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Thursday, June 2, 2016

Talking with NCAA Champion Mackenzie McDonald of UCLA; Anisimova Sole US Junior to Reach French Quarterfinals

I had an opportunity to talk to UCLA's Mackenzie McDonald today, just a few days after he returned to Los Angeles with the NCAA singles and doubles titles. With UCLA still in school, McDonald hasn't had much time to celebrate, but the Political Science major took a few minutes to answer my questions while he prepares for his final exams.

Colette Lewis: So has it sunk in?
Mackenzie McDonald: A little bit. I'm back here doing school and stuff, but I've definitely processed it. It's been fun, pretty cool and I feel great. It was special.

CL: During the tournament, did the US Open main draw wild card come into your head, was it something you thought about?
MM: I definitely thought about if beforehand. It was the goal, knowing if you win the whole thing, you get it. After a couple matches, I definitely thought I'm a little bit closer to my goal, because that was my biggest goal, to win the whole thing. But, even before the finals match, I was really focused, putting so much energy into every point. And playing so much tennis, singles and doubles, it just kept me in that mode of being so focused. I didn't have half a day to think about that stuff; I had singles, then I had doubles, then I had to rest and retool and get ready. It actually took me a couple of minutes after I won to realize that I did win the wild card as well. I didn't realize it right away, but then it kicked in and I understood.

CL: Last year you lost in the first round (to Texas senior Lloyd Glasspool). People had expectations that you'd go deep in the tournament then. Did that loss motivate you?
MM: There were a lot differences compared to last year. It did hurt to lose that. I went down so fast. He played a great match, but it was definitely unexpected. I just knew, going into this year, that I needed to be a little more prepared for every match. [McDonald's only loss of the year was to the 2015 NCAA singles champion Ryan Shane of Virginia]. I was nervous in my first round match this year, but I really focused on that match and it worked.  I killed the guy 2 and 0, the same scoreline (as the Glasspool loss). It was a little bit of a relief, but I knew I was playing well and I just wanted to carry that through.

CL: You had a great run in Challengers last fall, two semifinals, a quarterfinal, going deep in nearly every tournament at that level. How would you say your level now compares to that?
MM: My level has changed. I think mentally I'm in a great spot and I learned from that. I knew how well I could compete, having good results in the pros and I definitely used that in my college matches this year and at the NCAAs.

CL: Did you consider not coming back to school for the dual match season?
MM: I definitely had thoughts of leaving after such a good fall. But I talked to my coaches and my family and my support group and I'm definitely happy with my decision. I feel I finished this year off perfectly.

CL: Have you decided whether you will return for your senior year?
MM: At this time, I'm focusing on finals this week. I've scheduled tournaments already. But once I settle down and get all this stuff straightened out, I'll take a closer look at that.

CL: How close are you to graduating?
MM: After this quarter, I'll have 45 more units, so pretty much one full year, not much more than that.

CL: What's your schedule for the summer?
MM: I'm working with the USTA and UCLA, Grant [Chen] and Billy [Martin] on that. I start in Kansas, at the 25[Futures], then Winnetka [Challenger]. I'm hoping to go to Newport Rhode Island for the ATP event. Then I'll do [Challengers] Binghamton, Lexington, Aptos, which is close to home. And then the Open.

CL: Where will your training base be?
MM: I'm planning on staying close to UCLA. I'll be trying to train at Carson; I'm going to be working with the USTA and they're really supportive. And I'll be around school, so I can see my friends, maybe get some hits here too. Moving to Florida is a possible option, but for now I want to stay close to home, feel comfortable here.

A long, cold and damp day at the French Open Junior Championships ended with the singles quarterfinals and all but one doubles quarterfinal set.  Only No. 2 seed Amanda Anismova remains of the nine American juniors who started the day still alive in singles.

Maria Mateas lost to top seed Olesya Pervushina of Russia 6-3, 6-2 in the second round, and No. 9 seed Usue Arconada, No. 3 seed Kayla Day, No. 10 seed Sonya Kenin and Michaela Gordon, who lost to Anisimova, fell in the third round.

Pervushina, who saved match points in her 5-7, 1-6, 7-5 win over 2014 and 2015 French Junior semifinalist and No. 13 seed Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, will play qualifier Ioana Minca of Romania, who defeated Arconada, in Friday's quarterfinals. No. 12 seed Rebeka Masarova of Switzerland will play unseeded Katarina Zavatska of Ukraine, who beat Day.  And qualifier Iga Swiatek of Poland, who beat Kenin, faces No. 4 seed Anastasia Potapova of Russia. Anisimova, who trailed Gordon 4-2 in the final set of her 6-0, 1-6, 6-4 victory, will play wild card Emmanuelle Salas of France.

The boys quarterfinals will feature three Canadians: No. 5 seed Denis Shapovalov, No. 11 seed Felix Auger-Aliassime and unseeded Benjamin Sigouin.  Shapovalov will play top seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, who defeated Nathan Ponwith 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 in his second match of the day.  Sigouin, in the only advantage third set of the junior tournament so far, defeated Alexei Popyrin of Australia 5-7, 6-4, 13-11. He will play unseeded Geoffrey Blancaneaux of France. Blancaneaux advanced over countryman Corentin Moutet, who beat No. 15 seed John McNally 6-3, 7-6(3).  A second unseeded semifinalist is also assured, when Nicola Kuhn of Spain faces former German Junior Davis Cup teammate Marvin Moeller of Germany in the quarterfinals. Kuhn, who recently changed from Germany to Spain, defeated qualifier Gianni Ross 7-5, 6-2 after beating No. 6 seed Alex De Minaur of Australia earlier in the day. Moeller, another qualifier, advanced with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Alberto Lim of the Philippines. Auger-Aliassime defeated No. 8 seed and Australian Open boys finalist  Djurabeck Karimov of Uzbekistan 7-6(2), 6-1 and will meet No. 14 seed Genaro Olivieri of Argentina, who ousted No. 2 seed Mate Valkusz of Hungary 6-4, 6-1.

For more on Moeller, Olivieri and Anisimova, see the ITF Juniors article.

Valkusz and Ulises Blanch, the top seed in doubles, were eliminated in today's second round as were No. 2 seeds Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov, the US Open boys doubles champions.  No. 7 seeds JJ Wolf and John McNally advanced to the boys doubles quarterfinals via a walkover and are the only US boys still in the doubles.

The girls doubles quarterfinals are not set, with No. 5 seeds Kenin and Alexandra Sanford yet to play their second round match.  Their first round match, in which they trailed 6-4, 3-3, was suspended on Wednesday, but they came back to win it 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 today over Monika Kilnarova of the Czech Republic and Dominique Schaefer of Peru. Because Kenin played two singles matches today, their second round doubles matches was postponed until Friday. They are the only American girls left in the doubles draw, and the only other seeds remaining are the No. 1 team of Pervushina and Potapova.