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Saturday, February 1, 2020

Jimenez Kasintseva and Mayot Claim Australian Open Junior Titles, Kenin Wins Women's Championship; Ngounoue Reaches Les Petits As Final, Americans Sweep Doubles Titles; Ohio State Men Take Down No. 1 Texas, Baylor Falls to Arkansas

Fourteen-year-old Victoria Jimenez Kasintseva of Andorra and 17-year-old Harold Mayot of France won Australian Open junior titles Saturday in contrasting fashion. 
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Mayot, the top seed, wasn't threatened in the final against friend and compatriot Arthur Cazaux, the No. 5 seed, taking a 6-4, 6-1 victory without facing a break point on serve. Cazaux, who had saved two match points in his quarterfinal win over Martin Damm, did not return nearly as well in the final, perhaps due to nerves, and as the match slipped away from him, the unforced errors piled up. Mayot, a quarterfinalist at an ATP Challenger in Australia earlier in January, had better depth and margins throughout the rallies. For more on the boys final, see this article from the ITF website.
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Jimenez Kasintseva appeared nervous to start the match, but then again the No. 9 seed had lost the first set in three previous matches during the week, so she was not like to be fazed by it. The left-hander proved that with her fourth come-from-behind win, beating unseeded Weronica Baszak of Poland 5-7, 6-2, 6-2. Baszak's serve got her out of any difficulty in the first set, but signs of Jimenez's comeback surfaced at the end of it, when Baszak was unable to serve out the set at 5-4. As Jimenez began to find her range on her ground strokes, Baszak lost hers and she finished with 50 unforced errors against 28 winners, while Jimenez made 27 unforced errors with 21 winners.

For more on the history made by Kasintseva for her country (with one indoor tennis court), see this article from the ITF website.

Sofia Kenin--photo courtesy Fila
The big news for American tennis Saturday was the women's singles title by Sofia Kenin, who defeated two-time major champion Garbine Muguruza of Spain 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. The game everyone is pointing to as the one that sealed the title came with Kenin serving at 2-2 in the third, when she went down 0-40, then hit five straight winners to take the lead. Joel Drucker details each point of that game in this tennis.com article on the match.  In the 15 years I've been covering junior tennis, Kenin is just the second slam singles winner that I've known from the 12s. The first was 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens, who many felt was destined for such a future even when she was in her early teens. That was not the case for Kenin, who was considering college even after she had won the Orange Bowl in 2014 and USTA 18s Nationals in 2015. Although her competitive spirit was undeniable and on display in every match, few believed she had enough power to hang with those at the highest levels of the game. Only 21, Kenin has reached the pinnacle at that level and her triumph is just another reminder that champions create their own path to success.

Clervie Ngounoue has advanced to the final at Les Petits As, where she'll face unseeded Brenda Fruhvirtova of the Czech Republic for the prestigious 14-and-under title. Ngounoue, the No. 5 seed, defeated No. 3 seed Weronika Ewald of Poland 6-4, 6-2, while Fruhvirtova downed unseeded Hannah Read of Great Britain 6-1, 7-5.  Although Ngounoue is 13 and Fruhvirtova is still 12, they already have plenty of history. Fruhvirtova defeated Ngounoue in the quarterfinals of the Eddie Herr 12s in 2017, in the final of the Eddie Herr 14s in 2018, and in the semifinals of a Tennis Europe 14s event last winter, and Ngounoue has yet to win a set from Fruhvirtova. I am not sure if there is a live stream, but if there is, it would be here.

Alexander Razeghi's great run in Europe ended today in the semifinals, with the 13-year-old from Texas, seeded No. 5, falling to unseeded Janis Simmen of Switzerland 7-6(4), 7-5. Razeghi, who won the Teen Tennis International title in Bolton last week, went 9-1 in singles on the trip. Simmen will face No. 3 seed Oleksandr Ponomar of Ukraine in Sunday's final, after Ponomar took out top seed Atakan Karahan of Turkey 7-6(2), 7-5.

As at Bolton, both doubles titles went to teams from the United States. Razeghi and Mitchell Lee, who won Bolton, ran their winning streak to nine, with the No. 4 seeds defeating unseeded Luis Garcia Paez of Spain and Gabriel Ghetu of Romania 6-4, 6-2 in today's final. Ngounoue, who did not play Bolton, won the girls title with Bolton champion Brooklyn Olson. The No. 4 seeds beat unseeded Ena Koike and Sara Saito of Japan 6-1, 6-4 in the final. After losing their first set of the tournament, Ngounoue and Olson won the next four matches in straight sets.

At the ITF Grade 1 in Paraguay, Bruno Kuzuhara fell in the final today, with the No. 9 seed losing to No. 12 seed Luciano Darderi of Italy, last week's Ecuador Grade 1 champion, 7-6(2), 6-1. Top seed Dana Guzman of Peru, who won the Grade 1 in Colombia and made the final last week in Ecuador, captured the girls title, beating unseeded Beatrice Ricci of Italy 6-2 6-1.

Several notable results in college tennis this weekend, with the Ohio State Buckeyes responsible for two of them. Yesterday, the 12th-ranked women defeated No. 5 Duke 4-2 in Columbus, and today, also in Columbus, the 6th-ranked men defeated top-ranked Texas 4-1. In a match that just finished, the unranked Arkansas men, who were 1-2 going into today's match with No. 5 Baylor, shocked the Bears 4-3. Baylor is still fielding a lineup without freshman Jenson Brooksby. In Ann Arbor, the Michigan men, ranked No. 16, defeated No. 8 TCU 4-2.
All this makes for even more intrigue in the upcoming National Team Indoor tournaments.