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Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Fritz, Opelka, Blumberg and Paul Reach Wimbledon Boys Quarterfinals; Gordon and Black Return to Girls Final Eight

©Colette Lewis 2015--

Two rain delays, along with cool and windy conditions, didn't hamper the progress of the American boys at Wimbledon, with Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, William Blumberg and Tommy Paul all earning straight-set wins to reach Thursday's quarterfinals.

Although six US girls reached Wednesday's round of 16, only two managed to advance, with both Michaela Gordon and Tornado Alicia Black returning to the quarterfinals for the second consecutive year.

For the second time in three matches, Gordon crafted an impressive comeback, claiming 1-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 victory over Olesya Pervushina, after the 15-year-old Russian served for the match twice in the second set, at 5-2 and 5-4.

Gordon had trailed Rebeka Masarova of Switzerland 5-3 in the second set and 5-3 in the second set tiebreaker in her first round match on Saturday, but went on to win 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 6-2, and her ability to stay engaged when being outplayed was evident in Wednesday's win as well.

"Up until 5-2 in the second, she was playing so well," said Gordon, who turns 16 later this month. "I couldn't believe that she was a year younger than me. I thought if she plays like that, she'll win the tournament, easily. So I thought how is she not No. 1? There must be like, something. But up 5-2, it was pretty obvious she got nervous, because she just starting missing. It wasn't like I played better, I just stayed solid, because that was all I could really do, because she was just hitting winners."

Up 30-0 serving at 5-2, Pervushina lost the next four points, with the last a double fault. Gordon held to 15, and Pervushina second opportunity to serve out the match went no better than her first. Her first serve disappeared and the errors continued, including another double fault to make 0-40. Pervushina won the next two points, but a stellar return by Gordon ended the game.  After a hold for Gordon, Pervushina finally returned to her previous form, serving well and holding at love to retain her chance to win in straight sets. Serving at 5-4, Pervushina made a crucial error, hitting a backhand wide to give Gordon two set points. Pervushina saved the first with a good first serve, but Gordon cashed in on the second, hitting an excellent first serve down the T that had Pervushina netting a forehand return.

"The body serve worked well against her," said Gordon, who lost to finalist Kristina Schmiedlova of Slovakia in last year's quarterfinals. "So that's what I did in tight moments, and that's what I did on match point too."

Gordon took an early lead in the third set, and a discouraged Pervushina allowed the unforced errors to continue. Gordon, who got 82 percent of her first serves in during the final set, went down 15-30 in the final game, but a good first serve and a wayward forehand by Pervushina gave her the only match point she would need, converting when Pervushina couldn't handle another excellent first serve.

Gordon will play unseeded Vera Lapko of Belarus, who beat doubles partner and Australian Open girls champion Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia, the No. 10 seed, 6-2, 7-5.

Black returned to the quarterfinals with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Claire Liu, in the only all-USA match in the round of 16.

Black, who received a wild card, said she had emailed tournament director Sarah Clarke directly to request one.

"I really wanted to play Wimbledon, it's one of the my favorite junior slams," said the 17-year-old from Florida, who was initially in qualifying. "So I decided to apply for a wild card for the main draw, I wrote an email myself, and when I got the email saying I got it, I was really grateful. It was really nice of them."

Black, who lost to eventual champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia in the quarterfinals last year, knew that the 15-year-old Liu would be a dangerous opponent.

"She's a really great player," said Black, who had hernia surgery and did not play in 2015 until April. "And I knew that. I was a little bit nervous going out. It was the first time I played someone that young. I felt like I've been in her position before, at US Open(where Black was a girls finalist in 2013); I played Wimbledon qualies when I was 15, but I lost. So it's really amazing, her being out here in the main draw."

Black will play No. 12 seed Anna Blinkova of Russia in the quarterfinals, after Blinkova defeated No. 6 seed Usue Arconada 6-4, 6-3.  Black defeated Blinkova 6-3, 6-0 in last year's Junior Fed Cup in Mexico.

Aside from Blinkova, the only other seeded girl remaining is No. 5 Katie Swan of Great Britain, who is the only girls junior slam finalist besides Black in the draw  Playing in front of a full house on Court 18, the 2015 Australian Open runner-up defeated No. 9 seed Sonya Kenin 7-6(1), 6-2 and will play qualifier Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia.  Kuzmova played outstanding tennis to earn a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Caroline Dolehide.

The top quarter features two young Russians, with 14-year-old Anastasia Potapova playing 15-year-old Sofya Zhuk.  Potapova defeated fellow wild card Anna Brogan 6-4, 6-4, while Zhuk took out No. 11 seed Fanny Stollar of Hungary 6-4, 6-1.

Three of the four US boys are in the top half of the draw, with top seed Fritz playing No. 11 seed Yunseong Chung of Korea and Reilly Opelka taking on No. 10 seed William Blumberg.  Fritz again needed less than an hour to advance, defeating Franco Capalbo of Argentina 6-2, 6-2, while Chung came back from a set down for the second straight match, defeating No. 8 seed Viktor Durasovic of Norway 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-2.  Fritz defeated Chung in the final of the Grade A Osaka Mayors Cup last fall 7-6(2), 6-3.

Opelka and Blumberg have played twice before, with Blumberg winning at the 2014 Easter Bowl and 2014 Pan American Closed in Tulsa.  After saving a match point in his first round match, the unseeded Opelka has reached his second consecutive junior slam quarterfinal, beating unseeded Yosuke Watanuki of Japan 7-6(4), 6-3.  Blumberg reached his first junior slam quarterfinal with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Canadian qualifier Denis Shapovalov, and the 17-year-old is not surprised by his success on grass, even with little previous experience on the surface.

"I think it suits my game pretty well," Blumberg said. "I change direction a lot, I switch the pace, make people feel uncomfortable, so I think the grass helps me. I'm still learning, since it's just my second tournament on real grass, but I think I move well on the court, understand the game well and I think that helps out on grass."

Shapovalov, a 16-year-old left-hander, is particularly dangerous on grass.

"He's very talented, a very good player," Blumberg said. "He has a great serve--on grass his serve is very tough--and I thought his second serve was going to be weaker than it was, but it was really good too. His forehand is pretty deadly and he's got a good one-y (backhand) and a good slice. He makes you hit a bunch of low balls, makes you play. I'm lucky I got the win today."

Against the big serve of the 6-foot-10 Opelka, Blumberg knows he'll need to play well to claim a third straight win against him.

"Obviously, my return will be important," Blumberg said. "Staying in points, taking the chances when I can. Reilly's obviously an unbelievable player, and one of my best friends. So I'm also excited that he won and happy that I get to play him in the quarters at Wimbledon. There's not much of a better place and I'm happy that all of us are doing well."

In the only quarterfinal not featuring an American boy, No. 12 seed Mikael Ymer will play unseeded Alvaro Lopez San Martin of Spain. Ymer defeated No. 6 seed Marcelo Barrios Vera of Chile 6-3, 6-2, while Lopez San Martin beat No. 4 seed Michael Mmoh 6-3, 7-6(5).

No. 7 seed Paul continues his quest for a second straight junior slam title after posting a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Johan Nikles of Switzerland. Paul will play unseeded Niklas-Salminen of Finland, who surprised No. 2 seed Duck Hee Lee of Korea 6-4, 6-0. Lee had served as a warmup partner for Novak Djokovic Wednesday morning.

The first round of doubles was completed Wednesday evening, with seven US girls and five US boys still alive.

Draws are available here. Thursday's order of play is here.

Additional coverage of the juniors can be found at the Wimbledon website.