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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

August Aces; Heat Suspends Play for Juniors at US Open

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

Before I get into the big story of the day at the US Open Junior Championships, here's a link to my monthly Aces column at the Tennis Recruiting Network.  Thirteen juniors, collegians and former collegians, plus one junior team are featured for their performances in August.

The US Open rarely lacks for heat and humidity and after a brief break over the weekend, it returned, this time with unusual consequences. Shortly after 1 p.m., the chair umpires on the outside courts could be heard announcing "ladies and gentlemen, the match has been suspended due to extreme heat." As a game finished in each match underway at the time, players were told of the suspension, a first at the US Open since I began covering it in 2004.

Shortly after the junior matches were suspended (the men's and women's matches were not affected), the USTA issued this statement:

The Wet Bulb Globe Temperature measurement taken at the US Open at 1 p.m. exceeded 32.2 degrees Celsius. Therefore, all junior boys' and girls' singles and doubles matches in progress and scheduled have been suspended until further notice.

Temperature readings will now take place every half hour. The next reading in which the Wet Bulb measurement reads below 32.2 degrees Celsius, junior matches will resume, following a half-hour warm-up period. 

The measurement stayed about the threshold until just after 3:30 p.m., with the official delay clocking in at 2 hours and 29 minutes. Players who were comfortably ahead or mounting a comeback were not thrilled to be pulled off the court.

Cannon Kingsley, one of two US boys to pick up second round victories today, was leading Arnaud Bovy of Belgium 5-1 when the match was suspended.

"It was very hot today," said Kingsley, who went on to beat Bovy 6-1, 6-7(6), 6-4. "I don't think it was necessary to have that three-hour break. Going up 5-1 serving, then having to stop. I think I dealt with the heat pretty well, better than my opponent. It's just a little beat of adversity and you've got to deal with it. I closed out that set pretty well, and second set he started playing better. He got his energy up a little bit, I think with the break maybe, but all my friends and family were there again today and they helped me push through."

Kingsley noticed a decline in his opponent's energy midway through the final set, which featured one service hold after another until Kingsley broke in the final game of the match.

"I think a maybe at 3-all, 4-3, I saw him huffing a little bit more and throwing in the drop shots," said Kingsley, who lives in Northport Long Island. "It was working on me at first, because it caught me by surprise. Maybe he thought [the drop shots] were working or maybe he was checking out, I don't know."

Kingsley was able to chase down a drop shot and hit a winner to go up 0-15 in the final game, and Bovy, a 17-year-old left-hander, was unlucky on the 15-30 point, with one of the lets on serve that the juniors now play going against him, with his serve popping up in the box and Kingsley putting away a forehand to make give Kingsley two match points. Bovy hit an ace to save the first one, but double faulted on the second to end the two-hour and 13-minute match.

Kingsley said he has been more uncomfortable on court, as recently as this year's Easter Bowl, where technically the same ITF extreme heat rules for juniors would apply.

"I'd say maybe the closest to this was Easter Bowl, this year," Kingsley said, although play was never suspended for heat there. "I played a couple of three-setters, a 7-6 in the third and 6-4 in the third too. Those were pretty tough conditions. But I guess they are just enforcing it more now. I've never heard of it before, and it's never happened in any other tournament I've played."

While Kingsley thought he handled the heat better than his opponent, No. 16 seed Lea Ma was certain that she got her 7-5, 6-0 win over Lenka Stara of Slovakia for that reason, finishing on the Grandstand Court prior to the suspension of play.

"At 5-all she was serving and she was bending over every point," said Ma, who had lost to Stara this spring at the Grade A in Milan. "She got treatment [at the changeover] off the court. I was just trying to make more balls, extended the rallies, because she was struggling, missing left and right. I didn't play that great today, but she was dying out there."

Ma, who trains in Florida, didn't view the heat as much of a challenge, but playing on the Grandstand, even with no more than a couple of dozen fans watching, was nerve-racking.

"There was no one in there, but it was still cool," said Ma, who admitted to going 0-2 on her Hawkeye challenges. "I was so tight. In the first set I was missing backhands that I normally wouldn't. It was weird, I was serving, and then on the (Jumbotron) I could see myself serving and I was like oh my god."

Ma was not expecting to find herself in the third round, after losing in the second round of the Grade 1 in College Park last month and having a poor week of practice in between.

"Coming into the tournament I wasn't really confident, honestly," said the 17-year-old, who trains at the IMG Academy in Bradenton Florida. "I was playing really bad in practice, so I wasn't expecting much.  In my first match, I didn't play that bad, and so I said, ok, I can get into this."

Ma joins top seed Coco Gauff in the third round, after Gauff defeated Selma Cadar of Romania 6-2, 6-2.

Kalamazoo champion Jenson Brooksby joined Kingsley in the third round, completing his 6-1, 6-2 win over Jonas Forejtek of Czech Republic before the extreme heat rule was invoked.

The remainder of the second round of singles matches will be played on Wednesday, with all of the second round of doubles matches also on the schedule. The forecast for Wednesday is for temperatures in the high 80s, so another suspension for extreme heat is possible.  For the complete extreme heat rules for ITF events, see this pdf, pages 70-74.

In the men's and women's quarterfinals today, defending champion  Sloane Stephens and John Isner were eliminated, with Serena Williams advancing to the semifinals.

Tuesday's US Open results for Americans:

Anastasija Sevastova[19](LAT) def. Sloane Stephens[3] 6-2, 6-3
Serena Williams[17] vs Karolina Pliskova[8](CZE)

Juan Martin del Potro[3](ARG) def. John Isner[11] 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-2

Lea Ma[16] def. Lenka Stara(SVK) 7-5, 6-0
Coco Gauff[1] def. Selma Cadar(ROU) 6-2, 6-2
Oksana Selekhmeteva(RUS) def. Hailey Baptiste[WC] 7-6(1), 6-4

Cannon Kingsley def. Arnaud Bovy(BEL) 6-1, 6-7(6), 6-4
Henry Von Der Schulenburg[Q](SUI) def. Trey Hilderbrand 6-4, 6-4
Wojciech Marek[Q](POL) def. Emilio Nava 6-3, 7-5
Jenson Brooksby[WC] def. Jonas Forejtek(CZE) 6-1, 6-2

Wednesday's US Open singles matches featuring Americans:

Emma Jackson[Q] vs Caty McNally[5]
Elli Mandlik vs Diane Parry(FRA)
Alexa Noel[2] vs Emma Raducanu(GBR)
Hurricane Tyra Black[Q] vs Qinwen Zheng[14](CHN)

Brandon Nakashima[14] vs Otto Virtanen(FIN)
Keenan Mayo[WC] vs Nicolas Mejia[4](COL)

Madison Keys[14] vs Carla Suarez Navarro[30](ESP)