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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Li Ousts Top Seed Day to Join Liu in Wimbledon Girls Semifinals; Kypson Goes Overtime to Reach Boys Quarterfinals; Venus Williams in Women's Final

©Colette Lewis 2017--

Before this week, 17-year-old Ann Li hadn't won a match at a junior slam. But the grass courts of Wimbledon have proven to suit her game perfectly and she is now into the semifinals of the Junior Championships after a stunning 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 over top seed and WTA No. 124 Kayla Day on show court 18.

Li, who lost in the first round at the US Open Juniors last year, and didn't play the Australian or French Opens this year, was winless in her three matches with Day last year. In the two losses on hard courts, she had won the first set, so today she flipped the script, staying positive even as she dropped the first set.

"It taught me to put more energy in, more emotions," the usually placid Li said of her previous losses to Day. "If I'd win a big point or something, I would yell c'mon. Maybe I wouldn't do that before and it would change the momentum a bit."

Day got an early break in the first set and held on, although Li had three break points, including one with Day serving for the set. Day came up with an ace on that break point, one of four aces she had in the match and held for the set, although that was the last ace she would hit.

"I kind of adjusted and I realized where she was going more," Li said of Day's serving tendencies. "I returned better, and maybe she didn't serve as well, but I got an idea of where she was going."

Li got her first of three second-set breaks to make it 3-1, after Day had led 40-0 in the game. She gave it right back, but broke Day again, with a monster backhand return of a second serve at 30-40 making it 4-2. Day was broken again to end the set, with backhand errors the primary cause, and after Li saved a break point in the opening game of the third with a backhand winner, Day was broken for a fourth straight time, throwing in a double fault at 30-40.

Li, who hit seven winners and made just two unforced errors in the final set, didn't face a break point the rest of the way, as Day's errors piled up. The final game produced no drama, with Li closing out the upset on her first match point, when yet another penetrating backhand forced a forehand error from Day.

Li said her previous three wins this week have gone a long way toward convincing her she belongs in the semifinals.

"Just being around here, knowing that I can stay calm, with all these people and all these distractions, it's given me a lot of confidence," Li said. "I've had some good wins and being here is just amazing. I've seen Fed twice."

Although Li said she hasn't found any words for a conversation with Roger Federer, all of these encounters, and all of her success, is a bonus.

"I was just coming here to have fun and gain experience," Li said.
"And it's going well."

Li will face unseeded Simona Waltert of Switzerland, who defeated No. 14 seed Sofia Sewing 6-2, 3-6, 6-3. Waltert beat Li in the quarterfinals of the Grade 1 in Italy this spring 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.

The second girls semifinal will feature the only seed left in the girls draw, No. 3 Claire Liu, who beat No. 6 seed Carson Branstine of Canada 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.  Liu lost her first set during these two weeks of grass court tennis, with Branstine's serve the primary reason, but she reverted to the form she's demonstrated this spring and summer in the final two sets.

"Her serve is one of her biggest weapons, and I think it did take me some time to get used to it," Liu said. "I was rushing a little too much and she played really well. All of her service games were pretty quick and she played well in the first set."

In addition to Branstine's serving, Liu said her own mental state bore some of the responsibility for the loss of a set.

"I was pretty nervous and I let my emotions take control of the match too much," said Liu. "In the second set, I buckled down and I told myself if you're going to lose, lose doing the right thing, leave everything on the court, get one more ball back, make her hit one more shot and I think over time that really helped me."

Liu has been happy with her consistently high level over the past two weeks.

"I would have liked to win in straight sets," Liu said. "But being able to play really good tennis over the last few weeks is really positive for me, so I'm just going to try to keep doing the same thing."

Liu's opponent in the semifinals is Russia's Sofya Lansere, who prevented a rematch of the French Open girls final by taking out No. 2 seed Whitney Osuigwe 7-5, 6-3.  Osuigwe had beaten the 16-year-old Lansere 6-2, 6-3 in the second round of Roehampton last week.

The boys, who are a round behind due to rain on Tuesday, played their third round matches today, with Patrick Kypson the only American advancing to Friday's quarterfinals.  Kypson, who had saved four match points in his 7-5, 4-6, 7-5 win over No. 5 seed Yuta Shimizu of Japan on Wednesday, had another mentally draining match against British wild card George Loffhagen before pulling out a 4-6, 6-0, 8-6 victory.

Broken to open the match, Kypson was unable to get it back, although he began to feel better as he warmed up.

"I came out a little sluggish, legs were a little beat from yesterday after five sets, three in singles and two in doubles, and the singles sets were pretty stressful," Kypson said. "I had a couple of chances to break back but he was serving pretty well, moving forward, hitting the ball pretty big, so he deserved that first set."

Despite Loffhagen's play in the opening set, Kypson wasn't discouraged.

"I never felt in a bad situation, I never felt he was going to run away with it," Kypson said. "I felt I would have chances in the second and in the second game I broke him, started playing a lot more aggressive. Once you get that break, you feel you can play a little bit more freely."

The tension mounted in the third set, with no breaks of serve, but Kypson did his part to keep the pressure on Loffhagen, giving him no break points to look at in seven service games and getting 74 percent of his first serves in.

"I served really well in the third set," said Kypson. "I think we had one deuce game on my serve in the set, maybe two. I had chances to break him, had 0-30 two or three times, 15-30 once, didn't play the right way on those points until the last game."

Kypson went up 15-40 with Loffhagen serving to stay in the match at 6-7, but missed a backhand on his first match point.

"I played a good point at 30-40," said Kypson. "I hit a forehand inside-in and he didn't have time to get over there and hit it, so he chipped it and I came in on a forehand and he missed a backhand passing shot."

Playing a British junior at Wimbledon is a unique experience, but the crowd's support for the 16-year-old didn't bother Kypson.

"It was pretty wild in the third set," Kypson said. "Anytime I missed a ball they went nuts. But actually it doesn't bother me at all. I expect it, playing on court 12, third round of juniors, for sure they're going to be cheering for the local guy. I enjoyed it, it was fun."

Kypson faces unseeded Michael Vrbensky of the Czech Republic, who beat Constantin Bittoun-Kouzmine of France 6-4, 6-4. Kypson, who said he speaks a little Czech due to his father's roots in the country, has a 1-0 record against his fellow 17-year-old.

"I played him in Junior Davis Cup two years ago on clay," Kypson said. "I got him there, I think it was 4 and 3, but he's one of those players who's gotten a lot better as he's gotten older. He was quite small back then, he's still not the biggest kid, but he's definitely matured physically. He's a good grass court player, from what I hear, is pretty crafty and has a high tennis IQ, so it's going to be another tough one."

The other boys quarterfinal in the bottom half of the draw will feature No. 8 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain against No. 2 seed Yibing Wu of China.  Davidovich Fokina ended the hopes of No. 10 seed Oliver Crawford 6-1, 6-3 and Wu took out unseeded Mohamed Bellalouna of Tunisia 6-2, 6-2.

Top seed Corentin Moutet of France eliminated the last qualifier in the tournament, beating Francesco Forti of Italy 7-5, 6-1 and will play No. 11 seed Jurij Rodionov of Austria, a 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3 winner over unseeded Blake Ellis of Australia.  Roehampton champion Axel Geller of Argentina dropped his first set this week to Naoki Tajima of Japan, but came through with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 victory. Geller will take on unseeded Matteo Martineau of France, who beat British wild card Aidan McHugh 6-3, 6-7(12), 6-2.

The top seeds in boys doubles were eliminated in today's second round, with Roehampton champions Sebastian Korda and Colombia's Nicolas Mejia beating Wu and Zsombor Piros of Hungary 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-4.  No. 2 seeds Geller and Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan did advance to Friday's quarterfinals, as did No. 3 seed Rodionov and Vrbensky, who came from a set and a break down to beat DJ Thomas and Vasil Kirkov 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.  Aside from Korda, the only other American boy still in doubles is Andrew Fenty, who is playing with Israel's Yshai Oliel.

Six US girls are still in doubles, including No. 2 seeds Liu and Taylor Johnson, who beat Zeel Desai of India and Lulu Sun of Switzerland 7-5, 6-0 in this evening's second round.  They will face Mexico's Maria Portillo Ramirez and Sewing, who beat No. 7 seeds Elena Rybakina and Amina Anshba 6-4, 6-4.   No. 4 seeds Caty McNally and Osuigwe and No. 8 seeds Emilana Arango of Colombia and Ellie Douglas also advanced in straight sets.  Carson Branstine's quest for a junior doubles grand slam continued, as she and Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine, the top seeds, beat Waltert and Ylena In-Albon of Switzerland 6-3, 6-3.

Complete draws can be found at the Wimbledon website.

Thirty-seven-year-old Venus Williams reached the women's final for the first time since 2009, with the No. 10 seed taking out No. 6 seed Johanna Konta of Great Britain 6-4, 6-2.  Williams will face Spain's Garbina Muguruza, who defeated Magdalena Rybarikova of Slovakia 6-1, 6-1, in Saturday's final.