Sponsored by IMG Academy

Friday, July 13, 2018

Draper Wins Marathon Semifinal, Will Face Tseng for Boys Wimbledon Title Sunday; Qualifier Kung and Unseeded Swiatek Meet Saturday for Girls Championship; Five US Girls Reach Doubles Semifinals

©Colette Lewis 2018--

On men's semifinal day at Wimbledon, which featured a six-hour Centre Court win by Kevin Anderson over John Isner, Great Britain's Jack Draper and Colombia's Nicolas Mejia provided the junior version on Court 3, with Draper seizing a 7-6(5), 6-7(6), 19-17 victory over the No. 5 seed late Saturday evening.

At the four hour and 23 minute mark, Draper converted his tenth match point, all on Mejia's serve, 10 games after he had seen his ninth match point come and go. The 16-year-old left-hander went all out on a forehand, and when Mejia's reply floated over the net, Draper lined up his overhead.  He executed it perfectly, with plenty of margin and behind Mejia, but Draper was not as confident as he looked when he struck the ball.

"I was 100% I was going to miss that smash because actually my coach Ryan [Jones] had been saying how bad my smash [was], my footwork [was] to get behind that exact smash," said Draper, the son Roger Draper, the former head of the LTA. "Yeah, I knew I was going to miss it. I don't know how I made it. I must have hit the frame or something."

When the smash went bouncing by Mejia, Draper, looking exhausted, toppled back on the grass near the net, but he was soon up to shake the devastated Mejia's hand, and to acknowledge the crowd, which had supported him throughout.

"I can't really remember most of it," said Draper, who acknowledged he was aware of the men's semifinal, into the 45th game of their fifth set, when the boys finished. "I think it was sort of just a massive relief to actually have the match over after so many sort of, you know, torture, match points, him playing very well in them. But, yeah, I think I did very well in the end. I was just very happy, of course."

Draper is fortunate that the boys final is not scheduled until Sunday, and he is out of doubles, so he has all day Saturday to recover, while the British press focuses on the country's first boys finalist since Liam Broady in 2011.

Although Andy Murray has seen to it that Fred Perry's name is no longer mentioned regularly at Wimbledon, Stanley Matthews is Perry's junior equivalent, the last British boy to win the junior title, back in 1962. Draper said he did not know the name, but recognizes he'll be in select company Sunday.

"I mean, wow, as a young Brit, you dream sort of being on those big courts," Draper said. "Yeah, it's definitely going to be a challenge. It's going to be very exciting."

Draper will be facing a much more experienced opponent in the final in top seed Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan, who reached his third junior slam final of the year with a 61-minute 6-3, 6-1 victory over unseeded Tao Mu of China.

Tseng, who lost in the Australian Open final and won the French title, said that clay is his favorite surface, but with five consecutive straight-sets win, he has proven that he is a quick study on grass.

"Last year I also played Wimbledon and that helped me a lot, to get used to it," said the 16-year-old, who lost in the first round in singles and doubles. "But on clay, I can have more rhythm and more rallies and much more strength."

Tseng, who often trains at the Mouratoglou Academy in France when he is not competing in tournaments, is the first player from Taiwan to reach the Wimbledon boys final. Although only a few months older than Draper, Tseng has a decided edge in experience on the biggest stages in junior tennis, and he recognizes that, and his French title, are advantages for him.

"It gives me more confidence, and makes me stronger mentally," said Tseng. "When there is pressure in the final, I can relax and just play my best tennis."

The girls final Saturday will feature two first-time slam finalists, with qualifier Leonie Kung of Switzerland facing unseeded Iga Swiatek of Poland.  Kung and Swiatek prevented an all-Chinese, all-Wang final, with Kung defeating No. 10 seed Xiyu Wang 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3 and Swiatek downing No. 4 seed Xinyu Wang 7-5, 7-6(1).

Kung is only the second qualifier to reach the Wimbledon girls final, with Russia's Anna Tchakvetadze the first, back in 2003. Kung, who received entry into Wimbledon Junior qualifying via her WTA ranking, now 417, failed to qualify for the French Open Junior championships last month, so her march to the final this week is something of a surprise.

"It's your biggest dream when you come to Wimbledon, but when it really happens, it's unbelievable," said the 17-year-old from the German-speaking part of Switzerland. "It's so nice, I'm so, so happy that I was able to win this match."

Kung served for the match at 5-4, then had two match points at 6-4 in the second set tiebreaker, one on her serve, but Wang won the final four points to pull even.  Kung got a second chance to serve for the match after breaking Wang at 3-4, and this time her first serve didn't desert her, with two good ones from 30-all finishing off Wang.

Kung recognized the challenge that the big-hitting left-hander presented.

"I think especially with players that hit flat and hard, you have to extremely ready in the head and also in your legs," Kung said. "If you're really ready, you can use the power and put the shots in the different corners, but you have to be really focused and look at the ball, hit it cleanly. That's really tough to do that through a whole match."

Swiatek, who prefers to play with top spin, said the pace she was getting from Xinyu Wang was keeping her on her heels early in the match.

"Two times I fell on my back because she was playing so fast," said Swiatek, who received entry into the main draw by virtue of her WTA ranking, which was in the 300s at the cutoff date. "There are not many players in junior tennis that are playing that fast, and it was really hard to play with her."

Swiatek fell behind early in both sets, but portrayed no doubt in her body language.

"There is inside, but I try to hide it," Swiatek said. "My coach always told me I am the best, and I try to believe it. She learned me how to stay positive and I still try to do better."

Swiatek served for the match at 5-3 but didn't come close to a match point, although she did have two with Wang serving at 4-5. Wang, who is at 461 in the WTA rankings, fought those off and held in a deuce game to force a tiebreaker, but Swiatek took a 3-0 lead with an audacious backhand drop shot winner and Wang could not recover.

Although Swiatek resembled Agnieszka Radwanska with her low-to-the-ground defense, Swiatek said she has not modeled her game after either of the Radwanska sisters, with Agnieszka winning the Wimbledon girls title in 2005 and Urszula in 2007.

"I didn't have any idols actually," said Swiatek. "I was too focused on my own play to watch much tennis. Right now it's changed. After my first grand slam I realized how great it is to watch pro tennis players, so it's a new thing for me."

Swiatek is looking forward to the final, but also expressed some nervousness at the prospect.

"I'm excited, but [it's] stressful as well," Swiatek said. "It will be a great experience to play on Court No. 1. I don't know what to think about it, I'm too overwhelmed."

The girls final is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday on Court 1.

Five US girls have advanced to Saturday's doubles semifinals, with an American team assured of being in Sunday's final.

No. 2 seeds Caty McNally and Whitney Osuigwe, who reached the final last year, defeated No. 7 seeds Georgia Drummy of Ireland and Alexa Noel 7-5, 7-5 in Friday's quarterfinals to set up a meeting with unseeded Dalayna Hewitt and Peyton Stearns.  Hewitt and Stearns defeated No. 8 seeds Clara Burel and Diane Parry of France 6-3, 7-5, giving up break midway through the second set, but getting another at 5-all.  Closing out a match to reach the Wimbledon semifinals can be daunting, but Stearns didn't feel the pressure.

"I was really popping my serves," said Stearns, a 16-year-old from Ohio. "At 40-love on my first serve, I went for a little bit too much, I got a little excited there."

"It was totally ok," said Hewitt, a 17-year-old, and also from Ohio. "You just had made three first serves in a row, go for it."

Coco Gauff and her partner Maria Carle of Argentina advanced to the doubles semifinal in the top half of the draw with a 7-5, 6-3 win over British wild cards Victoria Allen and Destinee Martins. The No. 4 seeds will play top seeds Xiyu and Xinyu Wang, who defeated No. 5 seeds Joanna Garland and En Shuo Liang of Taiwan 6-4, 6-2.

Because Mejia's singles semifinal match finished so late, he and partner Ondrej Styler of the Czech Republic were not able to play their doubles quarterfinal match against Brandon Nakashima and Tyler Zink. That match is now scheduled for Saturday, with the winner of that quarterfinal taking on Rinky Hijikata of Australia and Naoki Tajima of Japan.  The bottom half semifinal features two unseeded teams: Yanki Erel of Turkey and Otto Virtanen of Finland against British wild cards James Story and Harry Wendelken.

The complete order of play for Saturday is available here.

Men's Semifinal Saturday:
Kevin Anderson[8](RSA) def. John Isner[9] 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 6-7(9), 6-4, 26-24

Women's Final Saturday:
Serena Williams[25] v Angelique Kerber[11](GER)