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Friday, January 29, 2016

My Interview with Andy Brandi; Mihalikova, Lapko in Australian Girls Final, Karimov, Anderson Meet for Boys Title; Leustian Reaches Les Petits As Semifinals; Kingsley, Rubin Advance to Maui Semifinals

Last month at the Junior Orange Bowl, I spoke with USTA National Coach Andy Brandi about his work with 10-, 11-, and 12-year-old boys. We discussed talent identification, the two shots most young players need to work on, the value of international competition and the biggest mistake US juniors make while during the development years. My conversations with coaches are always among the highlights of my year, and this one, for the Tennis Recruiting Network, is no exception.

The finals of the Australian Open Junior Championships are set after a difficult semifinal day due to more rain in Melbourne.  The doubles finals were postponed until today, and the match between No. 7 seed Djurabeck Karimov of Uzbekistan and No. 6 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia was moved from outdoors to inside HiSense Arena to finish, a change that Karimov said helped him secure his 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory.  Karimov, a semifinalist last year in Melbourne will be playing in his first junior slam final, as will his opponent, unseeded wild card Oliver Anderson of Australia.  Anderson, who defeated No. 5 seed Yunseong Chung of Korea 6-3, 7-5, will attempt to become the fifth Australian boys champion in the last 10 years, while Karimov would be the first boy from his country to take a junior slam title.

Mihalikova(left) and Lapko in Wimbledon girls doubles final
Vera Lapko of Belarus will also be making her first appearance in a junior slam singles final after defeating Australian qualifier Sara Tomic 6-2, 6-3. The fifth-seeded Lapko will face her friend and occasional doubles partner Tereza Mihalikova of Slovakia, who has reached the Australian Open final for a second straight year. The last girl to win back-to-back junior titles at the same slam was Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova of Russia in 2006-7, also in Australia. To get that chance Mihalikova, the No. 2 seed, defeated No. 9 seed Rebeka Masarova 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals. The two 17-year-olds have split their two ITF Junior meetings, with Lapko winning at Wimbledon last July 6-2, 7-5 and Mihalikova taking a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory in the semifinals at the ITF Grade 1 in College Park Maryland last August.  Lapko and Mihalikova reached the Wimbledon girls doubles final last year.

The junior finals will be played on Rod Laver arena starting tonight at 9 p.m. with the girls, followed by the boys and will be streamed. The doubles finals will be played on Court 7, weather permitting. Complete junior draws are available at the Australian Open website.

No. 3 seed Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine reached the semifinals of Les Petits As with a 6-2, 6-1 win over No. 12 seed Vanessa Ong. Kostyuk is now the highest seed remaining, with top seed Daria Snigur of Ukraine losing to No. 6 seed Denisa Hindova of the Czech Republic 7-6(7), 6-3. Ong, who needed more than three hours to win her third round match on Friday, had all sorts of trouble with her first serve throughout the match with Kostyuk. Kostyuk will play No. 7 seed Himari Sato of Japan, who took out No. 2 seed Daria Frayman of Russia 6-3, 6-4.  Hindova faces the only unseeded player in either draw, Ariana Arseneault of Canada. Arseneault downed No. 9 seed Romana Cisovska of Slovakia 7-5, 7-6(6).

Stefan Leustian advanced to the semifinals with a 7-6(5), 7-6(3) win over No. 13 seed Mortiz Stoeger of Germany. Leustian's opponent will be No. 6 seed Harold Mayot, the Nike International Teen Tennis champion, who took out top seed Dalibor Svrcina of the Czech Republic 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(5).  Leustian and Mayot played in the quarterfinals last week in Bolton, with Mayot winning 6-4, 0-6, 6-2.  The other boys semifinal features No. 4 seed Borna Devald of Croatia and No. 2 seed Dawid Taczala of Poland.

Leustian and Faris Khan lost in the doubles semifinals to top seeds Taczala and Viktor Jovic of Serbia 7-5, 6-1.

A live stream of the semifinals is available on the tournament's YouTube channel.

At the USTA Pro Circuit's $50,000 tournaments in Maui, two teens have advanced to the semifinals in early action Friday. Raveena Kingsley continued her impressive run, beating No. 2 seed Samantha Crawford 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. Next up for the 17-year-old is No. 5 seed Jessica Pegula, who defeated Maria Sanchez 6-1, 2-6, 6-4.  Draws for the women's event are here.

Noah Rubin won the battle of the 19-year-olds, with the wild card beating qualifier Ernesto Escobedo 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.  Frances Tiafoe will try to join Rubin in the semifinals when he faces No. 3 seed James Duckworth later tonight. The singles draw for the men is here.

Live streaming for both men and women is available at the USTA Pro Circuit site.