Monday, September 7, 2015

Thirteen US Juniors Advance to Second Round with Labor Day Wins at US Open

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

US juniors started the 2015 US Open slowly on Sunday, picking up just five wins against nine losses. But on Labor Day, 13 of the 20 in action claimed first round victories, including four wild cards and a qualifier.

All four seeded Americans--Michael Mmoh(2), Tommy Paul(5), William Blumberg(9) and Sonya Kenin(9)--won in straight sets, with Mmoh and Paul starting the day with victories on show court 17.

Mmoh defeated Evan Furness, a wild card from France, 6-2, 6-4, with Paul taking a 6-4, 6-3 win over Mattias Siimar of Estonia 6-4, 6-3 in the second match.

Paul has been in New York for more than two weeks, after earning a place in the main draw with a qualifying wild card, but he never considered dropping out of the junior championships.

"I love New York," said the 18-year-old from Greenville, North Carolina, who lives in Boca Raton, Florida now. "This is like my third week here. It's my home slam and I think we have a really good bunch of guys playing the juniors, so I want to see how well we can do. We have really good guys and it should be fun to compete against them."

Next for Paul is the young Canadian Felix Auger Aliassime, who at 15 has already reached a Challenger quarterfinal.

"It should be a fun match tomorrow," said Paul, who is attempting to keep his confidence in check after such an impressive run through qualifying. "I'm trying not to think about the past week too much. Today I came out a little slow, with the wrong mentality. I knew the kid was really good, I saw him play Sam(Riffice) in the Orange Bowl final. It was more like I tried to play too aggressive, trying to end points quicker, so I had to get back in the right mindset."

Blumberg, who has not played since Kalamazoo due to illness, took the better part of the first set to get back in the groove, but after Lukas Klein of Slovakia failed to serve out the first set at 5-3, Blumberg took advantage, posting a 7-6(2), 6-1 victory.

Blumberg will play fellow American JJ Wolf, who advanced when Mate Valkusz of Hungary retired trailing 7-6(5), 3-1. Valkusz served for the first set at 5-4, saved a set point down 5-6, but was not able to survive some inspired play by Wolf in the tiebreaker. Valkusz, who won the Grade 1 in Repentigny, Canada on Saturday, held in his first game of the second set, but lost the next three and retired.

"He came out in the first few games ripping the ball," said Wolf, who won two rounds in qualifying to reach the main draw. "So I thought, he came off a win in Canada and he's going to have some confidence going into this match. I didn't have an idea he was struggling until the second set. I think it was maybe his wrist, or heat exhaustion or something, but they didn't tell me."

Wolf is understandably happy to be in the second round and playing well, but is trying to keep himself from getting too wrapped up in the results this week.

"It feels amazing," the 16-year-old from Cincinnati said of his first junior slam win. "It's not my end goal to win the junior US Open or anything. Long term vision is what I like to think about, but it definitely feels satisfying at the moment."

The girls Repentigny champion also stumbled at the first hurdle, with Bianca Andreescu of Canada falling to Raveena Kingsley 6-1, 6-1.

Kingsley, who came in with confidence after picking up an impressive qualifying win over WTA veteran Andrea Hlavackova of the Czech Republic, credited her serve with doing most of the work against Andreescu.

"One of the things I did really well today was serve well," said Kinglsey, who faced only one break point and won 82 percent of the points when she got her first serve in. "I had a high percentage of first serves, and in the last game, I made four first serves in a row."

Kingsley is not afraid to think about the possibility of winning the title this week, although she is not really looking past her next opponent, Iryna Shymanovich of Belarus.

"I want to take it match by match," said the 17-year-old, who reached the third round here last year. "Hopefully I'll win it. I want to win a junior grand slam before I go into the pros."

While Kingsley is playing in her eighth junior slam, Alexa Graham needed a wild card to play in her first.  Graham, a 17-year-old from nearby Garden City, New York, had a loud cheering section helping her claim 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 victory over 15-year-old qualifier Katarina Zavatska of Ukraine.

Graham, who has played only one junior tournament this year, managed to handle her nerves and the challenge of keeping her focus throughout the two and a half hour match.

"I started pretty shaky," admitted Graham, a senior who has verbally committed to the University of North Carolina. "Being from New York, I had all my friends, family, neighbors, everyone was here. But once you get locked into the match, it's really all you can focus on. Once I forgot where I was and just started playing, I found my game."

Graham, whose WTA ranking is 534, will meet No. 13 seed Vera Lapko of Belarus, who has an WTA ranking of 579.

In addition to Graham, four other wild cards claimed wins.  Kylie McKenzie defeated Emilie Francatti of Denmark  6-3, 6-2, Kelly Chen downed Naiktha Bains of Australia 6-3, 6-4 and Kalamazoo 16s champion Patrick Kypson posted his first junior slam victory, taking out Geoffrey Blancaneaux of France 7-5, 6-4.

"I'm pretty happy. It was a good match, I played well," said the 15-year-old, who, like Paul, is from Greenville, North Carolina. "I knew he was really solid off both sides. He probably missed a little more than usual today. It was a little bit windy and the balls were actually flying all over the place. It was kind of hard to keep the ball in the court, so he made a few more errors, and that's what did it."

The fourth wild card, Alex Rybakov, won a rare battle of junior one-handed backhands, beating Felipe Cunha-Silva of Portugal 6-4, 6-4.

Kenin defeated dropped the first three games against qualifier Ana Paul Neffa De Los Rios of Paraguay, but won the next 12 for a 6-3, 6-0 victory. Qualifier Natasha Subhash collected her first victory in a junior slam, having just turned 14 last week, beating Beatrice Torelli of Italy 6-3, 1-6, 6-1.

Due to rain in the forecast for Thursday, all second round singles matches have been scheduled for Tuesday.  Usually the second round is played over two days--Tuesday and Wednesday. The remaining 20 first round doubles matches are also scheduled for Tuesday.

Complete draws can be found at usopen.org.