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Saturday, July 6, 2019

Top Seed Navarro Finds Feet on Grass, Four Other Americans Advance on First Day of Wimbledon Junior Championships; Wild Card Story Defeats No. 2 Seed Forejtek; Sandgren, Querrey, Williams and Riske Reach Second Week

©Colette Lewis 2019--

The top three seeds in the girls draw posted routine wins as play began Saturday at the Wimbledon Junior Championships, but the boys No. 2 and No. 3 seeds were knocked out under the cloudy afternoon skies at the All England Lawn Tennis Club.

No. 1 seed Emma Navarro defeated Diana Shnaider of Russia 6-0, 6-2, needing only 15 minutes to run through the first set. It was a welcome result for the 18-year-old Duke recruit, who lost in the first round of the Roehampton Grade 1 last week.

"It was my first match on grass in like two years," Navarro said of her 7-5, 3-6, 7-5 loss to qualifier Sasha Hill of Great Britain. "And it was my second time ever playing on grass....She definitely knew how to play on grass, she was a tough, but I wasn't disappointed in how I played. I knew there were a few things I could work on this past week, and I went out there and tried my best to improve those things and I think I did, so I felt a lot better coming into this tournament."

The courts at Roehampton do have their share of bad bounces, and with the Roehampton junior tournament coming directly after the courts there were used for Wimbledon qualifying, the contrast with the pristine courts at the All England Club is one reason Navarro felt she could rebound from her early exit last week.  Another was Navarro's slice, which Shnaider had difficulty reading and countering, even in the more competitive second set.

"Last week that was definitely a thing that I thought I could improve, was mixing in slices," Navarro said. "Today that was kind of the priority, to use my slice."

Since winning the Easter Bowl ITF at the end of March, Navarro has made her WTA debut at the Volvo Open in her hometown of Charleston, made the semifinals of a $100,000 ITF World Tennis Tour event, also in Charleston, and reached the final of the French Open Junior Championships, while claiming the doubles title in Paris. Now No. 4 in the ITF World Junior rankings, Navarro has had a productive and gratifying three months.

"A very busy spring, but super exciting, I thought," Navarro said. "I've made a lot of progress in the last few months. It was super exciting for me, having those experiences and getting to play on bigger stages. It's inspiring and motivating, warming up next to pros that you see on TV all the time. When you see them in person, it seems like a level you can get to and it's not so far away."

No. 2 seed Maria Osorio Serrano of Colombia did not play at all on grass prior to her first round match today at Wimbledon, but she came through with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Mell Reasco Gonzalez of Ecuador. No. 3 seed Qinwen Zheng of China, who like Navarro lost in the first round last week at Roehampton, again drew the girl who beat here there, Thasaporn Naklo of Thailand. But Zheng was ready for Naklo today, earning a 6-0, 6-2 win in 47 minutes.
Top boys seed and French Champion Holger Rune of Denmark does not play until Monday, but No. 2 seed Jonas Forejtek and No. 3 seed Thiago Tirante of Argentina have already been eliminated. Tirante, a finalist at the Milan Grade A in May, lost to  Carlos Gimeno Valero of Spain 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4. Forejtek, the champion in Milan, fell to wild card James Story of Great Britain 6-4, 7-6(3), in front of a typically supportive Wimbledon crowd.

"I think grass favors me," said the 18-year-old, who has signed with the University of Memphis and begins school there in August. "It really suits my game. I know Jonas is a very good claycourter, so I went into the match with good belief that I could beat him, even though he's the No. 2 seed. I thought with the help of the British crowd, if I just kept the energy high, he would feel the pressure and maybe crack, and I think that's what happened."

Story said he was able to forget about losing a 4-1 lead in the second set.

"A couple double faults, a couple of good returns by him and we went all the way to the tiebreak, but I served well and returned well in the tiebreak," Story said. "And I'm thankful I took that backhand [down the] line on match point."

As Story surveyed the crowd after that backhand winner on his first match point, he saw not only smiles, but tears too.

"There were a lot of familiar faces around the court, and of course my family was there as well," Story said. "Mum and dad, my coach, my sister, my sister's fiance, so yeah, I was really pleased and proud. It was a good feeling winning, definitely. Seeing my mum in tears at the end, it was nice. I think I made her proud."

No. 4 seed Martin Damm let a 6-2, 5-2 lead slip away against Italian Francesco Passaro of Italy, but the 15-year-old recovered for a 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-4 win. Damm's doubles partner Toby Kodat, the No. 7 seed, was not as fortunate, with Tristan Schoolkate of Australia winning the final five games of the match for a 6-0, 7-5 win. Kodat was ill last month and had to withdraw from Roehampton, so the French Open finalist had just a few days of practice to acclimate himself to the grass. Emilio Nava suffered an injury at Roehampton and had to withdraw, which is why there is no No. 9 seed in the boys draw, and why a number 17 seed was added.

Govind Nanda, who is back on the ITF Junior Circuit this summer after a semester at UCLA, defeated North Carolina incoming freshman Rinky Hijikata of Australia 6-2, 7-5.

"He's quick and he likes coming forward also," said Nanda, who lost in the first round at Roehampton. "So he's difficult to defend on grass. He has good volleys, so it's tough. So my main strategy was to make first serves and then really go after the returns, try to attack."

Abigail Forbes closed out a 4-1 day for American juniors with a 6-2, 6-7(8), 6-3 win over Liubov Kostenko of Ukraine. The incoming UCLA freshman had been 0-4 in junior slams before today's win.

The junior doubles draws have been released with Forejtek and Jiri Lehecka of the Czech Republic the top boys seeds. Damm and Kodat are seeded No. 3 and Nanda and Liam Draxl of Canada are seeded No. 7.

France's Diane Parry and Zheng are the top seeds in the girls doubles draw. Alexa Noel and her partner Helene Pellicano of Malta are the No. 5 seeds, with Navarro and Chloe Beck, the French champions, the No. 7 seeds. Hurricane Tyra Black and her partner Shavit Kimchi of Israel are the No. 8 seeds.

Saturday's first round junior results featuring Americans:

Govind Nanda d. Rinky Hijikata(AUS) 6-2, 7-5
Tristan Schoolkate(AUS) d. Toby Kodat[7] 6-0, 7-5
Martin Damm[4] d. Francesco Passaro(ITA) 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-4

Emma Navarro[1] d. Diana Shnaider(RUS) 6-0, 6-2
Abigail Forbes d. Liubov Kostenko(UKR) 6-2, 6-7(8), 6-3

After today's third round matches, three US women and two US men have advanced to the second week. Along with Coco Gauff, who won yesterday, Serena Williams and Alison Riske earned places in Monday's round of 16. Sam Querrey and Tennys Sandgren will play for a spot in the quarterfinals, also on Monday. Results from today's third round singles matches featuring Americans:

Sam Querrey d. John Millman(AUS) 7-6(3), 7-6(8), 6-3
Tennys Sandgren d. Fabio Fognini(ITA)[12] 6-3, 7-6(12), 6-3
Kei Nishikori(JPN)[8] d. Steve Johnson 6-4, 6-3, 6-2
Serena Williams[11] d. Julia Goerges(GER)[18] 6-3, 6-4
Alison Riske d. Belinda Bencic(SUI)[13] 4-6, 6-4, 6-4
Carla Suarez Navarro(ESP)[30] d. Lauren Davis[LL] 6-3, 6-3
Johanna Konta(GBR)[19] d. Sloane Stephens[9] 4-6, 6-4, 6-4