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Thursday, June 7, 2018

Korda, McNally and Gauff Reach French Open Juniors Semifinals; Stephens Defeats Keys in to Advance to RG Final; Women's Kickoff Weekend Draft Complete

Last year's Roland Garros girls championship featured two Americans--Whitney Osuigwe and Claire Liu-- and the possibility of another all-USA final remains after today's quarterfinals.  Unseeded Caty McNally defeated her third consecutive seed today, taking out No. 8 seed Xiyu Wang of China 6-2, 6-1 in 61 minutes.  McNally, who has now advanced to her first junior slam singles semifinal, will face her doubles partner Iga Swiatek of Poland, who beat No. 10 seed Yuki Naito of Japan 7-5, 7-5.

No. 16 seed Coco Gauff also moved into the semifinals, defeating No. 6 seed and Grade A Milan winner Eleonora Molinaro of Luxembourg 6-2, 7-6(1). The 14-year-old Gauff, who reached the US Open girls final last September, will play 15-year-old Leylah Fernandez of Canada, the No. 15 seed, in Friday's semifinals.  Both girls semifinals will be first-time meetings. For more on McNally's win, see the ITF Junior website. Steve Tignor of Tennis.com wrote about Coco Gauff's game in this article.

After the first round, 14 of 16 seeds remained in the girls draw, but in the semifinals there are two unseeded players in the top half, and the two lowest possible seeds in the bottom half.  In the boys draw, half of the seeds were gone after the first round, but all four semifinalists are seeded, including three of the top four.  For the third time in his four matches, top seed Sebastian Baez came back from a set down to advance, today beating unseeded Nick Hardt of the Dominican Republic 1-6, 7-6(5), 7-5, saving two match points when Hardt served for the match at 5-4 in the third. Baez will face No. 8 seed Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil, who ended the run of unseeded Brandon Nakashima 6-1, 6-4. Baez and Seyboth Wild met at a Grade 3 two years ago, with Seyboth Wild winning 6-2, 5-7, 6-4.

The other semifinal will be a rematch of the Australian Open final, with No. 4 seed Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan against No. 2 seed Sebastian Korda.  Korda, who won that match 7-6(6), 6-4, defeated unseeded Carlos Lopez Montagud of Spain 6-2, 6-3 in just over an hour. Tseng beat No. 9 seed Nicolas Mejia of Colombia by the same score.  Korda is looking to become the first junior boy to make the Roland Garros boys final after winning the Australian Open that year since Gael Monfils in 2004.

The second round of doubles was completed today and the quarterfinals were also played, with McNally the only American still in that draw.  Unseeded McNally and Swiatek will face unseeded French wild cards Julie Belgraver and Loumilla Bencheikh in Friday's semifinals after defeating Chloe Beck and Russia'a Taisya Pachkaleva 6-4, 6-3. Gauff and Maria Carle of Argentina, the No. 6 seeds, lost to No. 3 seeds Naito and Naho Sato of Japan 7-6(4), 2-6, 10-4.  No. 7 seeds Alexa Noel and Ana Makatsaria of Georgia lost to top seeds Molinaro and Denmark's Clara Tauson in the quarterfinals 6-3, 6-3.

Friday's schedule is here.

Thursday's singles results involving Americans:

Caty McNally def. Xiyu Wang(CHN)[8] 6-2, 6-1
Coco Gauff[16] def. Eleonora Molinaro(LUX)[6] 6-2, 7-6(1)
Sebastian Korda[2] def. Carlos Lopez Montagud(ESP) 6-2, 6-3
Thiago Seyboth Wild(BRA)[8] def. Brandon Nakashima[SE] 6-1, 6-4

Friday's singles matches involving Americans:

Sebastian Korda[2] vs Chun Hsin Tseng(TPE)[4]
Caty McNally vs Iga Swiatek(POL)
Coco Gauff[16] vs Leylah Fernandez(CAN)[15]

Sloane Stephens[10] defeated Madison Keys[13] 6-4, 6-4 in the all-American French Open women's semifinal and will face top seed Simona Halep of Romania in Saturday's final. For more on Stephens' win today and her second major final appearance, see this article on the WTA website.

The women's ITA Kickoff Weekend draft was held today, with teams from No. 17 Miami to No. 76 Middle Tennessee State selecting the 15 regionals where they'll try to qualify for the 2019 ITA Team Indoor.  Northwestern was the first regional to fill up, followed by Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech.  Stanford, which usually doesn't participate in the Team Indoor might be doing so next winter because it is being held in their time zone, at the University of Washington. Washington has been the host for many men's Team Indoor championships but I don't recall any women's events there. 

As with the men, the highest ranking team to pass was in the mid-30s, Arkansas, which just named Courtney Steinbock its new head coach last week. The top-ranked hosts' regions, with the exception of Georgia Tech, were slow to fill and UCLA was among the last to get four teams, possibly due to the Bruins' top-ranked recruiting class. It's not always obvious why a team picks a certain region, but it's fun to speculate on how coaches see the relative strengths of teams next year. For the complete draft, see the Slam Tennis page.