Lapko, Anderson Win Australian Open Junior Titles; Leustian Reaches Les Petits As Final; Kingsley Faces McHale in Maui $50K Final; Midland Qualifying Draw Out
Vera Lapko of Belarus denied Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia a second straight Australian Open girls title Saturday in Melbourne, claiming a 6-3, 6-4 victory, while unseeded wild card Oliver Anderson continued the Australian boys domination of the event with his 6-2, 1-6, 6-1 win over No. 7 seed Djurabeck Karimov of Uzbekistan.
The girls final was the rubber match between the two friends and occasional doubles partners, who had split their two contests in 2015. The fifth-seeded Lapko, playing in her first junior slam singles final, showed no sign of nerves and was hitting her groundstrokes big and deep, keeping No. 2 seed Mihalikova defending. Leading 4-3 in the first, Lapko got a break and it was then the 17-year-old began to show her first sign of nerves. Up 40-0, she made three errors but her served bailed her out, helping her convert her fifth set point.
Mihalikova went up 4-1 but Lapko did not seemed fazed by the deficit, which was just one break. She kept going for the lines and did not lose confidence or focus after the occasional miss. Mihalikova had four game points for a 5-3 lead in the second, but Lapko broke and held easily. Mihalikova's serve, usually one of her strengths, went off in the next game, with two consecutive double faults putting her in difficulty and she was broken.
Lapko didn't start well in the final game, and had to save a break point, but she got to match point, only to net a backhand. Match point No. 2 again produced an error, but at deuce she hit a slice forehand cross court winner that demonstrated instincts and touch her powerful game usually doesn't require. She converted match point No. 3 on Mihalikova's forehand error joining Victoria Azarenka as the only girls Australian Open champions from Belarus.
Lapko, who won the Grade 1 in Traralgon the previous week, is now 12-0 in 2016, and will join Azarenka in Quebec for the Fed Cup tie with Canada next weekend.
A video interview with Lapko is here and a transcribed interview is here.
Mihalikova did leave Melbourne with a title however, taking the girls doubles championship with Anna Kalinskaya of Russia. The No. 2 seeds defeated Dayana Yastremska and Anastasia Zarytska of Ukraine 6-1, 6-1 in the final.
Champion Oliver Anderson
The boys final was as uneven as the scoreline would indicate. Karimov looked the more nervous of the first-time junior slam finalists, missing often, while Anderson kept the rallies going long enough to induce 13 unforced errors. He didn't face a break point in the opening set, but looked like a completely different player to start the second. Anderson was broken in the second game and lost 11 straight points during one stretch, making error after error while Karimov found his rhythm and started eliminating his mistakes.
Treatment on his thigh during the set break seemed to help Anderson and he returned to his first set form after saving a break point in the opening game. Anderson broke in the second game and again in the sixth, with Karimov also back to the erratic play he had shown in the first set.
Anderson is the fifth Australian boy in the past ten years to take the title, joining Brydan Klein(2007), Bernard Tomic(2008), Luke Saville(2012) and Nick Kyrgios(2013) on the long list of Australian boys champions.
That success has been even more notable in doubles, where at least one Australian boy has been a champion four straight years. This year, the all-Australian team of Alex De Minaur and Blake Ellis, who were unseeded, saved a match point to claim the title 3-6, 7-5, 12-10 over No. 8 seeds Lukas Klein of Slovakia and Patrik Rikl of the Czech Republic.
A transcript of Anderson's interview is here, with the video interview here.
The ITF website article on the finals is here.
The finals of Les Petits As are set for Sunday, with American Stefan Leustian, the No. 8 seed, reaching the boys final against Croatia's Borna Devald, the No. 4 seed. Leustian could have been discouraged after getting broken in the third set of his semifinal with No. 6 seed Harold Mayot of France. Mayot had a huge crowd supporting him, and he had beaten Leustian last week in the quarterfinals of the Nike Junior International Teen Tennis tournament in Bolton. But trailing 2-1 in the third set, Leustian summoned his best tennis, winning the final five games to post a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 victory. Mayot, who had taken out top seed Dalibor Svrcina of the Czech Republic in a third set tiebreaker in the quarterfinals Friday, looked to be fatigued as the match entered the final set.
Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine will try to duplicate the 2014-5 feat of Anastasia Potapova of Russia who in the space of two months won the Eddie Herr 14s, the Junior Orange Bowl 14s and Les Petits As. The third-seeded Kostyuk breezed past No. 7 seed Himari Sato of Japan 6-3, 6-2 and will face No. 6 seed Denisa Hindova of the Czech Republic in Sunday's final. Hindova beat unseeded Ariana Arseneault of Canada 3-6 6-3, 7-5 in the other girls semifinal.
In the doubles finals, unseeded Lorenzo Musetti and Lorenzo Rottoli of Italy beat top seeds Viktor Jovic of Serbia and Dawid Taczala of Poland 6-2, 6-3 to take the boys championship. Top seeds Kostyuk and Kamilla Bartone of Latvia won the girls doubles title, beating unseeded Holly Fischer and Emma Raducanu of Great Britain 6-2, 6-1.
The finals will be streamed on the tournament's YouTube Channel Sunday morning, beginning with the girls final at 8 a.m. EST, followed by the boys final. (CORRECTION: THERE IS NO STREAM FOR THE FINALS).
Raveena Kingsley's run through the draw continued at the $50,000 Pro Circuit event in Maui, with the 17-year-old taking out yet another seed in today's semifinal. Kingsley, ranked 602, defeated No. 5 seed Jessica Pegula 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(5), her fourth win over a Top 200 player this week. Kingsley served for the match at 5-3 and was up 30-0, but Pegula broke and held. After two tense service holds, a tiebreaker would decide the winner, and when Pegula sent a backhand long serving at 5-4 in the tiebreaker, Kingsley had two match points. Pegula saved the first on her serve, but the second, with Kingsley serving saw Pegula net a forehand return to put Kingsley in her first Pro Circuit final. After all the Top 200 players, Kingsley will get her biggest challenge in the final, where she'll face No. 65 Christina McHale. McHale, the top seed, survived a tough match with No. 3 seed Naomi Broady of Great Britain, coming though with a 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 victory.
The men's $50,000 Challenger final will not include any Americans, after wild card Noah Rubin lost to Di Wu of China 6-7(2), 6-1, 6-2 in today's semifinal. Frances Tiafoe lost to No. 3 seed James Duckworth in the quarterfinals late Friday, with Duckworth then withdrawing today, giving top seed Kyle Edmund of Great Britain a walkover into the final against the unseeded Wu.
Unseeded Jason Jung of Taiwan and Dennis Novikov won the men's doubles title, beating No. 2 seeds Frank Moser of Germany and Alex Bolt of Australia 6-3, 4-6, 10-8.
The rain finally subsided in Florida and the finals are set for the two Pro Circuit events there. At the $10,000 Futures in Weston, 16-year-old qualifier Denis Shapovalov, playing in his first final, will meet unseeded Pedro Sakamoto of Brazil for the title.
At the $25,000 women's tournament in Sunrise, top seed Anna Tatishvili will face No. 6 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia. Jabeur ended 18-year-old wild card Ellie Halbauer's run with a 6-3, 6-2 victory in the semifinals.
I'll be at the Midland $100,000 women's Pro Circuit event on Monday for the second round of qualifying. Qualifying starts on Sunday, with Nicole Vaidisova of the Czech Republic the top seed. Eighteen Americans, many of the teenagers, will compete in the qualifying.