Friday, July 14, 2017

United States Guaranteed a Wimbledon Girls Title with Liu and Li Reaching Final; Kypson Advances to Boys Semifinals

©Colette Lewis 2017--

The long drought between US girls champions at Wimbledon will end on Saturday, when 17-year-olds Claire Liu and Ann Li meet for the title, with the winner becoming the first American girl since Chanda Rubin in 1992 to claim the winner's trophy.

French Open finalist Liu, the No. 3 seed, was one of the favorites coming into the tournament, and her efficient 6-1, 6-3 win over unseeded Sofya Lansere was expected.

Li is the surprise of the pair, having won her first junior slam match in the opening round on Saturday, but she continued her impressive run Friday, beating unseeded Simona Waltert of Switzerland 7-6(4), 6-1 to earn her first meeting with Liu.

Liu, from Thousand Oaks California, has been winning significant titles on the international junior circuit since she was 11 years old, while Li, from Devon Pennsylvania, only began competing internationally last year, so while it may seem surprising they haven't played before, it's understandable.

"We don't really play that many of the same tournaments," said Liu, who is playing in her third Wimbledon Junior Championships and has been competing on the ITF Pro Circuit since 2014. "But we're both in the final, which is amazing."

Liu, who won the Roehampton Grade 1 last week, felt that she needed to put Lansere in a defensive position from the start of the match, played on Show Court 18.

"I wanted, in the beginning of the match, to put a lot of pressure on her," said Liu, who won 19 of 26 points at the net. "I wanted to take any chances I had to come to the net, not hesitate. I think I did that really well and that kind of got her off balance, and I think she started to rush a little bit and started to go for more than she wanted to, and I think that's what gave me a lot of the errors. Mixed with the nerves, that's why she missed a lot."

While the first set was all Liu, Lansere began to play better in the second set, but she couldn't match Liu's consistency.

"She started to calm down a little bit and hit some unbelievable shots, but I kept trying to keep the pressure on and that helped me," Liu said.

Liu acknowledged that she has an edge in experience, having played in the French Open girls final just last month, although she hasn't any more familiarity with Court 1 than Li has. At Roland Garros, the girls final did draw a crowd, but Liu thought she and champion Whitney Osuigwe overcame their jitters quickly and hopes to be able to do the same on Saturday.

"I think it was on Court 2 or 3, I'm not sure, but there was a big crowd there," Liu said. "We had a really good match, I think both of us started out nervous, but we both started just playing pretty quickly. So I'm expecting the same thing [Saturday], I'm expecting her to go out and play her best and I'm going to try to do the same thing."

Li had credited her energy as a major factor in her quarterfinal upset of top seed Kayla Day, but against Waltert, she cited a different quality.

"I could feel the nerves from her and I was nervous too, but I think I just stayed more composed," Li said.

Li lost her 4-2 lead in the opening set, but was able to rebound in the tiebreaker, again by refusing to give in to frustration.

"I think it was, again, staying composed," Li said. "Because we both had a couple of bad misses, but I just tried to keep the points tight, make my shots deep so she can't attack."

Waltert double faulted twice in the tiebreaker, including on set point, and her unforced error count, which totaled 34, helped Li take a 5-1 lead in the second set. Another Waltert double fault gave Li a match point, but she missed a forehand. A backhand winner gave Li a second match point and Waltert's wide forehand gave Li the victory and the first all-American Wimbledon girls final since Mary Lou Piatek defeated Alysia Moulton in 1979.

Li, who said she is "loving it" this week at Wimbledon, is planning to keep her focus on the match, not the atmosphere, during Saturday's final.

"I'm going to make sure I move a lot, because that kind of helps me when I'm nervous," said Li, who can be seen jogging in place as she waits to return serve in most situations. "But I know she has experience, and she might have a little bit of an advantage, but I'll try to hang in there."

The boys semifinals are set, with American Patrick Kypson advancing to his first final four in a major by virtue of a 6-2, 6-1 win over Michael Vrbensky of the Czech Republic.

After two marathon matches in the second and third rounds, Kypson was relieved to earn a win in just 47 minutes, as Vrbensky's unforced errors piled up.

"He's a good player and I played well today," Kypson said. "He might have helped me out a little at the end there, but I'm happy."

Kypson, whose shoulder injury led him to retire from his second round match at Roehampton last week, said he's healed to the point where his serve is now responsible for his results the past two matches.

"The last two days my serve has helped me a lot," Kypson said. "I think for sure yesterday without my serve I would have been toast. From the ground it was rough yesterday, but I had my serve to keep me alive in that third set and I was able to finish it off."

Kypson said his shoulder began to give him trouble at the Futures he played in Germany but he wanted to play Roehampton to give himself some familiarity with grass, as he had never played on the surface before.

"I won my first match serving like 50 miles per hour, just hustling," said the 17-year-old from North Carolina. "I had to pull out in the second round because I couldn't raise my shoulder. So coming into this tournament I basically had one match, two sets, on grass."

Kypson said massage, stretching, ice and other treatments have worked to the point where it's now 100 percent.

"I still feel it, but it's not enough to hinder me in any way," Kypson said.

Kypson's opponent in the semifinals is No. 8 seed Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, who beat No. 2 seed Yibing Wu of China 6-2, 6-4.  Davidovich, who reached the semifinals of the French Open last month and two Futures finals at $25,000 ITF Men's events in Spain in between, has yet to lose a set this week.

"I think Davidovich has a lot of confidence right now," Kypson said. "I know he had some good results in $25Ks in Spain, finaled back to back, so he's playing at a high level and he's beating players that are playing at a high level, which gives you confidence. So it's going to be a tough match."

Kypson will play on Court 12 for the third day in a row Saturday, at 11:30 a.m.  The girls final is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday on Court 1.

The other boys semifinal will feature Roehampton champion Axel Geller of Argentina against top seed Corentin Moutet of France.  Moutet took out No. 11 seed Jurij Rodionov of Austria 6-2, 6-4, while Geller beat unseeded Matteo Martineau of France 6-3, 7-5.

Liu will not repeat as girls doubles champion after Friday's quarterfinals.  She and Taylor Johnson, the No. 2 seeds, were beaten by Sofia Sewing and Mexico's Maria Portillo Ramirez 6-4, 6-4.  Sewing and Portillo will face another unseeded team, Kaja Juvan of Slovenia and Olga Danilovic of Serbia, in Saturday's semifinals.

The other girls doubles semifinal will feature No. 1 seeds Carson Branstine of Canada and Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine against No. 4 seeds Whitney Osuigwe and Caty McNally. McNally and Osuigwe beat Violet Apisah of Papua New Guinea and Astrid Brune Olsen of Norway 6-3, 7-6(2), while Branstine and Kostyuk came back for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over No. 8 seeds Emiliana Arango of Colombia and Ellie Douglas. Branstine won the Australian and French Open girls doubles title, so is trying to keep her hopes for a grand slam alive in Saturday's semifinals.

One American boy remains in contention for the doubles title, with Sebastian Korda and his partner Nicolas Mejia of Colombia advancing to the semifinals.  The Roehampton champions defeated Toru Horie and Yuta Shimizu of Japan 1-6, 6-3, 6-2 and will face No. 3 seeds Rodionov and Vrbensky Saturday.

No. 2 seeds Yu Hsiou Hsu of Taiwan and Geller defeated Menelaos Efstathiou of Cyprus and Ryan Nijboer of the Netherlands 6-2, 6-1 and will meet unseeded Blake Ellis of Australia and Martineau, who beat Yshai Oliel of Israel and Andrew Fenty 6-3, 6-2.

Junior draws are available at the Wimbledon website.

Sam Querrey's best slam performance ended today in the semifinals, when he lost to Croatia's Marin Cilic 6-7(6), 6-4, 7-6(3), 7-5.  Cilic and Roger Federer will play for the men's title on Sunday.