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Friday, January 18, 2019

My Eight Intriguing Questions for 2019; Anisimova, Collins, Tiafoe, Stephens Advance to Australian Open Round of 16; Thirteen US Juniors in AO Junior Draws

Every January I come up with eight questions about college and junior tennis that I'm eager to have answered in the next 12 months. This year's Tennis Recruiting Network column looks at the impact of the ITF's World Tennis Tour, and that is no doubt the No. 1 question to be answered in 2019, but I was surprised how many times I referenced the USTA's role in the issues I'm interested in, from the heat rule, to the Les Petits As, to the NCAA Championships and elsewhere.

Friday was quite a day for young Americans at the Australian Open with 17-year-old Amanda Anisimova, 20-year-old Frances Tiafoe, and 25-year-olds Sloane Stephens and Danielle Collins posting third round victories. Only Taylor Fritz lost, with the 21-year-old Californian going out to defending champion Roger Federer 6-2, 7-5, 6-2.

Two-time NCAA champion Collins defeated No. 19 seed Caroline Garcia of France 6-3, 6-2, hitting 26 winners with just 11 unforced errors. For more on what Collins had to say after the match, see this article from the WTA website.

As impressive as Collins was in her win, the talk of the women's results Friday was Anisimova's 6-3, 6-2 win over No. 11 seed Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus. The 2017 US Open girls champion also had an impressive winner to unforced error count at 21-9, and she faced only one break point in the match. Sabalenka was the trendy dark horse pick of many tennis pundits, but it was the teenager who looked more composed and focused throughout the match.  Anisimova is the first player born this century to reach the fourth round of a slam and is the first youngest American woman to advance that far in a slam since Serena Williams in 1998. For more on Anismova's win, see this WTA article.

The third American reaching the fourth round of a slam for the first time is Tiafoe, who came back to defeat Italian veteran Andreas Seppi 6-7(3), 4-6, 6-4, 6-3. For more on his win, see the ATP website.

Stephens, the 2017 US Open champion, is obviously at a different stage in her career than the other three, but she had struggled recently in Australia, with first round losses in three of the past four years. Stephens, the No. 5 seed, defeated No. 31 seed Petra Martic of Croatia 7-6(6), 7-6(5) Friday.

Saturday's third round matches featuring Americans:
Dayana Yastremska(UKR) v Serena Williams[16]
Elise Mertens[12](BEL) v Madison Keys[17]
Simona Halep[1](ROU) v Venus Williams

The Australian Open Junior Championships begin Saturday, with seven of the 13 Americans in the draw on the schedule.  Kacie Harvey, Chloe Beck and Kylie Collins are the girls playing Saturday, with Lea Ma[6], Emma Navarro and lucky loser Sasha Wood not scheduled. Cannon Kingsley[9], Eliot Spizzirri[16], Tyler Zink and Toby Kodat are the US boys on Saturday's schedule, with Tristan Boyer[12], Emilio Nava[13] and Zane Khan not scheduled.

The top seeds are the same as this week's Grade 1 in Traralgon: Clara Tauson of Denmark, who won the title there, and Lorenzo Musetti of Italy, who lost in the third round.  Traralgon boys champion Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic is not seeded.   Ma and boys No. 2 seed Bu Yunchaokete of China are among the players in the Australian Open draw who did not play in Traralgon.

Draws can be found here, with live scoring available on the Australian Open website.

Singles champions were crowned at the Tennis Europe Category 1 tournament in Bolton, with 12-year-old Victoria Mboko of Canada and 13-year-old Alexander Blockx of Belgium taking the titles. Mboko, the finalist at the Junior Orange Bowl 14s last month, defeated No. 5 seed Cadence Brace, also of Canada, 6-4, 6-3 in the final. Mboko did not drop a set all week.  Blockx, the top seed, also breezed through the draw, defeating No. 9 seed Antoine Ghibaudo of France 6-1, 6-2 in the final.

Attention now turns to Les Petits As in Tarbes France, where qualifying is already underway for next week's event.

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