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Sunday, September 6, 2015

Top Seeds Fritz, Vondrousova Start US Open Junior Championships with Wins

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

Top seed and ITF World No. 1s Taylor Fritz and Marketa Vondrousova kicked off day one of the US Open Junior Championships with straight-set victories Sunday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Fritz, one of five US juniors to post wins in the sunny and comfortable conditions, defeated Ugo Humbert of France 6-4, 6-2, elevating his game at the end of the second set.

After eight consecutive holds, Fritz held at love, putting the pressure squarely on the 17-year-old left-hander. Unable to get a first serve in, Humbert paid the price, and although he saved two set points to get the game back to deuce, two forehand errors later, Fritz had the set.

Although he was broken early in the second set, Fritz got the break back and finished the match in under an hour.

"I just played it pretty safe today," said the 17-year-old from the San Diego area. "I didn't really go for the shots I usually go for because I felt pretty confident in winning if I didn't give him too much."

Fritz has been in New York for more than two weeks now, with qualifying, then with mixed and men's doubles. The highlight of his time in New York, which included a practice session with Rafael Nadal, was the improvement he's seen in his game in those few days.

"I think I've improved a lot since I've been here," Fritz said. "Surprisingly, I've been getting a lot of court time, getting lots of really good practices and working on stuff I need to work on, like my transition game. Everything feels really good right now."

As for a lowlight, Fritz acknowledged that his performance in the first round of men's qualifying, a 6-3, 6-3 loss to No. 19 seed Luca Vanni of Italy, was a disappointment.

"I was really upset when I lost the qualifying match, because I'd work so hard for that one moment, and I went out and just played awful," Fritz said. "I couldn't put a ball in the court. I can't even describe what happened on the court, it was so bad. And I couldn't accept the fact that I did everything I did to do that in like, 45 minutes (actually it was 60). So that was really tough. But hopefully I can make up for it."

Vondrousova had lost her first round match at Wimbledon back in July, and the 16-year-old from the Czech Republic had a difficult first round opponent in 14-year-old Anastasia Potapova, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist. It wasn't easy, but the left-hander negotiated her way around the young Russian, breaking at 5-5 and holding serve to finish off the 6-4, 7-5 victory.

No. 2 seed Dalma Galfi of Hungary was in much deeper trouble against wild card Alexandra Sanford, with Sanford breaking an out-of-sorts Galfi serving at 3-4 in the final set.  Sanford got within two points of victory after an overhead winner made it 30-15, but Galfi found a different gear. She eliminated the unforced errors that had been numerous throughout the match, hitting confidently and aggressively. 

Once Galfi found her range, Sanford was at a loss to match Galfi's new level and errors she had previously avoided cropped up everywhere. A love hold and another break of Sanford and Galfi was serving for the match, which she finished with an ace, posting a 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-5 win in two hours and 18 minutes.

An even longer match went Francesca Di Lorenzo's way, as the Ohio State freshman defeated Olesya Pervushina of Russia 6-7(5), 7-6(1), 6-3 in two hours and 40 minutes.

Di Lorenzo has been in class the past two weeks, so was unable to play either of the Grade 1 warmup events in College Park or Repentigny, but hitting with her teammates prepared her for her final junior slam.

Against her 15-year-old opponent, Di Lorenzo kept getting balls back in play and Pervushina lost her focus, particularly in the second set tiebreaker, with Di Lorenzo not forced to come up with much, as Pervushina made error after error.

"In the second set, I think she got tired, slowing down, and her serve went down a lot," said the 18-year-old from Ohio, whose parents are both natives of Italy.  "I got some free points on my serve and I just stayed aggressive and intense and kept my energy up, being in every single point. She didn't play well in the tiebreak, but I think that was because I was forcing errors from her side."

Di Lorenzo quickly identified where to hit the ball to Pervushina if she wanted to benefit from unforced errors.

"I just started hitting to her forehand," said Di Lorenzo. "After the first set, I was like, why do I keep hitting to her backhand. She runs inside out to hit her backhand, so I'm like, ok, hit every ball to her forehand and make her move. And then she started making mistakes and I think she went away mentally. After she won the first set, she thought maybe 7-6, it's over, I got it now. But I didn't give up. If she was going to win, she was going to fight me for it."

The biggest surprise of the day in the girls results was Maia Lumsden's win over No. 6 seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia. At the International Hard Court Championships two weeks ago, Kalinskaya had beaten Lumsden 6-2, 6-4 in the quarterfinals, en route to Kalinskaya's second straight title in College Park. Kalinskaya was the only seed, boy or girl, to lose Sunday.

The two US girls joining Di Lorenzo in the second round are Michaela Gordon, who beat Rebeka Masarova of Switzerland 7-5, 6-4, and No. 8 seed Usue Arconada, who defeated Valeriya Zeleva of Russia 6-2, 6-0.

Reilly Opelka, the No. 6 seed, is the only American aside from Fritz to earn a victory Sunday. The Wimbledon boys champion defeated Alejandro Tabilo of Canada 6-1, 6-4 in the last match of the day.

Seven wild cards were in action on Sunday and seven, including Sanford, lost: Abigail Desiatnikov, Sam Riffice, Gianni Ross, Caty McNally, Eduardo Nava and Tornado Alicia Black, who retired trailing No. 13 seed Vera Lapko of Belarus 7-5, 5-5.  Black, whose thigh was taped heavily, had two set points with Lapko serving at 4-5 in the second set, but Lapko came up with some big hitting to save those and then take the next to points to hold. After falling behind 0-15 serving at 5-5, Black, the 2013 US Open girls finalist, retired.

Kayla Day and Nathan Ponwith were the other two US players to lose first round matches on Sunday, with the US participants 5-9 on the opening day of competition.

The doubles draws have been released, with the top two teams in the boys draw American.  Michael Mmoh and Fritz are the No. 1 seeds, with Tommy Paul and William Blumberg the No. 2 seeds.

Charlotte Robillard-Millette of Canada and Katie Swan of Great Britain are the No. 1 seeds in the girls doubles draw.