Saturday, July 2, 2016

Only Three Junior Matches Played on Opening Day of Wimbledon Junior Championships; Johnson Advances to Last 16 with Win Over Dimitrov

©Colette Lewis 2016--

The first day of the Wimbledon Junior championships got off to a promising start with sunny skies during the morning hours. Unfortunately for the 44 junior players on Saturday's schedule, none of whom were to play until two pro matches were completed on their courts, intermittent showers began in the early afternoon and with each rain delay, another round of junior matches were cancelled.

When the day ended, just three boys matches were started, none of which involved any US players, and all were completed, with No. 9 seed Genaro Olivieri of Argentina, Felipe Meligeni Alves of Brazil and Piotr Matuszewski of Poland collecting victories.

Matuszewski defeated No. 14 seed Jurij Rodionov of Austria 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, and although he was playing on grass for the first time the past two weeks, he was not surprised by his success on the surface.

"I have a good volley and serve and that's why I play offensive, serve and volley often," said the 18-year-old, who lost in three sets in the third round of the Roehampton Grade 1 last week to junior No. 1 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece. "I like to drop shot, and am soft here," he said pointing to his hands. "I very like grass."

Matuszewski, who also had beaten Rodionov on clay last year, enjoyed his first match at Wimbledon, particularly the crowds that can be found surrounding every court.

"It was amazing, a lot of people were on my match, amazing," Matuszewski said. "I like to play good when a lot of people are on my match."

Matuszewski's opponent in the second round will be Meligeni, the nephew of former ATP Top 30 player Fernando Meligeni, who defeated British wild card Aidan McHugh 6-3, 7-5.

For Meligeni Alves, an 18-year-old from Campinas, getting a first junior slam win and a first grass court win was special.  "It was a good experience, first time on grass," Meligeni said of his first round loss last week at Roehampton. "And winning at Wimbledon, it was amazing."

Meligeni Alves, whose father, a tennis coach, taught him the game, said his uncle's advice has been less about technique and more about keeping his composure on the court.

"The forehand, backhand, serve, he does not say anything," said Meligeni Alves. "I talk a lot on the court, every time crying and he said to me, stop with this. It's not good for you."

Meligeni Alves says he is trying to follow those instructions, especially as he is wrapping up his junior career this year and beginning to concentrate on pro tennis.

"After this tournament, I go to Futures in Brazil," said Meligeni Alves, who is planning to play the US Open Junior championships if he gets in.

In the third match of the day, and the last junior match to finish, Olivieri defeated Louis Tessa of France 6-7(7), 6-4, 6-3.

Middle Sunday will feature 29 junior matches, 13 in the boys and 16 in the girls singles draws.  Americans scheduled for Sunday are JJ Wolf, Alexandra Sanford, Kayla Day(5), Sam Riffice, Michaela Gordon, Usue Arconada(9), Taylor Johnson, Morgan Coppoc and Sonya Kenin(7).

While waiting for the juniors to begin, I had an opportunity to watch the final two sets of Steve Johnson's 6-7(6), 7-6(3), 6-4, 6-2 win over Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov, which put the former USC star into the second week of a major for the first time.

The first rain delay of the match, played on a packed court 18, came after Johnson won the second set tiebreaker.  Another shower stopped play with Johnson serving at 3-0 in the third set, and when play resumed, Dimitrov got one break back, but Johnson closed out the set.

Johnson got an early break in the fourth set, leading 3-1 with Dimitrov serving when yet another brief shower stopped play. Johnson built on that lead breaking Dimitrov at 2-4, but the fourth rain delay of the match came with Johnson serving for it.  He went down a break point after double faulting at 30-all, but saved that and two more break points. Dimitrov, who had beaten Johnson last year in the second round at Wimbledon, saved a match point with a forehand volley winner, but a forehand winner earned Johnson a second match point and he converted it with a good first serve.

That last game had its share of distractions, with Johnson's friend and doubles partner Sam Querrey in a fourth set tiebreaker with top seed Novak Djokovic. The crowd on Court 18, looking directly at the scoreboard on the adjacent Court 1, joined in the vocal reaction to the huge upset that sent shock waves throughout the grounds.

"I did a fair bit of scoreboard watching, unfortunately," Johnson said. "It's hard not to.  I will tell people I didn't, but it's hard not to.  I'm serving match point and Sam wins, and the crowd goes crazy.  I told him he should have just waited like another 30 seconds or something, because I had to reset and I ended up losing that point."

Next for Johnson is Roger Federer, and Johnson is anticipating an opportunity to play on one of the main courts at Wimbledon Monday.

"I think it's going to be exciting," said Johnson, who admitted Querrey's win would serve as confidence boost for all the underdogs for the rest of the tournament. "He's won this tournament a few times.  I have never played on Centre or 1, or I don't know what court we will be on. I'm assuming it will be one of those two. It's going to be a great experience.  I'm going to go out there thinking I'm going to be the winner.  I have no fear out there.  I'm going to go out there and try and play my best tennis and hopefully my plan works."