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Friday, August 28, 2015

All-Canadian Boys Final at International Hard Courts, Kalinskaya and Mihalikova to Decide Girls Championship; Paul Among Four US Open Qualifiers

©Colette Lewis 2015--
College Park, Maryland--

A rematch of the recent Canadian National Junior final is set for Saturday, after No. 15 seed Denis Shapovalov and No. 7 seed Felix Auger Aliassime advanced to the finals of the ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships in contrasting fashion.

Top seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia will go for her second straight sweep of the girls titles when she takes on No. 2 seed Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia in Saturday morning's finals.

Shapovalov had been taken to three sets three times in his first four matches, but against qualifier Jake Van Emburgh, the 16-year-old left-hander needed only 53 minutes to post a 6-0, 6-2 victory.

"I got off to a good start today very quickly," Shapovalov said. "I felt more comfortable on the courts. And I think he was a bit tired today, he's had a long week, but playing very well. He came out a little flat today and he got a bit frustrated and I took advantage of that."

Shapovalov took the first 11 games of the match, with Van Emburgh holding and breaking before losing his last service game.

"At 5-0, I lost a little bit of focus, lost two games, but I bounced right back."

Shapovalov's friend and doubles partner Auger Aliassime needed to bounce back more urgently in his semifinal with No. 14 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia, but for the second time in the tournament, the 15-year-old came from a set down, this time recording a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win.

"He was a tough opponent and I had some difficulties understanding his game," Auger Aliassime said. "He was crafty. The beginning of the match was tough, but I adapted and started playing better, looser."

De Minaur's level dropped in the second set, and once Auger Aliassime got a break to open the third, he relaxed and just focused on winning his serve the remainder of the match, which he did without facing a break point.

Just last week in the Canadian National 18s final, Shapovalov defeated Auger Aliassime 6-1, 6-2, but there's no chance he'll be overconfident.

"I think he wants his revenge, and I've been teasing him about killing him," Shapovalov said. "But I think it's going to be a great match, he's a great player. It's not going to be easy again for sure."

Auger Aliassime, who is the youngest player ever to be ranked in the ATP Top 750, acknowledges that competing in junior tournaments has different dynamics.

"Playing in Challengers I was playing without any stress," said Auger Aliassime, who qualified and the reached the quarterfinals of the $100,000 Granby Challenger in Canada last month. "I was just there to get experience, and I was playing looser than here. I felt like sometimes in some matches here you have some things to defend. But I try to continue to play loose and have fun on the court. I'm still young, in the juniors, so I have a lot to learn."

Auger Aliassime and Shapovalov have played only once before in competition back in the 12s, with Auger Aliassime winning that one, but there have been many practices matches between the two.

"We talked about it yesterday, that maybe I could get a rematch," said Auger Aliassime. "He's a great player and it's always tough to play him. I'm motivated to win for sure. I know what to prepare myself for and I think it's going to be a great battle, yeah."

The girls final will also be between two friends and doubles partners after Kalinskaya ended the impressive run of qualifier Madison Battaglia 6-1, 6-4 and Mihalikova defeated No. 5 seed Vera Lapko of Belarus 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Mihalikova will have had practice playing against a friend, as she and Lapko are also close.

"It was a very tough match, because me and Vera are very good friends," said Mihalikova, the reigning Australian Open girls champion. "It was hard psychologically, to play her, and we didn't play our best today and I saw it, because we were both too nervous. But every time it got to important games I broke her down, so I was more up today."

Mihalikova, 17,  avenged her third round loss to Lapko at Wimbledon this year and will be looking to even her record against the 16-year-old Kalinskaya, who beat her in a 14s tournament in their only previous meeting.

Kalinskaya said she has yet to play her best tennis in College Park, but she has yet to drop a set in her consecutive 11 wins at the International Hard Courts.

"I like this tournament a lot," Kalinskaya said. "It's very good organization, and courts, very good. I play well here, not my best, but well."

"It's going to be fun with Anya," said Mihalikova. "I hope it will be good match and we will enjoy it, and afterward we will win the doubles."

Top seeds Mihalikova and Kalinskaya will play No. 2 seeds Lapko and Irinia Shymanovich of Belarus in the girls doubles final Saturday.  Mihalikova and Kalinskaya beat unseeded Elysia Bolton and Clarissa Hand 6-4, 6-4 in the semifinals and have yet to drop a set in the tournament. Lapko and Shymanovich have also gotten through to the finals without needing a match tiebreaker. They defeated the unseeded Chinese team of Siqi Cao and Shuyue Ma 6-4, 6-4.

The boys semifinals and finals were played Friday afternoon when No. 3 seeds Shapovalov and Auger Aliassime lost to Andres Andrade of Ecuador and Benjamin Hannestad of Denmark 6-4, 6-4. With the two singles finalists out of the doubles, the final could be played, and Andrade and Hannestad took the title, beating top seeds Yunseong Chung of Korea and Casper Ruud of Norway 6-1, 7-5.

Chung and Ruud had beaten No. 5 seeds Alexey Aleshchev of Russia and Hady Habib 7-6(3), 7-5 in the morning semifinal.

Hannestad and Andrade both train at the IMG Academy, but this is their first tournament playing as team.

"We've just been practicing together the past week," said Andrade, "and we've been playing great doubles. We had a tough match in the semis, the two Canadians were pretty tough."

"I wouldn't say I was surprised," said Hannestad. "We had had a huge level in practice and had fun. We've been very focused on the doubles."

Andrade credited his partner with outstanding returns, and Hannestad was the one who took the deciding points. He wasn't able to get Chung's serve back on their first deciding/match point at 5-4, but on the second deciding/match point, Hannestad's backhand return was too much for Chung to handle.

"We both know how to move well at the net, and we move together, not as a singles team. I feel we're very united," said Hannestad.

Hannestad is heading to the Grade 1 in Canada, which starts Monday, but Andrade is not, so they are not sure when their next tournament together will be.

The draws and Saturday's order of play is available at the tournament website.

Four Americans qualified for the main draw of the US Open today, including 18-year-old wild card Tommy Paul.  Paul is the first boy I can recall who played Kalamazoo and went on to qualify for the US Open. Paul is one of four players(Andrey Rublev, Frances Tiafoe, Alexander Zverev) still eligible for ITF junior competition to reach the men's main draw, with Zverev and Rublev qualifying today. Paul will play No. 25 seed Andreas Seppi of Italy on Monday.  The ATP website has a report on the men's qualifying with a quote from Paul.

Anna Tatishvili, Shelby Rogers and Jessica Pegula are the US women who advanced with wins today.

Friday's final round qualifying results for Americans:
Jessica Pegula def. Melanie Oudin 7-6(8), 6-0
Shelby Rogers def. Alla Kudryavtseva RUS[15] 1-6, 6-2, 6-4
Anna Tatishvili[16] def. Ysaline Bonaventure BEL 6-1, 0-6, 6-2
Tommy Paul WC def. Marco Chiudinelli SUI 6-1, 6-4
Alexandra Panova RUS[26] def. Claire Liu 6-4, 6-1
Jelena Ostapenko LAT[11] def. CiCi Bellis 6-3, 6-2