Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Mejia Ousts No. 5 Seed Molleker, Portillo Ramirez Defeats No. 3 Seed Minca at Grade 1 International Hard Courts; Anisimova Among Americans Advancing at US Open Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2016--
College Park, MD--

The perfect weather conditions continued for Tuesday's second round of the ITF Grade 1 International Hard Court Championships, and so did the exit of seeds in the girls draw, with four more losing after five had been eliminated in Monday's first round.

The highest seed to fall, No. 3 seed Ioana Minca of Romania, couldn't hold off the charge of Maria Portillo Ramirez of Mexico, who took the match 4-6, 6-0, 6-2.

"The first set was tough and I had many opportunities to maybe get that set, but I just kept fighting and believing," said the 17-year-old, who trains with her coach Michael Castillo in San Antonio, Texas  "She's really consistent and can move the ball really well, so you have to be really active and really explosive with your footwork, especially. She's really aggressive so it's important to take control of the point as much as you can."

Portillo Ramirez said the hard work she's been putting into her fitness and footwork the past two months is starting to show in her results. And the strength she's gained is adding another facet to her game.

"My serve really helped me today," said Portillo Ramirez, who is also playing the Grade 1 in Canada next week and the US Open junior qualifying. "I got a lot of free points from it, plus my footwork was a key."

Portillo Ramirez will face another unseeded player, 14-year-old Junior Tennis Champions Center student Hailey Baptiste, who defeated No. 14 seed Federica Bilardo of Italy 6-1, 7-6(3).

USTA National 16s champion Nicole Mossmer took out No. 5 seed Wushuang Zheng of China 6-3, 6-1 at the University of Maryland site and Canadian Layne Sleeth defeated No. 13 seed I-Hsuan Cho of Taiwan 6-7(5), 7-6(6) 1-0 retired, with Cho suffering from cramps and unable to continue.

Only one seed lost in boys action on Tuesday, with No. 5 Rudolf Molleker of Germany falling to Nicolas Mejia of Colombia 6-4, 6-4.

Mejia was prepared for a difficult match, remembering his 1-6, 7-6(0), 6-4 win over Molleker in the Junior Orange Bowl 12s quarterfinals back in 2012.

"We've known each other since we were really young," said Mejia, who is now training at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. "We had a really long match in the Orange Bowl, and I knew it was going to be a really tough match today, but I was able to handle it the correct way. That's one of the matches I remember my whole life, because it was so long and it was a really good match."

Mejia, whose older sister Gabriela played for the University of Miami from 2008-2012, credited his serve as a key to his win.

"I think I served well on the break points, and in the second set I was hitting really good first serves," said Mejia, who won two Grade 4s in Florida back in May and a Grade 4 in Colombia earlier this month. "I was going through the court really well, changing the direction of the ball really well, so I think I played one of my best matches, yesterday and today.  Those are the two best matches I've played in a really long time."

Mejia will face No. 4 seed Alexi Popyrin of Australia on Wednesday.

The comeback of the day goes to No. 7 seed Sam Riffice, who trailed Alexander Donski of Bulgaria 4-1 in the third set, with Donski serving, but came back to post a 6-7(9), 6-3, 7-5 victory in three hours and 10 minutes.  Riffice will play unseeded Alexandre Rotsaert next, after Rotsaert advanced when Austen Huang retired trailing 6-2, 3-0.

Top seeds Genaro Olivieri of Argentina and Anastasia Potapova of Russia had their hands full today, but both escaped with two-set victories.  Olivieri needed over two hours to get past Karl Friberg of Sweden 6-4, 7-5 and Potapova took out unseeded 13-year-old wild card Alexa Noel 7-6(4), 6-4. Noel, who trains at the JTCC, kept the world's top junior guessing with her slicing and variety, but Potapova's habit of winning, even when not playing her best, surfaced when she needed it.  She will play qualifier McCartney Kessler, who beat Malkia Menguene 5-7, 6-3, 6-2.

The No. 2 seeds had much less difficulty advancing with Claire Liu beating Katya Townsend 6-0, 6-0 and Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia taking out Kyrylo Tsygura 6-1, 6-1.

The first round of doubles saw one major upset, with No. 2 seeds Maria Carle of Argentina and Zheng losing to Victoria Flores and Kate Paulus 6-4, 7-6(5).

For complete draws and Wednesday's order of play, see the tournament webpage.

Sixteen Americans were in action on the first day of US Open qualifying, with five men and four women advancing to the second round.  Kristie Ahn defeated wild card Francesca Di Lorenzo 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the only all-US battle Tuesday.  Asia Muhammad defeated Sofia Shapatava of Georgia 6-4, 6-4, No. 28 seed Jessica Pegula downed Nigina Abduraimova of Uzbekistan 6-1, 7-6(6) and 14-year-old wild card Amanda Anisimova eliminated No. 17 seed Veronica Cepede Royg of Paraguay 6-3, 6-4.  The US men advancing to the second round are No. 13 seed Dennis Novikov, who beat Federico Gaio of Italy 7-6(8), 5-7, 6-2; No. 10 seed Tim Smyczek who defeated Alexander Kudryavtsev of Russia 6-3, 6-4; No. 11 seed Ryan Harrison who got by Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany 7-6(1), 6-3; Alexander Sarkissian, who beat Gregoire Barrere of France 6-4, 6-2 and Mitchell Krueger, who outlasted Nikola Milojevic of Serbia 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

The following 22 US players take the courts for their first round matches Wednesday:

Christian Harrison (wild card)
Austin Krajicek(23)
Noah Rubin
Stefan Kozlov
Tommy Paul
Daniel Nguyen
Ryan Shane (wild card)
Jared Donaldson(14)
Reilly Opelka (wild card)
Sekou Bangoura (wild card)

Sachia Vickery
Usue Arconada (wild card)
Jamie Loeb
CiCi Bellis
Grace Min
Julia Boserup(21)
Taylor Townsend
Jennifer Brady(18)
Caroline Dolehide (wild card)
Melanie Oudin (wild card)
Nicole Frenkel (wild card)
Sophie Chang (wild card)

The women's draws are here, the men's draws are here.