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Saturday, August 29, 2015

Kalinskaya Again Sweeps ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships; Auger Aliasimme Takes Boys Title

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

Top seed Anna Kalinskaya kept intact her perfect record at the ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships Saturday, taking both the singles and doubles titles for the second straight year.  The boys champion is new to Grade 1 success, with 15-year-old Felix Auger Aliassime collecting his first title at that ITF level.

Both singles finals, played simultaneously on the courts of the Junior Tennis Champions Center, were contested by friends and doubles partners, and both were tense and often error-strewn affairs, but No. 7 seed Auger Aliassime's 6-2, 7-6(6) win over fellow Canadian Denis Shapovalov produced significantly more emotion.

At 6-4 in the tiebreaker, Shapovalov served what he thought was an ace on his first serve and the center line judge agreed, giving the good signal.  The chair umpire overruled the call however, and Shapovalov argued long and loudly that the serve was good and the chair was incompetent for making such a call. Still seething, he double faulted on his second serve to squander one set point, and Aliassime hit a forehand winner, the only winner of the 14 points played in the tiebreaker, to saved the second set point.  Still failing to get his emotions under control, Shapovalov made a backhand error to give Aliassime a match point, and he converted when Shapovalov again double faulted.

After the match, Shapovalov, who did not shake the umpire's hand, continued his rant, which including the statement "this guy ruined my week."  After several minutes he did calm down, and had an impromptu hit with a young JTCC player, as did Auger Aliassime.

"The linesman called it in, and [the chair umpire] changed the call," said the 16-year-old left-hander, seeded 15th. "I shouldn't have gotten as upset as I got, but there shouldn't be calls like that in a match. That was such an important part of the game. That would have been set and it would have been third set now."

Auger Aliassime was not sure the overrule was correct, but said, "I play my tennis and they call the lines. It was a tough end, we had a great match all the way, it was intense. I understand his frustration if he really saw it in, but as I said, I'm there to play my tennis and the ref called it out.  He's going to be ok, I don't think he's mad at me."

Shapovalov's frustration was building after he failed to hold the break he earned to take a 3-2 lead in the second set. After not getting a single break point opportunity in the first set, Shapovalov needed some momentum badly, but he was immediately broken back in the sixth game after failing to convert two break points.

Auger Aliassime, who had lost to Shapovalov 6-1, 6-2 just two weeks ago at the Canadian Junior Nationals, said his serve was much better today as was his mental outlook.

"Getting beat easily last time, I felt I had less to lose and would have a better match," said Auger Aliassime. "I started out pretty solid, was constructing well my points, playing aggressive and loose at the same time."

Auger Aliasimme's level dropped in the second set and Shapovalov brought his up a bit, but Shapovalov, who had gone the distance in three of his wins, was not happy with his overall level of play during the week.

"I haven't been playing my best tennis," said Shapovalov. "I've been grinding out matches, winning ugly. So I'm happy to be in the final, and I think Felix has been playing great this whole week. In the first set, he was playing too strong. I couldn't really keep up. I was trying to stay in it, trying to fight. I had chances to maybe win it ugly again, but credit's to Felix for playing great, staying tough and pulling through with the win."

Both players are heading to the Grade 1 in Repentigny, Canada next week, then on to the US Open junior championships, where Auger Aliassime is in the main draw and Shapovalov is in qualifying.

"Playing at home is always the best," said Auger Aliassime, who is from Montreal and trains at the Tennis Canada National Centre there. "Next week we're in the province of Quebec, so all the people speak French. That's my first language, but I've been working on my English."

Kalinskaya may be from Moscow, but the 16-year-old has made the Junior Tennis Champions Center her home during the International Hard Courts for the past two years.  She has yet to lose a set in singles or doubles, although in today's 6-4, 7-6(3) win over No. 2 seed Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia she was a point away from her first third set in two years on five different occasions.

Serving at 5-6 in the second set, Kalinskaya saved five set points in the seven-deuce game.

"I was up 30-0 and then I did two double faults," said Kalinskaya, who reached the French Open girls final this year. "So my serve was not working good, I was nervous, but in the set points, I started to move better and I won."

Mihalikova was disappointed she was unable to capitalize on all those chances to force a third set.

"I was so nervous every time when I had advantage," said Mihalikova, the Australian Open girls champion. "When she had advantage, I finally hit the returns I wanted, and said to myself, why not when I had set point?  On my set point, every time I did mistakes, she didn't need to do something."

Kalinskaya recognized the match was not the highest quality, and provided a possible reason.

"It was difficult to take her serve, because she served very well, but I think we both did a lot of mistakes, I think we could do better," said Kalinskaya. "Maybe because we're friends."

In the tiebreaker, errors were more common than winners, but a let called by the chair umpire that neither player heard proved to be Mihalikova's undoing.  Looking incredulously at Kalinskaya and at the chair umpire after what appeared to be an ace, Mihalikova ended up double faulting at 5-3, and Kalinskaya converted the first of her three match points with a perfectly executed drop shot.

Although not as demonstrative as Shapovalov, Mihalikova made it clear that the officiating was not to her liking today.

"They made some--a lot--of mistakes," the 17-year-old said with a smile. "But still, I should play. Today I made a lot of mistakes, and when it was the important time, I did a mistake and Anya won the ball. So today, she deserved it."

Kalinskaya said after the singles match that she was determined to get her friend the doubles title, and the pair again dominated, beating No. 2 seeds Vera Lapko and Iryna Shymanovich of Belarus 6-1, 6-4 in the final.  The top seeds did not lose a set in their five wins.

Kalinskaya, who won the doubles title last year with Evgeniya Levashova, is not playing the Grade 1 next week, nor is Mihalikova. But Kalinskaya believes her success this week, her first tournament of the summer on hard courts, will help her at the US Open Junior Championships.

"This is very good preparation for the US Open," said Kalinskaya who turns 17 in December. "That's why I came here," said Mihalikova. "I came here from clay and it was just so fast for me. But now it's ok. I am already ready for the hard courts and I want to do well in the US Open so bad."

Complete draws can be found at the ITF junior website.


Give credit where credit is due. said...

Huge props to the US Open giving Michael Russell a wildcard into the Main Draw doubles event in his last event. They got this one correct. They also gave wildcards to Deigton Baughman and Denis Novikov which are two players not normally given wildcards. Great job!!

get real said...

It's a matter of perspective. Token gesture at best. Russell should have gotten a WC in to the MAIN DRAW to retire. The least deserving player of them, Ryan Harrison getting a WC into the main draw, is beyond ridiculous with his recent track record and longstanding bad attitude. This is why I have zero respect to the USTA... Go MIKE


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