Thursday, August 23, 2018

Bencheikh Ousts Top Seed Noel in ITF Grade 1 International Hard Courts Quarterfinals; Ten Americans Advance to Final Round of US Open Qualifying, Draws Revealed

©Colette Lewis 2018--
College Park MD--

For the second consecutive day, the top seed was eliminated at the ITF Grade 1 Prince George's County International Hard Court Championships.  A day after boys top seed Nicolas Mejia fell, girls No. 1 seed Alexa Noel went out, dropping a 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 decision to No. 10 seed Loudmilla Bencheikh of France in the quarterfinal round.

Noel started off well on a clear and crisp morning at the Junior Tennis Champions Center, and given her two recent straight-sets wins over Bencheikh, there was little reason to expect a different result. But Bencheikh was determined not to get frustrated by Noel's unusual game style, which includes little pace and an abundance of slices, both on the forehand and the backhand.

"I think I was more patient than the other times," said the 17-year-old, whose previous two losses to Noel were on clay. "I used my forehand better than the last time and my serve too. For me, it's difficult to play her. It's so hard to play fast and every time she gives another ball to play, so it's really hard. To do a point, you have to do ten shots, it's hard."

Bencheikh began to see the results of her patience in the second set, when Noel's errors became more frequent.

"I was not trying to win the points on one shot or two shots," said Bencheikh, who has advanced to a Grade 1 semifinal for the second time. "There was so many long points. I'm really happy to win this match because it's really hard to play against her."

Bencheikh will take on another American with a penchant for slicing in No. 16 seed Hurricane Tyra Black, who defeated No. 9 seed Natasha Subhash 6-2, 7-5 in today's quarterfinals.  Black, who beat No. 3 seed Margaryta Bilokin on Wednesday, has yet to drop a set, and is finding a balance between offense and defense that her opponents can't disrupt.

The other girls semifinal will feature No. 5 seed Katie Volynets against No. 7 seed Sada Nahimana of Burundi.  Volynets advanced when No. 14 seed Ana Geller of Argentina retired down 6-1, 2-1.  Geller had her thigh heavily wrapped during a medical timeout and has withdrawn from the Grade 1 in Canada next week, but is hoping to play the US Open Juniors. Nahimana fought back to end the run of unseeded Canadian Alexandra Vagramov 3-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Only one of the boys quarterfinals went to three sets, and that was No. 9 seed Nick Hardt's 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 win over No. 16 seed Govind Nanda. Hardt was broken serving at 4-5 in the first set, but didn't allow himself to get discouraged.

"He started very well, a very solid first set for him," said the 17-year-old from the Dominican Republic. "I started well, just one game I didn't play my best, but he played smarter than me that game."

The second set went quickly, with Hardt playing well and Nanda unable to match that level.

"He didn't play that good in the second set, but the third set, it was lucky for me," Hardt said. "Anyone could have won that set."

Hardt led 4-1, but Nanda got the break back, only to drop serve at 3-4, with a double fault ending the game.

Hardt fell behind 15-30 serving for the match, but won the next two points to get to match point.  Nanda thought he had hit a backhand winner that caught the far sideline to keep the match going, but Hardt called it out and the roving umpire confirmed Hardt's call.

Hardt, who made the semifinals of the ITF Grade B1 Pan American Closed last fall, will face No. 4 seed Yanki Erel of Turkey, who beat No. 6 seed Drew Baird 6-2, 6-4.

"I saw him play at Wimbledon this year," said Hardt, who has not played Erel before. "He has a very good serve, very good forehand, very flat backhand. It's for sure going to be a very tough match tomorrow. I feel I need to attack the backhand side and come more to the net. That's going to be my strategy for tomorrow."

The other boys semifinal will feature No. 3 seed Tao Mu of China against No. 8 seed Gilbert Soares Klier Junior of Brazil. Mu breezed past unseeded Cezar Cretu of Romania 6-1, 6-1, while Soares had a similarly routine win over No. 13 seed Dostanbek Tashbulatov of Kazakhstan 6-1, 6-3.

Six of the eight singles semifinalists have also reached the doubles semifinals after two round of doubles were played Thursday afternoon.

Black and her partner Melania Delai of Italy will face Martina Biagianti and Federica Rossi of Italy in a match between two unseeded teams.  Bencheikh and her partner Anastasia Tikhonova of Russia, the No. 8 seeds, will meet the unseeded Canadian team of Ariana Arseneault and Jada Bui in the other semifinal.

The boys semifinalists are all still in doubles, with Erel and Mu, the No. 2 seeds, facing unseeded Adam Neff and Eliot Spizzirri, and Hardt and Soares, the No. 3 seeds, playing top seeds Juan Cerundolo and Facundo Diaz Acosta of Argentina.

Friday's order of play can be found at the tournament website.

Six US women and four US men have advanced to the final round of qualifying Friday at the US Open, including six former college stars.

No. 10 seed Nicole Gibbs, a two-time NCAA singles champion at Stanford, defeated Tamara Korpatsch of Germany 6-4, 7-6(6) and will face Olga Govortsova of Belarus for a spot in the main draw.

Jamie Loeb, the 2015 NCAA champion from North Carolina, defeated No. 18 seed Ysaline Bonaventure of Belgium 6-4, 6-4 and will play No. 16 seed Eugenie Bouchard of Canada in Friday's final round of qualifying.

Former USC standout Danielle Lao beat Conny Perrin of Switzerland 6-4, 7-5 and will play No. 19 seed Jana Fett of Croatia Friday. Francesca Di Lorenzo, the 2017 NCAA doubles champion while at Ohio State, defeated Antonia Lottner of Germany 6-4, 7-5 and will face No. 8 seed Mona Barthel of Germany.

No. 3 seed Madison Brengle, a 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-2 winner over Tereza Smitkova of the Czech Republic, plays No. 32 seed Anna Kalinskaya of Russia, who won the International Hard Courts Grade 1 here in College Park in 2014 and 2015, for a place in the main draw.  Jessica Pegula defeated Arina Rodionova of Australia 6-3, 6-1 and will play Patty Schnyder of Switzerland in the final round of qualifying.

JC Aragone, who qualified at last year's US Open, reached the final round of qualifying again this year, beating No. 7 seed Thomas Fabbiano of Italy 7-5, 6-1.  He will play No. 30 seed Lloyd Harris of South Africa on Friday.  Aragone's former Virginia teammate Collin Altamirano defeated No. 22 seed Ivo Karlovic of Croatia 7-5, 6-4 and will face No. 10 seed Lorenzo Sonego of Italy for a place in the main draw.  Donald Young defeated No. 29 seed Simone Bolelli of Italy 0-6, 6-4, 6-2 to earn a final round qualifying match with No. 12 seed Peter Polansky of Canada.  The fourth US man to advance to the final round of qualifying is Mitchell Krueger, who beat Thai Kwiatkowski 3-6, 7-6(7), 7-5. Krueger will face Calvin Hemery of France on Friday.

Friday's qualifying schedule is here.

The draws for the men's and women's singles were revealed today, with Kalamazoo 18s champion Jenson Brooksby drawn to play 29-year-old Australian John Millman, ranked 54th, and San Diego 18s champion Whitney Osuigwe scheduled to play Camila Giorgi of Italy, ranked 45th.

The men's draw is here; the women's draw is here.