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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Kenin Defeats Osuigwe in $100K Dow Tennis Classic First Round; Korda Moves to No. 1 in ITF Junior Rankings

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Midland MI--

Sonya Kenin, now 19 years old, was not so long ago the younger player with the stellar resume battling the tour's veterans, as 15-year-old ITF World Junior No. 1 Whitney Osuigwe was today against Kenin in the first round of $100,000 Dow Tennis Classic.

As the 16-year-old USTA National 18s champion, Kenin received a wild card into the US Open in 2015, losing in the first round to Mariana Duque-Marino of Colombia.  Osuigwe, who is just beginning a serious schedule of pro events after finishing 2017 as the ITF World Junior Champion, had reached her first pro circuit final Sunday at the $25,000 Wesley Chapel tournament, but her only previous experience at an event of this level was the US Open qualifying last year, where she lost in the first round.

Kenin proved how valuable those three years of experience could be, beating Osuigwe 6-2, 6-3 in just over an hour in front of a spare Stadium court weekday crowd at the Greater Midland Tennis Center.

"She's a great player, obviously," said Kenin, the No. 4 seed. "I knew I had to use my experience to play well. I knew I could handle it, if I focused on the match and not her age."

Kenin was well aware of Osuigwe's resume.

"She had a really great year, last year, the French Open champion, Eddie Herr, Orange Bowl, she's playing really well and she's got a lot of confidence," Kenin said. "She obviously thought she could do whatever she wanted to. She played well, but I just focused, I guess, a bit harder."

A quarterfinal run at the ASB Classic in New Zealand, where she beat Jana Fett and Varvara Lepchenko before falling to Caroline Wozniacki in three sets, provided Kenin with a confidence boost of her own.

"I've done a lot of fitness, I've improved my movement on the court and I'm serving much better," said Kenin, who did not face a break point against Osuigwe. "Today my serve helped me. I knew I could handle my serve. Before, I wasn't sure if I'd win my service games, but I felt confident today."

Kenin will face Jamie Loeb in Thursday's second round, after Loeb beat Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 5-7, 6-3 in a two-and-a-half-hour slugfest.

Loeb wasn't pleased with her serving, particularly in the second set, when she made only 40 percent of her first serves and double faulted four times. But it was one facet of the game where she had a definite advantage over Bouzkova, and she was determined not to abandon it.

"I think I was serving pretty big when it was going in," said Loeb, the 2015 NCAA champion while a sophomore at North Carolina. "It was really effective, so I was sticking with it, saying keep going for it, even though I probably should have taken something off. But I figured it would come eventually, it was working the first set, but I'm glad it came back when I needed it."

That was when she was serving a 4-3 in the third, getting a hold that ended a streak of four straight breaks. With Bouzkova, the 2014 US Open girls champion, serving to stay in the match at 3-5, Loeb got a first match point at 30-40, but netted a forehand after a long rally. She hit a forehand winner to earn match point No. 2 and didn't have to hit another ball, as Bouzkova double faulted to end it.

Loeb, who had not played Bouzkova before, said she had heard she could step into the Bouzkova serve, but was not inclined to do too much more scouting before the match.

"Sometimes, if I watch my opponent play beforehand, I over think and over analyze," said the 22-year-old New Yorker. "I knew what I wanted to do and I tried to execute that the best I could."

Loeb and Kenin have played once on the USTA Pro Circuit, with Loeb winning 7-5, 6-2 in the semifinals of the $25K in Surprise Arizona, which Loeb went on to win.

Only one of Tuesday's qualifiers were able to advance to the second round, with Katherine Sebov of Canada beating Lesley Kerkhove of the Netherlands 6-1, 6-0.  Ann Li lost to No. 5 seed Sachia Vickery 7-6(4), 6-1 and lucky loser Usue Arconada lost a heartbreaker to Irina Bara of Romania 7-6(5), 7-6(4), with the two sets taking two hours and 31 minutes to play.

Newport Beach WTA 125 champion Danielle Collins lost to Francoise Abanda of Canada 6-2, 6-2, with Abanda playing outstanding tennis and Collins unable to get her game on track.  In the second set, Abanda hit eight consecutive first serves, won every point in those two games and had a 4-0 lead that Collins couldn't dent.

Local juniors Ellie Coleman and Karina Miller received a main draw wild card into the doubles draw and acquitted themselves admirably in a 6-4, 6-4 loss to No. 2 seeds Bara and Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania.

While covering matches in Midland, I neglected to look at the new ITF junior rankings that included the Australian Open results and missed until yesterday that Sebastian Korda is now No. 1 in the boys rankings.  Korda, who was previously No. 7,  took over from Timofey Skatov of Russia.  Osuigwe, who did not play the Australian Open, remains No. 1 in the girls rankings.