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Friday, September 7, 2018

Brooksby Bests Nakashima Again to Reach US Open Junior Semifinals; Qualifier Lopatetskaya Ousts Top Seed Gauff; Jack Sock and Mike Bryan Win Men's Doubles Title

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Flushing Meadows NY--

The setting was different Friday for Jenson Brooksby and Brandon Nakashima's third meeting of the year, but the results was the same: a straight-sets victory for Brooksby.  In their first meeting, in the quarterfinals of the ITF Grade B1 Easter Bowl at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Brooksby came away with 6-2, 6-3 win. Last month, in the best-of-5 finals of the Kalamazoo 18s, Brooksby recorded a 6-4, 6-3, 6-1 victory to claim the US Open main draw wild card that goes to the champion.  Today, on a nearly empty Court 17, with Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro playing their men's semifinal inside Arthur Ashe, wild card Brooksby again got the better of No. 14 seed Nakashima, earning a 6-4, 7-5 victory to reach the semifinals of the US Open Championships.

As has been the case often this week, Brooksby fell behind early, but as usual, he brushed it off.

"I knew he'd come out motivated to change the last couple of times, and he sure did," said the 17-year-old from Sacramento, who is playing in his first, and last, junior slam. "He was playing really well, he moved me around, dictated points, every point he played pretty well at the start."

After exchanging breaks early, Brooksby went up a break at 4-3, was broken right back, but got his third break of the set to go up 5-4 and closed out the set on his third set point. The points often needed a dozen or more shots to decide, but with much cooler conditions today after the extreme heat of previous days, neither player looked sapped in the aftermath of a long rally.

In the second set, with the lights on due to the heavy overcast, Brooksby took a 4-2 lead, but Nakashima won the next three games and was building some momentum toward winning his first set against Brooksby.  But Brooksby had an easy hold serving 4-5 down, broke Nakashima in the next game and converted his first match point with a forehand winner in the corner to secure the victory.

"He had momentum there," Brooksby said. "He won the last three games I believe, so it was important to get the first couple points of that game, get an easier hold for sure and get the momentum back in my favor."

Nakashima, who said he played better in this match than he had in Kalamazoo, agreed he missed an opportunity to put Brooksby under real pressure in that game.

"I definitely felt that if I would have won the first couple of points in that game, made it a little more tougher points, I knew I would have a better chance of trying to force a third set," Nakashima said. "He stayed solid, I made a few errors and I guess that carried over the next game."

Brooksby will face unseeded Lorenzo Musetti, a 16-year-old from Italy, who beat unseeded Daniel Michalski of Poland 6-4, 6-0. They will play in the new Louis Armstrong Stadium, where Brooksby will again have access to Hawkeye, as he did in Friday's match on Ct 17, going 3 for 3 on his challenges.

"All three challenges right," Brooksby said. "Ridiculously lucky for that. It was cool to get them all right."

In the other boys semifinal, top seed Chun Hsin Tseng of Taiwan, who is aiming for a third consecutive junior slam title, will face No. 6 seed Thiago Seyboth Wild of Brazil.  Tseng defeated Italian qualifier Giulio Zeppieri 7-6(0) 6-2 after Zeppieri had served for the first set at 5-4, and Wild beat Taisei Ichikawa of Japan 7-6(3), 6-4.  Tseng is the only one of the four who has reached a junior slam semifinal before.

The girls semifinals will feature two previous junior slam semifinalists, Australian Open finalist Clara Burel of France, the No. 11 seed, who beat unseeded Emma Raducanu of Great Britain 6-2, 6-0 and No. 3 seed Xiyu Wang of China, who defeated No. 9 seed Naho Sato of Japan today 7-6(5), 6-2. Wang advanced to the semis at Wimbledon back in July but tomorrow she will play, not the girl she beat in the Wimbledon quarterfinals, Coco Gauff, but rather qualifier Dasha Lopatetskaya of Ukraine, who ousted the top seed 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 in front of a large and pro-Gauff crowd on Court 17 Friday afternoon.

Gauff struggled with her serve, hitting 17 double faults, including three in a row when she was serving for the second set at 5-3, 40-15. Although the 14-year-old Floridian recovered, with the crowd providing a major boost in that game, she never quite regained the confidence in her serve.

"I think it's all about confidence," said Gauff, who made the final last year as an unseeded wild card. "I've had matches in the past where I've had a lot of double faults, so when I do double fault, I try not to focus on those past matches and instead focus on the moment. Obviously, I have double faults, that's what happens when you go for your serves. There are things to tweak in the service motion, but nothing major. Really, I think it is all about confidence."

Lopatetskaya noticed the double faults, but thought that if anyone could get away with that number, it was Gauff.

"Any other player, with 15 doubles faults, would like be really wrecked," said the 15-year-old, who had beaten Gauff in the Les Petits As semifinals last January and lost to her in the final of the ITF World Junior Tennis team competition last August. "When she was serving, she has an amazing serve and in the future, I guess it's going to be the best serve. She's really strong and her first serve is really incredible....and from the first games I really couldn't get comfortable with this."

Lopatetskaya, who cited her positive emotions throughout the match as an essential component in her win, had at least one fan cheering for her in the overwhelmingly partisan crowd.  "Who's the best? Daria is the best," shouted Ali Kabulov, who has become a minor celebrity at this year's US Open for his vocal support, in his inimitable fashion, of players from small countries.

"Oh my gosh, he's the best," Lopatetskaya said. "From the first match he's coming to my matches, Who's the best? Daria's the best. I'm grateful to hear that, it's always helpful. He's speaking with a Russian accent, so it's even more funny. He's not even Ukrainian, he's from Kazakhstan or something, but he's like Ukraine's the best."

Lopatetskaya knew of Gauff before they played at Les Petits As, with both training at the Mouratoglou Academy in France. Lopatetskaya has since left the Academy, returning home to her family and childhood coach, but Gauff is still making trips there to train and Patrick Mouratoglou watched a portion of match between the two prodigies.

"I was at Mouratoglou before, the guys were against me today," said Lopatetskaya, whose excellent English is the result of having to communicate in that language while she was there, since she did not speak French. "That's the part that also pops me up, to prove that I'm not as bad without them. Sorry to say that, but it's normal. I'm really thankful for Mouratoglou, especially Patrick, all the coaches, what they did for me, but sometimes you need to change and it's good to change."

Lopatetskaya broke Gauff for a 3-1 lead in the third set, and earned another break for a 5-1 lead before Gauff showed signs of life with a break with Lopatetskaya serving for the match. But the errors that had plagued Gauff throughout the match continued in the next game and she netted a backhand at 15-40 to bow out of her fifth junior slam.

"She played great, it was a tough match, and I made a really lot of errors," Gauff said. "She hit winners and everything, but most of her game was trying to get me to miss, and it worked, so moving forward, so that's something we'll work on."

In the other three-set girls quarterfinal, No. 4 seed Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia defeated No. 8 seed Leylah Fernandez of Canada 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. She will play Burel in the other girls semifinal Saturday.

Gauff is still in the running for a junior slam title in doubles, with three American teams reaching Saturday's semifinals.

Gauff and Caty McNally, the top seeds, will face No. 5 seeds Joanna Garland of Taiwan and Moyuka Uchijima of Japan, while the American finalist will come from the winner of the match between wild cards Chloe Beck and Emma Navarro and Hailey Baptiste and Dalayna Hewitt.

One American team has reached the boys doubles semifinals, Emilio Nava and Axel Nefve. They will play Jesper De Jong of the Netherlands and Damien Wenger of Switzerland. The other boys doubles semifinal features Musetti and Zeppieri of Italy against Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria and Anton Matusevich of Great Britain. None of the boys doubles semifinalists are seeded.

Jack Sock and Mike Bryan won their second consecutive slam title today, with the Wimbledon champions, seeded third, beating No. 7 seeds Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo of Brazil 6-3, 6-1 in the final.  For more on their title, see this article from the US Open website.

Friday's American girls results:
Xiyu Wang[3](CHN) def. Lea Ma[16] 6-1, 6-1 (third round)

Dasha Lopatetskaya[Q](UKR) def. Coco Gauff[1] 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 quarterfinal

Boys quarterfinal:
Jenson Brooksby[WC] def. Brandon Nakashima[14] 6-4, 7-5

Mens doubles final:
Jack Sock and Mike Bryan[3] def. Lukasz Kubot(POL) and Marcelo Melo(BRA)[7] 6-3, 6-1

Saturday's matches featuring Americans:

Boys semifinal:
Jenson Brooksby[WC] vs Lorenzo Musetti(ITA)

Women's final:
Serena Williams[17] vs Naomi Osaka[20](JPN)

Mixed doubles final:
Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Jamie Murray(GBR) vs Alicja Rosolska(POL) and Nikola Mektic(CRO)