Kostyuk, Piros Win Australian Open Junior Championships; Meyer Takes Grade 1 Title in Ecuador; Gauff, Bernard Lose in Les Petits As Semis; TCU's Norrie Falls in Maui Challenger Semis
Marta Kostyuk was playing in her first junior slam, so expectations were tempered for the 14-year-old Ukrainian at the Australian Open Championships. But her success in late 2015 and early 2016, when she won the Eddie Herr 14s, the Junior Orange Bowl 14s and Les Petits As, proved she was comfortable on the big stage, and she demonstrated that again on Saturday, beating top seed Rebeka Masarova of Switzerland 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 on Rod Laver Arena.
No. 11 seed Kostyuk, who had reached the final of the Grade 1 in Traralgon last week, looked as if she might have missed her chance to win the first set when she failed to convert two break points leading 5-2, then two more with Masarova serving at 4-5. But after a love hold to go up 6-5, Kostyuk was able to convert her fifth break point, with Masarova's forehand, the source of most of her errors, producing an error at 30-40.
The second set belonged Masarova, with the 17-year-old French Open girls champion breaking Kostyuk all four times she served. The third set started with four straight breaks, but Kostyuk finally held for 3-3 and she made Masarova earn her next service game, forcing six deuces. Despite the disappointment of failing to convert two break points in that game, and getting a warning for coaching, Kostyuk held, then broke Masarova to give herself the opportunity to serve for the championship. Given the seesaw battle that waged the entire match, and her often visible frustration, Kostyuk was not exactly a lock to serve out the match. But she made the hardest game in tennis look easy, playing aggressive and error-free tennis. She closed out the much more experienced Masarova on the first match point, hitting a forehand winner to become the youngest girls slam winner since Laura Robson won at Wimbledon in 2008.
In her press conference, Kostyuk said she will play the other junior slams this year, admitting that her limited opportunities to play on the WTA/ITF Pro Circuits due to her age make that necessary. She also had some interesting comments on how expecting to win can be counterproductive.
"And juniors is also not that good for me now. Because if you win something, when you go to the tournament, you're -- you focused to win. But sometimes it's not good. If you are coming, like me this year, if you're coming just to play, you will win. But if you come to win, you will always have something in your mind that is very tight, you know? You can't play your game, because you have to win."
The boys final also went three sets, and also went to the Traralgon finalist, not the higher seed, with Hungary's Zsombor Piros defeating Yshai Oliel of Israel 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. Both players had enthusiastic fan bases cheering for them, but the final was not on a show court and did not have Hawkeye available, a curious choice after many years of having the boys final follow the girls on Rod Laver.
Oliel served well in opening set, with the 17-year-old left-hander getting an early break back then breaking at 3-3 and holding. Piros, the No. 15 seed, took a 5-2 lead in the second set but was unable to serve it out, with Oliel breaking to make it 5-4. Piros, who said in his press conference that he lost some belief after dropping the first set, rebounded, with a big assist from Oliel, who double faulted twice in that tenth game, including on set point.
The third set was close and tense, with longer rallies than previously and only one break. Piros got it, on his second break point, to go up 4-2 and this time, with a chance to serve out the set, he held firm, cracking forehand winners and holding at love to claim the championship.
Piros, 17, had played only one junior slam prior to this one, last year at Australia, where he lost in the first round.
For more on the finals, see the ITF Junior website.
Congratulations to Serena Williams for securing her 23rd slam title, beating sister Venus 6-4, 6-4. Bob and Mike Bryan's quest for a seventh Australian Open title fell short, with former Baylor star John Peers of Australia and Henri Kontinen of Finland winning the men's doubles championship by a 7-5, 7-5 score. Peers and Kontinen won the ATP World Tour finals last November and now have collected their first slam title.
Another former college star goes for a slam title Sunday, with UCLA's Abigail Spears playing for the mixed championship. Spears and Juan Sebastian Cabal of Colombia face No. 2 seeds Sania Mirza of India and Ivan Dodig of Croatia.
At the ITF Grade 1 in Ecuador, unseeded Amanda Meyer won her first Grade 1 title, beating No. 5 seed Francesca Jones of Great Britain 6-3, 6-2 in the final. In her six wins this week, the Vanderbilt recruit defeated the 1, 3, 5, 7 and 14 seeds en route to the title.
Brian Cernoch, the No. 9 seed, lost in the final to No. 10 seed Axel Geller of Argentina 6-2, 6-3.
The Les Petits As tournament is over for Americans, with No. 5 seed Cori Gauff and No. 8 seed Alexander Bernard losing tough three-setters in the semifinals and Martin Damm and Toby Kodat losing in the boys doubles final.
The 12-year-old Gauff fell to unseeded wild card Dasha Lopatetskaya of Ukraine 6-2, 5-7, 7-6(3) in the battle of recent Junior Orange Bowl 12s champions. Lopatetskaya will play No. 2 seed Maria Timofeeva of Russia in the final.
Bernard got off to a great start against No. 3 seed Hamad Medjedovic of Serbia, taking a 4-0 lead, but he lost that advantage completely, then broke and held to secure the first set. Bernard had beaten Medjedovic in the 2015 consolation finals at the Junior Orange Bowl 12s, but Medjedovic kept battling and he won the second set and took a 4-1 lead in the third. Bernard held and then won a five-deuce game to get back on serve, and when he held for 4-4, it looked as if momentum had swung to him. But Medjedovic saved two break points at 15-40 and won the next two points to force Bernard to serve down 4-5. Up 30-15, Bernard's backhand let him down, with three unforced errors on that side resulting in a victory for Medjedovic.
Medjedovic will play No. 4 seed Luca Nardi of Italy, who defeated top seed Holger Run of Denmark 7-6(5), 6-2.
Nardi already has claimed one title in Tarbes. He and partner Alessio Tramontin, who were unseeded, defeated No. 3 seeds Damm and Kodat 4-6, 6-3, 10-2 in the boys doubles final. The top-seeded Russian team of Timofeeva and Oksana Selekhmeteva won the girls doubles title, beating unseeded Matilde Paoletti and Lisa Pigato of Italy 6-3, 6-4 in the final.
TCU junior Cameron Norrie of Great Britain saw his run at the $75,000 Maui Challenger come to an end today in the semifinals. The unseeded Norrie lost to No. 4 seed Taro Daniel of Japan 6-4, 6-4, but his ATP ranking should move to around 234 with his three wins this week. Daniel will play Hyeon Chung of Korea in the final. Chung defeated Michael Mmoh last night 6-2, 6-4 and No. 7 seed Henri Laaksonen of Switzerland 6-1, 6-3 in today's semifinal.