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Saturday, January 21, 2017

Brady Advances to Second Week at Australian Open; Boyer, Johnson Win in Juniors; Kecmanovic and Kenin Reach Pro Circuit Finals

Qualifier Jennifer Brady hadn't played in the main draw of a slam prior to this year, but she has now won six straight matches and is into the round of 16 after beating No. 14 seed Elena Vesnina of Russia 7-6(4), 6-2 Saturday.  The 21-year-old, who left UCLA after her sophomore year in 2015, was down a break early in the first set, got it back to 4-4, was broken, but broke Vesnina when she served for the first set.  Down 4-3 in the tiebreaker, Brady won the final four points of the set, then held on to an early break in the second set for a 4-2 lead. She then broke Vesnina and served out the match, for her WTA Top 20 win.

In the press conference after her win, Brady was asked what had changed for her in the past two weeks and she gave much of the credit to mental aspect of her game.

"Just believing in myself. Having the confidence in my game. You know, walking out on court, knowing that if I play my game, you know... Yeah, I mean, just having the confidence in myself."

Brady, who saved five match points in her second round win over Heather Watson of Great Britain, gave the USTA's Mental Skills Specialist Larry Lauer credit for his help in instilling that confidence in her game. And when added to her serve and her forehand, and the poise she exhibited in critical stages of the match, that mindset has led to the second week of a major in her first appearance in a main draw. She will play 34-year-old Mirjana Lucic-Baroni of Croatia, who won the Australian Open girls title in 1997, on Monday.

Nicole Gibbs, the other former collegian remaining in the draw, lost to Serena Williams 6-1, 6-3.

In the Australian Open Junior Championships, five Americans were on Saturday's schedule, with No. 2 seed Taylor Johnson and qualifier Tristan Boyer advancing to the second round.

Johnson defeated Violet Apisah of Papua New Guinea 6-7(4), 7-6(4), 6-2 and Boyer got his first junior slam win by beating fellow qualifier Philip Henning of South Africa 6-3, 6-2.  Next for Boyer is No. 2 seed Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan.

Caty McNally was one of two girls seeds to fall in the first round. The No. 12 seed lost to Gabriella Da Silva Fick of Australia 6-3, 6-1 and No. 9 seed Ayumi Miyamoto of Japan lost to qualifier Julie Niemeier of Germany.  Two boys seeds also lost, with No. 12 seed Kacper Zuk of Poland and No. 8 seed Naoki Tajima both losing in three sets.

The rest of the first round of singles and some of the first round of doubles are underway Sunday (tonight here in the US).  McNally and Nathasha Subhash are the No. 5 seeds.  Carson Branstine, who is still showing as USA, but moving to Canada, is the No. 3 seed with Bianca Andreescu of Canada. Trent Bryde is playing with Finn Bass of Great Britain and they are seeded No. 8 in the boys doubles draw.

Many of the junior matches are being streamed via WatchESPN.

At the $15,000 USTA Pro Circuit Futures in Sunrise, Florida, 2016 ITF junior champion Miomir Kecmanovic has reached his second career Futures final.  The 17-year-old from Serbia, who qualified and has now won eight matches this tournament, defeated Peter Nagy of Hungary 6-1, 6-1 and will face No. 5 seed Christian Lindell of Sweden.  Lindell prevented an all-17-year-old-qualifier final by downing Patrick Kypson 7-5, 6-0.

At the $25,000 USTA Pro Circuit women's event in Orlando, No. 3 seed Sonya Kenin will face Katarzyna Piter of Poland in Sunday's final. The 18-year-old Floridian defeated qualifier Katherine Sebov of Canada 5-7, 7-5, 7-5 in a match that took almost three and a half hours. Piter prevented an all-US teen final by beating Ellie Halbauer 6-1, 6-3. If she wins, the 2015 National 18s champion will collect her third career title on the Pro Circuit in her fifth attempt.