Friday, July 12, 2019

Noel's Impressive Performance Leads to Saturday's Girls Wimbledon Final Against Snigur; Mochizuki and Gimeno Valero Reach Sunday's Boys Final; My Q and A with Doubles Semifinalist Govind Nanda

©Colette Lewis 2019--

A repeat of of last week's ITF Grade 1 Roehampton final is on tap for Saturday's girls Wimbledon final, with unseeded Daria Snigur of Ukraine aiming for an even dozen wins in the past two weeks when she faces No. 10 seed Alexa Noel of the United States.

Both earned surprisingly routine victories in Friday's semifinals, with Noel beating No. 4 seed Diane Parry of France 6-2, 6-1 and Snigur eliminating top seed Emma Navarro 6-3, 6-0.

Noel and Parry's match was close for the first four games, but the American took control and experienced no dips in her level after that.

"I think I never let up," said the 16-year-old from New Jersey, who has yet to drop a set on the All England Lawn Tennis Club courts this week. "Once I got the break in that first set at 2-all, I realized what I needed to do and that gave me more confidence to keep hitting through the ball...certainly in the first four games it was close, she almost broke me in my first service game, but I just think I played very well. I played super well."

Although Parry and Noel had split their first two meetings, with Parry winning their most recent match at the Youth Olympic Games last October, Noel has shown her versatility this week, now in the Wimbledon final after claiming the Grade A title in Milan.

"From [Milan] I had a lot of confidence in myself and my game, so yeah it was pretty special. It's super cool that I'm able to adapt," said Noel, who is now at 14 in the ITF Junior rankings after peaking at 5 a year ago. "That's what you have to do to beat a good player. All the top players, everyone's able to adapt, everyone's good."

Unlike Noel, Snigur doesn't care for clay, and is not shy about proclaiming her love of grass.

"I have a very good forehand, a very good backhand and I want to attack all balls," said the 17-year-old, who beat Noel 6-1, 6-2 a week ago in the Roehampton final. "I like grass, grass is my favorite surface."

Snigur said she was very nervous to start the match, because she had lost to Navarro last month in the quarterfinals of the French Open Junior Championships.

"I play it game by game, see if the Queen of the Clay knows grass," said Snigur, the fifth Ukrainian girl to reach the Wimbledon girls final. "I know she plays very well on clay, [but] not on hard, not on grass."

Navarro, who had lost the first set in her previous three victories, admitted that she was concerned after dropping the first set to Snigur, not because she had played badly, but because she had played well.

"The first set, I played a really good set," said the 18-year-old from Charleston South Carolina. "I don't know if I could have done that much different. I played really well and she answered that. Every point, she played really well, played out of corners. Her game is definitely suited for grass, which was tough. She returned well, did everything well, and in the second set I got a little discouraged that I had played a really good set and lost 6-3, she was really tough."

"I think my game is better suited for clay, and her game is better suited for grass, but on any given day, anything can happen on any surface."

Navarro will not be playing next week's USTA Clay Courts, which she won last year, a title that earned her a main draw wild card into this spring's WTA Volvo Open in her home town. But she is planning to play the USTA National Hard Courts in San Diego next month and the week prior to that, the $60K ITF World Tennis Tour event in Kentucky.

After playing their semifinal matches on Court 5, which has only bench seating and no Hawkeye, the girls will move several steps up in atmosphere when they play on Court 1 Saturday afternoon. Noel says she enjoys playing in front of large crowds, while Snigur is less enthusiastic about the prospect.

"Yes, it's a very big court, and yes, I'm nervous of course, because it's too much people," said Snigur. "I'm very nervous when there is much people around me. I don't like big courts."
Although the two girls semifinals were virtually drama-free, the boys matches on Show Court 18 proved more exciting, although the anticipated semifinal between IMG friends and training partners Shintaro Mochizuki and Martin Damm was slow in getting on track before the 16-year-old from Japan saved a match point in his 6-1, 0-6, 10-8 victory.

Damm, the No. 4 seed, played poorly in the opening set, making 19 unforced errors and hitting only two winners, while make only one of every 3 first serves. The eighth-seeded Mochizuki, much more consistent in the opening set, lost his equilibrium in the second set, while Damm made only five unforced errors. The first two sets took only a total of 40 minutes to complete, and when Mochizuki jumped off to a 3-0 lead in the third set, it looked as if he had the match under control. But Damm indicated his willingness to battle in the sixth game, when he saved five break points in the nine-deuce game, and even when Mochizuki held easily to go up 5-2, the result appeared in doubt, not just to spectators, but to Mochizuki himself.

"I had some chances, up 5-2 in the third set, but I was so nervous," Mochizuki said.

Those nerves were especially evident in his next service game, when he went up 40-15, but hit a wild forehand and a double fault. Two points later, Damm was back on serve and he held at 40-30 to bring it back to 5-all. But the 15-year-old from Florida was not pleased with how he played the next game, with Mochizuki holding at love to take a 6-5 lead.

"I think at 5-all I played a really loose game, a couple of missed returns and I think that cost me a lot," Damm said. "I had the momentum with me and I missed four balls."

At 7-all, Mochizuki missed a backhand at 30-all, and another on break point, giving Damm a chance to serve out the match. He went up 30-0, but double faulted, then missed a volley to make it 30-all. A 131-mph ace gave Damm his first match point, but he sent a backhand crosscourt wide from a winning position at the net, and Mochizuki had new life.

"I hit a bomb serve and he got it back and he got it like a foot beyond the net," Damm said. "I don't know if I was nervous, or my legs were just heavy, but I got up to the ball too late and missed the ball wide. Obviously there a lot of things I could have done better, hit a drop shot, maybe went line, maybe if I went up there faster I would have hit a winner."

Mochizuki admitted that he was lucky to win the point, but also gave himself some credit for returning the serve.

"I thought I was lucky," said Mochizuki, "because he was near to the net and I was like, oh my god. But first of all I was happy to make the return, that's the important thing."

After going down 0-30 serving at 8-8, Mochizuki came up with two winners, and Damm chipped in with two unforced errors, and when it came time to hold serve to stay in the match, Damm couldn't get the momentum back, with Mochizuki breaking at 15-40, securing the victory on his fifth match point.

Mochizuki is the first Japanese boy to reach a junior slam final, and he was in demand with the large Japanese media contingent at the Championships, but it's not a milestone he considers particularly significant.

"They (Japanese media) told me," said Mochizuki. "It's weird. I'm a person, I don't really care if I'm Japanese or whatever. I just play tennis and I want to win the finals."

French Open semifinalist Mochizuki, playing in his first Wimbledon, won the Grade 1 in Nottingham two weeks ago, his first tournament on grass, but his opponent in Sunday's final, unseeded Carlos Gimeno Valero of Spain, has had even less experience on the surface and in big matches. The 18-year-old, who warmed up with Roberto Bautista Agut prior to his men's semifinal with Novak Djokovic, is playing not only his first grass court event, but his first junior slam.

In his 7-6(5), 6-4 semifinal win over No. 17 seed Harold Mayot of France, Gimeno Valero didn't get a look at a break point until he was down 4-1 in the second set, but once he broke through, he went on to win the final five games of the match.

"I played very aggressive with my forehand and I served really well in the first set," said Gimeno Valero, just the third Spanish boy to reach the Wimbledon singles final. "I played good on the break points and that gave me the confidence to win the match on my serve."

Gimeno Valero is still processing the fact that he's reached the Wimbledon boys final.

"It's incredible, to share the moment with Federer, Novak, Rafa," Gimeno Valero said. "To be in the final is unbelievable."

Both the boys and girls doubles semifinals are on tap for Saturday, with five Americans still in the hunt for the title. All the seeded teams are gone from the girls draw, with Savannah Broadus and Abigail Forbes defeating No. 2 seeds Alina Charaeva(RUS) and Anastasia Tikhonova of Russia today 6-7(3), 6-3, 9-7. They will play Aubane Droguet and Selena Janicijevic of France, who beat No. 4 seeds Joanna Garland of Taiwan and Sohyun Park of Korea 6-2, 6-3.

No. 3 seeds Damm and Toby Kodat defeated the unseeded British wild card team of Jacob Fearnley and Connor Thomson 6-3, 7-5 and will face top seeds Jonas Forejtek and Jiri Lechecka of the Czech Republic Saturday. No. 7 seeds Govind Nanda and Canadian Liam Draxl beat No. 2 seeds Mochizuki and Holger Rune of Denmark 6-3, 7-5 and will play the wild card team of Arthur Fery and Toby Samuel of Great Britain in Saturday's semifinals.

Earlier in the tournament, I spoke to Nanda about his first semester at UCLA and his decision to keep playing junior tournaments, as well as pro tournaments, for this article at the Tennis Recruiting Network.

Friday’s junior singles semifinal results:
Daria Snigur(UKR) d. Emma Navarro[1] 6-3, 6-0
Alexa Noel[10] d. Diane Parry(FRA)[4] 6-2, 6-1

Shintaro Mochizuki(JPN)[8] d. Martin Damm[4] 6-1, 0-6, 10-8
Carlos Gimeno Valero(ESP) d. Harold Mayot(FRA)[17] 7-6(5), 6-4

Friday’s doubles quarterfinals featuring Americans:
Savannah Broadus and Abigail Forbes d. Alina Charaeva(RUS) and Anastasia Tikhonova(RUS)[2] 6-7(3), 6-3, 9-7
Kamilla Bartone(LAT) and Oksana Selekhmeteva(RUS) d. Chloe Beck and Emma Navarro[7] 6-4, 6-3

Arthur Fery(GBR) and Toby Samuel(GBR) d. Brandon Nakashima and Valentin Royer(FRA) 6-3, 6-2
Martin Damm and Toby Kodat[3] d. Connor Thomson(GBR) and Jacob Fearnley(GBR)[WC] 6-3, 7-5
Govind Nanda and Liam Draxl(CAN)[7] d. Shintaro Mochizuki(JPN) and Holger Rune(DEN) 6-3, 7-5