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Friday, September 11, 2015

Di Lorenzo, Kenin Reach US Open Girls Semifinals; Fritz, Paul Make Boys Final Four; UCLA Dominates American Collegiate Invitational

©Colette Lewis 2015--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

Half the participants in Saturday's US Open Junior Championships semifinals are Americans, with the two boys regulars at this level and the two girls new to the last weekend of a junior slam.

Top seed Taylor Fritz, who has reached the semifinals in the last three junior slams, defeated compatriot Alex Rybakov 6-3, 6-0, while No. 5 seed Tommy Paul, the French Open boys champion, saved a match point in his 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 comeback win over No. 4 seed Seong Chan Hong of Korea.

Trailing 6-2, 5-3 and down 30-40 on his serve, Paul hit an ace, calling it "one of the better serves I've ever hit, so I was pretty happy about that."

Hong served for the match in the next game, but was broken at 30-40 and Paul had control of the match, holding quickly and breaking again to take the set.

Hong, who like Paul is 18, did break Paul to open the third set, but lost the next six games, as error after error piled up.

"He definitely played well in the first set and a half," said Paul, who had beaten Hong at the Orange Bowl, but lost to him at last year's Grade 1 International Hard Courts in College Park. "He was not missing much at all, and I don't think his game changed a lot. I told myself I need to hit my shots, trust my shots and come to the net more, make him pass me. He struggled with that a little bit and I played well at the net."

Although Paul was down early in the third, he wanted to send a message to Hong.

"I tried to play a couple of really long rallies in the beginning of the third, just to show him I'm down for the long rallies, I'll play them if you want," said Paul. "And I won a couple of them and he started thinking a lot more, that he'd have to do a lot more long rallies and then he started missing a little bit, and I started trying to be more aggressive."

Paul's semifinal opponent is qualifier Alex De Minaur of Australia, who defeated No. 2 seed Michael Mmoh 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. Mmoh dominated the first set, hitting aggressively and losing only two points on serve, as De Minaur struggled with the pace Mmoh was generating.

De Minaur was down a break, with Mmoh serving at 2-1, but that's when the match began to unravel, as Mmoh failed to convert three game points and was broken.

De Minaur continued to move forward, despite Mmoh's success at passing him in the first set, and it began to pay off, with Mmoh's forehand often finding the net, and his lobs not staying in the court.

The third set was more of the same, with Mmoh making errors and having trouble with his second serve. When yet another forehand went astray to give Di Minaur a 5-1 lead in the third, Mmoh destroyed his racquet, which seemed to help him.

He held for 5-2, broke De Minaur without facing a match point and held again for 5-4, but a missed backhand gave the 16-year-old from Sydney two match points at 40-15, and when Mmoh's backhand went long De Minaur had secured the upset.

Fritz credited his serve with doing most of the damage in his win against wild card Rybakov.

"I was serving very solid, mixing up my serve well, slicing my serve to his backhand and serving and volleying well, so he couldn't chip it back, which would give me problems if I let it bounce," Fritz said. "I served well, put it in good places and backed it up well."

Rybakov said Fritz's experience in the late stages of junior slams wasn't a factor in the outcome of the match.

"I don't think it was the occasion really that made a difference in the match," said Rybakov, who will be starting college at TCU in January. "Even though I hadn't been there, I felt like I had a good tournament, and I should be there, really, but he definitely played a good match, that's for sure and I don't think I played my best.  He had the momentum the whole time and I was looking for something to grab on to--a good point or a good game--and it just never came."

Fritz will play No. 11 seed Yunseong Chung of Korea, who took out No. 3 seed and Wimbledon finalist Mikael Ymer of Sweden 2-6, 7-6(2), 6-3. Fritz defeated Chung in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon and last fall on hard courts in the final of the Grade A in Osaka.

Before this tournament Kenin and Di Lorenzo had never been past the third round of a junior slam, but both are now in the semifinals after come-from-behind wins Friday.

Di Lorenzo had lost to Iryna Shymanovich of Belarus in the second round of the US Open last year after winning the first set, but turned the tables today with a 5-7, 7-5, 6-2.

Down 7-5, 4-2, Di Lorenzo stuck with her plan.

"At 4-2 30-all, she was serving and I thought I have to win this point or the match is over, she's going to win the match," said Di Lorenzo, who has missed the third week of classes at Ohio State to compete here. "Luckily I won that point--I think it went to deuce that game--but I won the game, and I think that changed the match for me, that 4-2 game.  Then I got pumped up, got the momentum going, stayed aggressive in the third set and kept the balls deep."

Di Lorenzo, whose parents are both from Salerno Italy and speaks fluent Italian, said she is following the results of Italians Roberto Vinci and Flavia Penetta, who will decide Saturday's women's final.

"It's been a good tournament all around," said Di Lorenzo, who was born in Pennsylvania. "It's great to have some Italians coming through and doing well, more than just one of them. It's nice."

Di Lorenzo will play No. 2 seed Dalma Galfi of Hungary, who defeated 15-year-old Wimbledon champion Sofya Zhuk of Russia 7-6(3), 6-1. The two have not played previously.

Kenin set up another Hungarian-US semifinal when she defeated No. 13 seed Vera Lapko of Belarus 4-6, 6-0, 6-0.

"I was up 4-2 in the first set and I couldn't close," said the USTA 18s National champion. "In the second set, I was playing really well, she didn't have any chances, but I knew at any moment she could start playing good. That's why I lost the first set, she was serving big and playing big.  So when I won 6-0, before the third set, I knew I needed to keep playing, because it could change."

Kenin's semifinal opponent is No. 11 seed and fellow 16-year-old Fanny Stollar of Hungary, who defeated wild card Kylie McKenzie 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, assisted by 14 aces.  Kenin defeated Stollar  6-3, 6-7(7), 6-0 in the final of the Grade 1 International Spring Championships in Carson back in April, with her serve as much of a liablility then as it was an asset today.

"I definitely know how to play her and how to win," said Kenin. "So tomorrow, hopefully I can do exactly what I did in Springs and beat her tomorrow."

The singles semifinals are scheduled for Saturday, but only one of the doubles finals, the girls.

Unseeded Viktoria Kuzmova of Slovakia and Aleksandra Pospelova of Russia defeated No. 5 seed Di Lorenzo and Luisa Stefani of Brazil 6-4, 6-7(5), 10-5 to reach the final against the unseeded Russian pair of Anna Kalinskaya and Anastasia Potapova. Kalinskaya and Potapova defeated Kimberly Birrell and Maddison Inglis of Australia 6-2, 6-1 in the early semifinal.

On Sunday, the wild card team of Brandon Holt and Riley Smith will play for the boys doubles title after coming back, for the second day in a row, from a set down, going on to defeat unseeded Lloyd George Harris of South Africa and Yosuke Watanuki of Japan 4-6, 6-4, 10-8. They will face the unseeded Canadian team of Felix Auger Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov, who defeated unseeded Louis Wessels of Germany and Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece 6-4, 6-4.

Holt and Smith said their success at Kalamazoo this year, where they finished third in the 18s, helped their confidence when playing their first junior slam.

"I thought we definitely had a chance," said Holt, whose mother, Tracy Austin, won a Women's Champions doubles match on the same court right after he did. "I feel like Kalamazoo had super strong teams as well. Obviously, there's probably better singles players here, but Kalamazoo is deep and it has the same top players as here. Michael Mmoh and Taylor Fritz were the 1 and 2 seeds here and they both played Kalamazoo. I knew it was going to be a huge challenge and we weren't going to come in here and run through all these people, but I thought we definitely had a chance."

The junior draws can be found here.

The finals of the American Collegiate Invitational are set, with two former UCLA teammates meeting for the girls championship, and current UCLA junior Mackenzie McDonald taking on Vanderbilt graduate Gonzales Austin for the boys title.

Due to rain on Thursday, second seed Robin Anderson had to complete her quarterfinal match against Josie Kuhlman of Florida before she could take the court against Julia Jones, who also had her match with No. 4 seed and 2014 finalist Julia Elbaba disrupted, but completed the 7-5, 6-3 win to advance to the semifinals.  Anderson defeated Kuhlman 6-2, 6-0 and was up 6-1, 5-2 over Jones before the Ole Miss graduate fought back to make it 5-5, but Anderson finished it in two sets, taking a 6-1, 7-5 decision.

"I felt that she started playing better and wasn't making as many errors," Anderson said of Jones' comeback. "I felt a little bit of pressure to start going for more of my shots and I started making some errors. In the end I just really needed to stay positive, be consistent."

Anderson, who raised her WTA ranking 500 points to its current 419 with her results this summer, hopes the US Open qualifying wild card offered to the winner of this event will not be necessary for her.

"Hopefully I can get into this tournament on my own next year," said Anderson, who graduated from UCLA this spring, and received a qualifying wild card at the US Open this year based on her results this summer. "But if I were to win the wild card, that would be great to know at least I'm going to play in qualies next year."

Anderson's opponent in Saturday's final is teammate Chanelle Van Nguyen, who beat No. 3 seed Lauren Herring 6-3, 6-3.

Van Nguyen was a late addition to the tournament, replacing Jamie Loeb, who withdrew due to a back injury, but believes her success is a testament to the depth in the women's college game.

"I'm an alternate, but we're all like top in the nation," said Van Nguyen, who only began training for the event last week. "At one point Robin was 1 or 2 and I was 3 in the nation."

Anderson and Van Nguyen met in the final of the ITA Women's All-American Championship last fall, with Anderson taking a 6-0, 6-2 decision.

"I've known Chanelle since Chanelle was 10 and I was 11," said Anderson. "So I've known Chanelle for a very long time. We both know how each other plays, many practice matches together, so there's really going to be no surprises tomorrow."

No. 2 seed McDonald, who lost in the quarterfinals of the inaugural American Collegiate Invitational last year, took out No. 3 seed Thai Kwiatkowski, the Virginia junior, 6-2, 6-2 and will play Austin in the final.

Austin defeated top seed and NCAA champion Ryan Shane, the Virginia senior, 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(6).  Austin was broken at love serving for the match at 5-4, but he said he was proud of the composure that allowed him to concentrate on the games ahead, not the missed opportunity.

Austin was able to take advantage of Shane's serving problems, which included 16 double faults, the last one the most costly, at 6-6 in the tiebreaker.

For more coverage of he ACI, see Dan Johnson's report for the ITA.

The men's final is the second match on Court 5, with the first match starting at noon. The women's final will follow that.

Saturday's schedule is here.