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Saturday, July 7, 2018

Korda, Baez Ousted on Wimbledon Junior Championships Opening Day; Hilderbrand, Kingsley Defeat Seeds for First Wimbledon Victories

©Colette Lewis 2018

The lack of women's seeds in the second week has been a source of much conversation at Wimbledon, with only one of the Top 10 surviving the third round. The boys competitors at the Wimbledon Junior Championships are well on their way to duplicating that script, with five seeds, including No. 2 Sebastian Baez and No. 3 Sebastian Korda, failing to advance on a warm and sunny day at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

Korda, the Australian Open boys champion, ran into a red hot Otto Virtanen of Finland, who served his way to a 6-3, 7-6(2) victory to open Saturday's competition on Court 4.

Virtanen, one of the last players to make the main draw, faced only one break point, when he was serving up 2-1 in the first set.

"I think he didn't have the best day, but I served so well, he didn't have a chance in my service games," said the 17-year-old, who had never played a tournament on grass prior to the Grade 1 last week at Roehampton. "I was so happy on the court, and I was playing really good, I felt good."

Korda's game improved in the second set, and he saved the only break point Virtanen had against him, but with Korda serving at 0-1 in the tiebreaker, Korda got caught anticipating a cross court pass while closing at the net and Virtanen went down the line for the winner and a 2-0 lead. With Virtanen serving so well, that was all he needed, closing out the biggest win of his junior career with a forehand winner.

Virtanen said he didn't let nerves or the reputation of his opponent enter his mind in the tiebreaker.

"I didn't think about it," he said. "I think it's nice to be here and I would play my own game, not who was playing against me. I would try to hit the serve in and quickly play my best shot. The first shot will be the best shot, and the last point was what I thought, a first-shot winner."

Korda, who says he likes grass despite results on the surface that may suggest otherwise, gave credit to Virtanen.

"He was serving really well, playing really well," said Korda, who turned 18 two days ago. "Even his second serve was almost as big as his first serve. It was an unbelievable serve and he was using it really well today. It was good match and I enjoyed myself, playing at such an incredible place. [Wimbledon is] unbelievable, that's all I can say."

Argentina's Baez, who forgot to enter by the deadline was given a wild card into the tournament, didn't play Roehampton, and with a 6-2, 6-4 loss to Gilbert Soares Klier Junior of Brazil, the French Open boys finalist is now 0-3 on grass in his ITF junior career.

In contrast to Baez and his grass struggles, Trey Hilderbrand has a game that is tailor-made for the surface. The 18-year-old Texan took out No. 8 seed Naoki Tajima of Japan 6-7(4), 7-6(1), 6-1 by playing an old-school serve and volley game that saw him convert 69 of 97 points played at the net.

"Finally I'm on my favorite surface, the surface my game is really suited for," the University of Central Florida rising freshman said. "I was taught at a young age, my dad first taught me how to come in, because the game, when he played was all about coming in. Obviously, the game's changed a little bit. But he said I'm really good at coming into the net, so we're going to make sure I'm coming into the net as much as possible."

Hilderbrand did see Tajima's passing shots beat him on occasion, including when Hilderbrand had a set point with Tajima serving at 5-6 in the second, but his father is convincing him to take it in stride.

"Believe me, I do get frustrated when I get passed, but my dad keeps telling me to do it, because making him hit a pass is a good thing," Hilderbrand said.

Hilderbrand faced his only break point of the match serving at 2-1 in the third set, and once he saved that, his first serve percentage of 75% was too much for Tajima, a Roehampton semifinalist, to overcome.

"I was kind of bummed when I saw the draw, because I knew he was a very, very good player," Hilderbrand said. "To get my first win here at Wimbledon, playing it for the first time at Wimbledon against No. 8 in the world, it's really exciting."

While Hilderbrand had a two-hour plus fight to beat a seed, Cannon Kingsley needed only 45 minutes to defeat No. 12 seed Carlos Lopez Montagud of Spain 6-3, 6-2.

"I got through pretty easily I guess," said the 17-year-old Ohio State recruit. "I could tell the guy was a little nervous and I came out, surprisingly, a little confident. The first grand slam I played (last month's French Open) I was very nervous, but [today] I was more in my comfort zone out there."

Kingsley, who warmed up for the grass court season not only at Roehampton but also on Long Island grass courts near his home, went 12 for 12 at the net.

"I could tell he was more of a clay court player," said Kingsley. "I knew that from the past and kind of took advantage of that, stepped in and controlled the points. It was a really good win for me though."

The fifth boys seed to lose Saturday was No. 13 Filip Jianu of Romania, who fell to Deney Wassermann of the Netherlands 6-3, 6-4.

No. 11 seed Tristan Boyer was the last match to finish on Day Six at Wimbledon, when he defeated Jonas Forejtek of the Czech Republic 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 6-4.  Boyer served for the first and second sets at 5-4, couldn't convert either time, but with darkness gathering and the lights beginning to come on in the nearby Court 1 dining areas, Boyer did hold to claim the match, although not without drama.  At 5-4 30-all, Boyer hit a good first serve to earn a match point. During the next rally Forejtek hit a ball that forced Boyer to half-volley near the baseline, which the line judge called out. Boyer immediately said, "no, no, that was in, way in" and the chair umpire, who made no overrule initially, obviously agreed, announcing that the point would be replayed.  With another opportunity, Boyer hit a huge first serve that Forejtek couldn't return, and walked off the court a winner, in more ways than one.

Only three US girls were on the schedule, with both Katie Volynets and Lea Ma getting three-set victories and Natasha Subhash falling in three sets. Korda and Tyler Zink were the two US boys to lose.

I had a brief break during the junior schedule to watch Frances Tiafoe against Karen Khachanov of Russia and during the time I was watching Tiafoe played great, but he ended up squandering a two-set to none lead, leaving John Isner[9], Mackenzie McDonald and Serena Williams[25] as the only Americans left in the men's and women's singles draws.

Saturday's first round results featuring American juniors:

Otto Virtanen(FIN) def. Sebastian Korda[3] 6-3, 7-6(2)
Jiri Lehecka(CZE) replaced by (LL)Sergey Fomin(UZB) def. Tyler Zink 6-4, 6-3
Trey Hilderbrand def. Naoki Tajima[8](JPN) 6-7(4), 7-6(1), 6-1
Tristan Boyer[11] def. Jonas Forejtek(CZE) 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 6-4
Cannon Kingsley def. Carlos Lopez Montagud[12](ESP) 6-3, 6-2
Eleonora Molinaro[7](LUX) def. Natasha Subhash 5-7, 6-3, 6-4
Lea Ma def. Victoria Allen[WC](GBR) 3-6, 6-4, 6-3
Katie Volynets def. Viktoryia Kanapatskaya(BLR) 6-2, 4-6, 6-3

Complete draws, including doubles, can be found here.

Men’s third round singles Saturday featuring Americans:

Karen Khachanov(RUS) def. Frances Tiafoe 4-6, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-2, 6-1