Day Reaches Semifinals on Grueling Friday at Metropolia Orange Bowl; Three Americans in 16s Semifinals
©Colette Lewis 2015--
Friday was warm, humid and nearly breeze-free, not the ideal conditions for playing two matches in one day, a schedule required after heavy rain early in the week at the Grade A Metropolia Orange Bowl.
Three US boys and six US girls had reached the third round, but when the quarterfinal matches were complete after dark, only one girl, No. 6 seed Kayla Day, had advanced to the semifinals.
That's not to say there were no great wins by Americans in the third round matches played Friday. Unseeded Maria Mateas beat No. 5 seed and Australian Open champion Tereza Mihalikova 6-2, 6-4 and No. 14 seed Ulises Blanch beat top seed Casper Ruud of Norway 6-3, 6-2. Both fell at the next hurdle however, with Mateas coming up just short against No. 13 seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 and Blanch dropping a 6-2, 6-4 decision to No. 9 seed Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia.
Day, the Yucatan Grade 1 champion, has yet to drop a set this week, and she started her day with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Alexandra Sanford, also of the US. In the quarterfinals, the 16-year-old from California met Anastasia Detiuc of Moldova, who had beaten No. 15 seed Caroline Dolehide 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 earlier in the day. Day came through 6-4, 6-0 and expressed surprise at how fresh she felt, at least at that moment.
"For some reason I'm not tired quite yet, probably tonight," said Day, who says fitness and focus have been two of the reasons for her recent surge, which also includes winning the Grade B1 Pan American Closed in October. "I'll feel it, it'll hit me."
Day has said she's fond of clay, but the clay at the Veltri Tennis Center is a particular favorite.
"I really love the clay here, for some reason I really play well here," said Day, who reached the quarterfinals last year. "I just like it and I feel it fits my game really well. I move well on it, so that's helpful and I feel like if my opponent hits a big shot I can get it back still and get back in the point, when on hard, they'll probably just hit a winner on that ball."
Day will play the 14-year-old Potapova, who has already defeated three US girls en route to the semis: Amanda Anisimova, Kylie McKenzie and Mateas.
Another player who enjoys the clay at the Veltri Tennis Center is Bianca Andreescu of Canada, who won the 16s title last year, and with two wins today, has extended her Orange Bowl winning streak to 10 matches. The ninth-seeded Andreescu, 15, beat Eddie Herr finalist and No. 8 seed Tamara Zidansek of Slovenia 6-4, 7-5 in the third round, then came back from a set and 4-1 down to eliminate Claire Liu 6-7(5), 7-6(4), 6-4.
"I love the atmosphere here," said Andreescu. "The courts are great and I love green clay. I'm just coming back hoping to win and to enjoy it."
Liu was serving at 5-3, 30-0 in the second set but didn't get to match point. After Andreescu won the subsequent tiebreaker, she went down 2-0 in the third set, but broke back for 2-all and there were no breaks of serve until the final game.
With Liu serving at 15-30, Andreescu came up with a perfectly conceived and executed forehand down-the-line pass to earn two match points. She only needed one, hitting a return winner off a Liu first serve to take the match.
"We played so many long rallies," said Andreescu. "I just feel that in the important points, I held my ground. I just told myself to stay in the present and just fight, fight until the end."
Andreescu will play Hungary's Dalma Galfi, who came up big in the final points of her 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) win over No. 7 seed Evgeniya Levashova of Russia.
Galfi, the No. 2 seed, hit a forehand return winner to go up 5-4 in the tiebreaker, and had two serves coming, but netted a forehand to make it 5-5. An ace gave her match point, and when Levashova netted a backhand, Galfi was through.
Although the ITF provided the tournament with various scenarios concerning the race for No. 1, which included Galfi needing a title to win it, my calculations have her now ahead of Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, who is currently No. 1. But because Vondrousova is not playing this week, she will obviously not accrue any more points and loses the Orange Bowl doubles championship points from last year.
Taylor Fritz appears to have the boys year-end No. 1 locked up, but official confirmation of that will come from the ITF next week.
The bottom half of the boys draw has played out as expected, with No. 3 seed and 2014 finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece facing No. 2 seed Mate Valkusz of Hungary in the semifinals.
Tsitsipas defeated No. 16 seed Denis Shapovalov of Canada 6-2, 6-1 in a battle of one-handed backhands, and Tsitsipas then took out Kenneth Raisma of Estonia 6-4, 7-5.
"It was really tough for me to play two matches in this heat," said the 17-year-old, who won the Yucatan Cup two weeks ago, and spent last week playing on the Har-Tru courts at Saddlebrook near Tampa to prepare for this week. 'I don't know why I played so good this afternoon, but I did everything for this match to make it happen,"
Although Tsitsipas reached the final last year, Valkusz is confident, with his success against Tsitsipas, who is exactly one day older than he is.
"I know the guy, I played him like three times in my career and I won all of them, so I don't want to make it 3-1," said Valkusz. "It's going to be tough for me; he's a really good guy, he plays really well and he's more confident on the court playing against juniors. I'm hoping to do my best, and if I do my best, nothing can stop me."
Kecmanovic, who defeated No. 4 seed and Eddie Herr finalist Alex De Minaur of Australia 6-4, 6-2 in the third round and Blanch in the quarterfinals, will play surprise semifinalist Calin Manda of Romania, who beat qualifier Bruno Britez of Paraguay 6-7(6), 6-3, 6-1 in the third round and wild card John McNally 7-6(5), 3-6, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.
The 16s semifinals will include three Americans. Kyrylo Tsygura, the No. 16 seed, defeated qualifier Luka Pavlovic of France 6-2, 6-2 in the quarterfinals and will play No. 9 seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina in Saturday's semifinals. The other semifinal will feature qualifier Nicolas Mejia of Colombia against Karl Friberg of Sweden, the No. 3 seed.
The girls 16s semifinals features not one but two qualifiers, with Lea Ma advancing to the final four with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 win over top seed Selma Cadar of Romania. She will face qualifier Gabriela Tatarus of Romania, who beat No. 4 seed Rachel Lim 7-5, 6-3.
Hannah Lairmore was down a set and break to No. 8 seed Ann Li, but came back to take a 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 decision. She will play No. 2 seed Maria Carle of Argentina, who outlasted No. 5 seed Emily Appleton of Great Britain 5-7, 6-2, 6-4.
The doubles semifinals are also set in both age divisions on Saturday. Results of all matches played Friday are below. The order of play is available at the tournament website.