuit events.
"We talked today and we'll play in some Futures together next month," said Soylu. "We'll play in October, two weeks together, and hopefully more."
"I didn't have good singles this week," said Soylu, who was seeded No. 14. "I lost in the first round to this girl we played in the final, Lapko. But I just concentrated on doubles, worked more for doubles. We were all the time practicing together and it worked well."
The girls singles final is scheduled for noon on Sunday, with the boys final to follow, on Court 17. A grounds pass to watch the junior finals live and the women's final on the big screen is $25.00.
For complete draws, see usopen.org.