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Friday, January 26, 2018

My Conversation with USTA Player ID's Kent Kinnear; Korda Reaches Australian Open Boys Final; Lilov, Wen and Wiersholm Advance to Les Petits As Semis; Osuigwe, Di Lorenzo into $25K Semifinals

Last month at the Junior Orange Bowl, I had an opportunity to talk with Kent Kinnear, the USTA Director of Player ID and Development. Sectional, regional and national camps are a big part of how the USTA connects with competitive 14-and-under players across the country, and he explained how the system is organized, how coaches are selected and what happens at one of the two- or three-day camps. The Team USA initiative continues with strong support throughout the USTA, and I hope this interview for the Tennis Recruiting Network provides some background on how that concept has been implemented over the past several years.

Sebastian Korda defeated No. 2 seed Marko Miladinovic of Serbia 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 Friday to advance to the final of the Australian Open junior championships Saturday. The 17-year-old Floridian, who is the first American to advance to the Australian Open boys final since Stefan Kozlov in 2014, will play No. 6 seed Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan on Rod Laver Arena.  The match will be streamed live, beginning at 9 p.m. Eastern tonight, via ESPN3.

Korda's match with Miladinovic was decided by razor-thin margins, with just three breaks of serve in the entire match.  Miladinovic was cruising on serve in the first set until he served at 5-6. At 15-all he made two rare unforced errors and a forehand winner by Korda sealed the set. In the second set,  Miladinovic had a tougher time holding serve but saved the only break point he faced, while converting his second break point against Korda, when Korda netted a forehand at 5-6, 30-40.  The third set was more of the same through the first six games, but Korda broke Miladinovic at love to take a 4-3 lead.  Serving for the match at 5-4, Korda went up 40-0, but wasn't able to get any of those three match points. But staying calm, he earned a fourth and closed it out on that one to become the first US boy since Tommy Paul and Taylor Fritz at the 2015 US Open to advance to a junior slam final. For more on Korda, see the ITF junior website.

Tseng defeated unseeded Aidan McHugh of Great Britain 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 and will be seeking the first ever Australian Open boys title for his country.  Tsung-Hua Yang (2008) and Yeu-Tzuoo Wang (2001) did reach the finals.

The girls final will feature unseeded Clara Burel of France against No. 2 seed En Shuo Liang of Taiwan.  Burel won the final 12 games of the match against top seed Xinyu Wang of China in her 2-6, 6-1, 6-0 semifinal win, while Liang saved two match points in her 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5) win over unseeded Elisabetta Cocciaretto of Italy. Like Halep, who will be playing Wozniacki for the women's title tonight, Liang has saved match points in two different matches; she was down a match point in the first round against wild card Olivia Gadecki of Australia.

The boys doubles title went to No. 7 seed Hugo Gaston and Clement Tabur of France, who beat Rudolf Molleker and Henri Squire of Germany 6-2, 6-2.

At Les Petits As,  the major 14-and-under tournament in France, three Americans have advanced to Saturday's semifinals, with No. 5 seed Victor Lilov and No. 8 seed Evan Wen scheduled to meet again for the second week in a row.  Lilov defeated Wen last week in the final of the Tennis Europe Category 1 tournament in Bolton England.  Lilov defeated unseeded Jaden Weekes of Canada 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-4 in today's quarterfinals, while Wen took out No. 2 seed Konstantin Zhzhenov of Russia 5-7, 6-4, 6-2.

Wen and Lilov advanced to the boys doubles final, after the No. 5 seeds beat unseeded Bartol Borse and Luka Mikrut of Croatia 6-0, 6-2. They will face unseeded Niccolo Ciavarella and Daniele Minighini of Italy.

In the girls draw, Bolton champion Katja Wiersholm was at the top of her game today, beating No. 15 seed Maria Sholokhova of Russia 6-0, 5-0 ret.  I didn't get up in time to see either of the boys matches, but I did seed Wiersholm's on the live stream, and she was using her lefty advantage to perfection throughout the match, both when serving and in finding angles on her ground strokes.  In the semifinals, Wiersholm will play No. 7 seed Linda Noskova of the Czech Republic, who beat top seed Diana Shnaider of Russia 6-3, 6-1.  The other girls semifinal will feature No. 13 seed Katerina Dimitrov of Bulgaria against unseeded Alexandra Eala of the Philippines, who was a finalist at the Junior Orange Bowl 12s last month.

Wiersholm and Robin Montgomery lost in the doubles final to Noskova and Linda Fruhvirtova 7-6(6), 6-3.

A couple of young Americans picked up big wins today at the $25,000 USTA women's Pro Circuit event in Wesley Chapel Florida.  Fifteen-year-old qualifier Whitney Osuigwe won her sixth straight match, beating 18-year-old Katie Swan of Great Britain 6-3, 6-4.  Osuigwe, the ITF Junior No. 1, will face No. 2 seed Irina Bara of Romania in the semifinals Saturday. 

It was also announced today that Osuigwe has been awarded a wild card into next week's $100,000 Women's Pro Circuit event in Midland Michigan.  I am again planning to spend a couple of days at the tournament, so I hope I am able to see her opening round match.  The the Midland tournament notes are here.

So back to Wesley Chapel, where former Ohio State star Francesca Di Lorenzo ended the winning streak of top seed Anhelina Kalinina of Ukraine in a three-hour plus marathon 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.  The 20-year-old left-hander will face 17-year-old left-hander Olga Danilovic of Serbia in the semifinals Saturday.

At the Oracle Challenger tournaments in Newport Beach California, three US men and one US woman have advanced to the semifinals.  No. 3 seed Taylor Fritz, the only seed to reach the quarterfinals, beat Noah Rubin 6-3, 6-2, avenging his loss to Rubin in the Noumea Challenger final earlier this month to advance to the semifinals. Fritz will play friend and frequent doubles partner Reilly Opelka, who beat Matthias Bachinger of Germany 7-5, 6-4.  One of the best junior matches I've seen in the past three or four years was Fritz vs Opelka in the semifinals at the 2015 Wimbledon Junior Championships, which Opelka went on to win.  Bradley Klahn also advanced to the semifinals, beating 2017 ITF Junior Champion Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia 7-6(7), 6-1.  He will face qualifier Christian Garin of Chile in the semifinals.

Danielle Collins, who received a wild card into the tournament, advanced to the semifinals with a 6-0, 3-6, 6-4 win over Su Jeong Jang of Korea.  Collins, a two-time NCAA singles champion while at Virginia, will play No. 7 seed Ajla Tomljanovic of Croatia, who beat two-time NCAA singles champion Nicole Gibbs 4-6, 7-5, 6-2.

In the bottom half, two qualifiers are into the women's semifinals: Mayo Hibi of Japan and 18-year-old Sofya Zhuk of Russia, the 2015 Wimbledon girls champion. They will play each other on Saturday.