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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Selekhmeteva Ousts Top Seed Navarro; Yepifanova Claims First Slam Victory; Nava, Noel Stage Dramatic Comebacks to Reach Third Round at US Open Junior Championships

©Colette Lewis 2019--

Flushing Meadows, NY--
Sixteen-year-old Oksana Selekhmeteva of Russia earned the biggest win of her junior career today, defeating top seed and French Open finalist Emma Navarro 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in the second round of the US Open Junior Championships Tuesday.

Selekhmeteva had every reason to be intimidated, but her experience in New York last year, playing Coco Gauff in the third round on Court 17, helped her when facing Navarro on the Grandstand on a warm and clear afternoon at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. 

"When I was warming up today on the court, everything is so big," said Selekhmeteva, who reached the Wimbledon girls doubles final this year. "It's a very good experience for me, and in the future it will be very helpful."

Selekhmeteva took a 5-0 lead in the final set against the 18-year-old Navarro, playing in her last junior slam, but failed to earn a match point serving for the win at 5-1. Serving at 5-3, Selekhmeteva did have a match point, but did not convert it, and Navarro had all the momentum when she went up 40-15 serving at 4-5. But Selekhmeteva won the next four points to seal the victory.

"To close the match, every time it's tough," said the left-hander, who lives in Moscow, but trains at the 4Slam Tennis Academy in Barcelona. "At 5-4, 15-40 down, I was like, ok Oksana, just calm down and let's try to do your best. And in the end, I finished it up. I'm so excited with my win today, and I'm happy to be here."
While Selekhmeteva has already earned seven main draw junior slam victories, Alexandra Yepifanova picked up her first today, with the 16-year-old qualifier defeating No. 9 seed Sada Nahimana of Burundi 6-2, 6-4.

"This was my third time playing US Open qualifying," Yepifanova said. "The first two years I fell in tough three-set matches, so that first win (last Friday) definitely gave me confidence. Today, it was so nice walking out on court in front of an American crowd. I was confident, even though I lost to this girl twice(actually three times) before. I knew I was playing well and I had a good game plan, knew what to do."

Yepifanova began training at IMG Academy in Bradenton this summer, after returning from Wimbledon, where she got through qualifying, but lost in the first round. 

"I tried it out in May and I really liked it," Yepifanova said. "We thought it was a really good idea because I was lacking fitness and I was lacking match play, so IMG was the perfect place for that."

Yepifanova said she found a successful strategy against Nahimana when she modified her own game.

"Previously I tried to play my own game a bit more," said Yepifanova. "I'm a very aggressive player so I made a few too many mistakes. This time, I hit a bit more, and off the right ball. I was hitting a few more balls than I usually would like to, but I was looking for that short ball this time."

USTA National 18s champion Katie Volynets finally played her first match since losing to women's quarterfinalist Bianca Andreescu of Canada exactly one week ago 6-4, 6-2. Volynets prevailed over Carole Monnet of France 6-1, 6-3, but the second set took nearly an hour.

"She's a great player, and I actually saw her a year and a half ago, and we played in Italy," said Volynets, who lost that first round match at the 2018 Grade A in Milan. "I had to adapt to her game, because she plays a bit of a different style and I think I did well. Her ball was just coming off the court differently."

Volynets said her decision to stick around and play the junior championships was informed by the WTA age restrictions that she faces until she turns 18 on the last day of 2019.

"There's a limit of 16 and I'm only left with a few," said Volynets, whose only other junior tournament this year was the San Diego Nationals, which earned her the main draw wild card. "I want matches, and there's no better environment to get matches than the US Open, so you can't compete with that."

As for college, Volynets has not yet given any thought to that pathway.

"I'm still deciding," said Volynets, who is now being coached by Joe Gilbert. "I'm here to play tennis and I'm letting the other stuff just kind of wait there, because it's not really going to go anywhere. When I have a bit of a break, I'll have more time to think. I haven't thought about much, because my ultimate goal is to be a professional player, so we'll see what we decide."
Cannon Kingsley is already at college, several weeks into the fall semester at Ohio State. But the New Yorker wasn't about to miss his last chance to play the US Open Junior Championships, where he staged an impressive comeback that broke the spirit of No. 5 seed Thiago Tirante of Argentina. Down 6-1 in the first set tiebreaker of their second round match, Kingsley roared back to win the next seven points, and when he went up 2-0 in the second set, Tirante announced to the chair umpire he was done. Having taken no medical timeout, Tirante did not appear to be injured, as far as Kingsley could observe.

"When I got to 7-6, 2-0 that was the same position I got to at Roland Garros," said Kingsley, who lost to Tirante 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2 in the first round in Paris this  year. "I was thinking, man, I really want to get this game right here to get to 3-0. Because at Roland Garros he broke me back twice and got the lead and I didn't want to let that happen. But instead of fighting, he just kind of stopped playing. I was surprised. I was ready for a war after 2-0."

Kingsley wasn't sure what exactly what prompted Tirante's retirement. 

"He did get mad at one or two line calls in the first set, but I don't think that was it," said Kingsley. "He was up 6-1 in the breaker and I came back; I think that was it."

Two seeded Americans provided a counterpoint to Tirante's effort in their second round matches, with No. 3 seed Alexa Noel coming from 5-2 down in the third set to beat Aubane Droguet of France 7-6(1), 3-6, 7-5, and No. 8 seed Emilio Nava saving a match point in his 6-7(4), 7-5, 7-5 win over Matteo Arnaldi of Italy. 

Noel looked out of sorts after losing her 2-0 lead in the second set, but once the outlook became really dire, the Wimbledon finalist regained her focus, made no errors, and frustrated Droguet with her constant slicing, punctuated every so often with confidently struck winners brushing the lines.

Nava looked down and out in the second set, trailing 5-2, but he got that break back and then earned another, without Arnaldi getting to match point. In the third set, Nava lost his serve early and trailed 4-1, then played a horrid game to lose his serve again. Serving at 5-1, Arnaldi began displaying some nerves, double faulting at 30-40, and Nava began to regain his concentration, holding quickly for 5-3. With a second chance to serve out the match, Arnaldi did get to match point at 40-30, but Nava saved it with a forehand crosscourt winner. Another forehand winner gave Nava break point, which he converted when a good second serve return forced an error from Arnaldi.

Sensing victory, Nava came up with an love hold, sealing it with an ace, and a rattled Arnaldi was broken again, when Nava crushed a backhand return winner to go up 6-5.  Serving for the match, Nava produced a 132-mph ace, but a double fault made it 30-30, giving Arnaldi his last chance to get back in the match. He couldn't take it, with a 106 mph second serve leading to a netted return and a backhand winner ending the comeback.

Nava will face fellow American Aidan Mayo in Thursday's third round, with the qualifier beating Juan Bautista Torres of Argentina 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.  The other all-US third round match will pit Karina Scott, a wild card, against Robin Montgomery, who will celebrate her 15th birthday Thursday.

Martin Damm, the No. 3 seed, lost to UNC freshman Rinky Hijikata of Australia 6-4, 6-4 and No. 2 seed Holger Rune, the French Open boys champion, was beaten by Dominic Stricker of Switzerland 6-4, 7-5.

The first round of doubles were completed today, and the second round will be played Wednesday, along with the remaining 16 second round singles matches. Top doubles seeds Diane Parry of France and Noel defeated India Houghton and North Mariana Islands' Carol Lee 6-1, 6-4. Shintaro Mochizuki of Japan and Tirante were the top seeds in doubles, but they were replaced in the draw, with Tyler Zink and Eliot Spizzirri beating the alternates Ryuhei Azuma and Taiyo Yamanaka of Japan 6-3, 6-3.  Kalamazoo champion Damm and Toby Kodat, the No. 2 seeds, lost to Andrew Paulson of the Czech Republic and Alexander Zgirovsky of Belarus 5-7, 7-5, 10-6.

Tuesday's first round junior singles matches featuring Americans:

Toby Kodat[6] d. Olimjon Nabiev(UZB) 6-3, 6-1
Will Grant[WC] d. Natan Rodrigues[Q](BRA) 6-4, 6-4
Govind Nanda d. Eric Vanshelboim(UKR) 7-5, 6-2

Katie Volynets d. Carole Monnet(FRA) 6-1, 6-3 
Abigail Forbes[13] d. Ane Mitegi Del Olmo(ESP) 6-2, 6-3
Sohyun Park[12](KOR) d. Ellie Coleman[WC] 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
Elina Kalieva[Q] d. Maria Timofeeva(RUS) 6-2, 6-2
Alexandra Yepifanova[Q] d. Sada Nahimana[9](BDI) 6-2, 6-4
Ana Geller[Q](ARG) d. Charlotte Chavatipon[WC] 6-2, 6-3

Tuesday's second round junior singles matches featuring Americans:

Oksana Selekhmeteva(RUS) d. Emma Navarro[1] 6-4, 4-6, 6-4
Alexa Noel[3] d. Aubane Droguet(FRA) 7-6(1), 3-6, 7-5
Robin Montgomery d. Joanna Garland(TPE) 1-6, 6-2, 6-4
Elsa Jacquemot[16](FRA) d. Gabby Price[WC] 7-6(0), 6-1 
Katrina Scott[WC] d. Jessica Bouzas Maneiro(ESP) 6-4, 1-6, 6-3
Qinwen Zheng[5](CHN) d. Allura Zamarripa[WC] 6-0, 6-2

Rinky Hijikata(AUS) d. Martin Damm[3] 6-4, 6-4 
Aidan Mayo[Q] d. Juan Bautista Torres(ARG) 6-4, 2-6, 6-2
Cannon Kingsley d. Thiago Tirante[5](ARG) 7-6(6), 2-0 ret.
Emilio Nava[8] d. Matteo Arnaldi(ITA) 6-7(4) 7-5, 7-5

Wednesday's second round junior singles matches featuring Americans:

Katie Volynets v Maria Osorio Serrano[4](COL)
Abigail Forbes[13] v Zhuoxuan Bai(CHN)
Elvina Kalieva[Q] v Kamilla Bartone[7](LAT)
Alexandra Yepifanova[Q] v Linda Fruhvirtova(CZE)
Savannah Broadus v Polina Kudermetova[15](RUS)
Reese Brantmeier[WC] v Marta Custic(ESP)

Brandon Nakashima[11] v Leandro Riedi(SUI)
Govind Nanda v Peter Makk[16](HUN)
Will Grant[WC] v Gauthier Onclin[9](BEL)
Toby Kodat[6] v Milan Welte[Q](GER)

Draws can be found at usopen.org.

Serena Williams advanced to the semifinals in women's singles, beating Wang Qiang of China 6-1, 6-0 Tuesday night. She will play Elina Svitolina of Ukraine Thursday. 

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