Monday, September 7, 2020

Coleman Wins Grade 2 in Serbia, as ITF Junior Circuit Returns; French Open Reveals Plans for Spectators; Williams Moves into US Open Quarterfinals

As I checked the European junior results today and I was surprised to see that two of the top US junior girls, who would in normal times be playing at the US Open Junior Championships this week, had traveled to Serbia for the resumption of the ITF Junior Circuit, and had reached the final of the Grade 2 in Novi Sad. Ellie Coleman, the No. 2 seed, defeated top seed Madison Sieg 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 for the title there, her second singles title on the ITF Junior Circuit. The ITF had announced last month that no tournament will award points higher than those given at Grade 3s, so the Grade is not actually as relevant as previously. The only announced exception so far is the French Open Junior Championships next month, which is scheduled to award Grade A points.

Coleman and Sieg have both entered the Grade 1 in Serbia, which begins on Wednesday. Diana Shnaider and Erika Andreeva of Russia, both of whom are in the Top 50, are also entered for that event. Seig moved up to 41 in today's first rankings since March, and Coleman moved up to 54.

I'm assuming they are also planning on competing at the French Open Junior Championships, with the entries closing Tuesday. It was announced earlier that there would be no qualifying for the juniors, so with that, and the travel difficulties, the cutoffs this year will no doubt be much higher than usual. 

The French Open revealed their plans for the event, which begins with men's and women's qualifying on Monday, September 21, despite a recent uptick in Covid-19 cases in the country.  There will be no spectators allowed for qualifying, but once the main draw begins fans are allowed, in three separated areas, with 5000 receiving entry for the two biggest stadiums. The prize money distribution is also changing, with more going to those competing in the early rounds, according to this article.  WTA World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty of Australia announced today that she would not be defending her title in France.

This is the first Labor Day since 2003 that I have not been in New York, covering the US Open Junior Championships. Usually, it's a crowded and hectic day, with dozens of matches and interviews and little time to do more than glance at what is going on in the men's and women's draws. Obviously today was much different, with ESPN3 providing the window into the action, which was not exactly thrilling, especially on the men's side. 

Neither Felix Auger-Aliassime of Canada nor Frances Tiafoe were able to put up much of a challenge, with Auger-Aliassime losing to No. 2 seed Dominic Thiem 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-1 and Tiafoe overwhelmed by No. 3 seed Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 6-1, 6-1.  Alex De Minaur of Australia reached his first major quarterfinal with a 7-6(6), 6-3, 6-2 win over Vasek Pospisil of Canada and will play Thiem next. No. 10 seed Andrey Rublev of Russia avenged his 2019 fourth round US Open loss to No. 6 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy in the only men's match that went more than three sets, taking it 4-6, 6-3, 6-3, 6-3. 

Serena Williams also got some revenge today, from the previous tournament. The No. 3 seed defeated No. 15 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece, who had beaten her in the third round of the Western & Southern Open, 6-3, 6-7(6), 6-3, coming from 2-0 down in the final set. Williams will face unseeded Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, who is making her return to tennis after three years off the tour to start a family. Pironkova defeated Alize Cornet of France 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-3.

In the night session, No. 2 seed Sofia Kenin couldn't join the other three Americans in the quarterfinals. No. 16 Elise Mertens of Belgium, who has been impressive throughout the restart, continued her fine form, beating an out-of-sorts Kenin 6-3, 6-3. Mertens' opponent on Wednesday will be Western & Southern Open champion Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, who beat No. 20 seed Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.

The doubles semifinals are set, and both of the men's semis will be played on Tuesday. In today's two men's quarterfinals, Jean-Julien Rojer(UCLA) of the Netherlands and Horia Tecau of Romania defeated Denis Shapovalov of Canada and Rohan Bopanna of India 7-5, 7-5 and will face Mate Pavic of Croatia and Bruno Soares of Brazil, who beat Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski(LSU) of Great Britain 6-2, 7-6(4). 

Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad, who won their biggest title as a team at the WTA 125 at Indian Wells right before the shutdown, are into the women's semifinals after beating Alison Riske and Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski 6-4, 6-2.  They will play No. 3 seeds Nicole Melichar and China's Yifan Xu, who beat Hayley Carter(UNC) and Luisa Stefani(Pepperdine) of Brazil 6-2, 6-3, but that semifinal is not scheduled for Tuesday.

Tuesday's schedule is here.

Monday’s fourth round matches featuring US men:

Daniil Medvedev[3](RUS) d. Frances Tiafoe 64, 61, 60

Monday’s fourth round matches featuring US women:

Serena Williams[3] d. Maria Sakkari[15](GRE) 63, 67(6), 63

Elise Mertens[16](BEL) d. Sofia Kenin[2] 63, 63 

Taylor Townsend and Asia Muhammad d. Alison Riske and Gabriela Dabrowski(CAN) 64, 62 

Nicole Melichar and Yifan Xu(CHN)[3] d. Hayley Carter and Luisa Stefani(BRA) 62, 63

Tuesday’s quarterfinal matches featuring US women:

Jennifer Brady[28] v Yulia Putintseva[23](KAZ)

Shelby Rogers v Naomi Osaka[4](JPN)

Tuesday’s doubles semifinal featuring US men:

Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury(GBR)[3] v Wesley Koolhof(NED) and Nikola Mektic(CRO)[8]